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Divorce is not an easy process for anybody. It can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining, especially if there is no separation agreement in effect between the spouses.

If you and your spouse are divorcing, then entering into a separation agreement may be in your best interest. A Richmond separation agreements lawyer can help spouses devise fair and equitable terms for the contract on their behalf. A dedicated marital agreements attorney could even assist in enforcing a separation agreement’s provisions if one party decides to renege on their contract obligations after it took effect.

The Basics of Separation Agreements

Unlike in other states, Virginia does not recognize couples undergoing a divorce as “legally separated.” However, when spouses decide to uncouple, they may enter into what is commonly known as a separation agreement (often referred to as a “property settlement agreement” or “PSA”) with one another before a court can finalize their divorce.

Separation agreements allow a married couple to mutually agree on financial, property, and relational issues that currently affect their lives. Separation agreements may cover how spouses will handle any or all of the following subjects:

  • Division of marital property, including retirement assets
  • Division of marital debt
  • Tax credits and liabilities
  • Custody arrangements
  • Child support and alimony payments
  • Continuation of health benefits until a court grants the divorce
  • Provisions for how spouses will resolve disputes that arise under the agreement or during the divorce process

Separation agreements generally must be in writing, and can be drafted without an attorney’s assistance. Nevertheless, it is advisable to have a Richmond separation attorney help craft a written agreement uniquely-tailored to the parties’ needs.

Benefits of Signing Separation Agreements

Although executing a separation agreement is voluntary, doing so may provide both parties with many advantages in the long run. The establishment of a separation agreement could serve as proof of when a couple decided to live separately and apart from one another. By having this agreement in place, spouses may be able to secure a final divorce decree quicker than if they had no agreement at all. This is especially true if they are pursuing a no-fault divorce.

Separation agreements also allow the parties to mutually decide on important divorce matters, such as property distribution and custody issues. Without it, they leave the decision up to a judge, who may not have intimate knowledge of their particular circumstances.

Enforcing Separation Agreements

Even when parties enter into separation agreements with one another, one party could try to shirk their responsibilities under the contract or challenge the validity of a provision in court. In Richmond, separation agreements may be enforced before a divorce becomes final by suing the other party for breach of contract.

If a court enters a divorce decree, and the separation agreement is incorporated and merged into it, then a party may enforce the agreement by filing a contempt of court petition. This alleges the ways in which the other party is violating the agreement. If a court enters a divorce decree and a separation agreement is incorporated but not merged into it, then a party seeking enforcement may either file a contempt of court petition or breach of contract claim.

Deciding when and how to pursue legal action to enforce a separation agreement is difficult. A local separation agreements lawyer can help someone determine which legal strategies to use to enforce agreement contract. They can also advise spouses on the legal ramifications that incorporating or merging a separation agreement into a divorce decree may have on their ability to seek enforcement in the future.

Call a Richmond Separation Agreements Attorney for Guidance

If you and your spouse are seeking a divorce, it would be wise to set up a free consultation with a Richmond separation agreements lawyer before your divorce becomes finalized. They can explain the benefits of entering into a separation agreement with your spouse, craft an agreement specific to your needs, and help you enforce it if your current or former partner decides to violate it.

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