By Tracy Achen
A legal separation is a written agreement that is filed with the court which addresses the rights and responsibilities of a married couple while they are living apart. Issues that can be addressed in a separation agreement include division of assets and debts, child custody and support, visitation schedules, alimony, etc. Almost all states recognize a legal agreement of separation except for Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
In many ways, getting a legal separation is much like getting a divorce. So why would someone go through the separation process instead of getting a divorce? Some of the advantages of legally separating include:
While a legal separation can protect you before getting a divorce, it can also set precedence for the actual divorce. If your divorce case were to go to court, a judge would assume that if you were fine with the arrangements of the separation agreement, then there is no basis to make any big changes with the divorce.
Therefore, you should treat the separation agreement the same way you would a divorce, and don't agree to anything that you can't live with. This is why it is so important to have your lawyer look over the agreement and discuss the implications of it with you.
You can get started drafting your free agreement here.
You can get more tips on separation and divorce in Tracy's book "Divorce 101".
The following articles offer more information on separation: