Separation agreements (also referred to as property settlement agreements or marital settlement agreements, MSAs) are written contracts between two individuals who are married. They are created when a couple decides to stop living together and want to finalize the marriage.
There are many reasons why this happens. This kind of agreement can come into play when one or both parties are seeking a divorce.
What Should Be In A Separation Agreement?
A valid separation agreement should clearly state how the partners’ personal assets and debts will be divided. The contract should define who will retain those items during the separation and what will happen to them in the event that the couple should get divorced. All essential assets should be included.
Many times the biggest issue is custody of children. This can be tricky because there are so many variables that come into play. A good agreement will outline all the essential elements of custody, visitation, and everything else that parents need to consider when raising children.
Vehicles, real estate, and other items that are in both partners’ names may be considered to be marital assets. Other debts and assets that were obtained during the marriage are also marital property. Many profit sharing and pension plans are generally viewed as marital assets if they were acquired by one spouse while they were still legally married. All marital property will be divided under current Maryland law by a Judge, unless an agreement is reached by the parties.
Assets that were received or purchased before the marriage are non-marital assets. This can include any money made from particular non-marital items or assets that were received as gifts or as an inheritance. It’s a good idea to keep records and receipts just in case you need to verify whether or not certain items are marital or non-marital possessions.
The agreement will also specify any level of financial support (alimony) that will be provided by one spouse to their former partner. It will state what will happen to any joint health benefits that may have been obtained during the marriage and determine proper support, care and custody arrangements for the couple’s children.
A marital settlement agreement usually does not allow partners to engage in sexual relationships with other people. That would be considered adultery. However, the parties may decide to waive any adultery ground for future divorce which is intended to allow the parties to engage in a separate relationships. The agreement does not end a marriage, either. The marriage will still need to be dissolved via annulment or divorce before one or both partners can legally remarry if they so choose.
Can Separation Agreements Be Enforced?
Separation agreements should be in writing. That way, they’re easier to prove and enforce than any verbal contracts that may have been made. A qualified attorney should be retained for assistance in creating your own separation agreement.
One party may be found to be in breach of contract if they don’t adhere to or break the conditions of the agreement that were put in place. Their partner could sue them in a court of law in such instances.
After an agreement is signed, the parties may wish to pursue an absolute divorce. In that case, the separation and property agreement is “incorporated but not merged” into any final divorce decree, making the agreement part of the final decree.
Can These Agreements Be Modified or Eliminated If Necessary?
Separation agreements can be negotiated before divorce. They are usually included in the judgment after being carefully reviewed by a court of law. There may be certain conditions or clauses that a judge may decide either can’t be enforced or simply don’t apply to the specific situation. One or both parties may make changes. However, both spouses will need to approve any revisions to this agreement in writing.
A judge could also change certain sections as needed. They may decide to modify language or terms regarding a child’s custody, support, care or education. This is true even if your particular agreement has language in it which states that a court cannot change the documents.
A court will usually accept most settlement agreements that are included in uncontested divorces. The judge may look over the contract to see if it is equitable for both parties and that the terms are sufficient. They may also offer advice for handling health insurance, taxes, taxes and other potential concerns.
Why Do I Need A Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a preferred method of concluding a divorce. Even if you have very little assets or debts, it streamlines the divorce and conclusively outlines any marital issues that could arise in the future. A no-fault divorce should not be an issue in those instances. Separation agreements are essential when couples who have children, a home, vehicles and other assets in their name decide to end their marriage.
If one or both parties have concerns about child custody or visitation, debt, division of assets, spousal support, the divorce itself, or any other related matters, the divorce is generally viewed as contested.
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses have agreed to the divorce. There are no outstanding issues and the pending outcomes are typically viewed as acceptable. Consent divorces can take less time to process because there are very few details that still need ironing out.
There is no statute of limitations for settlement agreements in the state of Maryland. Agreements can be for a time period that’s specified in the arrangement, or they can be indefinite. There may be certain restrictions, such as child support expiring once a child has reached legal age.
Separation and property settlements can be difficult. It’s not always easy to decide who gets what. Both parties may want certain assets at the same time. Sometimes meditation is the appropriate method to get it done.