How to Create a Separation Agreement

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

How to Create a Separation Agreement

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

A separation agreement is essentially a legal contract between two spouses who either want to avoid or are contemplating a divorce. They can use the agreement to settle disputes over marital property, debts, child support, alimony, visitation, and other issues that are also common in divorce proceedings. Unlike in divorces, however, the separated couple remains legally married. If they no longer wish to be married, they must get a divorce.

Separation agreement

Like all contracts, a separation agreement is enforceable in court. Separation agreements are often incorporated into divorce agreements because they address similar issues. When a couple decides to finalize their divorce, a separation agreement can save time and money during divorce proceedings.

1. Format the separation agreement.

The separation agreement needs to be in writing, preferably typed, and it should clearly state at the top of the document that it is a separation agreement. Plan to have multiple headings that address each topic you want to include in the agreement, such as "Child Support," "Division of Marital Property," "Visitation Rights," or "Spousal Support." You can also find separation agreement forms online and adjust them as necessary to your specifications.

2. Identify each party to the agreement.

At the top of the document, write your name and the name of your spouse and identify yourselves as the two parties to the agreement. Include when and in which state you were married and the date of separation. If you have any children together, include their names and birth dates.

3. Provide an introductory paragraph.

Near the top of the document, include an introductory paragraph that explains the reasons for your separation. It can be as simple or as specific as you like, but it should be brief.

4. Address each desired issue.

The main body of the separation agreement addresses each issue that you and your spouse want to cover, and each issue should have its own section. Write a heading before each section that describes the content of that section, such as "Child Support," and then include any agreements you both have reached and any other relevant information.

5. Include other provisions.

There are some standard provisions common to all separation agreements that you may wish to include. It is a good idea to state in the agreement that the laws of the state in which you currently live will govern the agreement if court action is necessary. Many agreements also include the financial information of each spouse and whether the separation may result in a significant change of income or expense in the future. For example, if one of you moves out of the marital home, your combined income must cover rent or mortgage on two residences. It may be helpful to include your plan for covering these expenses in your separation agreement.

Deciding to separate may be one of the hardest decisions a couple has to make. Creating a separation agreement can help ease the transition for both parties and make the process smoother. Consider hiring a professional to help you draft a separation agreement or if you have any questions.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.