Should I do a Separation Agreement Before My Divorce?

It’s common for couples to think of separation agreements and divorce as two separate options when it comes to ending a marriage. When you decide that your MediationPictobeusedlater-300x200relationship can no longer continue as it is, you may choose to draft a separation agreement to determine how you and your ex-spouse will live your lives outside of the marriage. A separation agreement isn’t just an alternative to a divorce. Indeed, it’s possible to go ahead with a divorce or full dissolution of a marriage once your separation agreement has been drafted and signed. What’s more, by entering into a separation agreement, you may find that the divorce procedure itself is more amicable, straightforward and simple.

The formation of separation agreements is a kind of negotiation that takes place usually outside of the court setting.  The settlement document that we enter into after mediation sessions is in most instances a separation agreement.  Most of my mediation couples choose to and can get an uncontested divorce immediately after entering into the separation agreement.  Separation agreements can also be made outside of the mediation setting through lawyer to lawyer negotiations or lawyer to opposing party negotiations if the other side chooses to represent themselves.

Like the mediation process during a divorce, the concept brings both parties together for a discussion of crucial concepts like equitable distribution, spousal maintenance, parenting time, and more. For many people, separation agreements feel a lot less stressful than a standard divorce. The court will not be involved in the preparation of the separation documents. What’s more, the couple will be able to maintain more control over their negotiation, without the consistent input of the courts. With the help of the lawyers, couples drafting a separation agreement can come to terms on what they would like to happen when their marriage ends.

Separation Agreements & Uncontested Divorces

It is possible for couples in New York to apply for uncontested divorces. This simply means that all the issues that would need to be decided in a divorce have been agreed upon.  When there is a settlement agreement, in the form of a separation agreement or otherwise, there’s no need for any arguments to be handled in court. As a divorce attorney and a divorce mediator for Long Island and New York, I frequently receive calls from clients in search of uncontested divorce solutions. However, if one small thing about the divorce or separation is still in dispute, the whole divorce is still not yet uncontested at that moment.  Even if you and your partner can’t agree on something little, like whether the house should be sold, then you will still be engaged in a “contested” divorce process if it is not resolved before a court is asked to get involved.

A separation agreement can help to reduce the complexity of the overall divorce procedure. As a binding and comprehensive legal contract, the agreement contains all the details a couple must discuss to dissolve their marriage. After all, bringing a marriage to an end is no simple thing. There are many issues that need to be addressed before the divorce can be classed as uncontested. When the separation agreement is signed, the couple involved can confidently state that their divorce is entirely uncontested. Indeed, when I represent someone in the negotiation of a separation agreement as a lawyer or help them via divorce mediation, I can often provide a flat rate fee for an uncontested divorce if I have aided them in the separation agreement process. This flat rate is offered in circumstances where both parties can agree to sign the required documents for an uncontested divorce.

Is a Separation Agreement Right for You?

Aside from making the application for an uncontested divorce simpler, separation agreements also give couples a chance to carefully consider their options when it comes to bringing their marriage to an end. In some cases, you may decide that your relationship with your spouse isn’t making you happy anymore. However, for a variety of reasons, you might not be ready to go through with a divorce yet. In this case, a separation agreement can act as an initial step, so that both parties can decide whether ending their relationship feels like the right step. If both parties decide to rescind their separation and give their relationship another try, a separation agreement allows for this. The couple can simple sign a formal document, properly prepared, and the separation agreement will become null.

For couples who aren’t sure which step to take next in an uncertain marriage, a separation agreement is much less final than a divorce process. It allows the parties involved to take a step forward so that they feel as though they’re making progress in finding the outcome that’s right for them. During a separation, the couple can spend time living apart, and find out what it feels like to act as though they’re divorced from their partner. Often, this sort of “test run” can give couples the final guidance they need to decide whether they’re willing to give their relationship another try, or whether they need to pursue a full divorce.

Additionally, legally separated parties can commonly continue to access some benefits that fully divorced individuals may not be able to use. For instance, a separated party can usually remain on the health insurance plan of their spouse while considering whether to go through with a divorced.  Although New York does allow of “Judgments of Separation” in addition to Separation Agreements.  The difference is a court signs off on a judgment of separation.  I have heard of a Judgment of Separation being a termination event for staying on a spouse’s health insurance plan, so I caution everyone to check carefully about the details of their health insurance plans.   Usually, this is a significant financial reason to create a separation agreement and test the waters before a divorce. After a judgment of divorce, or perhaps judgement of separation, which is different than a separation agreement, has been signed, spouses will no longer be able to continue using their ex’s health insurance.

To find out more about the possibilities of separation agreements, divorce procedures, mediation and more, reach out to my law and mediation office today. You can contact me via my online form, or over the phone at (516) 333-6555.  We do initial consultations that are up to a half hour free.  Divorce mediation couples that wish to utilize me as their mediator would have their free initial consultations together.

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