If you and your spouse are struggling or you have decided you want to live apart from one another, you should strongly consider using a free separation agreement template.
The separation agreement is a legally binding document between two spouses who have agreed to separate but still remain legally married. If you anticipate a divorce and you are going through a separation first, this type of document is a written contract that defines things like spousal support, debts, bills, child support, and how property or responsibilities will be divided. A separation agreement can also be referred to as a divorce agreement, a marital settlement agreement, separation papers, legal separation papers, or a marriage separation agreement.
The name it goes by is somewhat contingent upon the state in which you live, as some states require legal separation prior to a divorce filing, in which case the document is called legal separation papers.
There are many situations where you might want to use a separation agreement template Word document or PDF, such as:
Writing a separation agreement is relatively straightforward; however, you can use a free separation agreement template online to make it easier.
Start with the basic information for each party, including the names and addresses, details of the marriage, dates for the separation, a statement of intent for the separation, and the terms of the agreement.
List the shared responsibilities and how they will be divided between the two parties. If, for example, you have children, this is an area where you stipulate the shared responsibilities for things like custody and child support. Similarly, this is where you list shared responsibilities for any outstanding debt or joint financial obligations, like utilities or a mortgage.
The division of finances relates to any and all assets that you have as a couple and how you will divide those. This can include health insurance, life insurance, checking, savings, retirement, and other investment accounts.
Please consider that this is a non-exhaustive list but just a few main things this agreement should have.
A separation agreement should contain the terms of your separation or divorce and anything that is relevant or important to your situation. For example, if you don’t have children, you don’t need to include sections in your legal separation agreement template for child custody or child visitation. Similarly, if you don’t have any debt, then you don’t have to include anything about debt responsibilities. That said, key sections include:
You can download a free Separation agreement PDF and fill in all the necessary information. Make sure you discussed all the details with another party before creating.
The biggest difference between separation and divorce is the legal status of both parties involved. In some states, like Florida, married couples cannot decide to get a divorce straight away. Instead, a judge requires them to undergo separation. This can be a legal separation which is a formal state requirement. If they cannot settle their differences during the separation, then the couple is free to end their marriage by way of divorce.
Separation can be formal or informal. In states where it is a legal requirement prior to divorce, it is a formal process. Otherwise, couples can choose to be separated for whatever time frame they agree upon in an informal capacity.
A separation is when a couple lives apart from one another but is still legally married. When it’s a legal separation, there’s a court order that requires them to live apart, but the concept is the same. This can be a temporary or permanent situation. There are states like New Jersey where the law did not allow for things like divorce for sometime and instead, couples legally remained separated and lived apart in a permanent fashion. With a legal separation, no one is allowed to remarry because they are still legally married to one another.
A divorce is a legal end to any marriage. It’s a permanent process that goes through the court. Once this process is complete, both parties are free to remarry and start new lives. Court approval is required for a divorce after which all property and spousal rights must be settled.
The best thing you can do when writing a separation agreement is to consult with an attorney. It is always best to have a consultation with an attorney before you sign so that you know your statement or petition contains all of the information you need. This might include a disclaimer about the dissolution of marriage, rules for a guardian or parents, financial responsibilities for a joint loan, or the process of eviction if one party does not follow through. Remember, the terms of your separation could impact things like an established prenuptial agreement. You might have to fulfill certain disclosure requirements as spouses regarding the duties of respective children or custody and specify your intention for a divorce. No matter what, though, it is a legally binding contract once you sign, which is why it’s always best to get a legal opinion before committing to the agreement.
The use of these legal forms or the form templates on this website could result in direct or indirect losses or damages caused by the loss of use or profits resulting from their use. By downloading, printing, or using this simple consignment agreement, we accept no liability for any loss or damage you may suffer.
Frequently Asked Questions
In almost all states, a separation agreement has to be signed and notarized. Even if you use a separation agreement template and you have a lawyer look over it, it still has to be notarized before you submit the document to the court.
Yes, you can technically get a divorce without a separation agreement if you are not undergoing a separation ahead of time. It's best to speak with an attorney about the legal requirements and responsibilities for your marital relationship. However, in general, if you simply get a divorce, you might use a divorce separation agreement template or submit your divorce paperwork that divides rights, responsibilities, and property to the court.
Depending on your state, the income that you earn as a spouse after the date of your separation becomes separate property. But the money you earned prior to the date of separation that wasn't paid until after your separation still remains marital property. Any shared accounts have to be closed, and all other joint property or finances should be divided if you wish to completely separate yourself financially. However, the terms of your separation agreement might stipulate that things like insurance, expenses, and payments for alimony be divided in a specific way. The more you include in your separation agreement based on your personal preferences with the spouse from whom you are separating, the clearer this aspect of your separation will be.