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Separation agreements are contracts – which state the terms under which the two spouses will live apart. A separation agreement can cover all forms of things, like marital asset division, child custody, and many other items. The agreement can govern ALL the elements that a divorce agreement would cover – without it being considered an actual divorce. It can resolve all the issues that would be normally decided by a judge. The only thing it can’t do is grant a divorce.
In most states, the two parties can agree to the separation agreement whatever/however they wish. They are not required to get permission from a judge – in order to validate their agreement. Negotiating a separation agreement means things are less adversarial. In addition, because it is a formal agreement – signed by both parties, it’s a legally binding document. As a result, it’s something which CAN be enforced. For example, if either party is in breach – a lawsuit can be filed to resolve the issues and try to find an amicable resolution. It is a legally binding document – and many people forget this.
Any document where you agree to certain terms – can be enforced by either party. You don’t need an attorney to negotiate, or draft the agreement – but it can certainly help. In order to enforce it, you’ll probably need to hire an attorney who draft the necessary lawsuit papers and get the agreement brought to a judge.
If you are having issues with your spouse abiding by the terms of the agreement – its a good idea to try to handle it like rational human beings. If the spouse won’t cooperate, then you should hire an attorney who can help you enforce the agreement.
If one party has breached the contract, then the other party can sue for whatever damages are relevant. For example, if your spouse was going to pay you spousal support – and didn’t do it, then you can sue for that and also ask for legal expenses to be covered as well. The court can even force the spouse’s property to be sold to pay for the damages.
If either party breaches, the plaintiff can sue for “specific performance,” which is a court order to force the breaching party to do what the separation agreement requires them to do.
In summary, if you’re spouse is breaking the terms of the agreement – you can hire a NYC divorce lawyer and force him/her to abide by the terms.