The experience of separation and divorce is an incredibly uncomfortable and sad experience. Even if your separation is “amicable”, it represents the end of a significant relationship and brings about a sense of uncertainty as to what your present and future will look like. Many people simply want to move on and are willing to sign whatever they need to for closure.
We understand this feeling, and acknowledge that it is perfectly normal to feel this way. However, as family law attorneys with over a decade of experience, we feel inclined to inform you that you have legal rights and it is worth your while to fight for them.
A couple must be separated for at least a year before they can divorce. This means that as much as you want to move on, you cannot legally do so for a long time. A post-separation agreement bridges the gap between your separation and divorce and can provide you needed stability during that time period. Specifically, you can reach this enforceable contract with your spouse that can address property division, post-separation support, child custody, and child support.
It is well worth your while to speak with an attorney regarding a post-separation agreement, as you are entitled to protect your existing property rights, to know where you and your children are going to live, to have some form of financial stability in the form of spousal maintenance payments. Waiving these rights may seem like the easy thing to do, but in the big picture, you actually expose yourself to unnecessary uncertainty and risk without a fair separation agreement.
Property Division and Alimony
Far too often, we hear from people who are not the “breadwinner” of their family and therefore believe that they will be left with nothing when they divorce. Regardless of whether you were primary source of earnings for your family, you have made significant legal rights. Public policy and the law have long recognized the contributions that both spouses make to a marital relationship and the opportunities that one spouse will often forego in order to allow the other spouse to advance in their career.
When it comes to property division, North Carolina is an “equitable division” state, meaning that all marital property is inventoried then divided between spouses in an equitable manner based on a number of factors. Marital property is generally money, savings, retirement, and property obtained during the course of a marriage. In other words, you are likely entitled to half of the value of any home purchased during your marriage, or to half of the retirement benefits that have accrued during the course of a marriage.
In addition, a “dependent” spouse may be entitled to alimony (or spousal maintenance) payments in order to maintain the standard of living that the couple enjoyed during marriage. Significantly, alimony allows the court to consider the marital misconduct of spouses when making the award. Property division and alimony both offer a person a chance of financial stability, which is sacrificed if the person chooses not to fight for their rights.
New Direction Family Law
If you are seeking a separation and divorce, you have legal rights and we want to help preserve and enforce those rights. New Direction Family Law is a family law firm that has built a reputation of effectiveness and professionalism. We respect our clients, understand the law, and work hard to fight for their rights. Our firm serves Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law