Why use a legal separation agreement?

Before getting divorced, some couples decide to live separately for a time. They go to court and get a legal separation agreement. They then have to abide by it, just as they would a divorce decree.

But why take this step? What is the goal?

For some, they're trying to decide if they even want to get divorced. They may decide that a year of separation will do them good, and then they can address the situation again. The agreement helps lay out what obligations they have and what rights they have while they're apart.

Maybe they have children together, for instance. The agreement may specify who is supposed to take care of the kids and what financial obligations each person has.

On top of that, the agreement can help divide up their assets, giving them more ownership. It sets a strict timeline for the proceedings.

For example, say you split up and live apart for a year. During that time, you buy a new car. You consider it your vehicle alone, but how does the court see it? Technically, you're still married. Is it an asset acquired during your marriage, to which your spouse also has a claim, or is it just your car?

You can solve all of this in advance with a separation agreement that simply says assets acquired after that date belong to each person alone. You can also divide the assets and debts you have at the time of your separation. The eventual divorce may go very smoothly since the work is already done.

If this is something you're interested in, be sure you know exactly what legal steps to take.

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