A legal separation agreement is a formal document that outlines the terms of a couple's separation. This is usually a temporary document, remaining in effect until a couple divorces or reconciles. In many cases, spouses work together to formulate the agreement, so such documents require couples to work together to reach mutually agreeable decisions. The exact requirements for the contents of a legal separation agreement vary by state, but generally, they address issues such as child custody, division of finances and living arrangements.
Determine your state's requirements for legal separation. Since each jurisdiction establishes it own laws on marital separation, begin by researching your state's divorce rules. While some couples choose to retain in-person professional assistance to assist in their research at this early phase of legal separation, in other instances, couples use online resources to determine how to prepare a separation agreement.
Read More: How to Become Legally Separated From a Spouse
Locate a sample separation agreement. To expedite the process of preparing a legal separation agreement, locate an example of a separation agreement that is specific to your state. Some jurisdictions offer free sample agreements through the court clerk's office. You can also find state-specific separation agreements through online document preparation websites.
List information about each spouse. Once you understand the formal requirements for a separation agreement, begin by listing each spouse's full name, date of birth and current address. Also be sure to specify who will continue to live in the marital residence and who is moving out or plans to move out. Additionally, include your date of marriage and the name of the city and state in which you were married.
Provide information about the children. If you have minor children, include their names and dates of birth in the separation agreement. Additionally, describe the visitation and custody arrangement upon which you and your spouse have agreed. Discuss where the children will spend their holidays, vacations and school nights, as well as how you will facilitate the custody arrangement.
Outline in detail how you will divide property. Your separation agreement should include a detailed list of assets and which party will be taking each item. Include major assets such as car, boats, electronics, art and furniture, as well as smaller items such as books and dishes.
Discuss child support and alimony arrangements. If you and your spouse have reached a mutual agreement regarding support payments, outline them in the separation agreement. If you cannot agree on support payments and wish to have the court help you determine payment amounts and scheduling, state this on the separation agreement.
Explain how you will handle joint debts. The separation agreement should include a detailed description of how you plan to divide credit card, loan and mortgage payments, as well as other outstanding debts that you accrued either individually or as a couple.
Sign and date the document in front of a notary public. Once you and your spouse have created a separation agreement with which you both feel comfortable, both parties will need to execute the document and have it notarized.
The court may ask you for proof of residency, such as a driver's license, lease or mortgage. Take one of these documents with you when you deliver your executed separation agreement to the court.
If you have difficulty preparing your separation agreement or have questions about your rights, seek professional assistance.
Not all jurisdictions require you to prepare legal separation agreements.
Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.