Separation is truly one of the most difficult times for anyone to go through. It impacts so many aspects of a person’s life.
Separation does not always mean courts and judges—in fact North Carolina makes it very easy to make an agreement on all of these matters. Simply having a drafted document, notarized and signed may resolve these issues.
A separation agreement can be effective especially when you have children and property involved. It allows you and your spouse to agree on things like custody, child support, alimony, and property division. If you and your spouse can agree to terms that accompany an agreement then, when the time-period arrives for the divorce, the court can simply incorporate the separation agreement into an order with your divorce.
This does allow a more “hands on” approach with your separation. At any time after the separation of the parties, either may file an action through the court for property division, custody, child support, and alimony; but a separation must take place.
The court will not consider you and your spouse separated if you are still living together with the intention of resuming the marital relationship.
Our firm is here to help you through this process; we understand that this decision is a difficult one. We are here to help you grasp the overall outline of your separation. The first step is to contact our office for a free consultation with an attorney that can help guide you through your separation process.
In thinking through this process, there are some basic things you need when thinking through your separation agreement, and your attorney will need the following dates and information:
- Full names and dates of birth of you, your spouse and children
- The date of the marriage
- The date of separation (the last day you were together as a married couple)
Of direct importance will be the children’s schedule. Many people want to simply “agree to agree” from day to day. That is fine (and encouraged), but there will be times when agreement will not happen. We recommend a set schedule that allows the children to be prepared for changes in their evenings—and an allowance for some flexibility or trading nights when appropriate.
Child support is generally set by the guidelines (available through the Department for Health and Human Services website). In order to determine this information, you will need to know your spouse’s monthly income and expenses for the children (especially school and health insurance costs).
Will there be a claim for alimony? Did you or your spouse rely on the other’s income to live up to a certain standard during the marriage? If so, you need to determine not only an appropriate amount for alimony, but also a time frame for the length of time it will be paid (or if it would be paid indefinitely). In addition, if one spouse is paying insurance, it is probably important to have that covered.
What real property do you own? Do either of you own property in only your name? If you do, you will need to know a legal description of that property, and how much remains owed on each piece of real estate.
What about other tangible items? Can you amicably divide these without making a long list of items? If you can do this, you may want to separate these items and then have the separation agreement signed affirming that this has been accomplished.
Splitting accounts can also be difficult. You need to list every account that you have, from retirement to checking—Health Care Savings Accounts or others. Try to bring a recent statement of each. Remember, retirement can be tricky to “split”, and often needs an expert to determine is actual value.
Any information on retirement is important. Many times, after the home, the retirement is the largest piece of any property settlement. Try to have recent statements and documents for each.
If you have life insurances, make sure you have this documented and how it is treated in the period of separation and later divorce in the agreement.
This can be a tedious process, and I encourage you to consult with an attorney before putting this together. Having a good separation agreement allows you to begin moving to a more stable part of your life, and putting pieces back together. Attorneys with King Law in our Rutherfordton, Shelby, Marion, Brevard, Hickory, Columbus, Charlotte, and Gastonia, North Carolina offices offer free consultations by telephone and in office to help you start with the next phase of your life.