When you’re divorcing your spouse, a Baltimore separation agreement attorney can help you streamline this difficult process. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we are deeply aware of the emotional and financial toll of a divorce — especially when children are involved. Separation agreements can cover a wide variety of issues and limit the need for litigation. However, a poorly drafted separation agreement can result in future disputes. Before you sign a divorce settlement agreement, make sure it’s in your best interests.
What Is a Separation Agreement?
Unlike some states, Maryland does not permit legal separation. Instead, a married couple must file for divorce. When a Baltimore separation agreement attorney refers to a separation agreement, he or she is referring to a legal document that sets out the terms and conditions of your divorce. It typically explains how you and your spouse will handle:
- Alimony or spousal support,
- Child custody and visitation,
- Child support payments,
- Insurance issues,
- Property and debt distribution, and
- Other matters relating to your marriage and assets.
While you and your spouse can enter an oral separation agreement, this isn’t in your best interests. Later on, if there is a disagreement about the terms and conditions of your oral agreement, it might be difficult to substantiate your claims. Instead, it’s best to draft a clear, unambiguous written document with the help of a separation agreement attorney.
Once you agree to the terms of a written separation agreement, your lawyer will typically present it to the judge. If the separation agreement is consistent with public policy, the judge will incorporate the terms of your separation agreement into your divorce decree. Once it is incorporated, a divorce separation agreement becomes legally binding in Maryland.
The Benefits of a Separation Agreement
Most divorcing couples in Baltimore could benefit from a separation agreement. And, Baltimore judges and courts encourage separation agreements because they are an efficient and peaceful way to end a marriage. Finalizing a contested divorce is a long and arduous process. A separation agreement simplifies your divorce. Instead of litigating every issue concerning support payments, property, and marital debts, you privately negotiate the terms of your divorce. For this reason, a separation agreement can help you avoid unnecessary legal expenses and public hearings.
Additionally, your separation agreement can contain provisions that could not be court-ordered, such as college tuition assistance for your children. Unless your separation agreement specifically addresses college expenses, a non-custodial parent’s obligation to pay child support typically ends once your child turns 18 or graduates from high school. However, parents can privately agree to additional support. Once this agreement is incorporated into a divorce decree, it is legally binding on both parties.
Alternative Dispute Resolution and Separation Agreements
Sometimes, a married couple can agree to the terms of a separation agreement easily. However, many divorces become contentious — especially when they involve a child or extensive marital property. In these cases, you might need professional help resolving your child support, alimony, and property distribution issues.
In these cases, your separation agreement attorney — or the court — might suggest alternative dispute resolution or mediation. During a mediation, you, your spouse, and your lawyers will meet with a neutral, trained mediator. (Most mediators have great experience as lawyers or former judges.) The mediator will:
- Listen to your arguments and demands,
- Ask questions about your willingness to compromise,
- Look for areas where you and your spouse might agree, and
- Guide you through negotiations.
If mediation succeeds, your separation agreement attorney will draft a written document. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, we will guide you through the entire negotiation and mediation process, providing aggressive representation and thoughtful advice at every step. Contact us today for more information.
Enforcing a Baltimore Separation Agreement
If your separation agreement was incorporated into a divorce decree, your ex might be in contempt of court if he or she violates its terms. This might result in jail time and other penalties. If your separation agreement was not incorporated into a divorce decree, you can file a breach of contract claim against your ex. Sometimes, there is a legitimate dispute about the terms of your separation agreement. In these cases, a separation agreement attorney will help you evaluate your legal claims under Maryland’s family and contract laws. If you need help, contact James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates.
Changing or Revoking a Separation Agreement
You typically can modify or revoke a separation agreement by drafting and signing a new, revised version. If your circumstances have changed and you need a revised separation agreement, contact a separation agreement attorney at James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates. We will evaluate your case, negotiate with your ex, and draft a clear and enforceable contract on your behalf.
Consult With a Baltimore Separation Agreement Attorney
A Baltimore separation agreement attorney will help you create a separation agreement that protects your property, visitation rights, and simplifies the divorce process. At James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates we use over two decades of experience to negotiate fair and enforceable agreements. And, if negotiations do not succeed, we can fight on your behalf in court. Contact us for a private consultation today.