What Is A Separate Maintenance Agreement?

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If you’re considering divorcing your spouse, you’ve probably heard or read about the term “legal separation.” While legal separation is often a part of the divorce process, there are some important differences to be aware of. Moreover, Georgia law does not formally recognize legal separation, though it does recognize separate maintenance agreements, which are quite similar. In this post, we’ll examine some of the differences between divorce and separation agreements.

Making the decision to divorce your spouse isn’t easy, and at Fairell Roy & Associates, our Atlanta divorce attorneys offer dedicated support and expert representation every step of the way. Whether you’re interested in learning more about separation agreements or filing for divorce, we invite you to reach out to our office for a consultation.

Separate Maintenance Basics

Some divorces are clean-cut and resolved in a matter in weeks or months; others can be more complicated. In many cases, spouses decide to live apart while they resolve issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and other issues that can take time for the court to resolve. In the state of Georgia, couples are permitted to enter into separation agreements in which they retain the benefits and legal rights of marriage, but have the space they need to either work through their issues or make the decision to file for divorce.

The following conditions must be met before the court will recognize a separation agreement between you and your spouse:

  • You and your spouse are currently legally married.
  • You and your spouse are both currently living in different properties.
  • Neither you nor your spouse has formally filed for divorce.

It’s also important to note that under a separate maintenance agreement, the legal status of shared marital property does not change. If you would like to pursue a legal claim on shared marital property, you will need to file for divorce.

Additional Reading: How Is Property Divided In Georgia?

The Benefits of Separate Maintenance

As we briefly discussed above, one benefit of a separate maintenance agreement is that it provides you and your spouse with time to yourselves. Whether your marriage has been strained for years or you’ve recently started fighting more, the opportunity to live apart provides you with the opportunity to let your emotions run their course and approach the situation from a more level-headed perspective. If you and your spouse aren’t ready to file for divorce and end your marriage, the time in which you are living under a separate maintenance agreement can be a great time to pursue marriage counseling and other reconciliatory services.

On the other hand, if you and your spouse have made the decision to divorce each other but aren’t ready to have the decision legally recognized, a separation agreement can provide you with a middle ground in which you can iron out the details of your divorce. Among many other benefits that legal marriage entails, healthcare coverage through one spouse’s employer is one of the most common reasons why spouses enter into separate maintenance agreements. Ongoing medical care or an upcoming surgery, for instance, may be much harder to coordinate if one spouse suddenly no longer has access to the network of healthcare providers they’ve used during the marriage.

In general, separate maintenance agreements tend to make the divorce process easier overall. Child custody and support are two of the biggest reasons why a divorce may take longer, and in general, you and your spouse will likely have come to an agreement regarding your children while under a separate maintenance agreement.

Once you choose to file for divorce through the court, you may have to work with your divorce attorney regarding the division of property between you and your spouse, as well as any other outstanding issues that weren’t resolved through your maintenance agreement.

Choose Atlanta Divorce Attorneys Who Care

We hope that this post has helped you to better understand the differences between divorce and separation maintenance agreements, as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks of each. If you would like to learn more about divorce, child support, child custody, and related topics, we invite you to look through the rest of our divorce attorney blog and visit the Fairell Roy & Associates YouTube channel.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, remember that while general, one-size-fits-all advice can provide you with guidance and important information to consider, there’s no substitute for personalized advice that takes your needs and circumstances into account.

At Fairell Roy & Associates, we understand that this is an emotionally turbulent time. We take the time to listen to your story, get to know you as a person, and then provide you with expert representation that puts your needs and priorities first.

No matter what you’re going through, know that our Atlanta divorce attorneys are here and ready to help. We’re currently offering virtual consultations in order to keep ourselves and our clients protected, and we welcome the opportunity to help you turn the page and start the next chapter of your life.


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