Once a married couple files for divorce, the court controls the timeline. It may impose deadlines and require conferences to fit its schedule.
Instead of letting a family law judge decide divorce-related issues in court, on the judge’s timetable, a couple can create a separation agreement. Then, once any required waiting period has passed, the court can quickly convert it into a divorce judgment.
What does a separation agreement do?
A separation agreement sets out the rights and obligations of each party during the separation, as well as after the divorce. The signed and notarized agreement is enforceable in court if a party fails to comply.
The agreement usually specifies the division of the couple’s assets and debts and arrangements regarding custody and visitation of children, parental responsibilities, child support, and spousal support. It gives the parties much more control than a court-supervised divorce does.
A separation agreement can also be appropriate when a married couple will not necessarily be divorcing but want to live apart for a while, or when the couple wants to remain legally married but without living together.
How does a separation agreement become a divorce?
After living apart for the amount of time specified by the state, the couple can file for divorce. In Virginia, the legal separation period for a no-fault divorce is one year if there are children, six months if not. The parties must live apart continuously.
When the couple file for divorce, the court can convert the separation agreement to a divorce judgment. Approval is normally given if the separation agreement is fair to both parties. Usually, the process is fast and does not require a court hearing.