Some couples who hit a rough patch in their marriage want a “time out.” A separation period allows them to examine the relationship without jumping immediately into a divorce. During this time, one spouse may move out, or they may continue to live under the same roof.
Separation agreements may be advantageous for many reasons. The pact is a contract negotiated by both parties detailing their rights and responsibilities during the time apart.
What a separation agreement can contain
For some, a separation period helps couples who still love each other to decide whether their marriage can survive. A formal agreement can be beneficial for financial and tax reasons or to ensure that both spouses and children continue to receive medical benefits. It also sets an official separation date, which is important for several reasons. But just like in a divorce, the contract can address:
- Dividing marital property: If one spouse moves out, they may want to take along or utilize specific items while the other spouse remains in the house. A formal agreement avoids confusion over who owns or can use these assets.
- Custody: Separation agreements can also address child custody and visitation, outlining where the children will live and a visitation schedule. This is crucial, so kids continue to have meaningful access to both parents.
- Support: Separated couples can also formalize continued financial support. Child support and spousal maintenance are separate matters, but Pennsylvania uses strict guidelines to calculate each type of compensation.
Like divorce decrees, separation agreements can be very complex documents, so seeking guidance from an experienced family law attorney is advisable. These contracts are often in place only temporarily until spouses reconcile. But they can also serve as a blueprint for couples deciding to end their marriage, typically leading to a smoother divorce.