For just about every couple seeking a divorce, the separation agreement is an exhausting and time-consuming document. With the right attorney, the process can be smoother, but it is imperative that a person seeking a divorce contact an attorney experienced in these matters. Your attorney should work toward drafting a separation agreement on your behalf. But what provisions ought to be included?
Separation agreements should address several mandatory statutory factors related to alimony, benefits, funds, estates, property, and insurance.
These mandatory factors may also include other provisions. For example, separation agreements may include custody provisions, such as the legal and physical custody of any children. They may include living arrangements, parenting plans, emergency decision planning, religious training, and more. Agreements may also include provisions related to child support, such as the amount, costs for extracurricular activities, and taxation information. Separation agreements may also include provisions related to a child’s education expenses and involvement in college applications or financial aid. The agreement may also include provisions related to the health, dental, and vision insurance for children.
Separation agreements may also include alimony provisions, such as the amounts, tax effect, and possible future modification of alimony. Provisions related to the former spouse’s health, dental, vision, and life insurance may be included. Also, provisions related to the marital home may be included. This encompasses joint ownership provisions, homeowner’s insurance provisions, maintenance provisions, and more. If the parties possess other shared income, the parties should include provisions related to that additional property as well. This may include pension and retirement, securities, bank accounts, and family business provisions. Separation agreements may also include provisions related to taxes, debt, liabilities, and the procedure for any future disputes.
After the separation agreement is written, the agreement is presented to a Massachusetts judge. After a hearing about the merits of the separation agreement, the judge may decide to accept the separation agreement. The judge may decide that a separation agreement is sufficient if the separation agreement contains provisions for custody, support and maintenance, for alimony and the disposition of marital property, and for what is in the best interests of any children, if applicable. This is a broad standard, and each drafted separation agreement must be specific to the parties because every family has unique challenges and responsibilities.
Separation agreements must also be “fair and reasonable.” Some of the many factors that establish whether a separation agreement is reasonable include the following: the consideration of financial provisions as a whole; the context of how the negotiation of the agreement occurred; the background and knowledge of the parties; and the agreement in the context of the statutory factors for property division and spousal support.
If you are seeking answers to your questions about separation agreements or general family issues, you may schedule a free consultation with our office. Call 978-225-9030 during regular business hours or complete a contact form and we will respond to your phone call or submission promptly.
 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208 § 34
 Mass Gen. Laws ch. 208 § 1A
 Dominick v. Dominick, 18 Mass.App.Ct. 85 (1984)