Should I consider a separation agreement before a divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2021 | Divorce |

In family law cases in North Carolina, people are not always completely sure that they want to move forward with divorce proceedings immediately. In some instances, they simply want to try living apart to see if they are prepared to end the marriage or there is a chance to salvage it. There might be other reasons why a divorce is untenable, but other options can be pursued. This is where a separation agreement might be beneficial. Since these agreements could be somewhat confusing and people are frequently unaware of the difference between a separation agreement and a divorce, it could be wise to have professional help from the outset.

Getting a separation agreement in North Carolina

There are important points to remember about a separation agreement. If a couple wants to separate, it is not necessary to have a written document to do so. However, if there is the chance of discord about various issues like support, child custody and visitation, it may be better to get the agreement in writing. Without an agreement, all that is needed to be categorized as separated is for the parties to reside in separate homes with one of the spouses intending for the separation to be permanent. Those who say they are separated but are still residing in the same home without stating an intention for the arrangement to be permanent are not considered legally separated.

Spouses who legally separate have a contract stipulating how their lingering issues will be handled. Still, it can be important to try and maintain some level of cordiality – this may be needed if there are children involved, the sides work together in a business, there is complex property or other factors. For the agreement to be valid, it must be in written form and signed. It must also be notarized. It is important to remember that the separation agreement can include child custody and child support. The separation agreement is not necessarily permanent if a judge is asked to decide on a child custody disagreement. The child’s best interests are paramount.

A divorce from bed and board is also a form of a separation agreement, except it is court-ordered. This can be put in place if, for example, adultery had taken place. Known as a DBB, there can also be a negotiated separation agreement in which the spouses come together and decide on some of the previously mentioned issues like custody, support and property division.

A separation agreement might require legal guidance, just like a divorce

Given the challenges of the past year, people might have been rethinking their marital relationship, but want to wait before doing anything drastic or permanent. A separation agreement provides legal protection to both parties while still leaving the door open to reconcile and save the marriage with less fuss than would be evident with a full-blown divorce. People have different reasons for pursuing a legal separation in lieu of divorce, but it is essential to understand the entire process. For help with this or any other family law consideration, it could be useful to have an experienced breakdown as to what it means and how it can be used.