Many married couples separate with intentions to file for divorce, and it might be important for them to come to an agreement for how they plan to divide their assets. The attorneys for each party will write out the agreement for the divorcing spouses to sign after the negotiations are complete. It is a contract between the parties that the court could enforce in the same way as a court order.
Besides dividing assets, this separation and property settlement agreement outlines which party is responsible for legal fees and any outstanding debts. It also outlines whether one party must provide support, life insurance or health insurance for the other party. The agreement includes many other items specifying the duties and rights of each individual.
If the couple has any children, the agreement should outline custody and visitation plans for them as well as any child support payments that one parent will pay to the other. The court can modify visitation and support later if any circumstances change, and it may also modify custody at any time without any changes in circumstances. The court takes the parents' wishes into consideration with any decisions it makes for the care of the children, but it always strives to act in the best interest of the children.
In some separations and divorces, the couple may come to an agreement regarding property division without going to a trial. An attorney could help a divorcing individual negotiate the terms of the agreement. Each spouse may need their own attorney to enforce their rights in court and defend themselves from legal actions by the other party.
Source: Pennsylvania Bar Association , "Divorce & Separation", October 18, 2014