North Carolina law doesn’t require a separation agreement before you can get a divorce, so why get one? Isn’t it just an added expense?
No, it’s not just an added expense. You should definitely negotiate a separation agreement, and a good one may well pay for itself.
Here’s why. In North Carolina, you have to live physically apart from each other for a year before you can file for divorce, with at least one spouse intending that the separation be permanent. A year is a pretty long time and a lot can happen. You will need to make decisions about:
- Who will live in the home during the separation
- Who gets what stuff during the separation
- Who pays what bills during the separation
- Whether one spouse needs to financially support the other during the separation
- Where the kids are going to live and how much time each parent will spend with them
- Whether one spouse needs to pay child support during the separation
You’re going to be negotiating with your spouse on all of these issues and more. It can be extremely helpful to get those agreements in writing.
A separation agreement is similar to a business contract
Much like a business contract, the separation agreement you make with your spouse will typically include the specific details of what you have agreed upon, along with general rights and responsibilities.
It doesn’t have to be permanent. In fact, you might think of it as practice for how you’ll handle things in the divorce.
That is because the issues you need to tackle during your separation are largely the same as you will be making when you do divorce.
A separation agreement only lasts until you divorce, but it is binding like a business contract. You each have the right to expect your spouse will abide by it, so it’s very important to get it right.
That ‘practice agreement’ can pay off
Regardless of how carefully you negotiate, you may find that your separation agreement doesn’t work perfectly. Perhaps you prefer a different division of the parenting time than you originally expected. There may be small pain points – or surprise gaps.
Since the separation agreement isn’t permanent, we have the opportunity to fix those things when it comes to your final divorce agreement.
The more information we have about what works and what doesn’t, the better.
A good separation agreement can pay off by reducing the time you spend negotiating your final agreement.
How do we get started?
That depends on what makes sense to you. You could work with your attorney to draft a separation agreement that seems fair and then ask your spouse to sign it.
You could negotiate yourselves or have your lawyers negotiate for you.
You could try mediation, which is usually a good option (and is required before you can go to trial).
Or, your spouse might present you with a proposed separation agreement their attorney drafted. If that happens, it’s wise to have your own attorney review it before you sign.
The separation period before your divorce may be among the most challenging times of your life. The right separation agreement can make it a bit easier. It’s important to work with a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile for you and your family.