What is the difference between a separation agreement and a divorce decree in Pennsylvania? They are quite different in the eyes of the law. Learn the differences between a marital separation agreement vs a divorce decree from the PA divorce lawyers at SFS Attorneys.
What is a Marital Separation Agreement?
A marital separation agreement is a document that resolves issues arising from an impending divorce. Child custody and visitation, child support and spousal support, and responsibility for bills, insurances, taxes, and household and family tasks are divided and assigned as necessary between the parties.
If the parties agree on the resolution of the issues in the marital separation agreement, this document is filed with the court in PA. A divorce settlement agreement becomes part of the divorce decree and governs the parties’ relationship and responsibilities once the divorce is final.
What is a Divorce Decree?
According to section 3323(b) of the Divorce code, a divorce decree is a Court Order that formally terminates the marriage. Additionally, a final divorce decree allows both parties to enter into new marriages.
Separation Agreement vs Divorce Decree
The divorce decree finalizes the dissolution of the parties’ marriage in the eyes of the law. It will include their own marital settlement agreement, which sets forth the division of marital property and the parties’ responsibilities going forward. These responsibilities may include paying child support or spousal support, paying certain bills or debts, dividing assets and maintaining life insurance.
In short, the separation agreement (which can be the same as a marital settlement agreement) can resolve issues arising from the dissolution of the marriage. If the parties agree and the terms of the separation agreement work well for the family, it then becomes part of the divorce decree finalizing the dissolution of the marriage.
The terms of the settlement agreement can be changed by filing a petition with the family court. Please know that filing a Petition to change the terms of a marital settlement agreement is a difficult task. The marital settlement agreement is a legally binding contract.
While some attorneys do put custody or child support language in a marital settlement agreement, we believe the better practice is to prepare a separate custody and support agreement.
How Do I Get a Marital Separation Agreement?
More often than not, the parties cannot agree to separation terms on their own. Divorce can be a difficult time and emotions often get in the way. In our experience, reasoned negotiation between the parties’ divorce lawyers helps the parties compromise and settle on terms that are acceptable to both and help the family move forward.
If you are having trouble creating a mutually acceptable marital separation agreement, call us. Our divorce lawyers have the experience to help you come to a separation agreement that is fair to all and fully resolves the practical issues arising from the dissolution of the marriage.
Do You Need to Separate to Get Divorced in Pennsylvania?
You do not need to be separated if you and your spouse seek a divorce. However, if you file for a divorce based on your marriage being irretrievably broken according to section 3301(d) of the Divorce code, you and your spouse must live separately for one year. You can still seek a divorce according to 3301(d) even if you and your spouse are living together, however you both must be living separate lives.
Talk with a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney
A separation agreement is often the first step in the divorce process. At Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman, our experienced divorce attorneys have been successfully drafting separation agreements which have subsequently been incorporated into our clients’ divorce decrees for over 40 years. To learn more about the representation we can provide, contact us today.