8 Reasons You Need a Legal Separation Agreement

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It is my opinion that couples that decide to live separately should have some form of a legal separation agreement. If you own a home together, have children, joint bank accounts and other financial interests in both names it makes sense to protect yourself financially while living apart.

Here is the problem some couples will run into…not all states recognize legal separation. If your state doesn’t recognize legal separation you will need to file for a divorce.

Once you file for divorce and come to terms as far as what is written into the agreement you got to court. Going to court is necessary because a judge will have to sign the agreement for it to become, “legal.”

Once a judge signs the agreement, you will have a “ temporary court order.” This temporary order will outline the responsibilities of each party during the time of separation and before the divorce is final. If you do not want to move ahead with the divorce you can request that your divorce attorney put the divorce on hold. In the meantime, thanks to the temporary court order you will have the same legal protections that couples who live in states that recognize legal separation have.


Below are 8 reasons you should consider a legal separation agreement:


1. If there is high conflict and you are your spouse are unable to engage in healthy communication a legal separation agreement will define what is expected of you both during the period of separation.

Having this defined will go a long way in keeping down the need for communication and further conflict. 

2. If you don’t trust your spouse to live up to verbal agreements the two of you make together a legal separation agreement, one signed and witnessed by either a judge or 3rd party can be used in court should your spouse not live up to any part of the agreement.

A verbal agreement is not a legal contract and you have no protection should one or the other spouse, stray from any verbal agreements. 

3. If you have children and want child support. You can’t enforce the payment of child support without a legal court order. If your state recognizes legal separation, child support can be calculated according to your state's child support guidelines and become part of your legal separation agreement. 

4. If you have children and need to set up a visitation schedule. This is imperative! A legal separation agreement can, not only, define a visitation schedule but, also  who has access to the children when in your spouse's custody, where your children reside when not in your custody and whether or not your children can travel without your consent. A legal separation agreement is your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your parental rights. 

5. If you are a non-working spouse and have a need for spousal support. Once again, this can’t be enforced without a legal court order, you will need a legal separation agreement to define how much support will be paid and on what date.

6. You will need to come to an agreement on who pays what bills. If you own a home, a legal separation agreement is imperative to keep from falling behind on mortgage payments.

And, who pays car payments, car insurance premiums, the light bill and so forth. 

7. You need to take into consideration issues such as health insurance. Who will maintain coverage, who will be covered and, who will pay out of pocket expenses if a child or either spouse becomes ill?

8. There is also the issue of cohabitation. Should your child be exposed to another man/woman spending the night at your spouse’s home during the period of separation? If you don't want your child exposed to a steady stream of incoming and outgoing boyfriends and girlfriends, a legal separation agreement is a great way to protect them. 

In most cases, a legal separation is a prelude to divorce. Divorce is more likely to be riddled with conflict than to be amicable. The longer you are separated the more intense the conflict may become.

If that is the situation, you want a legal separation agreement or temporary court order that will cover all the bases and protect your legal rights should you divorce.