For married couples, an agreement like this (sometimes called an act of separation) offers certainty about how each human being will live while a divorce is settled. If you and your partner agree on how to dissolve the “professional” aspects of marriage, you can, through a separation agreement, remember the details in an opposable legal document. If you are considering a divorce, but first want to try to live separately, a separation agreement can help you get through all the practical and emotional considerations about how life would be separated rather than together. Many couples who choose to separate enter into separation agreements to make in writing all the decisions they have made about their finances and their children. It is important to take individual legal advice if one of you is in a stronger position than the other, in order to avoid the court suggesting that the other party has been compelled to the separation agreement. For more information, see our article on what your agreement should contain. If these are complex real estate, retirement, custody or tax matters, talk to a lawyer or accountant to clarify the tax or legal consequences of your separation contract. If one of you violates the act of separation and the other goes to court to enforce it, the judge will make an assessment as described above and apply the agreement to the extent that he deems it correct. Unless you live in a common state of ownership (AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, AZ, NM, TX, WA, WI), the court does not grant a separation agreement. Instead, the couple negotiates the details of their separation and recalls the agreement in a document. If a separation ends, you can ask the judge to include part or all of the separation agreement in the final divorce judgment or divorce decree.

If the children are involved, a separation agreement helps clarify the details of who should have custody, how often the other parent can go, and the need to care for the children. When a spouse has a career raising children, the separation agreement could also address whether a person should receive assistance or support.