Filing for divorce is a big decision for many Arizona couples. However, before jumping straight to filing, some couples choose to test the waters by starting with a separation agreement. This type of agreement is made between two individuals who believe that it may be best to separate but are not sure about divorce. This agreement also allows the ex-couple to determine how they intend to divide their property amicably. In some cases, the agreement may provide terms for spousal maintenance, parenting time and child custody.
When a couple who has a separation agreement decides to dissolve the marriage, the terms are binding with the exception of terms related to child support and parent visitation. The only time that the agreement may not be legally binding is in the event that the court finds the agreement unfair to one of the parties. If the agreement was found to be unfair, the ex-couple can submit a revised agreement or the court can make the decisions regarding property division, spousal maintenance and child custody.
If the court determines that the separation agreement is fair for both parties and if any terms regarding child support and visitation are reasonable, the divorce decree will reference the agreement. The court can enforce the terms of the agreement.
Couples who decide they no longer want to be together have a number of options if they wish to dissolve their marriage. Depending upon a client’s circumstances, an attorney may recommend that he or she start with a separation agreement, which promotes an amicable division of property. If a divorce is imminent, mediation may be recommended, which allows the couple to negotiate a separation while reducing court costs.
Source: Arizona State Legislature , “Separation agreement; effect“, October 04, 2014