A separation agreement is a contract that a husband and a wife enter into voluntarily upon their separation from each other. When a husband and a wife decide to separate from each other, a number of potentially difficult issues, such as custody of children, child support, spousal support, and/or property division, may arise from this decision. In a separation agreement, the parties can resolve and reach an agreement, on their own, on any one of those potential difficult issues without going to court. The best thing about a separation agreement is that the parties themselves have input in the process and they themselves work issues out by discussion and consent, in contrast to a situation where a judge who may only be partially acquainted with the specifics of the parties circumstances make the decision for the parties and slam it down on them. Thus, while there is no law that requires a separating couple to execute a separation agreement, it is often a good idea to get it done, if possible. Of course, it is frequently the case that the parties cannot reach an agreement on many of the difficult issues they face, such as custody, spousal support or property division. In such situations, a separation agreement is not a realistic option.
For a separation agreement to be deemed valid and enforceable, both parties must sign the agreement and have their signatures notarized.
While a separation agreement is not a court order, it can be incorporated into a divorce decree. When that happens, the separation agreement is now part of a court order. When a party breaches an aspect of a separation agreement incorporated into a divorce decree or a court order, a contempt proceeding is a remedy available to the injured party.