If your spouse won’t agree to sign a separation agreement, you may wonder what’s next for your divorce case. You might have thought a separation agreement would help smooth out issues during the separation period and in divorce court; but, your spouse may refuse to sign the final agreement. While you may feel that this is a sign of a difficult divorce to come, not getting your spouse to sign the agreement is not necessarily a sign of more issues on the horizon.
Separation Agreements in North Carolina
Divorcing spouses in North Carolina must go through a one-year separation period before they can file divorce papers with the court. Because a lot can happen in a year, separation agreements are common. Separation agreements lay out how various issues, such as finances, support, and living arrangements, will be handled during the separation.
A separation agreement is not a legal requirement for getting divorced. Some couples find it useful to have a written contractual agreement because it can make a separation easier. Without a separation agreement, the default laws in place for separating couples will apply.
Separation agreements should be in writing and signed by both spouses. If you want an agreement to be legally binding, you cannot manipulate or threaten your spouse into signing it. For example, you could not coerce your spouse by saying that you will withhold child custody or badger your spouse via constant text messages. This could make the separation agreement unenforceable in court.
When Your Spouse Won’t Sign the Agreement
If you asked your spouse to sign a separation agreement and he or she refused, all is not lost. First, consider how much input your spouse had into the agreement’s terms. Did you and your lawyer negotiate with your spouse and his lawyer to figure out the terms? If not, your spouse may feel like the agreement is one-sided. Talk to your lawyer about alternative approaches to reaching an agreement. Maybe your spouse will agree to mediation or more involved negotiations.
Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution. It involves working with a third-party, neutral mediator who tries to help the parties reach an agreement. This may require exchanging information, discussing the issues, and making concessions or compromises. Mediation could help if your spouse initially refuses to sign a separation agreement. Talk to your North Carolina divorce lawyer to learn more.
Protecting Yourself Without a Separation Agreement
If your spouse still won’t sign a separation agreement, you must take steps to protect yourself. Separation agreements often cover issues like control of finances and paying joint bills during the one-year separation period. Without such an agreement in place, you will need to make sure your finances are in order. There is a risk that your spouse will take advantage of the lack of separation agreement or divorce decree to inappropriately spend or waste marital property. Getting your finances and paperwork in order will allow you to determine if there are any changes during the year of separation.
First, you should gather important bills, financial statements, and tax records. Start keeping track of your monthly income and expenses if you haven’t been already. You will need to provide an estimate of your expenses for spousal support purposes. The more accurate your estimate, the better prepared you will be when you request spousal support. Also, take steps to protect your credit by checking your credit report and figuring out the amounts of any joint debts.
Moreover, figure out which property you and your spouse own jointly. When you divorce, the court will divide your marital property by a method called equitable distribution. It’s a good idea to review your assets and property now so you know what could be contested in the divorce. Your divorce lawyer can help you get an assessment of which property will be divided and what you can expect during the process.
New Direction Family Law Is Here to Help
Are you in need of a separation agreement, or did you just find out that your spouse won’t sign a separation agreement? The team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. Our knowledgeable and effective North Carolina attorneys will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We assist clients in Wake, Johnston, and Durham Counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.