The least formal of all separation occurs when a couple decides to live apart from one another. The separation may be for a trial period only, and the couple may have no plans for divorce. In an informal separation, there is still a duty on you and your spouse to support one another and your children. A court can enforce support payments if necessary. Unless there is a written agreement or court order for support, money paid by one spouse to the other is not tax deductible and the recipient of the money does not have to report it as income. Child support is never tax deductible by the paying parent, or included as income by the receiving parent it is only spousal support where this arrangement is possible.
A formal Separation Agreement allows you and your spouse or partner to agree between yourselves with regard to the issues of custody, access, child support, spousal support, and the division of property and thereby avoid an expensive court battle. It clarifies each of your obligations and avoids misunderstandings. The agreement is legally binding on both of you and can be enforced in court if either of you refuses to carry out your obligations. Further, it may be used as evidence of the length of time you have been separated for any future divorce.
A Separation Agreement does not end your marriage. It simply outlines your rights and the obligations that you agree to accept when you separate. Since it is a legal document, to ensure that your interests are protected, advice from a lawyer is necessary. You must use a different lawyer than the one your spouse uses. You cannot use two lawyers in the same law office either; they must be two completely different lawyers who work for two completely different firms. Even if both you and your spouse have basically agreed on the terms of your Separation Agreement, it is important that you are advised with regard to your rights and responsibilities. Read the agreement and review it thoroughly with your lawyer. If you have any doubts about what is written in the agreement or its effects on you, ask questions. Ensure that you understand the terms of the agreement and do not sign it if you do not agree with it. There are several clauses which may be included in a Separation Agreement which could severely limit your rights and future options. Be aware of these and discuss them with your lawyer.
A judicial separation is a judgment granted by the court in a procedure similar to that of obtaining a divorce. However, it is not the same thing. While the court can make an order for support, custody, access, and the distribution of matrimonial property, you are not free to remarry. Judicial separations are rare, but are used in instances where, for example, a couple cannot be divorced because of religious reasons but want to be formally separated in all other aspects of their lives.