Ending a relationship can be very difficult and complicated. You have entangled almost every bit of your life with someone and detaching from the life you have lived with them requires so many decisions to be made. By making a separation agreement, you will be making it easier for you and your spouse to decide on such things; family law issues, and more.
When can you be considered separated?
The moment one of you decides that the relationship is over the other person is informed, one of you acts like the relationship is over, and that’s it. Although a separation agreement helps during the process, it does not mean both of you need to agree whether you are already separated or not. Only one of the members of the relationship is needed to end the relationship. More so, unlike popular belief, in some places like Canada, there is no such thing as legal separation. At the onset of you and your spouse already living separately, you are already legally separated.
Being separated does not have to mean that you are living in different addresses. You can still be considered separated even when you live together, but live separate lives. However, this may cause complications as you will have to prove to the court that you no longer lived as people who are in a relationship.
However, not all separation leads to a permanent end of a relationship or a divorce. Some couples try to rebuild their relationships through counselling and other ways. Although this is so, some separations still move forward onto divorce, making separation as its preliminary step.
One Year Separation Period
There is no actual time limit for separations. People can be separated all their life without going into a divorce. However, when your separation is a preliminary step to divorce, there is a minimum one year separation period. You can start accomplishing your divorce papers on the first day of your separation, but it is only after the one year that the court will grant you the divorce.
There may come a time during this one year that you and your spouse may want to work it out. There is a 90-day period where you and your spouse can get back together, live under one roof, and try again. The given 90-day period lets you have attempted to work things out without having to reset the one year period you have already started before, in case your attempts are unsuccessful.
Why do you need a Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a written, signed, and legally binding contract between a couple. It is a record of how two spouses have come into an agreement in settling their family law issues such as property, debts, child custody or access, and child or spousal support. It is always the choice of the two spouses whether they want a written agreement. However, it is strongly advised for couples to have one as various situations may arise, and it will be very difficult to prove agreements that are only verbal. More so, having a separation agreement prevents you and your spouse from having any confusion over the different rules and obligations you have under family law issues. To lay it out specifically, here is a non-exhaustive list of what family law issues cover:
- Child custody and access
This pertains to how the parents will agree on sharing their time with their children, and other parenting issues that will include contact and time.
- Child support
Child support refers to how the spouses will agree on covering their children’s financial needs.
- Spousal support
This covers whether the spouse will be receiving financial assistance and how much it would be. This is called alimony.
- Health insurances
- Life Insurance
- Family Property Division
This answers the “who gets what” question as an agreement on how the couple will divide property that had been acquired during the relationship
- Family Debts
You will have to decide how the responsibility for family debt will be shared, and a separation agreement will help you with that. This does not only cover debts incurred within the relationship, but also debts that will be incurred after the relationship as long as it is used for maintaining a family property.
Separation agreements can include anything the couple wants to establish an agreement on. The family law issues enumerated above are also an overview of the parts of a separation agreement. It can be complicated to draft one which is why you may need a lawyer. The separation agreement can also be made the basis for divorce settlement later on if the couple decides to move forward into a divorce.
The separation agreement is considered valid when:
- An attorney or two attorneys representing the spouses separately guided the couple in drafting the agreement.
- The agreement is fair for both parties.
- It has the signature of both spouses
- It discloses and contains all the details needed; the assets and the debts.
The Benefits of Having a Separation Agreement
- It is a private matter.
Compared to a divorce, a separation agreement does not have to file in a court and have its proceedings. A separation agreement is a private document that only you and your spouse have access to unless you grant others to view it.
- It is flexible for both of you.
In divorces, the court will have to decide how your divorce pans out. With separation agreements, you and your spouse get to decide on the different family law issues and agree on something that will be fair for both of you.
- It is cost-efficient
The more you agree on something with your spouse, the less cost you will be spending in court for litigation and other proceedings.
- It is time-friendly
Much like how separation agreements save costs, you also get to save time since you do not have to figure so much in front of a judge. A separation agreement already outlines the specifications and terms of your separation considering finances and responsibilities.