In Maryland, the law allows married couples who do not believe they will be able to reconcile to enter into separation agreements. Such agreements can be oral or in writing, and they can later be used as evidence supporting grounds for a requested divorce by either or both parties.
Separation agreements do not end a marriage, but they outline how issues like living arrangements, custody, child care and financial support are handled. They may also provide for property division. Since the marriage is not ended with a separation agreement, neither party may remarry while separated.
If the parties reconcile, a separation agreement can be revoked by filing a motion with the court or by resuming living together. While living together does not revoke the agreement, it is viewed as evidence of an intention to do so. When one party violates the terms of a separation agreement, the other may seek enforcement of its provisions by filing an action in court. A court may approve the terms of a separation agreement in a subsequent divorce if the parties enter it and request that it be incorporated into the court's divorce orders. Courts may modify certain provisions of a separation agreement in the court's final divorce orders, however.
A separation agreement may be a good option for couples who need time apart but are uncertain if they are ready to file for a divorce. If people are able to negotiate an agreement regarding all the facets of their separation, it is best for them to put it into writing. For those who are unable to reach an agreement, they may benefit by seeking the assistance of a family law attorney. He or she may be able to help secure an agreement that is fair while protecting his or her client's rights.
Source: The People's Law Library of Maryland, "Separation Agreements", Mary Jo Lazun, June 13, 2014