Before the divorce, there may be a separation agreement

No divorce in Maryland is an overnight process. Even if you and your ex can agree on matters like child custody, child support and division of property, state law requires that the two of you live separately for at least a full year before a judge can grant your divorce.

However, just because you and your spouse are still married on paper, it does not mean that you cannot formalize your separated status. In fact, it is often a good idea to draw up a contract, called a separation agreement, to outline each spouse’s rights and obligations during the separation period.

As with many contracts, the terms of a separation agreement a largely limited by the parties’ willingness to agree and their imaginations. The spouses can draw up a child custody and visitation plan. They can arrange for child support and spousal support, and even begin dividing up the marital assets.

One advantage of doing this is that it formalizes the terms of the separation. Almost by default, the spouses would have to come up with some sort of plan while living apart. This gives them the chance to hash it out together, so that both can accept the terms of the agreement.

Also, the agreement can speed up the divorce process, once the separation period ends. The judge may incorporate its terms into the divorce decree, rather than having to rule on those matters.

Naturally, the spouses have to be on good enough terms to be able to negotiate in good faith. This is not the case for every couple. But those who can may find their divorce goes faster and more smoothly with a separation agreement worked out.

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