When you and your spouse are not ready to divorce, but still need some time apart, a legal separation may be appropriate. A legal separation allows you and your spouse to work through issues such as property division, child custody and visitation, and spousal support without the pressure of a divorce action being filed with the court and required dates for attending court conferences and meeting deadlines. The terms you and your spouse agree to can be written into a separation agreement, which makes them legally binding. Because people sometimes change their minds and have conflicting memories of conversations, it is important to put these arrangements in writing.

A separation agreement can also help you preserve certain assets that would be subject to a depletion under a divorce judgment. It can also ensure that one spouse stays on the other’s health insurance benefits during the separation period — an important consideration for couples who do not have access to affordable alternative coverage or who are concerned about their employer viewing their separation as a divorce.

A separation agreement will establish the date of separation, clarify how assets will be handled during the separation period, decide who lives in the marital home, provide a schedule for child custody and visitation, and determine spousal and/or child support. However, a separate agreement will not bind the court when it comes to final decisions regarding these matters unless a judge finds that the terms of the agreement were not made fairly and without fraud or coercion, or if they run contrary to the best interests of the children. It is important to have a skilled attorney guide you through the process of drafting, reviewing and negotiating a separation agreement. separation agreements