Divorce is never pleasant, and it can be extremely stressful and complicated.

A separation agreement can clarify and resolve major issues, lessen anxiety and simplify what would otherwise be a long, drawn-out parting of the ways.

More reasons than one

While a separation is often a prelude to divorce, there may be other considerations. A couple may not be able to divorce because their religion does not allow it. Financial concerns may also be a primary concern. For example, a couple might want to separate but remain legally married so that a nonworking spouse can remain on the health care insurance of the other, working spouse. A couple may even choose to remain married although living apart because of the tax benefits they enjoy from filing jointly.

What goes into the agreement

A separation agreement will essentially set forth the guidelines for how spouses intend to live life apart from one another. The spouses will consider the same kinds of issues that are necessary for divorce. If there are children of the marriage, one of the top priorities will be for spouses to agree on the matter of how they will manage co-parenting. The agreement might set out who gets to keep the family dog and how the art collection should be divided. The couple should treat the separation agreement as they would the divorce settlement. The one major difference is that they would not be able to remarry until such time as the divorce itself becomes final.

Going forward

An experienced attorney can put together a separation agreement that identifies areas of conflict ahead of the divorce action. If the soon-to-be-exes can work out important issues such as child custody and support, parenting time and even property distribution, the agreement will become a legally binding document that will simplify the divorce and probably cut several months off the process.