When a married couple become legally separated, they must agree to the terms of separation and stay in agreement until they decide to either reconcile or divorce. Legal separation agreements often cover issues that may lead to conflict, such as child custody, support and dividing up property. In Arkansas, there are laws about how to obtain a legal separation that are unique to the state (some states do not even allow for legal separations and special separation terms).
Decide whether to "lawyer up." In Arkansas, you are not required to obtain a lawyer in order to make a legal separation agreement. Considering the highly charged emotional nature of separation (and the divorce proceedings which may come afterwards), it is often wise to have a legal expert on your side. Lawyers who are trained in family and divorce laws will often be able to offer excellent advice on the strategies you should take, the ruling histories of local judges who might be charged with the case and other factors.
Arrange terms of the separation agreement. Often, legal separation agreements address issues such as child custody and support (who will have primary custody of any children you have with your spouse, what will visitation rights be for the spouse who does not have primary custody, how much will the spouse with primary custody be paid by the other for the child's care); property division (along with deciding who, if either person, will be allowed to stay in the former couple's home, a separation agreement should determine how property such as vehicles, furniture and monetary assets will be divided); and alimony (based on the financial and working arrangements during the marriage, the former couple will need to determine whether either spouse is obligated to pay some sort of support to the other). Often, attempting to negotiate and compromise with the other side is more fruitful than going to battle and using strong-arm tactics.
Bring the separation agreement before the courts. Once a legal separation agreement is drawn up (hopefully with lawyers present to ensure that the agreement meets state legal guidelines and standards and so is likely to be more quickly accepted by a judge), the two sides must file the separation with the local courthouse in order for a judge to review the document and either approve it and the terms of the separation, or not. Again, it is helpful to have lawyers assist both sides with these proceedings, as they can give the best representation of their client from a legal standpoint. The court will also take responsibility for maintaining the terms of the legal separation for the future, so that neither side can go back on the terms that were decided upon.