There are many reasons couples choose to file a legal separation. Initially, many states require a legal separation period before a divorce is granted. Next, a couple may not be ready for a divorce, but they don’t want to live together. Couples must take certain steps to make sure the legal separation goes smoothly.
Hire An Attorney
Anyone going through a legal separation needs to hire a Divorce Lawyer. The divorce lawyer makes sure your rights are protected. The lawyer may recommend a written separation agreement signed by the judge. The parties may not want this because they have an oral agreement. Oral agreements are not legally binding. Make sure you have a written agreement. This document specifies:
- who keeps the marital residence
- who pays what bills
- who has custody of the kids
- who pays child support and how much
- who pays what debts
- what happens to the parties’ assets.
Legal separation agreements are enforceable. The judge finds parties in contempt for violating the agreement. Later, the agreement can become part of a divorce agreement.
Count Your Assets
You may think you know your spouse until it comes time to separate. It’s practical to make a list of all your marital assets and debts. Unfortunately, some individuals will try to hide money and other assets. Be sure to find important papers and copy them. You’ll need bank account statements, pension documents, life insurance policies, and tax documents. You’ll also need to make a list of pre-marital property. This property is not subject to property division. The same goes for inherited property and family heirlooms.
Be An Investigator
Be alert about what the other party is doing. It’s not unheard of for a spouse to take out a loan during the separation. They may use the marital property as collateral. The judge will find the party in contempt, but it will be difficult to undo a loan.
Start Separating Yourself
It’s time to start an individual bank account. Protect yourself by building credit in your name. If the agreement makes you responsible for paying a bill, put the bill in your name. Further, health insurance companies do not insure unmarried couples. Therefore, take the steps to get your own health insurance. Start now and shop around for the best deal. Make sure that joint creditors have an updated address. You don’t want any surprises if your spouse is not paying a bill that’s their responsibility.
Have a Good Parental Relationship
Make sure a visitation schedule is part of the separation agreement. You’ll want to see the children as much as possible. Most parents want joint custody and it’s hard to make a case for it if you haven’t been visiting. Make sure there are overnight and weekend visits. Most importantly, kids need to spend time with both parents. It’s hard on them knowing their parents are breaking up. They shouldn’t have to wonder why you disappeared.
Maintain a good relationship with your spouse. Making agreements and plans are so much easier if the parties are getting along. Further, never speak poorly about your spouse in front of the children.
Finally, it’s advisable not to let the separation linger. Long separations are not healthy. People need to move on with their lives or they could be subject to the whims of a controlling spouse. Legal separations are difficult, but having an agreement protects your rights.