When a couple in Colorado is experiencing marital difficulties, they might not be sure they want to divorce immediately; they might prefer to negotiate a separation rather than have the case decided by a court. In many cases, the couple can benefit from spending some time apart and the marriage is salvageable. Or, maybe the couple is on amicable terms and can agree on the fundamental issues as they dissolve the marriage. For people in this situation, it is important to understand how a separation agreement can be used.

As a separation or dissolution moves forward, the parties can come up with a written separation agreement. In the agreement will be stipulations regarding maintenance, how the property will be split, and how children will be handled with child support, parenting time and parental responsibilities. The separation agreement will be binding except for issues related to children. If, however, the court finds that the economic situation makes the agreement unfair, it will not necessarily be binding.

When an agreement is deemed to be unfair, the court can ask the parties to revise it or the court can issue its own orders regarding property, maintenance and support. If the court determines that the agreement is fair to both parties, it will: list the terms and the parties will be required to abide by them; or if the agreement says that the terms of the settlement will not be part of the final decree, the decree will detail the agreement. Modifications in the agreement can be limited or precluded, except those regarding child-related issues.

Not all separations and divorces need to be contentious. In many cases, the parties can come to an agreement on the basics of the case. The law has certain requirements when a couple wants to enter into a separation agreement and these should be understood before moving forward. Having legal representation from an attorney experienced in family law and divorce is essential.