Some Westchester County residents may refer to a separation agreement as the document a couple signs at the end of a negotiated divorce settlement. The agreement spells out how the couple will divide property and co-parent.a
Once the judge approves it, the judge will as a matter of course grant the couple a divorce, legally ending their marriage.
However, a separation agreement can also refer to a document New Yorkers sign when they want to remain legally married but live separate lives.
Although there are also other requirements, a separation agreement is necessary for a New York couple to get a legal separation as opposed to a divorce.
Drafting the agreement correctly can be complicated.
Basically, the agreement must cover all topics, including property division, child custody and support and alimony, that one would otherwise resolve in a divorce.
Once the couple signs the agreement, they file it with the local clerk, and it becomes an enforceable order. The couple is then legally separated. They remain married, but they both most follow the separation agreement.
There is a process through one of the spouses can later ask the court to use the agreement as a template for a divorce decree.
Legal separation is only possible if both sides sign the separation agreement. If one person does not wish to cooperate, in most cases, the other person will have to pursue a divorce if they want legal protection.
Why would I consider a separation agreement instead of a divorce?
Some people have strong religious objections to divorce.
Moreover, many people, whether religious or not, may hesitate about going through with a divorce and need some more time to figure out how they feel and where they stand.
Divorce is an important and life-changing step. Getting a separation agreement on file can give a person the opportunity to think through it on their timetable.
There are also some legal and financial advantages to using a separation agreement in lieu of a divorce that might be attractive to some.
Separation agreements may not work in every situation.
For example, and as we mentioned, both spouses must be on board with this option. The option may also be difficult when a couple has a contentious relationship, and they could put one spouse and their children in outright danger of domestic abuse is part of the relationship.
However, a separation agreement is still an alternative a person may wish to explore carefully.