Norfolk Divorce Attorney
Separation Agreements are legally binding documents that establish the terms by which both parties to a pending divorce will abide. Simply stated, a separation agreement is a contract. Separation agreements (sometimes called “property settlement agreements” or “settlement agreements”) typically cover a broad range of topics from property distribution, child custody and visitation, retirement distribution, and support issues. A separation agreement may be as detailed or as open as the parties think appropriate.
Do I Need A Separation Agreement?
The simple answer to this question is, no, in most circumstances you do not need a separation agreement to proceed with a divorce, nor is one required to establish the separation of the parties. In one instance, however, a separation agreement is required. Under Virginia law, if you are attempting to get an uncontested divorce with no minor children, you will need to have a written separation agreement to file for the divorce if you have been separated for less than one year, but at least six months.
However, the are definite reasons why you should have a separation agreement. First and foremost is the cost benefit. Having a separation agreement eliminates the need for costly litigation, lengthy court processes, legal fees, court costs and expenses.
Perhaps equally important is the level of control the parties have to decide how marital property is separated, rather than having a complete stranger, a divorce judge, make those personal decisions for you. Additionally, the parties may come to terms on issues that a divorce court may not resolve, such as responsibility for private school tuition for minor children or later college tuition for children, extracurricular activities for minor children, or certain conditions related to spousal support payments.
Finally, there is the intangible benefit of peace of mind. When parties decide to separate, Virginia law requires a period of separation, usually one year, before a divorce may be filed. Getting a written agreement in place soon after the initial separation allows each party to know what is expected of the other party and what is expected of themselves as well. The separation period will be stressful enough on the parties, especially when there are minor children involved. Having a separation agreement in place, and knowing to some degree how things will play out will go a long way to ease the divorce process for everyone.
Do I Need A Lawyer For A Separation Agreement?
Again, the simple answer is no, you do not need a lawyer to draft a separation agreement. With that said, you don’t need a mechanic to fix your car, nor do you need a doctor to prescribe cold medicine for you. The issue arises when you later find that that strange sound from your car engine was a bigger issue than you thought, or your sniffles were a symptom of a more serious illness. Likewise, a separation agreement that is poorly drafted, or missing specific terms, may end up costing you far more, maybe thousands of dollars more, in the long run than it would to have an attorney draft your separation agreement.
Take this one example from an actual case. The parties drafted their own separation agreement indicating they would split the cost of the minor child’s private school education. At the time, the child was enrolled in the 5th grade in a private school that only went through the 6th grade. The one party thought their obligation would end after one more year. One parent then enrolled the child in another private school, without objection from the other parent who then expected the other party, who made far more in income, to pay the full tuition. The court, however, ruled that both parties were obligated for private school tuition until the child graduated, another six years. Not having an attorney to review and advise the parties on the terms of the separation agreement cost the one party over ten thousand dollars in unexpected expenses.
Our Divorce Attorney Is Here For You.
Once you have made the decision to file for a divorce or separation, it is important to determine your legal options as soon as possible. Filing paperwork incorrectly or not taking the steps to protect yourself may result in you incurring unnecessary fees, your divorce or separation being unnecessarily delayed, or the court may dismiss your filing. Contact our office today to discuss your legal options and to take the first step of getting your life back on track.
Reach us by phone (757) 422-4646 or click here to contact us. We are here to help.