Everything You Need to Know About Forming a Legal Separation Agreement

A legal separation agreement differs from the formal process of filing for a legal separation in California. Here’s how to form a legal separation agreement.

Once a couple has reached the decision to legally separate, they will need to devise a legally binding separation agreement, which details everything pertaining to their separation. The agreement will discuss child support, custody, and/or visitation if children are involved, property division, and alimony. These aspects are similar to those negotiated in divorce proceedings, but a separation between partners differs in the respect that the legal marriage is not yet dissolved.

Related: Legal Separation vs. Divorce in California

Some Background on a Legal Separation Agreement

The formation of a legal separation agreement allows couples the necessary time to figure out how their relationship, children, and property will be handled moving forward. A separation is a fairly large lifestyle change for everyone involved, and it may take some time for all of these details to be worked out. It is important for separating couples to understand that although this agreement is a legally binding contract, it does not have the same impact as a legal separation or divorce ordered by the court. Furthermore, couples do not need to go to court for a legal separation agreement to be effective.

Related: Legal Separation Laws in California: The Basics

Important Elements to Discuss in a Legal Separation Agreement

Spouses should discuss which specific responsibilities and obligations are required of each person. Below are some common topics detailed in a legal separation agreement:

If there are children involved:

  • Where they will live,
  • How much time will be spent with each parent,
  • Which parent will pay alimony/child support,
  • How much child support will be paid during the separation, and
  • Whether relocation of residences/shared time with each parent results in the child attending a different school.

Additional matters between spouses:

  • How living expenses (healthcare costs, groceries, taxes, utilities) will be divvied up,
  • How assets (i.e. investments, bank accounts) will be managed,
  • How property and income will be utilized after the separation,
  • How rent or mortgage payments will be made and by whom,
  • Whether one (or both) spouses will relocate, or
  • If one (or both) will remain in their current residence.

The elements listed above are not exhaustive, and spouses can tailor their separation agreement to meet their unique needs. It is critical for spouses to engage in the discussion a legal separation agreement warrants, as it will likely alleviate issues of miscommunication after the separation has gone into effect.

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If you have any more questions on how to form a legal separation agreement, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the right lawyer for your unique legal situation. Get your free consultation with one of our family law attorneys in California today!