In Arkansas, the courts recognize separation agreements. A separation agreement is a legally binding agreement between you and your spouse that covers the period of time when you separate until the time that the divorce is finalized with the court. The agreement is a contract that outlines the terms of the separation. You may settle certain issues in the separation agreement that may be merged into the divorce decree. For a separation agreement to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by both parties. Spouses can set forth enforceable terms for property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. However, the court is not bound to enforce the separation agreement regarding provisions relating the children because the court must always consider the best interest of the child in all child support and custody matters. It is important to remember that a separation agreement is not a divorce.
The law does not require a person to have a lawyer to create a separation agreement. However, because a legal separation can involve complicated issues such as custody, support, alimony, and property settlement, having a lawyer would be ideal. It is important that you understand what can and cannot be included in the agreement. It is helpful if you are familiar with the format and language of the agreement to satisfy the judge.
If you do not have a separation agreement or some other kind of agreement, the judge will have to hold a hearing for your issues (property, debt, alimony, child support, child custody, visitation, insurance, tax, etc.). This can be long, involved, and time-consuming. Some judges prefer that couples enter into agreements. An agreement can also list specific conditions that a judge cannot. This means that you and your spouse may be able to better control what you want from the court proceeding.