Updated: Apr 3
When discussing a separation agreement with a client or potential client the question usually comes up as to what the benefits are to having a separation agreement. This can be a lengthy answer and, sometimes, fact specific to each case. In this post I will try to hit some of the highlights or benefits that apply to almost everyone. Again, this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list and does not account for the specifics of any one case. If you have questions about your matter, I always suggest that you consult with competent attorney.
Before I begin, I want to define what a separation agreement in Virginia actually is so that we are on the same page. Admittedly, this is very similar to the description that I have used in other posts, however, I wanted to remain consistent. If you have read these posts feel free to skip this paragraph unless you want to refresh your memory about separation agreements in Virginia. If you have read other posts this may redundant and you can feel free to skip to the next section. A separation agreement also known as a Stipulation and Property Settlement Agreement is a contract for the end of your marriage. Pretty dramatic word choice but it is true. When couples get divorced, either they can talk control of everything or they can let someone who knows absolutely nothing about you or your family and is obligated to follow the law not what is necessarily best for your family, a judge, make the decision. By creating a separation agreement, Virginia divorce courts almost always follow the agreement made between the parties.
So when discussing the benefits of a separation agreement in Virginia we have to start with the biggest and most prominent benefit – control. Think about this for a moment, a divorce affects the most intimate aspects of your life. A judge can decide who lives in the marital home, who pays debts, how much support is paid, and even your ability to see or parent your children. Remember that the judge is the least informed person in any trial as the Court only gets to hear information provided by witnesses. Additionally, a judge is bound by the rules of evidence, civil procedure, and the laws applicable to your case. Lastly, a judge is human who comes to the case with their own opinion as to how things should occur or what should happen. By writing a separation agreement, the couple takes control away from the judge and puts it in their own hands. Control – of your finances, your living situation, your retirement, your children, and so much more.
Along those same lines, another benefit of a separation agreement in Virginia is that it establishes the rights as well as the obligations of each spouse. It determines, in an oversimplification, who is going to do what after the separation and the divorce. There should be no question, no ambiguity, no issue at all as to what each party gets and for what they are responsible. By doing this, if there are issues then there is a contract that can be enforced forcing a party to act or holding them accountable for failure to act. As part of the benefits of a separation agreement, there will be no “grey area” or question about individual responsibilities.
Another benefit of a separation agreement in Virginia is that it resolves any and all outstanding issues. Now, admittedly, this is a blanket statement and there can be exceptions if the couple does a partial separation agreement but generally speaking a separation agreement in Virginia tends to cover all issues. Again, nothing is left to a judge’s determination and the rights as well as the responsibilities of the parties is clear. If everything has been agreed to in a written separation agreement, the Virginia courts will routinely enter the divorce.
Yet another benefit of a separation agreement is that it allows the parties to agree to something that the Court cannot Order the parties to do. A judge’s authority is not unlimited. There are things that the Court can and cannot order. For example, absent medical incapacity a child support obligation ends at either eighteen or, if still in high school, nineteen or high school graduation whatever comes first. In a separation agreement, the parties can agree to a further date for child support to end – example, after graduation from college. Another example is the expense of college. A Court does not have the ability to Order that the either of the parties pay or contribute to college. This is often referred to as a moral obligation not a legal one. In a separation agreement, the parties can agree on college expenses. Two more examples are pre-college educational expenses or extra-curricular activities. If a child is going to private school or plays a travel sport, the Court cannot order either of the parties to pay for these expenses. However, one of the benefits of a separation agreement in Virginia is that the parties can agree to those costs and expenses.
Sometimes the parties can only work out some of their issues and not all of them. In this case, the parties can agree to a partial separation agreement to cover just those issues. Somes of the benefits are all of the above stated benefits. Another benefit is that it will reduce time and expense as some of the issues have been resolved. Lastly, perhaps the parties need more information or would like some time before agreeing on everything. Again, another benefit of a separation agreement or a partial separation agreement in Virginia.
Believe it or not, establishing a date of separation can prove to be troublesome. Even this seemingly simple matter can sometimes prove to be quite difficult. The date of separation is very important as it establishes financial responsibilities or benefits to the parties. In a separation agreement, the parties can agree to the date of separation. This makes things cleaner for the parties.
This is merely a partial list of benefits and is not designed to be all-inclusive. There are benefits that are situation specific. For your particular matter, I recommend contacting a competent family law attorney to ask your questions.
Now that you know about some of the benefits of a separation agreement in Virginia, you may have question as to whether a separation agreement is required in Virginia. If so, please read this Blog post. You may also have another question about whether you can write your own separation agreement. If so, please read this Blog post.
I hope that this answers some of your questions regarding the benefits of a separation agreement in Virginia as well as giving you a starting point. If you have more questions, you can always visit our Separation Agreement page by clicking on this link to read more or to set up a free consultation with a lawyer.
If you have more questions or want to discuss your options, you can either call or text us at 757-454-2110. We also have on our site an online consultation form. Again, our initial consultation with a lawyer about your case is free so it costs you nothing to call and ask your questions.
And do not forget to scroll to the bottom as there may be related posts that answer other questions that you have or did not think of at when you found this post. Thank you for reading this and I appreciate your time.
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