A “separation agreement” is a written contract entered into between two spouses that resolves claims related to their marital separation. In North Carolina, a separation agreement may be formally referred to as a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement or a Marital Settlement Agreement.
In North Carolina, in order to be valid, a separation agreement must conform to public policy, be in writing, and be properly executed by the parties before a Notary Public or other certifying officer. If the parties have not already separated when the separation agreement is signed, the agreement should state that the parties anticipate separating contemporaneously with the execution of the agreement or specify a date certain for separation shortly after the execution of the separation agreement. A delay in physical separation of the parties could create serious issues with regard to the validity of certain provisions of the agreement.
A separation agreement may be used to simply set forth the parties’ agreement that they intend to live separate and apart, or it may settle some or all issues arising from the marriage, including postseparation support, alimony, equitable distribution, child custody, and child support. The provisions of a separation agreement dealing with legal and financial issues can have serious and long-term consequences. Therefore, it is imperative to consult with a family law attorney prior to signing a separation agreement to ensure that you have a full understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities. Otherwise, you could be waiving rights that you do not know you have or agreeing to something without fully understanding the legal implications.
There are many advantages to reaching an agreement with your spouse or former spouse outside of court. Not only is it less expensive than a trial, but it eliminates the uncertainty of having a judge decide such personal and private matters. Perhaps most importantly, a separation agreement allows the parties to realize some control over the outcome of their case.
At Tharrington Smith, our family law attorneys can assist you with:
- consultation and advice as to issues that should be addressed in a separation agreement;
- negotiation of terms and preparation of a separation agreement;
- review and advice on a separation agreement prepared by someone else;
- initiate or defend legal actions seeking to enforce the provisions of a separation agreement; and
- initiate or defend legal actions seeking to set aside the provisions of a separation agreement.
Whether you are contemplating separation from your spouse or already have separated, the family law attorneys at Tharrington Smith have the experience and dedication to assist you in all aspects of your divorce. Our team of divorce lawyers is among the most experienced and widely respected in the State. We are happy to work with you in advising, negotiating and/or preparing a separation agreement that protects your interests based on your goals and unique circumstances.