What Is a Separation Agreement?
An agreement forged by two people who are married but no longer wish to live as a married couple. Couples may seek to live separate lives due to, for example, adultery, differing religious beliefs, or simply not getting along. By marrying, a couple creates a shared life rooted in rights and responsibilities, which can make the entire process of ending that union both strenuous and complicated.
A separation agreement is often an essential step in dissolving a marriage, and having a skilled Maryland separation lawyer or mediator on your side during the separation period can make all the difference. At Z Family Law, we’ll arm you with qualified legal representation and advocate for your best interests as the critical legal separation paperwork is crafted and executed.
Separation Agreements in Maryland
Under Maryland law, there is no official status for getting a legal separation; couples are either married or divorced. However, when a married couple decides to live apart in anticipation of divorce proceedings, a separation agreement can come into play. In these types of cases, couples may choose to enact what is known as a separation agreement, marital settlement agreement, or property settlement agreement. Phrasing aside, these terms all signify the same thing: an enforceable, legally binding contract between spouses that outlines matters such as child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, health and life insurance, the division of property, and more.
In Maryland, separation agreements must be written, signed, and notarized to be deemed enforceable. Resolving all of your marital issues in the separation agreement itself could make the divorce process less contentious and may even decrease your overall costs. Should you decide to move forward with the divorce, your separation agreement can be incorporated into your divorce decree. If you decide not to divorce, on the other hand, your separation agreement can remain in effect as a contract. In the event that you reconcile before your divorce proceeding is final, you and your spouse have the ability to revoke the separation agreement by finalizing the decision in writing.
Do You Need a Maryland Separation Agreement Lawyer?
In Maryland, most couples who end their marriage obtain an absolute divorce through regular divorce proceedings. This type of divorce grants each spouse the right to marry other people, and it permanently severs their marital bond. However, there must be grounds for an absolute divorce, and mutual consent happens to be one of the most common grounds cited.
Because a mutual consent divorce requires a separation agreement before the dissolution of marriage, creating a separation agreement is an extremely important step as you navigate the path to divorce. A separation contract could also come in handy if you are involved in a trial separation and haven’t decided unequivocally whether you want to take divorce action.
This agreement will outline the terms of your separation and may also address issues like how you will parent your kids for the best interest of the child, how you will handle child support payment, what the disposition of property will be, or who will pay the bills in the period before the divorce is finalized.
The bottom line is that a separation agreement can profoundly impact your financial security and the lives of your children. Seeking guidance from an attorney well-versed in Maryland separation agreements means you will get the advice and assistance you need to protect your rights before, during, and after you legally divorce.
The Consequences of Violating a Separation Agreement
A separation agreement is an enforceable contract. If either party violates any of the terms of the agreement, they can face serious consequences. For example, if a separated married couple agrees that one partner will pay the other spousal support, but they fail to or stop making those payments, that partner can be taken to court for contempt. The court could also fine the nonpaying partner or even send them to jail for violating the agreement if they have the ability to pay the contracted support but do not do so.
When it comes to child custody and visitation, violating a separation agreement can have equally serious consequences. If one parent denies the other parent access to their child, they can be held in contempt of court, and as mentioned above, this could result in a fine or even jail time. In addition, violating a separation agreement can have a negative impact on any future divorce proceedings. If one party can show that the other party violated the agreement, the court may be more likely to rule in their favor. That's why it's important to have an experienced separation lawyer on your side to help you make wise decisions before signing the enforceable contract.
Finding the Right Separation Attorney for You
As you navigate this challenging time, our trusted legal team of legal separation lawyers can help you make rational, well-guided decisions. After all, when it comes to writing your new happily ever after, the importance of finding strategic and compassionate legal counsel focused solely on family law cannot be understated. By combining our vast legal experience and negotiation skills, our tenured team can design a tailored strategy to help you take back your power and build the new beginning you deserve.