Is a separation agreement valid if the papers weren't filed in court?
Divorce has become a common aspect of the society today. Although the process is usually painful and regrettable, there will always be cases of divorce hence the legal coverage of the process.
A question that usually pops into mind is whether separation can serve as grounds for divorce and if so whether the separation agreement is valid if the papers were not filed in court.
Before you answer that, it is important that you understand the concept of “grounds for divorce” and the significance of separation in a divorce petition.
What Are Grounds for A Divorce?
Grounds for divorce simply mean the “reasons” that have made you seek a divorce. Normally, the court grants a divorce only for particular reasons. This means that you must explain to the court the reason or reasons for the divorce.
It is important to note that as a petitioner, the court requires that you prove only one reason to get the divorce. However, it is better that you state more than one grounds for a divorce to make your petition much stronger.
There are a total of six major grounds for a divorce that you can use in a court of law to petition for a divorce:
• Unreasonable behavior
• Separation for two years
• Separation for five years
• One year separation
Based on the above grounds, you can see that separation is a viable ground for divorce. However, the duration of separation has significant influence on the nature of divorce that the court can grant.
One Year Voluntary Separation
A judge can grant you and your partner a divorce if you have been living separately for an entire year. This ground qualifies if only you have not gotten back with your spouse at any time during the one-year duration.
You should also ensure that you have a witness to this effect in order to emphasize that you are not the party at fault in these proceedings.
Two Years Separation
The two year separation ground means that you can petition for a divorce if you and your spouse have lived have been living separate lives for a period of more than two years. This ground normally requires consent. That means both you and your partner agree to the divorce.
It is also important you note that the separation does not necessarily mean that you must have lived in different households. On the contrary, depending on your local State statutes, you can have lived under the same roof albeit leading different lives. This means that you had separate domestic and sleeping arrangements.
For you to meet the two-year separation ground, you and your wife or husband might have lived together for a period not exceeding six months. All the same, the period of separation must add up to two years.
Five Years Separation
The five year separation is the same as the two year separation ground for a divorce. However, under this ground, your spouse does not need to agree to the divorce. Therefore, this separation ground does not require consent and you and your partner need to have been separated for a minimum of five years.
The other variables in the five years separation, including living arrangements are similar to those in the two years separation ground.
Overall, if you have lived with your spouse separately for at least five years, then you can file for a divorce regardless of whether they agree or disagree.
Does Separation Also Mean Divorce?
Separation does not necessarily mean that you should divorce with your spouse. On the contrary, you can decide to get back with your wife or husband after being separated for a while.
Just as the name suggests, a separation agreement is a contract between spouses when they separate from one another. You can use the document to resolve issues such as property division, custody, debts and support among others.
A separation agreement is not just a temporary paper used by two people who just want to get away from one another. The document is binding and sometimes can be incorporated into the divorce to support final cases.
Preparation and Validity of a Separation Agreement
The law does not require that you execute a separation agreement with your spouse in case you decide to separate. However, the idea is the best thing you can do if you want to settle issues like children, support, and debts among others.
In most States, the preparation of a separation agreement requires the use of attorneys representing each of the parties. You need to have the agreement notarized during or after the separation.
No authority can compel you or your partner to sign separation agreement during the separation process. The agreement is voluntary. The agreement is void if any undue influence, coercion, lack of knowledge or coercion is shown to have influenced the document’s preparation.
Is the Separation Agreement Valid If Not Filed in Court?
Since the separation agreement is voluntary, the document is valid whether it was filed in court or not. However, it is essential to have the document prepared with the help of legal advisers and notarized.
A judge is unlikely to interfere with a separation agreement if you prepared the document in good faith, full disclosure, and that the terms are reasonable and fair.