Updated March 2017 Fact Sheet PDF
A separation agreement is a legally binding agreement between you and your spouse. It covers the period of time when you separate until the time that the divorce is made final. It is a document that outlines the terms of the couple's separation. It also settles issues relating to child custody, child support, division of property, and alimony during your separation period. A Separation Agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties to be valid. A legal separation does not put an end to the marriage. It is not a divorce.
The law does not require a person to have a lawyer to create a separation agreement. However, because a legal separation can involve complicated issues such as custody, support, alimony, and property settlement, having a lawyer would be ideal. It is important that you understand what can and cannot be included in the agreement. It is helpful if you are familiar with the format and language of the agreement to satisfy the judge.
If you do not have a separation agreement or some other kind of agreement, the judge will have to hold a hearing for your issues (property, debt, alimony, child support, child custody, visitation, insurance, tax, etc.). This can be long, involved, and time-consuming. Some judges prefer that couples enter into agreements. An agreement can also list specific conditions that a judge cannot. This means that you and your spouse may be able to better control what you want from the court proceeding.
For more information, visit arlegalservices.org/divorce.