Separation is an option for couples who may not be ready to divorce but want to live apart and set up separate households. New York law permits legal separation either pursuant to a judgment of separation or a separation agreement. When drafting a separation agreement, the parties need to engage in a separation agreement negotiation and execute a separation agreement that addresses the same issues that would be decided in a divorce matter – equitable distribution of property, spousal support, child support, child custody and parenting time.
As with any type of contract, it is important to consult an attorney to negotiate and draft or review the separation agreement. As part of that process, there are several ways you and your lawyer can be more efficient about resolving any disputes and getting an agreement completed. These include the following:
- Decide on your wish list. What are the most important things you want to get out of your separation agreement? Rank them for your lawyer.
- Determine your spouse’s wish list. Your attorney can ask your spouse and his or her attorney for their key issues and their position on them.
- Create bargaining chips. The purpose of deciding your priorities is that it makes it easier during separation agreement negotiation. There may be things that are important to your spouse but less so to you or vice versa. You want to be able to bargain what you don’t care about for those things you do as a way to get what you want most.
- Use a term sheet. This document outlines the key terms of your agreement and should be completed and signed by both parties before you start drafting the separation agreement. The benefit is that it is less expensive and faster to keep revising the term sheet during separation agreement negotiation rather than going back and forth rewriting a contract. Further, if both parties sign it and incorporate it into the separation agreement, it becomes binding and cannot be relitigated in court.
The separation agreement is important as it determines the rights and obligations of you and your spouse. Absent such an agreement, you are both responsible for supporting each other. It is crucial to get advice from an experienced matrimonial attorney to help ensure that your legal and financial issues are addressed.
If you are considering separation, contact Jewell Law to learn how we can assist you.