A separation agreement is a formal written agreement between two spouses who are separating and likely considering divorce. The agreement is used to enforce the rights and responsibilities of each spouse. In order to be legal, the contract must be signed by both spouses.

Separating spouses are not required to have a separation agreement. However, without one, it can be difficult to settle disputes and assign duties. 

Although a separation agreement may seem simple, it can cover a wide range of issues. Here are some of the items that should be covered by a separation agreement.  

Division of Property

A couple can accumulate a large amount of property over the course of a marriage. Often, spouses may disagree about how jointly owned property should be divided. 

Each spouse must disclose his or her personal property interests in the separation agreement. A lack of disclosure on the part of either spouse could cause the offending spouse to lose the favor of the court.

The property that is listed in a separation agreement may include vehicles, furnishings, and jewelry. In addition, the money in banking accounts, bonds, retirement funds, and stocks must be disclosed. Life insurance is also considered property.


Not only does the property of the spouses have to be divided, but so do the debts. The responsibility for outstanding debts may be assigned through a separation agreement. 

If the separation leads to a divorce, the debts incurred by each spouse after the divorce are the responsibility of the person who incurred the debt. The debt assigned during a separation agreement is marital debt, or the debt incurred while the couple was still married.

Child Custody

One of the most important assignments covered by a separation agreement is the custody of children shared by the couple. Each parent may want full custody of the children. However, if there is no proof of abuse and the parental obligations of the spouses have been equally performed by both spouses, the separation agreement is likely to divide the custody of the minor children equitably.

The Beginning Date of the Separation

The agreement should also include the start date of the separation. This date will be the official beginning of the couple's separate living arrangements. Still, some couples physically separate unofficially before an agreement has been drafted.

If you are considering a legal separation from your spouse, contact the office of a separation agreement lawyer to schedule a consultation.