A married couple is considered separated as soon as they decide to leave the marriage relationship and live independently, no longer treating each other as husband and wife. If they want, they can draft a separation agreement, which is a legally binding contract that addresses the terms of the split. While they don't need legal separation papers, having a written agreement may offer them some protection until they formally divorce.
Legal Separation Agreement
The agreement covers various legal aspects of the separation, including who will pay what bills, property division, alimony, child support, child custody and visitation arrangements. This gives a spouse a legal leg to stand on if the other spouse doesn't follow the terms. For example, John and Mary are married and have a joint credit card account. They separate, and on their agreement, John agrees to pay the credit bill. John doesn't pay, the credit company goes after Mary for the debt and she pays it. The agreement may allow Mary to sue John for the debt she paid.