Getting it right when you decide to separate

Many California couples may not yet be ready to file for divorce but instead decide to separate. Perhaps they hold out hope that they can save their marriages but need to live physically apart to find out. Whether they do it for the sake of the children, for religious reasons or for financial reasons, among other things, they decide it would be better for them, at least at the time, to remain legally married.

However, they want to go their separate ways and live their own lives until they are ready to file for divorce or get back together. In any case, if it appears that the separation will last for any appreciable amount of time, it may be a good idea to enter into a separation agreement first.

What should go into a separation agreement?

When putting together a separation agreement, you may want to address the following issues: 

  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Debts incurred during the separation
  • Dividing marital assets
  • Responsibility for paying bills
  • Division of retirement funds
  • Life, health and other insurance requirements

You may also decide to waive any rights to inherit if one of you passes away during the separation. Before negotiating your agreement, you may want to get up to speed on the family's financial situation. You may also want to close any joint accounts and credit cards, and obtain your own.

Protect yourself

You may want to take these steps in order to protect yourself and help secure your financial future. Many people make the mistake of trusting the other party, especially if there is talk of getting back together. In far too many of those cases, it turns out to be a mistake. In other cases, one party hopes for reconciliation while the other prepares for divorce.

You can always include a provision in your separation agreement that it becomes null and void if you resume living together as a married couple and no longer wish to divorce. You may also want to be sure that you are satisfied with the terms of your separation agreement since a court may consider it a precursor to a final settlement in a divorce.

To protect your rights and make sure that you receive the best terms possible under the circumstances, you may want to discuss the matter with an attorney before signing an agreement. Even if you believe that you will get back together, this may be your only opportunity to make sure that you will be on at least somewhat solid financial footing now and in the future.

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