If you and your spouse have decided to separate, a separation agreement, also known as a property settlement, is usually the best way to assure all the big issues of divorce are taken into consideration and clearly spelled out. A separation agreement will lay the foundation for the divorce settlement and determine how you and your spouse will resolve things such as child support, alimony and asset divisions.
Other benefits include:
helping the couple avoid long and arduous court proceedings;
minimizing contention over divorce issues;
helping each spouse maintain a sense of control over matters of importance; and
reducing costs (contested divorces and litigation increase costs).
Drafting a Legal Separation Agreement
Separation agreements are binding legal documents that should be drafted by experienced Maryland divorce attorneys who know how to account carefully for all the details of a separation and ensure that it complies with applicable Maryland divorce laws. In the legal document for separation, Maryland attorneys will help you address issues such as:
- property and debt division;
- child support payments and schedules;
- custody details and visitation schedules;
- insurance issues; and
- income taxes.
It’s generally not advisable to attempt to write up an agreement for separation in Maryland on your own or use fill-in-the-blank forms. There is a lot of fine print contained in a separation agreement that’s easy to overlook, and you don’t want to leave any loopholes or gaps that could create arguments and unnecessary strife down the road. An attorney will act as your advisor during the entire process and look out for your best interests. They will keep you informed of all the laws you need to be aware of, and can provide you with valuable advice when you need alternative ways to resolve issues. Plus, they’ll help you negotiate issues that are important to you, so that you’ll be able to move forward with confidence and sense of security.
Once signed and notarized, it will become a binding agreement that you and your spouse must adhere to, so it’s important to obtain professional legal advice before signing any paperwork.
How the Courts View Separation Agreements
While separation agreements are not required by law, Maryland courts generally favor the use of a written legal agreement prior to divorce proceedings. A written document is much easier to enforce than verbal agreements.
Married couples can enter into a Maryland separation agreement while they are waiting to go through the procedure of divorce or even after a divorce has taken place. The courts view the agreements as peaceful alternatives to heated, contested divorces. If both parties enter into an agreement, the courts almost always approve it during the divorce proceedings, which helps matters run more smoothly.
Modifying Your Separation Agreement
It’s not necessary to file your agreement with the courts, but it will be enforceable by law. You can make changes later, but only if both you and your spouse agree to it and the agreement is amended by an attorney, or if there’s a court order that grants a modification.
The court cannot alter any conditions of your separation agreement aside from issues revolving around a minor like child custody and support.