Not all long-term relationships work out, unfortunately. When you have lived with your significant other for years, it can be hard to figure out how to go about separation. In some scenarios, divorce might not be an option when leaving a partner. Thankfully, there are other avenues that former couples can take – for instance, compiling a separation agreement.

Yet, what does a separation agreement entail? How legally binding can they be? Before you consider going down that route, learn the legality behind separation agreements and see if it’s worth pursuing.

What a Separation Agreement Entails

When it comes to separating from a partner, the legal action most people assume is to file for divorce. Yet, many fail to realize that a separation agreement accomplishes many of what divorce seeks to do – with a few distinct differences.

Simply put, a separation agreement is a written legal contract between a former couple. With a separation agreement, there is the freedom to create your own contract with one another without a lawyer. However, it’s strongly recommended that a lawyer help draft and review it before signing to ensure it’s fair and equal.

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Yet, what is outlined in a separation agreement?

For the most part, you can expect it to include the following as a means of settling issues:

Property

Throughout the years, you and your partner may have acquired property together. Some of the properties gained include the following examples:

  • Bank accounts
  • Investments
  • Home & its contents
  • Cars
  • Pets
  • Insurance plans

It begs the question of what should be done about all these various properties. A separation agreement allows for former couples to divide property accordingly. Settling who gets what and why for property makes it so there is some monetary gain for both and ensures the right person can take certain properties.

Debts

At some point in your relationship, debt may have accumulated between you and your former partner. Debt is messy. Not knowing who is supposed to pay specific debts can make it more complicated. Thankfully, a separation agreement can help mitigate that. It allows you and your former significant other to split debts accordingly. This way, it ensures the right person is paying for certain debts accrued and being held accountable.

Custody

All too common, former couples have ended up raising a child with one another. When a child is involved, it naturally raises the custody question for both parties to consider what to do. Unlike a divorce, a separation agreement allows questions surrounding child custody to be addressed and settled amicably. These include what partner would have sole custody and whether any visitation is available to the other.

Support

Concerning child custody, support naturally gets brought up. In this case, a former couple can agree on how to pay child support with a separation agreement. In turn, it makes it possible to enforce that part of the agreement as a legally binding contract. Furthermore, support is not only meant in the interest of the child. Support can also apply to the former partner, and the split couple can agree upon conditions for spousal support.

A separation agreement is similar to divorce in that it involves settling issues. The distinct differences are how separation agreements allow formerly married couples to keep their marital status despite living apart, can apply to common law couples, and is faster and less expensive.

Legal Strength of a Separation Agreement

Some might assume that since you can draft your separation agreement, it doesn’t hold much weight. In actuality, it does since it’s technically a legal contract. So, yes, a separation agreement is legally binding.

The legal strength of a separation agreement is rather strong since you’re potentially meant to follow it for years. Scenarios with children involved typically mean what’s outlined in the separation agreement must be upheld. In this case, it’s important to consider all details when drafting one.

A separation agreement is not one you can easily make up. It takes a lot of thought to draft a proper one since you need to consider so much. You might overlook important future issues unwittingly, so you must be specific and detailed when outlining them. That’s why it’s recommended to have a family lawyer handle them. After all, you don’t want to pay more legal fees if your former partner wishes to dispute the issues settled in your agreement down the line.

As a legal contract, a separation agreement is certainly legally binding. Properly vetting one can’t be stressed enough since it’s a contract to be upheld. So, do take a separation agreement seriously. When you ensure it’s done right, you can do right by yourself and your former partner in the long run. 

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