Plan for a Civil Separation Agreement
Deciding to separate from a spouse always comes after a stressful time of fighting or feeling betrayed. It may seem difficult to have a long conversation with your spouse about how your separation will look, but careful planning and a respectful, cooperative attitude can make a separation more successful and less combative, with the end result being a practical solution for your family while taking the time to reconcile or contemplate divorce.
1. Separation is a good time to seek counseling
Aside from any counseling you and your spouse are seeking as a couple during a separation, consider seeking individual counseling during a separation. Moving away from a spouse is always a painful transition that can leave you stressed and struggling to cope. Additionally, counseling can offer you a valuable opportunity to discuss personal issues that have been a problem in the context of your marriage, and to sort through whether you wish to reconcile with your spouse or divorce.
2. Create a civil and respectful tone from the beginning of a separation
It can be easy to slip into a pattern of fighting with your spouse whenever you two interact if your marriage has become highly contentious. Allowing this pattern to develop, rather than setting a respectful and cooperative tone, will make a separation far more stressful than it needs to be. You’ll need to remain in communication with your spouse throughout a separation, whether it’s to exchange custody of your children or to retrieve something from the home you shared with your spouse. Keeping your interactions professional and respectful will make both spouses more interested in remaining cooperative.
3. Discuss how you wish to handle shared accounts and bills
Since it is likely that you still share accounts and a home with your spouse, you will need to decide how bills, such as utilities and a mortgage or rent, will be paid while you’re separated. You’ll also have to decide how to handle spending from joint accounts, and whether spouses are allowed to continue accruing debt on shared credit cards. Laying out specific rules will prevent future surprises.
4. Design a separation agreement that puts important issues in writing
The best way to ensure that both spouses are on the same page regarding the terms of the separation is to put those terms in writing with the help of an attorney. A separation agreement will let you establish the existence and amount of spousal support during the separation, rights to visitation and child support payments, how finances will be managed, and when the separation is slated to end. Having these terms memorialized in an enforceable contract will provide both you and your spouse with peace of mind.