Separation Agreements 101: The Basics Of Property Settlement Agreements In Virginia
What Is A Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement, contrary to its name, is actually not an agreement between two (2) spouses to separate. Rather, a separation agreement addresses how a couple contemplating divorce will deal with divorce-related maters, such as alimony or spousal support, property division, child custody and child support.
Also referred to as property settlement agreements, separation agreements are contracts signed by both spouses. Due to the legally binding nature of these agreements, you should always have an experienced family law attorney—like those at the DiPietro Family Law Group—draft your separation agreement or at least review it before you sign it.
In addition, because separation agreements are legal contracts, they must be executed with all the formalities and legal requirements of contract formation in order to be valid. For instance, the agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. You and your spouse must read and fully understand the agreement prior to signing it, and your consent to enter into the agreement must be voluntary. Furthermore, the agreement cannot be filled ambiguities, be unconscionable (extremely unfair) or against the public policy of Virginia.
Once you and your spouse have properly executed and signed your separation agreement, the court will incorporate the agreement in your final divorce order.
How Do We Draft A Valid Separation Agreement?
You can work one-on-one with your husband or wife—or preferably through your attorney and your spouse’s attorney—to reach an agreement about what your lives will look like after divorce. Obviously, this is going to require that compromises on both ends. While you may not get everything you want, negotiating a mutually beneficial separation agreement will be less expensive and less stressful than going through a divorce trial and litigating these issues in court.
Often divorcing couples choose to collaborate or mediate their issues. Under these circumstances, your attorney can take over the majority of communications so you don’t have to get in arguments with your spouse, and your attorney will also walk you through every step of the process. In addition, your attorney can draft your separation agreement to ensure that it is written correctly and that your rights are fully protected.
Once your separation agreement is finalized, the court will incorporate it into your final divorce decree. When this happens, the separation agreement becomes an official court order which must be followed by you and your former spouse.
What If We Cannot Reach An Agreement?
If you cannot reach an agreement with your spouse, then you will have to litigate your issues in court. This process can be expensive. Going to trial can also be traumatic, and less advantageous because you are asking a judge who is not very familiar with your circumstances to make important decisions about you and your children’s lives. Nevertheless, you may not be able to negotiate a mutually agreeable arrangement with your spouse, making litigation your only option. In this case, you should always hire an experienced family law attorney who will fight for your rights and get you the property, spousal and child support that you need to move on with your life.
If you are considering divorce, trying to draft a separation agreement or have any other family law issue, you should consult with one of the family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group. Our lawyers are experienced with all family law issues in jurisdictions across Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Contact us today at (888) 530-4374.