Many states allow for informal and formal separation agreements. Domestic violence victims, however, may find that they can not enter into separation agreements with their abusers because their abusers attempt to control them through provisions related to custody, visitation, or financial issues.
An informal separation agreement with your spouse means that together you decide how to handle the situation (e.g. who stays in the house, who gets which car, etc.) during the period of separation. Some people use this option as a type of trial separation to see if they want to proceed with a divorce or reconcile later. An informal separation agreement does not dissolve the marriage and it does not resolve legal issues such as division of property: that can only be resolved by a divorce settlement agreement or judicial decree. Your individual state’s law will determine if the time and circumstances of your informal separation will be grounds for divorce, should you seek one later on. It is recommended, even with informal agreements, that you consult a family law attorney with domestic violence expertise to guide you through this process.
Informal separation agreements may pose specific safety risks: domestic violence is about power and control, so be aware that your spouse may continue to try to control you physically, emotionally, financially and legally while you’re separated. Since these agreements are not monitored by the court, your abuser is not accountable to anyone if he violates a provision of your agreement. Always consider your safety and the safety of your children before you enter this type of agreement, and have a safety plan in place.
Learn more about safety planning.
A formal separation agreement is a written agreement submitted to the court in which spouses resolve any number of issues concerning their separation, as well as custody, visitation and support if they can agree on these matters. Because of the power and control dynamics that are present in domestic violence relationships, some victims, if they have the legal resources, may prefer to enter into a formal separation agreement so that the court can hold the abuser accountable-if he does not comply with the terms of the agreement.
Generally, under a formal separation agreement, a period of separation may be grounds for divorce, but the amount of time varies state by state. You are still considered married to your spouse until you have a divorce settlement agreement accepted by the court or by judicial decree.
It is recommended that you consult with a family law attorney with domestic violence expertise who can assist in drafting a formal separation agreement.
Information contained on this website should not be construed as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.