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Custody Agreement, Legal Separation, or Divorce?

When you and your spouse have decided you no longer want to live together, you are faced with a few options for legalizing your separation. You can undergo a legal separation, file a legal custody agreement for your children in common, or you can file for a divorce, which permanently separates your family.
Which option is best for you? As you and your spouse consider which is best for your children and your own specific needs and desires, compare a custody agreement, legal separation, and divorce to one another to help you determine which option to continue with your lawyers.

Custody Agreement 

Usually attached to a legal separation or a divorce, a child custody agreement is a legal document that outlines the parental rights to the children.

You can file for a custody agreement in some states without filing for either a legal separation or a divorce. Custody agreements are ideal for separating couples who have never married or for legally married couples who wish to live separately without legal measures but need clear guidelines as to how to raise their children.

A custody agreement is typically agreed upon by both parents, determined by who is the normal primary caregiver for main child custody rights. Both parents can agree to joint custody, which allots equal time and parental rights to the children, or a parent can file for sole custody, which is typically temporary until further child custody agreements can be reached.

If you are already living apart from the other parent but haven't yet decided if you want to separate legally or get a divorce, then arrange a custody agreement for your children in common with the other parent. This custody agreement can later be included in any final legal measures you take about your marriage.

Legal Separation 

A legal separation, often referred to as a trial separation, is similar to a divorce without the same finality. You and your spouse may wish to undergo a legal separation if you are not ready to divorce but no longer wish to be responsible for the debts of one another.

A legal separation is also a wise idea if one of the parents decides to stay in the home both spouses have in their names; your attorney can arrange for the separation of finances, debts, personal belongings, and make an agreement for the primary parent to keep the home their children are living in without repercussion from the other parent (if both spouses agree).

In a majority of legal separations, divorce is usually the end outcome, often within the first year of separation. Still, if you and your spouse are not ready to make the final step to divorce but you both want to protect your assets, this option is worth consideration.


Divorce is a final legal separation of marriage, ending a legal commitment between you and your spouse. You can file for divorce and allow your lawyer to mediate the division of child custody and possessions both you and your spouse own.

If you or your spouse are not entirely ready to divorce or change your minds throughout the process, your divorce can be placed on hold while you work things out. If you and your spouse agree to stay together, your divorce can be canceled. If in the end divorce is your best option, you can remove the hold on the proceedings and allow the motion to continue.

A judge will finalize your divorce, dividing assets and assigning child custody and child support as necessary. Your lawyer will be necessary in aiding you throughout all options of separation to ensure you are treated fairly in your case.

Do not undergo a family separation on your own. Hire one of our skilled and experienced family law attorneys to assist you in your case by scheduling an appointment with the Novack Law Offices today.


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    The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding you individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your call, letter or electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to you until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.