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Separation Agreements

December 15, 2020

What Is A Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement incorporates the terms of the parties’ final agreement on all outstanding issues connected with their divorce or legal separation.

What Topics Are Included In A Separation Agreement?

Separation agreements cover all areas of the parties’ final agreement, such as alimony, child support, and child(ren)’s expenses, if applicable, real and personal property division, life insurance, if applicable, health insurance and medical expenses, taxes, and a custody and parenting schedule, if applicable.   

When Are These Agreements Signed?

Separations agreements are signed at the end of a divorce or legal separation matter after the parties have reached an agreement on all outstanding issues.  They are signed before witnesses and a notary public or a commissioner of the superior court.    

How Do Separation Agreements Become Court Orders?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, separation agreements had to be approved by the court at an uncontested hearing.  Due to the pandemic, the court now permits separation agreements to be approved without a Court appearance, otherwise known as “on the papers.”  The agreement, together with signed, sworn affidavits of both parties and a joint request for entry of judgment of dissolution of marriage must be submitted to the court.  A judge will review your agreement to ensure that its terms are fair and equitable under the circumstances and that the custody and parenting schedule, if appliable, is in the best interests of the child(ren).  Each party’s signed, sworn affidavit must include basic background information, as well as statements that you believe that the separation agreement is fair and equitable under the circumstances, that you read and understand its terms, that no one forced or coerced you to sign it, and that you signed it of your own free will.   After the judge has reviewed the separation agreement and is satisfied with the statements contained in each party’s affidavit, the separation agreement will be approved and entered as a court order.

How Do I Enforce The Terms Of An Agreement?

Separation agreements are enforced through motions for contempt.  If you believe that your former spouse has violated any of the terms of your separation agreement, a motion for contempt should be filed.  A motion for contempt alleges a willful violation of a clear and unambiguous court order, which must be proven at a hearing by clear and convincing evidence.  After a hearing on a motion for contempt, a judge may find the offending party in contempt, punish him or her by ordering him or her to pay the non-offending party’s attorney’s fees and costs, and may order the offending party to comply with the terms of the court order.

Can An Agreement Be Modified?

In some cases, yes.  Terms related to real and personal property may not be modified.  However, if permitted by the separation agreement, terms related to alimony may be modified in the event of a substantial change in circumstances.  Child support is always modifiable in the event of a substantial change in circumstances.  If you believe a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, your attorney can file a motion for modification, which must be addressed by the court at a hearing before any relief may be granted.  Parties are also free to modify the allowable terms by further agreement.  Any such agreement should be memorialized in a stipulation or agreement and presented to the court for approval.

At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, with offices in Fairfield County in Westport and Greenwich, it is our goal to have your case be resolved by agreement.   Our attorneys are skilled in drafting, enforcing, and modifying these agreements in Connecticut. We will ensure that your separation agreement incorporates all relevant terms and that you fully understand it.  If your agreement needs to be modified or enforced, you contact us to discuss your options.

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