A separation agreement is a contract designed to settle all outstanding marital issues, drafted after marriage in anticipation of divorce. It defines the legal end of the couple’s relationship as spouses and determines their post-divorce rights and obligations. Before any couple is granted a non-adversarial, no-fault divorce in Massachusetts, their signed, notarized, separation agreement must be submitted to a court for approval.
Separation agreements are recognized by statute- the same statute that created the Massachusetts non-adversarial, no-fault divorce (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 1A). A judge must find every separation agreement to be “fair and reasonable” before any divorce can be allowed.
Parties to divorce sign separation agreements before they are submitted to a court for approval. From the time it is signed until it is “heard” in court, a separation agreement is an enforceable contract. When a judge finds a separation agreement to be “fair and reasonable” at the hearing of the parties’ divorce, the agreement rises to the level of a court order.
After a separation agreement has been found to be “fair and reasonable” in court it continues as an enforceable contract AND as a court order. If a judge determines a separation agreement is NOT “fair and reasonable” the separation agreement will be rendered null and void, and no longer exist as an enforceable contract.