Divorce is a tough time to be had by all involved. At our family law firm in Greensboro, we ease the pain you are going through by guiding you in the right direction for issues like alimony, child custody, and separation agreements.

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Sometimes, unfortunately, marriages fail. And when they do, couples separate and then later divorce. You are not required to file for separation; rather, couples are considered legally separated when they begin living “separate and apart” with at least one spouse intending not to resume the marriage. In the state of North Carolina, by law, couples must be separated for at least one year before filing for divorce.

Spouses who have separated but not divorced can, at any time, mend their relationship and reconcile. If lawsuits have already been filed, they will be canceled, and scheduled hearings will be dropped from the court docket.

Prior to or during separation, couples often consult with an attorney regarding the drafting of Separation Agreement and Property Settlement papers. This voluntary, written agreement determines property division, debt allocation, custody arrangements, and spousal/child support payments. The divorce itself, however, cannot be resolved by the agreement but must be granted by the court after the couple has been separated for at least one year.

The Separation Agreement becomes a valid and binding contract (preferable to an unenforceable oral agreement between spouses) when it is signed by both parties and notarized in accordance with North Carolina Law.

The Terms of Separation Agreements

Separation Agreements may address all issues involved in the dissolution of marriage, including:

  • The division of tangible property (cars, homes, jewelry, furniture) and intangible property (stocks, bonds, vested pensions, retirement accounts, life insurance).
  • The allocation of debts (Who will pay what debts? The agreement is enforceable between the parties but does not relieve the other spouse from his/her legal obligation to satisfy the debt with the bank or other financial institution.)
  • Custody (This agreement is subject to modification by the court if the judge decides it’s not in the best interest of the children.)
  • Child support (This agreement is subject to modification by the court if the judge decides it doesn’t meet the needs of the children.)
  • Child tax exemptions (The agreement can determine how parties will file taxes for certain years and which spouse will claim the tax exemption on the children. Typically, the parent awarded custody more than half the year or receiving child support claims the exemption unless there is a written agreement stating otherwise.)
  • College expenses (Who is responsible for paying the costs of the child’s college education? You can place conditions and restrictions on the payment, including the number of years the obligation is paid, the total amount spent and the kind of expenses covered. The obligation may be triggered, for example, only if the child attends a four-year accredited college or maintains a certain G.P.A. College expenses can only be provided for in a Separation Agreement because it is not included under North Carolina Law.)
  • Alimony (This agreement can provide the dependent spouse with financial support from the supporting spouse for a pre-determined period of time, until the death of either party to the agreement, or when the dependent spouse cohabitants or remarries.)

Negotiating Separation Agreements

When negotiating the terms of the Separation Agreement, it’s best that parties are represented by their individual attorneys to avoid a conflict of interest. However, one attorney can draft the Separation Agreement that the parties or their attorneys negotiate. North Carolina law permits each marital issue (e.g. property, support, custody) to be dealt with separately, but it is often in your best interest to discuss everything at once. This will allow you to better make concessions on less important things for the issues that matter most to you.

A separation attorney in Greensboro, N.C. can help identify your wants and needs as well as your spouse’s wants and needs. The attorney will consider your current family resources, income and expenses and what they’ll likely be post-separation. He/she can help you be realistic about the fiscal compromises you’ll probably have to make.

Negotiating a settlement goes most smoothly if you have a concrete objective and a clear, intentional way of reaching it. Of course, settling the issues of your divorce reasonably and cooperatively is best for all involved, but if you simply cannot reach an agreement, you’ll have to go to court, where our separation attorney, Afi Johnson-Parris, has the experience and skill to litigate as determinedly as necessary.

The Advantages of Separation Agreements

A Separation Agreement is preferable to litigation for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it allows for private settlement instead of a public airing in court. North Carolina is one of the few states that permit divorcing couples to keep marital issues private. A settlement agreement is also often more economical, quicker, and less emotionally exacting than litigation. It lets the couple, rather than a judge, remain in control, mutually agreeing to its terms and deciding the ultimate outcome.

If they remain flexible and willing to compromise, the couple is better equipped than a judge to devise creative and tailored solutions as an answer to their family’s situation and needs. Litigation is stressful on everyone involved and should be viewed only as a last resort if all other, more amicable avenues have been exhausted.

Contact a Separation Attorney in Greensboro, N.C.

If you are facing separation, it is advisable to retain the services of a separation attorney in Greensboro, N.C. The legal issues involved in Separation Agreements can be complex and confusing, and you may irrevocably lose or waive rights you weren’t even aware of.