Separation Agreements in North Carolina
Why do I need a separation agreement?
Separation agreements are the documents that are most frequently used by separating couples to set out their respective rights and obligations. You may not need a separation agreement immediately upon separating, but we have found that the separation process is often less expensive and less combative when clients are able to reach an agreement before they separate. After separation, the existence of an agreement can affect your income tax filing status, the inclusion or deductibility of alimony for income tax purposes, and your rights to inherit property from your spouse.
What issues can be the subject of a separation agreement in North Carolina?
As the best means of resolving all issues arising out of your separation, the separation agreement can cover everything from child custody to child support to property distribution to payment of debts to life insurance and college expenses. Separation agreements can create temporary or permanent resolutions of all or some of the above issues. Partial separation agreements can reserve certain issues for resolution in court or through arbitration. The scope of agreements depends on the willingness of the parties, the creativity of their attorneys, and the needs of the parties.
Can I be compelled to sign a separation agreement?
No. Like any contract, a separation agreement is formed by the voluntary act of the parties. Your spouse cannot compel you to enter into an agreement or to agree to certain terms without your voluntary participation. A separation agreement that is signed under duress or without full disclosure of all of the facts, financial or otherwise, may not be enforceable later on. Although it is helpful to have a signed separation agreement in place before you separate, it is not required. In fact, there are situations, such as ones in which there is domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse, or intense conflict when it is best to separate as soon as possible, agreement or not. Also, it is never wise to enter into a separation agreement until you have adequate financial information to make an informed decision.
Why do I need a lawyer for a separation agreement?
Your lawyer is your advisor and protector when it comes to negotiating and drafting a separation agreement. In addition to making certain that the legal formalities for the agreement are met, your lawyer can inform you regarding the laws governing the various issues that are covered by your agreement, the potential alternative ways to resolve issues, and the most effective ways to provide security for you and your children. Your lawyer’s experience is an invaluable asset that you can use to evaluate when to settle and when to fight on, and, of course, your lawyer has negotiating skills which have been honed by years of practice.
What formalities are required in order to create a valid separation agreement?
A separation agreement needs to be in contemplation of an impending or existing separation. It must be signed and acknowledged by the parties. It should be entered into voluntarily and with knowledge of all relevant facts.
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