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What is a separation agreement and how does it work?

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It can be hard to know what you can and cannot do in accordance with family law when you don't have a sufficient legal background. Generally, most people only have a vague understanding of the law - not enough to successfully guide them through a legal issue. In most cases, it's a person's lack of knowledge that leaves them asking questions like the one we're asking above:

What is a separation agreement and how does it work?

Unlike some states, Maryland is a fault state meaning married couples need to establish grounds for divorce when attempting to start the dissolution of marriage process. If a couple does not have grounds for divorce, then they are required to live separate for at least 12 consecutive months before a divorce can be granted.

Separations can be challenging though, as some of our Montgomery County readers can confirm. Because spouses are living apart, it can be difficult or even impossible to know how either spouse is using marital funds. One spouse may try to hide assets while another may begin frivolously spending to decrease the assets their spouse could get during the divorce.

There is a solution to this potential issue though: a separation agreement. Sometimes referred to as a property settlement agreement or a marital settlement agreement, this type of legal document provides some protection during a separation. Let's take a look.

In Maryland, separation agreements can outline:

  • The division of property prior to and after a divorce
  • The amount of spousal support that will be paid to the other spouse
  • Arrangements regarding child custody, care and support
  • The contribution of health insurance benefits to a spouse or the children

Because it is possible for a separation agreement to be revoked, it's important to speak to an attorney regarding the drafting and signing of such an agreement. It's also important to remember that a separation agreement may not be necessary in every person's case, which is why talking to an attorney can help you decide whether it's something you should consider or not.

Source:  dhr.state.md.us, "Legal Rights in Marriage & Divorce in Maryland," Third Edition, Copyright 2008, Accessed Sept. 10, 2015

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