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Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law Over 25 Years of Experience
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Somerville Separation Agreement Lawyer

If you find that your marriage has been suffering but are not yet prepared to commit to a divorce, you may find that separation is a more appropriate next step. Parties who wish to separate without divorcing can enter into a legal contract known as a separation agreement, which covers many of the same issues as divorce settlements. Separation agreements are often the stepping stone to a divorce proceeding, and they can later be used to form the basis of a divorce settlement.

Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law, has spent decades serving clients separating from their partners in Somerset County and the surrounding areas. Dedicated Somerville separation agreement lawyer Katherine K. Wagner will help you craft a legal, enforceable separation agreement that includes all elements necessary to keep you from having to go back to court time and again to establish and enforce various aspects of your separation. We will tailor our representation to your needs and circumstances so that you can focus on progressing with your relationship, your family, and your life.

New Jersey Separation vs. Divorce

New Jersey does not recognize the status of being “legally separated” that many states recognize. However, despite their being no legal status, in New Jersey, a married couple can enter into a legally binding separation that is not as final as divorce. Unlike divorce, the parties do not need to file a complaint with a family court. Instead, the parties can simply choose to separate without a judge’s permission. To take care of the practical elements of marital assets, child-rearing, financial support, and other issues during separation, the parties can enter into a separation agreement.

What is a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement is a legal document that establishes the rights and obligations of a married couple who wish to separate but not legally divorce. A separation agreement can and should cover all aspects of a marriage, just as a final divorce settlement would. A separation agreement can address issues such as:

  • Child custody
  • Parenting time
  • Child support
  • Temporary alimony
  • Payment of household bills and expenses
  • Equitable distribution of property
  • Management of joint assets and debts
  • Placement of pets
  • Other issues that typically arise in divorce

To be legally enforceable, a separation agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties in the presence of a notary public. Separation agreements are subject to the same restrictions under New Jersey law as other contracts, meaning that they are invalid if they are entered into under duress, threat, or fraud. As long as a separation agreement includes only legally enforceable elements, then once signed and notarized, the agreement is legally binding. If one spouse fails to follow the terms of a legal separation agreement, the other spouse can sue to have the agreement enforced or for penalties.

How Can an Attorney Help With a Separation Agreement?

Married parties can (and should) draft a general outline of what they would like to include in a separation agreement. Because separation does not require court proceedings, the parties may be tempted to handle separation agreements entirely on their own and without legal counsel. There are, however, good reasons to include an attorney in the drafting and execution of a separation agreement.

Family law attorneys have years of experience handling all sorts of family law issues, from premarital agreements through a divorce and beyond. For most people going through separation or divorce, this will be their first time. With over 25 years of family law practice, separation agreement lawyer Katherine K. Wagner knows the right questions to ask and the right issues to explore in order to ensure that a separation agreement is as thorough as possible and avoid protracted court battles down the line. Nuances and issues that may not even occur to the parties may be brought to their attention by a professional, and the agreement may need revisions.

Additionally, if a separation agreement is entered into, the terms set forth in the agreement should be promptly effectuated. If the terms are not promptly finalized, its terms may become unenforceable as assets sought to be divided may be dissipated. This is particularly important when dividing pensions and retirement accounts. Your family law attorney will help ensure that the terms of a separation agreement are agreed upon and promptly enforced to ensure their effectiveness.

Moreover, a separation agreement can provide a solid foundation for an eventual divorce settlement, saving time, money, and emotional energy down the line. It is much better to get it right the first time with a divorce expert rather than revisiting the same issues piecemeal down the line.

Do Separation Agreements Always Lead to Divorce?

Parties do not have to divorce after separating. They may choose to reconcile, and they can even decide to throw out the separation agreement when they get back together. Separation is, however, often the first step toward finalizing a divorce. A separation agreement may be used as the first draft or the foundation for a divorce settlement. If you are considering a separation agreement, it is important to secure the help of a qualified legal professional in order to ensure that you are taken care of, regardless of whether the separation continues, you choose to reconcile, or you and your spouse eventually decide to divorce.

Get Help With a New Jersey Separation Agreement

If you are considering whether to enter into a separation agreement or if you have a separation agreement and would like to discuss finalizing a divorce under its terms, experienced New Jersey divorce attorney Katherine K. Wagner can help. Contact Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law, today for help with a separation agreement or other family law matter in the Counties of Somerset, Hunterdon and Middlesx and the surrounding areas.

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