Making It Official: Using A Legal Separation Agreement Before Divorcing

The financial effects of divorce can continue to affect couples long after the final papers are handed down from the family court judge, but some prior preparation in the form of a legal separation agreement might help alleviate some of these issues before you even file for divorce. The time period between your separation and the final decree often spans months, and ensuring that you and your finances are protected during this time could help ensure a smoother divorce process and a faster divorce recovery period. Read on to learn more about the 3 ways that having a legal separation agreement could benefit you.

1. Separate the debts.

While the separation of debts will be covered in your divorce degree, you may well wonder what happens to the credit card use that occurs during your separation period. If you have joint credit cards with your spouse, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise if your spouse goes on a spending spree during your separation. Do you really want to be held liable for your spouse's debt that accrued during the separation? A legal separation agreement can specify that each party is responsible only for their own debts during the separation.

2. Keep your health insurance.

Health insurance can be pricey, but you can often save money by staying on your spouse's plan, even if you end up paying your fair share of the premium. Including a provision in your legal separation agreement that orders your spouse to keep you on the current policy until the divorce is final will give you time to procure a policy for yourself.

3. Add to your retirement fund.

Many people don't give a second thought to the connection between retirement and the number of years that you've been married, but if you don't use this timing trick you could be leaving valuable retirement money on the table. Did you know that you are entitled to draw one-half of your spouse's Social Security benefit if you two were married at least 10 years? If you are drawing close to the 10-year mark, a legal separation agreement could cover nearly every issue that a divorce covers, and allow you to delay your divorce until you reach eligibility for the spousal retirement benefit. This may not apply to those whose own benefit would be higher than their former spouse's, but for many it could mean thousands of extra dollars every month of their retirement.

Consult with Margit M. Hicks, PA Attorney at Law or another local divorce attorney for help in creating a comprehensive legal separation agreement that can help you gain valuable financial security.