What to Consider When Negotiating a Post-Separation Agreement

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When married couples decide to divorce in North Carolina, the law requires that couples first separate for a full year. Couples who enter this separation period unprepared and unaware learn the hard way that this year may seem like a VERY long time. This is because couples that are experiencing the raw emotion of ending their relationship must also make big decisions about children, property, and money.

Separation agreements are legally binding contracts that spouses enter into when they choose to separate. These agreements address critical subjects, such as property division, spousal support, living arrangements, child custody, and child support. These are legally binding agreements, so long as they are signed and notarized by both parties and do not violate an existing law or public policy.

We recommend considering a separation agreement due to the stability and certainty they provide. However, there are several things to think about first.

  • You need an attorney. It is in your interest to speak to an attorney prior to entering into any agreement, especially if your spouse has an attorney. The laws regarding separation, divorce, custody, and support are intricate and wide-ranging. An attorney can advise you of your legal rights so you are not caught flat-footed and so you can make smart decisions. You do not want to enter into an agreement that is unfair to you or waives your legal rights.
  • If you can’t agree on the terms of a separation agreement, your issues may become part of court proceedings. Part of the purpose of reaching an agreement is to avoid the high cost and turmoil that come with legal proceedings. This is why it is in your interest to enter negotiations or mediation with an open mind to reaching a fair agreement.
  • Lowball offers regarding spousal support and child support are unrealistic. Spousal support and child support are provided for under state law, and courts will enter orders regarding child support and spousal support in accordance with specific statutory factors. Therefore, you have a choice to reach an amicable agreement that you can live with, or you can risk allowing a judge to order you to pay even more.
  • On the other side of the equation, don’t agree to more than you can pay. This is a sure-fire setup for failure. It is important to have a solid grasp of your property, income, debts, and expenses before agreeing to any terms. This will allow you to make sound, informed decisions when it comes to property, spousal support, and child support.
  • Most importantly, put your children’s interests at the forefront of your mind. It is likely in your children’s best interest to spend ample time with both parents. It is also important to set out explicit boundaries with your former partner to reduce the odds of conflict.

Contact New Direction Family Law

A year is a long time to wait for a divorce. If you want some certainty and stability during that time, contact New Direction Family Law. We can provide you with a comprehensive set of your options, which includes seeking a separation agreement. Our attorneys have extensive experience in creating these agreements and will make sure that your voice is heard. We want to provide you with the confidence necessary to move forward. We serve clients throughout Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us online at our website.