When a relationship isn’t working as it used to, it’s sometimes best for the couple to split up. Most commonly, this comes in the form of a divorce, but many other couples have also pursued marital separations.

While marital separations are similar to a divorce, they have important differences. A marital separation is similar to a divorce but different enough that you’ll need to be careful about how you go about it. Continue reading to you can learn about the checklist you need to plan your marital separation.

Marital Separation or Divorce?

The first point you need to address with a marital separation is whether it is the best choice for your relationship, or if you would rather pursue a divorce. The two are incredibly similar from a distance, but some important differences can help you determine which is right for your relationship. Both marital separations and divorces go through the court, both parties start to live separately, and both agreements create rules surrounding raising kids and other financial agreements. Divorce takes all this one step further and completely ends your marriage.

While they can be quite similar, some important distinctions can make one preferable to the other. You can go back and revise your legal separation and take it back entirely if you and your partner get back together, whereas you would need to get remarried if you go with a divorce. Also, legal separations do not invalidate health insurance coverage from a spouse’s job, and you can still file taxes jointly.

Alternatively, there are some pros to going through with a divorce. Divorce is preferable when you’re sure you don’t want to stay together, and separation has no financial benefits for your situation. Getting a divorce after a separation also costs more time and money than it would if you had just gotten a divorce. These differences can seem insignificant at the moment, but it’s important to look through them carefully to ensure you’re making the right choice. That is the first step to any marital separation because you need to be positive that it’s what’s right for you and your family.

Get Your Finances Together

To know which path is right for you, you must get your finances together. Separation Agreements carefully deal with different topics, and it’s important that all your financial information is together, clear, and understandable to ensure things are split fairly. Some topics outlined in these separations include the following:

  • Child visitation and support
  • Parenting time
  • Healthcare costs
  • Custody arrangements
  • Educational preferences
  • Religious practices
  • Alimony
  • Property division

By getting your financial information together, you and your attorneys can best come to an agreement that is fair and works for both parties. On top of this, if there is a child or children in the mix, their well-being is considered.

“Not Unconscionable”

If you want your marital separation to work and get approved by the Domestic Relations Court, it must be “not unconscionable.” While this seems like some purposefully obtuse legal language, in layman’s terms, it simply means the agreement must be fair and reasonable for both parties. When you bring together all your property and financial information, you and your attorneys can best come to an agreement that is “not unconscionable” for you and your partner. One party cannot live in luxury while the other works minimum wage to put food on their table—it’s not fair or equitable.

In the ideal situation, both parties have the same number of resources, make the same amount of money, work the same hours, and want to split time with their child evenly. Unfortunately, this is only sometimes the case. Situations like this are more complex, so you, your partner, and your attorneys must come together to ensure everything is on the table and you can create a fair agreement.

Inform Friends and Family

After you’ve gathered some information together and are more confident about your path moving forward, it’s time to start letting friends and family know. They are the people closest to you, and you want to get this information out beforehand to avoid awkward situations. After a separation, you won’t live together and may even consider dating other people. By letting friends and family know in advance, they can better understand your situation and offer support whenever you need it. On top of informing friends and family, you may want to discuss the separation the following entities:

  • Your jobs
  • Utility companies
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Your children’s schools

It’s important to handle all this as well so you can each move forward with your lives and not end up interfering with each other’s new lives apart from each other.

Talk To Your Children

In addition to informing friends and family, you’ll need to discuss this with your children. You may have already let them know that you and your partner are getting a separation, but it’s important to reconvene when the agreement is actually in motion. It’s easy to forget things, and the agreements you’ve talked to them about have also likely changed. At this point in the process, you may better grasp visitation and custody, and you want to communicate that with them. It may be difficult depending on their age, but it’s still necessary you let them somewhat in on the process so they can somewhat understand the process and how it affects them.

File the Agreement

After getting everything together and informing the appropriate parties, it’s time to push the agreement through. If there are provisions for child support and custody, your agreement will require formal review from the courts to ensure that it is fair. Even without this layer of extra scrutiny, you will not legally be separated until your marriage settlement agreement has received court approval.

This process can be complicated at times, so even with this checklist, you must enlist a qualified attorney’s help. They know how to make the process go smoothly and can handle all the negotiating and drafting of documents that can seem tedious for the average person.

Planning for a marital separation is important for ensuring that you and your partner go about things correctly and don’t create additional points of contention in the relationship. It’s important to do things the right way to protect yourself, your partner, and any children you may have, and that’s why you must work with us at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck. We are incredibly knowledgeable about separation settlement agreements in Illinois and can get you a fair separation agreement for both parties!