Divorce and Separation Agreements

DO I NEED A SEPARATION AGREEMENT? A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse which details:

  1. How you will divide your property and debts?
  2. The amount of and the party who will pay or receive spousal support and child support.
  3. Who will have custody of or visitation with the children.
  4. Other major issues that may arise.

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on these issues, you will have to go to court to have a Judge resolve them. Once the separation agreement is finalized, it is incorporated into the final divorce decree.

It is always advisable to try to resolve your major issues with your spouse. Litigation is costly both emotionally and financially. It can be especially difficult for children. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to walk you through the process. Since this agreement becomes a binding contract when signed by both parties, it is important that you review the agreement with an attorney before you sign it.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CONTESTED AND AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE? An uncontested divorce means that the parties have resolved all of their differences, such as division of marital property, payment of debts, alimony, child support and child custody. A contested divorce means the parties are contesting or arguing over some or all of these issues. It is important that your lawyer review all agreements between the parties. An experienced lawyer will help you reach a fair agreement. A lawyer can only represent one party.

HOW LONG DOES AN “UNCONTESTED” DIVORCE TAKE? Once you file for divorce, normally it takes three to four months. There are several factors that may affect this time frame.

WHEN IS SPOUSAL SUPPORT/ALIMONY ORDERED BY THE COURT? Pursuant to Virginia Code Section §20-107.1, whether support is ordered depends on a variety of factors such as earning capacity of the parties, education and training of the parties, standard of living during the marriage, duration of the marriage, age and physical conditions of the parties and contributions of the parties to the family. The Court may order that spousal support be made periodically and/or in a lump sum. The purpose of spousal support is to reduce the financial impact of divorce. The Court does not award spousal support to punish a spouse.

WHAT EFFECT DOES ADULTERY HAVE ON SPOUSAL SUPPORT? If a party commits adultery and it can be proven, said party will be barred from receiving spousal support unless it is determined by the Court that denial of support would be a manifest injustice. In many cases spousal support can have a huge impact on both parties. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. I have been practicing family law for over fifteen years. I look forward to hearing from you if you should need legal assistance in this area.