If you and your spouse have ended your marriage, it is a good idea to make your divorce final after separation. Some couples may remain separated without getting a court order finalizing the divorce. However, there are several good reasons to divorce. A divorce allows you to officially divide up your assets. It also confers a final decision on alimony. A divorce decree can include details in your separation agreement. Finally, there are many practical considerations that may mean divorce is the right choice for you.
Divorce Leads to Equitable Distribution of Assets
In North Carolina, couples who have separated must live apart for a year and a day before they can divorce. During the separation period, a couple may share many assets although they do not live together. For example, both spouses may still own a house together. Each may remain responsible for a portion of joint bills, such as cell phone costs or fees for a child’s after-school activities.
Many couples choose to sign separation agreements that discuss the division of assets. These agreements remain in effect during the year or more of separation. However, there could be assets that are not discussed in a separation agreement or that cannot be divided until divorce. This group of assets includes any “divisible property”, which means property acquired or improved upon during the separation period.
If you have separated for more than a year, you may want to make your divorce final so that your assets are distributed. North Carolina uses the equitable distribution method to divide up divorcing couples’ assets. This means that the court decides on an equitable way to divide up the marital property and divisible property. As described below, if you have a separation agreement, the judge may adopt any property division terms in it.
Getting some clarity on property division and who owns what from the marriage could be helpful for you. If you are separated but not divorced, it may be unclear what you really own and what you can do with it. A divorce decree settles any question of property ownership with finality.
Divorce Leads to a Final Decision on Alimony Payments
Moreover, a final divorce also leads to a final decision on alimony payments. You may have agreed to pay or be paid post-separation support during your separation. The amount of these payments may be much higher or lower than alimony after divorce. Whether they are very different depends on the circumstances.
When the judge figures out how much an ex-spouse must pay in alimony, he or she will consider many factors – often many more factors than are considered for post-separation support. Some factors that might affect the amount of alimony payments include the length of the marriage and who has primary custody of a child.
Because you cannot receive or pay alimony until after the divorce is finalized, you may want to make your divorce final. This will allow you to learn what your alimony obligations are for the future.
A Divorce Decree Can Include Details of Your Separation Agreement
As mentioned above, a divorce decree can include details listed in your separation agreement. A divorce decree is a court order issued by a judge, who orders the divorcing spouses to follow it. The judge can decide to adopt all or part of a separation agreement as part of the divorce’s terms.
If you signed a separation agreement during your separation, it may contain information about property division and alimony. You may want the court to provide confirmation of these details in an enforceable order. That way, if your ex-spouse violates any terms of the agreement in the future, you have recourse to enforce them before a family law judge.
Practical Considerations for Getting a Divorce
There are some additional reasons you may want a final divorce. A divorce decree can provide closure and the opportunity to move on with life after marriage. It also could change your relationship with your children from the marriage, depending on your custody situation. Divorce also could give you more freedom from obligations during a separation. All of these practical considerations could be good motivators to make the divorce final.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are separated and you are ready to make your divorce final, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. We will help you understand your legal rights and pursue your best outcome. With many years of combined legal experience, our attorneys are compassionate, knowledgeable, and effective, professionals. Our firm assists clients in Wake, Johnston, and Durham counties in North Carolina. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.