The terms sound very similar, and many people call both by one or the other's name and they are used interchangeably. In fact, they are slightly different.
A Separation Agreement is a contract between husband and wife that is entered into prior to a divorce being final. The Separation Agreement is meant to settle any issues that may exist between the parties, such as property, alimony, debts, insurance, taxes, child custody, child visitation, child support. It is an agreement that is entered into in contemplation of divorce. It does not have to be filed with the court at the time it is entered into.
Once divorce paperwork is filed, a Separation Agreement is often incorporated into what is called a Settlement Agreement. In other words, a Separation Agreement becomes a part of the Settlement Agreement. Separation Agreements may also be written to function as Settlement Agreements if both parties can agree on how to handle issues in contemplation of divorce and after the divorce decree is ordered. The Settlement Agreement is filed with the court, and becomes a part of the final divorce decree. The Settlement Agreement can contain the same terms and govern the issues between you as the Separation Agreement, or it can have different terms.
Sometimes a Separation Agreement is used as a temporary agreement between the parties to govern the relationship while they are separated and not divorced yet. While the parties are separated, they can then work on a more permanent agreement called a Settlement Agreement.
Both a Separation Agreement and a Settlement Agreement may state whether the agreement is to survive the decree of divorce as a separate contract ("incorporated"), or whether it should be merged along with the decree.
If you have questions about settlement agreements, call for a free initial consultation with an attorney at 888-863-9115. You can get started with your divorce now by CLICKING HERE (can can also choose your settlement agreement when at the same time).