Tonight’s post on divorce and settlement agreements was written by our lead Atlanta Divorce Attorney, Cherese Clark.
Do we need to separate or should we just get divorced? What’s the difference? What are the pros and cons of a legal separation? How does that affect me later if I want to be divorced? These are all very common questions in our metro Atlanta community. So here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of making that tough decision.
In the midst of making a decision of whether or not to terminate your marriage and possibly change your children’s lives forever, separation agreements, also known as Separate Maintenance Agreements, tend to be an attractive option for couples who are still on the fence of whether to salvage their marriage or part ways permanently.
A Separation Agreement is a contract that sets forth how parties govern themselves in their separation. For many litigants, entering into a separation agreement is the only way to get their spouse to assist financially in the household and for the children. For others, it is a way to get the pesky details that may arise in divorce proceedings out of the way. For example, determining what will be done with the marital home, how joint debts will be allocated, how the parties will divide their retirement accounts, and whether either party will receive spousal support or alimony moving forward.
Separation Agreements are a way to have a piece of mind while you sort out what you ultimately want to do and are an excellent tool to protect yourself if a divorce comes later.
What happens if you and your spouse decide to reconcile after entering into a separation agreement? Are all bets off? Do you still get everything you thought you contracted for? Well… the answer is “it depends.” Georgia law favors reconciliation, however, if you and your spouse subsequently re-cohabitate, the only portion of your separation agreement that is nullified are those provisions that relate to permanent alimony.
Property division provisions are a different story.- this is the bad part. So, while separation agreements are very useful for the short term, there may be serious long term effects on your rights in a subsequent divorce action if that agreement is incorporated into the Final Judgment and Decree for Divorce. Remember, separation agreements are contracts and therefore binding.
Separation sgreements can cause a litigation nightmare if not drafted properly, clearly, and accurately. If there are provisions that smell like alimony or vague as to the terms, there is a chance that you may not be getting what you thought you contracted for. You could be signing your life away when all you wanted was a temporary place holder.
So, be smart, be clear, and be sure about your decision to enter into a separation agreement before you sign on the dotted line.