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(Wake County)
(919) 821-4711
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Tharrington Smith's Family Law Team

The Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Separation Agreements

Image of man's hands in foreground signing a document with a pen on a table with a reflective surface
In North Carolina, divorcing spouses may represent themselves in a divorce, including in the preparation of a Separation Agreement. However, it is probably in your best interest to seek legal counsel when negotiating and drafting a Separation Agreement.

A Separation Agreement is a written contract that addresses the major aspects of a divorce, such as division of property, spousal support, child support, and child custody. The purpose of a Separation Agreement is to memorialize agreements made with your spouse while protecting your rights under the law. Separation Agreements have long-lasting implications and should not be entered into lightly. Even simple Separation Agreements can cover extremely complex matters, so it is critical to ensure that a Separation Agreement is complete and correctly prepared.

Absent a clear understanding of each of the terms contained in your Separation Agreement, your DIY efforts could be unwittingly setting the course for future conflict. Repairing issues created by a faulty agreement can be time-consuming and costly, with outcomes that do not always match desired results. Seek the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney before you enter into a Separation Agreement. An experienced lawyer can help you ensure your objectives are met and that your agreements are enforceable by the courts.

Challenges pro se divorcing couples encounter and pitfalls commonly found in DIY agreements include:

  • Inadvertently waiving key rights or consenting to something with unclear long-term ramifications
  • Issues surrounding compliance with state laws: purchased form agreements or internet downloads could contain language that is not recognized by North Carolina courts as enforceable. Agreements that contain language that is vague, ambiguous, or conflicting will fail to protect parties from potential issues in the future.
  • If your relationship is acrimonious, if you are not fully knowledgeable of your marital assets, debts, and other critical financial issues, or if you are at a disadvantage, either real or perceived, negotiation can be difficult. It is not unusual that divorcing spouses find themselves unable to come to an agreement on many issues without assistance.

Consult an experienced family law attorney before signing a Separation Agreement. The attorneys at Tharrington Smith are experienced in all areas of family law, including drafting and reviewing Separation Agreements that preserve and protect your rights. If you need an agreement negotiated, prepared or reviewed, call us today.

The information contained in this article and throughout the Tharrington Smith website is correct and accurate as of the date of publication of the content. This general information should not be relied on as legal advice. While accurate and informative, the content is provided to help you make a qualified decision in choosing a law firm to guide you through your legal matter. To schedule a consultation, call our Raleigh office at (919) 821-4711.