Is our separation agreement still valid if we briefly reconciled?
This depends on a few factors, such as did you legally file your agreement, what state do you reside in, what does your agreement states, and your local laws. However, it might be in your best interest to refile a new separation agreement that reflects the new date of separation; in addition, if there was not one before, add in a reconciliation clause.
Check your original agreement first for a reconciliation clause. It will guide you through whether your agreement is invalid or if it still stands. If you do not have one, you should contact your attorney or the clerk’s office where you filed. Ask them what constitutes a reconciliation in your state.
Did You File Your Agreement?
Many couples will write and sign a separation agreement, but not file it. This can occur for any number of reasons. Not all states require you to file an agreement for it to be valid. If your state does not require filing, does not provide a reconciliation clause, and does not require a mandatory separation period, your agreement might be valid.
Does Your State Recognize Separation Agreements?
Understand only 42 states recognize legal separation and separation agreements. Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas do not recognize them; therefore your agreement is not recognized either. Sometimes, these states will offer alternatives to protect property and assets. If this is your concern, contact a local lawyer.
States that recognize your separation agreement might have a reconciliation clause that specifies what happens when you reconcile. This clause should define the length of time you must be reconciled as well as any steps you need to take in case a reconciliation does or does not work; if you filed your agreement, for example, but did not notify the court you reconciled, your original agreement is no longer valid.
Keep in mind that the court might still honor portions of your original agreement, even if the separation itself is now void. In some states, custody and/or asset division have nothing to do with the actual separation. Many states only require one spouse to file while the other is simply notified, and the filing spouse can use the previous agreement to show the court intent and agreement.
How Long Was Your Reconciliation?
First, you should personally define reconciled in regards to your relationship, and if possible, agree to that definition with your spouse. This is important if you did not move in together. Your agreement might be still valid. Clauses generally state that for the agreement to be invalid, you and your spouse must live together. Even if you did briefly live together, check your state’s definition. If the period was short, less than a month, your agreement might still be valid.
If you lived together for an extended period, 60 days or longer, your original agreement is likely invalid and you will need to start the process over. This can be as simple as changing the dates of your original agreement—if you both still agree to the terms—and re-filing the same agreement.
States that require a separation period and a filed agreement for no-fault divorce will be at the top of that list. This is because you have reset the clock on what is legally defined as your separation and those days, months, or one year must be consecutive.
In South Carolina, for example, any reconciliation where both parties live together voids the original agreement and restarts the separation period before divorce. The amount of time you lived together does not matter in their court system. You will need to refile a new agreement with the new separation date.
Why Does it Void the Agreement?
In many states, even a brief reconciliation, voids the original separation agreement because a separation means you must live apart and not as husband and wife. Some states allow for leniency if the financial circumstances mean you must remain under the same roof; however, you need the court’s permission to do so.
Do You and Your Spouse Still Agree to All Terms?
This is important because if you must refile, but one of you no longer agrees to a section of the agreement, now is a good time to revisit those parts. Another reason to refile is so that your spouse cannot later use the reconciliation against you. Even though it might extend the waiting period, refiling a new agreement will protect you if you later divorce. Be sure to add a reconciliation clause if you did not include one in the first agreement.