It is my opinion that couples that decide to live separately should have some form of a legal separation agreement. If you own a home together, have children, joint bank accounts and other financial interests in both names it makes sense to protect yourself financially while living apart.
Here is the problem some couples will run into…not all states recognize legal separation. If your state doesn’t recognize legal separation you will need to file for a divorce. Once you file for divorce and come to terms as far as what is written into the agreement you got to court. Going to court is necessary because a judge will have to sign the agreement for it to become, “legal.”
Once a judge signs the agreement, you will have a, “ temporary court order.” This temporary order will outline the responsibilities of each party during the time of separation and before the divorce is final. If you do not want to move ahead with the divorce you can request that your divorce attorney put the divorce on hold. In the mean time, thanks to the temporary court order you will have the same legal protections that couples who live in states that recognize legal separation have.
Below are reasons you should consider a legal separation agreement:
- If there is high conflict and you are your spouse are unable to engage in healthy communication.
- If you don’t trust your spouse to live up to verbal agreements the two of you make together.
- If you have children and want child support. You can’t enforce the payment of child support without a legal court order.
- If you have children and need to set up a visitation schedule.
- If you are a non-working spouse and have a need for spousal support. Once again, this can’t be enforced without a legal court order.
- You will need to come to agreement on who pays what bills. If you own a home, a legal separation agreement is imperative to keep from falling behind on mortgage payments.
- You need to take into consideration issues such as health insurance. Who will maintain coverage, who will pay out of pocket expenses if a child becomes ill?
- There is also the issue of cohabitation. Should your child be exposed to another man/woman spending the night at your spouse’s home?
In most cases, a legal separation is a prelude to divorce. Divorce is more likely to be riddled with conflict than to be amicable. The longer you are separated the more intense the conflict may become. If that is the situation, you want a legal separation agreement or temporary court order that will cover all the bases and protect your legal rights.