A separation agreement is a formal contract that addresses the rights and obligations of couples during a period of time when they are living separately. It can address any number of issues, from who will remain in the marital home to how property and debt will be handled during the separation and/or divorce process. By having the terms of these agreements in writing, spouses are less likely to misinterpret each other’s intentions and avoid costly misunderstandings that could lead to insurmountable conflicts. Moreover, if the parties later decide to pursue a divorce, having these terms in writing can help streamline that process by allowing the couple to more easily transition their agreement into final divorce documents.
Since a separation agreement is a contract, it can contain almost any terms that the spouses want. This flexibility is ideal for spouses who know they need a break from each other but are not necessarily sure whether or not they want to pursue a full divorce. It can also be useful for couples who are already pursuing a divorce but want to make sure that the terms of their agreement, such as child custody and visitation, are legally binding and cannot be modified in the future.
If a spouse violates an unincorporated agreement, the remedy available to the other spouse is monetary damages for breach of contract. However, if an agreement is incorporated into a divorce decree or other court order, the violation of that contract can result in contempt of court proceedings, with resulting penalties that can include jail time. separation agreements