The best way to work out the issues in a divorce is by the parties amicably negotiating through their attorneys a separation agreement. Separation agreements are handled out of court. Usually the parties meet on several occasions with their respective attorneys present to discuss the various issues in the divorce.
The issues dealt with in a separation agreement involve child support, spousal maintenance, custody of the children, visitation with the children, equitable distribution of marital property, division of assets, who gets the home, who pays for college and all other issues involving the marital relationship and the children.
A separation agreement (or settlement agreement) if properly prepared and executed is legally binding. Most separation agreements deal with over 30 issues involving the parties to a divorce.
Separation agreements must be in writing, signed by the parties and acknowledged before a notary public at the end. New York has very specific requirements as to the wording and material that must be included in a separation agreement. The separation agreement should settle all issues between spouses.
The parties can live pursuant to the terms of the separation agreement for as long as they want. After one year either party to a separation agreement may bring an action to convert the separation agreement into a divorce. This type of divorce is called a conversion divorce.
Individuals having marital difficulties should not try to draft these documents on their own. Separation Agreements are technical documents that are fact and law specific and include terms of art. Mis-drafting these documents or improper execution can lead to their being set aside and declared invalid by the court.