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A family law agreement is a contract.
A family law agreement – whether it be a cohabitation agreement, a marriage agreement, or a separation agreement – is a contract similar to other contracts you may be familiar with, although often more nuanced. Each party promises to do something in exchange for something the other party promises to do, and both parties expect that they will be held responsible for fulfilling their promises.
You can enter into a cohabitation agreement when you and the other party are living in a marriage-like relationship. It discusses what will happen during the relationship, and if the relationship ends, either by separation or death. A marriage agreement is when you and the other party are already married, but it is similar in its purpose and its contents to a cohabitation agreement. Usually, these kinds of agreements are made before the parties marry or start to live together, but they can be made at any point during the relationship. These types of contracts can be invaluable, as they establish clear divisions of property and obligations enforceable by law. They outline the financial and legal parameters of the relationship. The terms of the agreement can encompass a wide variety of issues or be restricted to just a few important considerations. For example, a cohabitation or marriage agreement can define specific financial outcomes if a relationship ends. It can also include guidelines regarding pensions, inheritance, spousal support if the relationship ends, and other topics.
Separation agreements are entered into after a relationship has broken down. The goal of a separation agreement is to deal with all or some of the issues arising out of the separation in a way that keeps both parties as satisfied as possible. Common issues that are dealt with in a separation agreement include parental responsibilities, parenting time schedules, child support and review of child support, spousal support, division of family property and debt, and excluded property if any. It is extremely important to get separation agreements in writing, preferably drafted by a lawyer who can customize the agreement for the particular circumstances. Not only will this allow both parties to save legal expenses on pursuing or defending their claims in court, but the parties have the freedom to negotiate terms that are appropriate in their case, instead of having the court decide for them.