In most divorces, the parties enter into a marital settlement agreement or divorce separation agreement. Despite their names, separation agreements are not agreements to separate. Instead, these agreements lay out the terms that the  separating couple will abide by, such as child custody and visitation/parenting time, spousal and child support, and equitable distribution of assets and debts.

A separation agreement, sometimes referred to as a property settlement agreement, or PSA, or a marital settlement agreement, or MSA, is a contract usually drafted by an attorney and signed by the divorcing parties. Separation agreements, therefore, must meet the same legal requirements as other contracts in order for them to be valid. Under state law, once both parties have signed the agreement, a court will likely accept it and incorporate it into the divorced couple’s final divorce decree.


Parties going through a divorce should work to reach an agreement that mutually benefits both parties in their lives after the divorce. To achieve a mutually beneficial agreement, both parties will need to compromise, and this may not allow for 100% satisfaction on all fronts. In order to minimize the suffering usually experienced in most divorce or separation cases, flexibility and negotiation will be beneficial. The parties should attempt to look at things rationally and reduce or work through their emotional reactions.

Divorcing couples seeking a separation agreement are encouraged to work out major issues through open communication, collaboration, and even mediation. Once the separation agreement has been finalized by the parties, the court overseeing the case will approve it as long as it has been reasonably set and the child-related provisions are in the best interests of the minor. After its approval, the separation agreement could be incorporated into the final divorce decree. This means that it will be considered an official court order and both parties will need to abide by the order or face legal repercussions.


A separation agreement will allow divorcing parties to define their needs and expectations before the final divorce. Divorcing parties can address the issues raised by separation, which can include the following:

  • Spousal Support – The parties involved can agree on the amount of support as well as the duration of spousal support.
  • Child Support –Child support is usually set by a guideline amount. Divorcing parties may deviate from the guidelines, but it must be reasonable and in the best interests of the child or a judge could order a different solution not what the parties agreed or intended.
  • Child Custody – Generally, courts will approve a reasonable custody or visitation plan when the plan has been designed to conform to the best interests of the child.
  • Property Division – A divorcing couple can agree on how they wish to divide their property and assets. This can include homes, vehicles, bank accounts, furniture, personal property, insurance policies, retirement benefits, investments, and business interests.


Separation agreements are legal contracts that can be used to settle all of the interests, rights, and legal obligations of those separating or getting a divorce. In the State of Virginia, these agreements offer various benefits to separating or divorcing couples but it is important to understand that when the terms of an agreement are not met by either party, serious consequences can ensue.

If you are considering entering into a separation agreement in Virginia, it is critically important that you obtain the support of a qualified family law attorney. When parties attempt a low cost or cheap DIY or “do it yourself” agreement, they may permanently waive rights to support, assets, or retirement.  These issues may irreversible and irreparable.  Custody and parenting time may be changed only when there has been a material change in circumstances. Fixing issues are often more costly and time-consuming litigation than obtaining counsel in the first place. At Nova Legal Professionals, the firm has many years of dedicated experience in assisting parties through a separation or divorce process, which includes drafting, reviewing, revising, and/or negotiating separation or settlement agreements.

If you want to speak with one of our attorneys to discuss your case, reach out to us at any of our offices in Manassas, Prince William County, Fairfax, Fairfax County, or Stafford/Fredericksburg, locations to schedule.