Separation and divorce are complicated matters. Even when both parties claim that the separation and/or divorce is mutual and uncontested, one spouse can quickly change his/her mind and create a world of chaos. If you and your spouse are currently seeking a legal separation but do not know for certain that you are divorcing, you should still get your separation agreements in writing and get them notarized. Here are some reasons why.
Mental Health Issues Are a Concern
If you or your spouse has severe mental health issues (e.g., borderline personality disorder, OCD, bipolar, etc.), then you will definitely want to get your agreement on paper. Many times people with these issues forget what they originally agreed to, or they hotly contest what they agreed to. Making sure it is on paper is proof that the agreement happened; it states exactly what was agreed upon, and it is legally binding unless you go before a tribunal to change it.
You Want to Make Sure That a Change in Income Does Not Become a Lawsuit
It happens. Separating couples increase their wages, get bigger bonuses, get better tax refunds and/or win the lottery. Then one half of the couple decides he or she is due half of the increased income of the other spouse. Greed makes for some very ugly family court dramas, so put whatever is equal and fair to the both of you right now down on paper in your separation agreement. In the event that you divorce, keep the same financial agreement as part of the divorce decree. That way, your future assets are protected against a lawsuit from your ex.
Child Custody and Placement Disputes Are a Nightmare
Child custody and placement disputes are a nightmare—not only for the courts, but also for the children who are caught in a literal tug-o'-war between their parents. (Again, greed might have something to do with it, since monthly living expenses are awarded to the primary parent.) To avoid making things especially difficult on your children, make sure you have a fair and equitable arrangement that allows the children to spend enough time with both you and your spouse. Also, make sure to agree to a fair and equitable financial situation for the children, one which provides for their basic needs and personal care at both homes. If there is a special situation regarding the children, such as a diagnosis of autism or a child that is in a wheelchair and needs wheelchair-accessible doorways and ramps, you may need to sit down with a mediator to discuss how best to handle these circumstances.
For more information on separation agreements, contact a company like The Divorce Company.