In Virginia, couples must be separated for a minimum of one year to obtain a divorce unless you enter into a property settlement agreement or marital separation agreement. If you have signed a property settlement agreement or a marital separation agreement and you do not have minor children then you only need to be separated for six months.
If you have children you must be separated for at least one year regardless of whether you have signed an agreement. In the meantime, hiring experienced legal representation to draft and negotiate a separation agreement is absolutely critical. At the McDevitt Law Office, I can help you protect your financial security and your rights. I will help you reduce your exposure to liability during the waiting period and set terms to expedite the process of the final divorce decree.
I can help you draft a separation agreement that addresses:
- Child custody and visitation (both legal custody and physical custody)
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Property division
- Retirement and pensions
- Other liabilities associated with being married
Why Is a Separation Agreement Important?
The first facet of a divorce proceeding is the financial disclosure document, outlining income versus expenses for both spouses and their combined income. The second is filing all the necessary forms, such as the petition, judgment and decree. The third is the property settlement agreement, which may also be referred to as a separation agreement in some jurisdictions.
The property settlement agreement outlines the division of assets and debts of the marriage and advises the court the parties have agreed to the terms. The agreement finally resolves all property, liability, child custody and support rights associated with your marriage and clearly define the specific duties, obligations and expectations of each party. Should the couple have children, a child care plan is appended to the settlement, stating the responsibilities and rights of the parents relating to the children. Separation agreements diminish conflict and stress that can arise out of verbal misunderstandings.
Separations agreements protect you from responsibility for unexpected events during your period of separation before a divorce is finalized. For instance, if your spouse becomes disabled in a car accident during the period of separation, you could be responsible for financially supporting your spouse for the rest of his or her life if you do not have a separation agreement that states otherwise. This is but one example of the serious liability you carry during the separation period.
Issues in Property Settlement Agreements
If children are involved in the divorce, there are two issues that should be addressed relating to custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves making decisions about the children’s welfare, education and health. Physical custody refers to where the children will live. This is not typically a short-sighted agreement, as it tries to look to the future to prevent conflict over predictable issues in the best interest of the children. If a child care plan is presented with the property settlement agreement, it needs to clearly spell out holiday visitation timetable, week-to-week schedules and other issues relating to shared custody.
Financial issues must also be addressed in the property settlement agreement. Included in the agreement are items such as debts, business interests, bank accounts, cars or other vehicles, securities, retirement accounts, maintenance, court costs and legal fees. The idea behind the property settlement agreement is that the spouses divide the assets and debts, as agreeably as possible, and present the final agreement to the court.
Why Do I Need An Attorney for a Separation Agreement?
One of the main reasons for crafting a property settlement agreement is to prevent possible post divorce disputes. A comprehensive settlement agreement helps both parties avoid the issue of one spouse claiming something unexpected during the separation period or after a divorce.
The language of separation agreements is crucial to future enforcement. You need a skilled lawyer who knows how Virginia state courts will interpret specific contract language and what loopholes to avoid.
Contact an Experienced Separation Agreement Lawyer
I have negotiated and drafted literally thousands of property settlement/separation agreements. No two agreements are alike. Each agreement is drafted to specifically address your financial and family situation. Don’t settle for anything less. Contact me at my Vienna, Virginia, office to discuss your case.