Rogers, AR Separation Agreement Lawyer
When marital troubles become too much to handle for a couple, it may be necessary to consider options for the spouses to exit the marriage. In many cases, a married couple will choose to divorce if they cannot repair their marriage. Divorce is a complex legal process which requires filing documents with the courts and hearings in front of a judge and can be delayed by an overwhelmed courthouse docket.
Another viable option for a married couple who is looking for an amicable resolution is to pursue a legal separation. A legal separation allows for spouses to come to an agreement on the terms of their separation without having to go through an arduous divorce process that can lead to undesirable results. If you and your spouse are considering a legal separation, contact an experienced Rogers separation agreement lawyer today.
At Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP, our family law lawyers understand how serious marital issues can not only affect a married couple but even their children. Our firm is dedicated to providing you with the legal representation you need when you are preparing to endure a legal separation. To schedule a confidential legal consultation to discuss your case, contact Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP at (479) 439-9840, or contact us online.
Legal Separation in Rogers, AR
A legal separation is when a couple intends to remain married but determine that living separately from each other would be best. Legal separation is accomplished when both spouses in a marriage meet the requirements (outlined below) and agree to the terms of a written contract that is approved by a court. The terms of a legal separation are the same as those which might be contained in a divorce order issued by a court. Such terms include equitable distribution of marital assets and property, assumption of debt obligations, alimony payments, child support, and custody arrangements.
Legal separation in Arkansas is not the same as divorce for a few reasons. For one, the process of separating is conducted primarily outside of the courtroom. There are no testimony or hearing process for attaining a legal separation. Instead, the parties must demonstrate that they are eligible for legal separation and mutually agree on terms for separation. A party to a legal separation may choose to proceed into divorce action subsequent to the separation, but the option to terminate the separation remains available for couples that are able to work out their differences and want to remain married.
How to File for Legal Separation in Rogers, AR
Filing for a legal separation may seem like a strange choice when spouses could simply choose to file for divorce. However, there are several reasons why some couples may choose to remain married. For example, if spouses share young children, they may choose to only separate for a number of financial and personal reasons.
When filing for a legal separation, spouses must first consider what type of marriage they have. Specifically, Arkansas has two types of marriages: covenant marriages and traditional marriages. Each type of marriage has different requirements for couples that are seeking a legal separation.
Legal Separation for Covenant Marriages in Rogers, AR
To have a valid covenant marriage, a couple must engage in marriage counseling prior to becoming married. Similarly, to separate in a covenant marriage, both spouses must again seek counseling to determine a number of issues, like whether the marriage may be salvaged. If the spouses both submit to counseling and decide to continue with the legal separation, there are still other requirements that must be met.
In addition to attending counseling, a legal separation also requires that at least one spouse is a resident of Arkansas before the spouses can file. Also, the couple must present one of the following legal grounds as evidence that a legal separation is needed:
- Either spouse was convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison
- Either spouse committed acts of physical, sexual, or possibly verbal abuse against the other spouse or any children they shared
- A spouse has become dependent on alcohol or drugs
- A spouse tried to commit suicide or continuously endangers their life
- Either spouse committed adultery
- Both spouses have lived apart from each other for at least two consecutive years
This is not an exhaustive list. There are other factors that may be considered to determine whether a couple is entitled to file for a legal separation.
Legal Separation for Traditional Marriages in Rogers, AR
The requirements to successfully file for a traditional marriage are less strict than the requirements for a covenant marriage. One requirement of a traditional marriage is the need to prove that you and a spouse have resided apart from each other for at least 18 months. To be considered as spouses that live separate and apart, spouses must reside in different homes and are not permitted to engage in sexual relations.
In some cases, it may be permitted for spouses to reside in the same household. However, the spouses must be able to prove that they reside in separate areas of the home. It is important to note that if the court determines that spouses have been cohabitating over the course of the 18-month period, the spouses will be unable to file for a legal separation.
When filing for a legal separation, either spouse can file, but both spouses must agree to sign the agreement. There are also other issues to consider when filing a legal separation agreement. For example, determining the rights of each parent regarding the custody of children is a major issue that should be addressed. Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP can help guide you through this process to ensure your separation agreement contains provisions that protect you and your spouse.
Benefits of Legal Separation Instead of Divorce
While a legal separation is typically a prelude to a divorce, the parties are free to end the separation at any point that they so choose. This leaves the door open for reconciliation while providing the couple with the space that can sometimes be necessary to salvage a relationship.
However, if the parties do elect to divorce, the separation agreement can provide a strong baseline from which the court can determine the allocation of assets and responsibilities for the purpose of a divorce. This type of head start can cut down on the time and costs of a divorce proceeding in Arkansas.
Legal separation is particularly enticing where there are children involved. In a divorce proceeding, a court has the ultimate control over aspects of a divorce such as physical and legal custody of a child. Where spouses are no longer content with their marriage but feel that they can retain functional joint physical and legal custody of their children, they may choose to forgo the additional costs and hardships that come with the public testimony required for a divorce.
If the circumstances of a legally separated couple every change, the legal separation agreement may be modified at any time if both parties agree to the changes. If the parties are unable to agree on modified terms, either party may move that the court weigh in on whether their proposed changes reflecting new, substantially differing circumstances would be warranted to preserve equity.
Enforcing a Legal Separation Agreement
Even if the separation agreement is not filed in court, it is still valid once signed, assuming it has not been expressly modified. If one party in a separation violates the terms of an agreement that has not been incorporated into a court order (i.e., a Decree of Divorce), the other party may sue the violating party for damages incurred due to the violation. If the separation agreement is filed in court or incorporated into a court order, any violations of the terms of the separation agreement subject the violator to contempt of court charges.
Benefits of Using an Attorney for a Legal Separation Agreement
You are not required to use an attorney for a legal separation in Arkansas. However, there are plenty of benefits that you should be aware of before beginning the process. An attorney can draft your separation agreement document on your behalf to ensure that you are protected and not getting fooled by fine print. You may choose to have your attorney negotiate the terms of your separation agreement for you so that you avoid any additional direct conflict with your partner that might otherwise arise. Courts sometimes may require that parties who submit a legal separation agreement appear so that they may determine the equity of (and mutual consent to) the terms of the separation agreement. Your attorney can accompany you to the court and advocate on your behalf, as well as handle any introduction of evidence that the court may deem necessary.
Contact a Trusted Rogers, AR Family Law Attorney for Your Legal Separation
If you require legal assistance to file for a legal separation, contact an experienced Rogers family law attorney today. The legal team at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP possess decades of legal experience handling a wide range of family law issues, and we are here for you in your time of need. To schedule a confidential legal consultation to discuss your separation agreement, contact Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP at (479) 439-9840.