Separation Agreements

A separation agreement is a divorce settlement agreement that contains many or all of the same terms as a divorce judgment or decree. If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you should seriously consider preparing and negotiating your settlement with an experienced divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In Massachusetts, separation agreements often include provisions for:

  • Who retains the ownership, title, possession, and use of the former marital home
  • Who bears the costs associated with the former marital home
  • Whether the former marital home is to be sold
  • The division of marital assets and liabilities including the former marital home, automobiles, bank accounts, investments, pensions and retirement accounts, furniture, ownership of businesses, vacation homes, boats, credit card debts, tax debts, and other assets and liabilities
  • What pre-marital or other property will be considered separate property not considered as part of the settlement
  • Whether one spouse will receive alimony or spousal support
  • Whether one spouse will continue to provide health insurance for the other spouse after the divorce
  • Mutual waivers of each other’s probate estates and retirement benefits

If the parties have children, the separation agreement will typically include:

  • The amount, frequency, and duration of child support payments
  • Who bears the cost of uninsured medical expenses and extracurricular activities
  • Who bears the cost of the child(ren)’s medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • Who claims the child(ren) for tax purposes
  • A parenting schedule or visitation schedule

Divorcing couples may also agree to:

  • Holiday and vacation schedules for each parent
  • Who bears the cost of college education
  • Who bears the cost of private school
  • Who bears the cost of college applications and SAT prep
  • Who bears the cost of daycare

In Massachusetts, most divorces settle before the divorce goes to trial. Many couples reach a complete agreement before they file for divorce. In Massachusetts, you may file an uncontested divorce pursuant to Mass. General Laws chapter 208, section 1(A) or a or a “1A” divorce. In order to file this type of divorce, you must sign and file a separation agreement along with the following documents:

  • A Joint Petition for Divorce
  • An Affidavit of Irretrievable Breakdown
  • A certified copy of your marriage license or certificate
  • Financial Statements (specific disclosure forms require by the Court)
  • Certificate of Absolute Divorce and Annulment

If you have children, you will also need to file:

  • An Affidavit Disclosing Care and Custody Proceedings
  • Child support guidelines
  • Certificates of Attendance for the Parenting Education Program required by the Court

Typically, at some point during a contested divorce, parties through counsel will negotiate a separation agreement to avoid the costs and expenses of litigation and a trial. The Court will then permit the parties convert the contested divorce to an uncontested case.

While you may be in complete agreement regarding your divorce, preparing the agreement and all necessary forms can be a daunting task. Each party should consult with their own independent divorce attorney or family law lawyer to guide them through this process. Professional legal representation will ensure that each party understands the terms of the agreement and Court approval will occur without unnecessary delay.

If you wish to learn more about preparing and negotiating a separation agreement or an uncontested or “1A” divorce, please contact the Law Offices of James Benjamin at 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation today.