Which costs more, a dozen eggs or two cartons of six eggs? Obviously, they should cost the same, but they don’t. You pay less per egg the more eggs you buy, so that carton of six? Slightly more than half the cost of a carton of 12. Can putting all your eggs in one basket — a do it yourself separation agreement save you money?

Scrambled: Mixed Up Marital Assets

Your marital assets are probably scrambled so thoroughly that you may not even realize what is separate property and what is marital property.

Before working through a DIY separation agreement, you absolutely must get a grip on all your finances. Dividing the asset and debts equitably can only be done by unscrambling accounts.

Separating and divorcing without a road map — the separation agreement — may leave you vulnerable to having a Circuit Court judge divide your assets and liabilities, at significant financial loss to you.

The Shell Game: Don’t Get Conned Into More Debt

During separation, your separating spouse may try to pull a shell game, a con where your spouse continues to rack up debt and expect you to cover it. A separation agreement prevents that.

With a separation agreement clearly outlining the limits of your financial responsibilities, you cannot be stuck with credit card charges, late payment fees, or missed payment penalties for debt incurred by your spouse during separation.

Eggstravagant: Is Hiring a Family Law Firm Necessary?

Enlisting a full-service family law firm to handle your separation agreement from start to finish may be extravagant. Ask yourself, do you have a high-income, high-value marriage, or an especially complicated one? “Complicated” means:

  • Children by several marriages
  • Spousal support for more than one former spouse
  • Complex financial arrangements

If you do not have such a marriage, a DIY separation agreement can be an affordable alternative to a pricey law team. With the right program tailored to Virginia laws, a DIY separation agreement can save you a lot of money.

Poached: Protecting Your Assets

A separation agreement saves you money by preventing your separating spouse from poaching your assets. It clearly delineates your assets and liabilities and keeps them separate. Legally, no middle ground can exist.

For example, suppose you agreed informally (nothing in writing) to move out of the marital home and have said you would chip in half of the mortgage and taxes.

If you do not have a printed, signed property settlement agreement (it’s the same thing as a separation agreement in Virginia) but have only agreed out loud, your spouse may:

  • Expect you to pay all the mortgage and taxes
  • Cover all medical costs — insurance, copays, co-insurance, deductibles, braces, dental work, physical therapy, and uninsured services like a chiropractor — for both of you and your children
  • Present you with bills from the water company, power company, and lawn service
  • Tell you that you will pay for that expensive plumbing problem you just now found out about

You can argue over who said what, but ultimately, without that printed, signed separation agreement, where is your proof?

Eggcellent: Protecting Your Credit Rating

You want to maintain an excellent credit rating throughout your separation. The property settlement agreement can help with that. Part of the process of resolving separate debt and marital debt is to eliminate joint accounts, including credit cards.

Get your name off the bank cards, gasoline cards, store cards and other unsecured credit. That preserves your creditworthiness throughout separation and into divorce.

That can make your task easier and less expensive when you have to find a home of your own, buy a used car, or apply for a personal loan.

Runny: Don’t Let Things Get Out of Control

Without a signed, printed, Virginia-specific separation agreement, your finances can run out of control during separation and eventual divorce. You have no outline, road map, or guidelines on how your money is saved, spent, or divided.

Without the separation agreement, your spouse can run up bills, allow the marital home to run down, or run away with your life savings. With the separation agreement, all your finances are clearly defined, assets and liabilities are clearly divided, and the disposition of the marital home is clearly planned.

Another often overlooked benefit of the separation agreement: neither of you has time to hide assets from the other. Protecting your assets is important, sure, but you also have a right to a portion of her assets, too. Your spouse cannot run out of the country and take your fair share.

Hard Boiled: Simmer Down and Do Things The Right Way

By putting everything in writing, neither you nor your separating spouse needs to get angry, emotional, or confrontational. No need for hard-boiled hotheads when you have the neutral, mutually agreeable paper between you.

A great resource for getting to that mutually agreeable, DIY separation agreement is EasyDIYDivorce.com, where your membership allows you to produce customized, Virginia-tailored documents at a far lower cost than going through a family law attorney.