How do I tell him I’ve prepared a separation agreement?

Posted on May 21, 2018 by Katie Carter

How do you tell your husband you’ve prepared a separation agreement? It’s a question I get almost every single time, with almost every single client. There’s (understandably!) some anxiety about the moment they tell their husband what their plans are. There’s also (again, understandably) some concern over how their husbands will feel about them staking a claim to their marital share of some asset or another. Most husbands, it seems like, have some hot button issue; some item of property or something that they really seem to genuinely believe is theirs, and that their wife doesn’t deserve any portion of. Whether it’s retirement or spousal support or the cash value of a life insurance policy, there’s something, somewhere that my client tells me is going to upset him when he reads that we’ve included it for division.

I mean, I get both sides, because, at the root of it, the concern is the same – how will I survive after this? Paying for a life on half the income of before is a little scary, to say the least. And I also find that husbands often spend less time analyzing things and figuring out exactly what there is to divide, so it can sometimes comes as a shock that it will ALL be divided. And, also, that his wife – his predictable little wife who he knows so well – is actually going to ask for her share of ALL of it, too! It can come as a shock.

Obviously, though, my chief concern is to put my client in as strong of a position as possible post divorce, not to worry about whether or not my client asserting her rights might be shocking or upsetting to her husband. Still, I think it’s wise to at least consider the other side’s position, because seeing things from the other side can help you anticipate bumps in the road and how to successfully and effectively navigate them. Knowing his hot button issues can help you craft an agreement that he’ll sign, too. I’m not saying give up anything that you’re entitled to, but instead to prepare a separation agreement that takes everyone’s interests into account. He wants to keep the house? Fine, assuming you don’t have a problem with it. Draft the agreement that way – so that he can buy out your interest in the home’s equity, or trade you something else of equal value in exchange for your waiver of your interest in the equity (like a greater share of the retirement, perhaps?).

But then what happens once you’ve prepared a separation agreement? It’s time to show your cards and make a move. It’s a very anxiety provoking thought. The good news, though? You have options. I’m flexible, too. So we can do whatever works best for you – and whatever you think will be best designed to yield the outcome you’d like. Hint: You want the agreement signed.

You can give the prepared separation agreement to him yourself.

Yup, that’s an option. A low tech, easy option. You print it out (or the office prints out for you) a couple of copies (I prefer four) to present to your husband yourself. You can do it with or without a lot of fanfare. You can have a heart to heart discussion, if you’d like. You can leave it on the kitchen table for him to find. You can do pretty much whatever you want, or whatever you think will mean that he’ll take you seriously.

You can have your attorney mail the prepared separation agreement to him (or to his attorney, if you know already that he’s represented by counsel).

I mail agreements, too. All the time! Again, it’s all about knowing your husband, and wanting him to take you seriously without getting so mad (or feeling so threatened) that he refuses to sign the agreement.
Obviously, I never want to escalate the situation any more than it’s already escalated. (A good thing to remember: we want something from him – specifically, his signature on the agreement – so it often behooves us to play nice from the get go, where separation agreements are concerned.) I want to resolve this on an uncontested basis; after all, that’s what I was retained for.

Hearing from your attorney can have two different results: one, he could be impressed and/or intimidated, but will take you more seriously and will take steps to move this thing forward; two, he could be annoyed and/or intimidated, and become unwilling to work with you.

You know him best, and should be able to tell. We can send it certified, too, if you prefer – or if you just want to verify that it has been delivered. Probably most of the time, though, we just send it in the regular old mail.

You can have a draft of the prepared separation agreement served on him.

This is less usual, though it sometimes happens. There’s no requirement that a separation agreement be served; only notice of a pending lawsuit (like a complaint) has to be served, according to the law.

Serving, though, means that we can tell exactly when he received the document, especially if we note that we want him personally served (as opposed to posted service, where it just needs to be affixed to his front door).

There’s a fee for this, of course, and it depends on the process serving company your law firm uses. Typically, service costs $25-30, but if there’s a rush or a special request (like, if you want him served today, or after hours, or on a weekend), there could be additional fees involved. If he’s in another state or another country, you’ll want to talk to an attorney about costs and the proper procedure.

Once you’ve prepared a separation agreement, it’s time to plan your next steps. Just like you were strategic when you were drafting your agreement, you’ll want to be strategic now to make sure that he takes you seriously and is willing to begin negotiating with you. Especially if he doesn’t want the divorce, you’re navigating tricky waters here, and your wisdom when it comes to how to best manage your husband is going to be critical.

For more information, or to begin to plan how to draft your separation agreement and what to do once it’s prepared, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.