ED and housing question

Hello – I have been married 20 years and have two minor children, 5 and 10. Everything we have is joint, save a credit card in his name only and one in my name, but he has an extension card. Everything we have was acquired during the marriage. We both have good jobs and work full-time and aside from some bouts of unemployment, there is no dependent spouse. I am doing some research before approaching my spouse regarding separating. I have a few questions:

Your webinar (Jan 2014) discussed the separation agreement as the guiding document moving forward. I thought there was a legal separation agreement, which is some official document stating the date we separated; I thought important for debt accrual, etc. Then you have an official divorce settlement, which is the agreement for the divorce (i.e. child custody, alimony, ED, etc.). Can you help qualify? As I don’t plan on moving out and I don’t see my spouse doing this either, this becomes important [to me] as there won’t be an official “separation date” (with both still living in the same house) because he’s a spend thrift and I don’t want him spending and accruing more debt I’ll be half responsible for (I earn more than he).

Once I tell him I want to separate, I don’t see him just moving out. However, I would like to keep the house as to not disrupt the children’s routine. Since I want to stay in this house, I think I should stay here even through our separation negotiations. Is that right? If I feel the need to leave (not for safety, but tension) and take the kids with me, will that decrease my chances of maintaining the home? There is no legal grounds to force my spouse to leave the home.

For ED, I understand we’re supposed the catalogue everything, with a value. Over the years, my spouse has amassed a huge amount to “stuff” for various hobbies, electronics, telescopes, beer/wine making, and many more. He also keeps everything; old computers, power supplies, and anything/everything else (pack rat taken to an extreme). His “stuff” takes up several closets and an entire bedroom. My question is, how do we value that? All that money was spent during the marriage and I don’t want any of that “stuff”. I would like the value off all his “stuff” to, well, count towards the value of the belongings he receives.

Thank you for your time and attention.

There is no document that sets the date of separation. That is based on when the parties physically separate from each other. The separation agreement is a contract between the parties that settles all the outstanding issues between the parties, such as alimony and equitable distribution.

I always advise clients that if possible, you should negotiate the terms of a separation agreement prior to separating. If you have safety concerns, rather than leaving the house, you should consider filing for a protective order.