How to Write a Separation Agreement 

How to Write a Separation Agreement - Heidi Dinning

How to Write a Separation Agreement 

Divorce is a challenging time in any person’s life, and can be very emotionally taxing. Not only can it be challenging from an emotional standpoint, but there are certain steps that a divorcing or separating couple is required to take, too.

Ensuring that all the proper steps are taken can be stressful for someone going through this life event.

One of the steps that each couple must take is to write up a separation agreement and then file it.

Take a look below to learn more about writing your own separation agreement, as well as how to write a proper one.

What Is a Separation Agreement?

First off, what is a separation agreement, anyway? A separation agreement, or a separation statement or letter, as it is sometimes called, is an official document that is meant to be filed with the court when a couple has decided to separate.

This document essentially contains all of the details of the spouses and their marriage, and then is signed by both parties before being submitted to the court.

The agreement follows a fairly strict structure and has many required details. These include the names and addresses of both parties, the beginning date of their separation, details of their marriage, a statement that outlines their intent to separate, and terms of the agreement.

A separation agreement will also need to include details such as specifics of the division of assets and financial and childcare responsibilities required of both parties. 

How to Write a Separation Agreement - Heidi Dinning

Why Do I Need a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement is typically submitted to the courts before divorce proceedings begin. It is important because it helps you to think about all of the logistics and nuts and bolts of the divorce.

It can settle the division of assets, as well as the division of debts.

Plus, it can help determine post-divorce spousal support, child support and child custody, and any waivers of claims against third parties, too.

Essentially, it assists both spouses to reach an agreement and the terms of the separation on how everything will be handled once they are no longer together or married.

How to Write a Separation Agreement

Now that you understand what a separation agreement is, and why it is necessary, you may be wondering how you and your spouse can sit down and write one. Typically, you would meet with your lawyer or attorney for assistance to create a separation agreement. Below, we will also go over some of the steps and tips that you should be aware of when planning to draft your separation agreement. 

Negotiate

One of the first steps to writing a separation agreement is to sit down with your spouse, and your lawyer can help if needed, to begin negotiations. You will want to ensure that you are negotiating from a neutral standpoint and that you and your spouse remain calm and do not get too emotional.

This is where it can be helpful to have your lawyer or a mitigator as a mediator. Negotiations are where both spouses can begin to discuss their priorities and their willingness to compromise. 

Figure Out Priorities

As mentioned above, you and your spouse will also want to determine your priorities when writing a separation agreement. You and your spouse will need to determine how you will split assets, division of property, split childcare, and more. Knowing the priorities of each spouse can help to make this division process easier and more painless. 

Separate Physical Property

Physical property is considered to be items such as clothes, books, and other similar things. These are belongings that were likely shared in the home, and you must divide them between spouses and agree on it for a separation agreement.

Some items may be difficult to divide, so it will be necessary to negotiate with your spouse and come to an agreement on who will get the item. 

Divide Debt

During the process of your separation agreement, you must also divide the debt and bills that you and your spouse have accumulated.

In many areas, these are the responsibility of both spouses, even if the debt was only taken out by one of them. You must determine who is going to be responsible for what.

Evaluate Incomes for Spousal Support

Another important step for your separation agreement is to take a look at the money that each spouse is bringing in–their income. You will need to separate it from your net household income so that you can calculate how much needs to be paid in spousal support after the divorce.

Typically, the lower-income spouse will receive spousal support from the other spouse who brings in more money to the household.

Determine Child Support

Like spousal support, it is also important to determine child support when you are drafting a separation agreement. This agreement must contain certain details pertaining to children if the couple has any. These details include information about parenting, custody, child support payments, and child supervision as well.

Some couples may decide to live together while separated so that they can care for their children. In this type of situation, the couple can then sign a cohabitation agreement. 

Figure Out Name Change

This is something that may not pertain to both spouses. It is important, though, for the spouse who had taken their partner’s name during the marriage to decide whether or not they want to change their name again now that they are getting divorced. Of course, this may not apply to all couples, either, as not all individuals decide to change their names these days.

Determine Divorce

A separation agreement is just that–an agreement for separation. You will also want to make sure that you go over what you expect to happen to the separation agreement in the case of divorce. It is often used as part of the divorce agreement, so if this is the intention, discuss that with your spouse and with your lawyer. 

Legal Separation 

You should also check to see if the area in which you are located does recognize legal separation. If so, then you will need to file a petition to have the separation agreement approved in court. This is, of course, an important and crucial step in a separation! 

Draft Agreement Form

Local laws and standards may vary, so there may be some differences in what is required for your separation agreement.

Be sure that this is drafted correctly so that it is valid–it needs to comply with federal and local laws. A lawyer or attorney should be able to assist with that.

Sign

Now that the hard work is done, the last thing is for you and your spouse to sign the agreement. This must be done in front of a legal notary so that the document can be considered to be a legally binding separation agreement. 

How to Write a Separation Agreement - Heidi Dinning

Do You Need Help??

Heidi Dinning is a CDC® Certified Divorce Coach. Her services are designed to give people navigating separation, divorce and family breakdowns help and guidance. If you are going through a situation and need assistance please contact us.

We have a free consultation available and we are here to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you write a separation statement?

When writing a separation agreement, there are a few things that need to be included.

These are the names of both spouses, as well as their address or separate addresses, details of their marriage, the beginning date of separation, a statement of the couples’ intent to separate, the terms of use of the agreement, and finally, specifications of the division of assets as well as financial and childcare responsibilities or expectations.

How many pages is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is not a quickly written document! It is a lengthy collection of pages that takes a lot of negotiation to reach an agreement on as well.

The size of a separation agreement can vary, based on the information that is included–for instance, a couple who is divorcing and has kids will have to include additional information on childcare responsibilities, while a couple without children will not. A separation agreement can range from between 8 to 20 pages long on average.

What should a separation letter include?

A separation letter, or a separation agreement as it is also referred to, is a document between the two spouses that goes over the details and disputes of their divorce. It is meant to be filed with the court.

A proper separation letter must include the names and addresses of both spouses, details of their marriage, the beginning date of their separation, a statement of their intent to permanently separate–or at least to separate currently, the terms of use of their agreement, and specifics of the division of significant assets, division of property and other details like financial or childcare responsibilities.

How do I write a letter for marriage separation?

If you are dissolving your marriage or separating from your spouse, you will need to write a separation agreement, which is essentially a letter that the separating spouses write in order to clear up the details, come to an agreement, and settle it in court–it must also be filed with the court.

There are many free PDFs and guidelines for marriage separation letters or separation agreements online, you can search for a sample separation agreement or a separation agreement template to help guide you. It will require sitting down and talking things through with your spouse, as well as negotiating–especially for certain parts of the agreement, like the specifications of the division of assets that is required. It can be helpful to also get independent legal advice when writing your own separation agreement.

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