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What Goes Into a Separation Agreement in North Carolina?

Questions.Answered

In order to move on peacefully from a marriage that is ending, a couple may wish to enter into a separation agreement. A separation agreement is a way to privately and efficiently resolve divorce-related issues, including alimony, asset division, child custody, and child support. While these agreements are not required for separation, they may help to make the process of splitting up cheaper, easier, and faster since you don’t involve the Courts. A couple may be considered “separated” simply by living in separate residences with the intention to terminate the marriage. There is no need for a separation agreement to be “separated.”

What Goes Into a North Carolina Separation Agreement?

The terms of a separation agreement depend entirely on what the parties entering into it want. While each divorcing couple has unique issues that must be addressed in the agreement, the following issues tend to be universally included:

  • Marital residence – If the parties jointly own the marital home or other real estate, ownership of property will need to be addressed. The parties may choose to sell it, one party may agree to relinquish their ownership interest in exchange for money or other property from their former spouse, or the parties may agree to some other resolution.
  • Personal property division – Instead of dividing assets through the Courts and filing a legal action for “equitable distribution” of property, the parties can instead stipulate in the separation agreement how they will divide their personal property. This can include division of tangible property (furniture, home entertainment equipment, cars, etc.) as well as intangible property (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRAs, 401(k)s, savings accounts, etc.). The separation agreement should make clear that, by entering into the contract, both parties waive their rights to file for equitable distribution.
  • Future debts and liabilities – It is important to express in a separation agreement that neither party will be liable for any future debts incurred by the other. It should also be stated that both parties are prohibited from using the other individual’s name to secure assets.
  • Alimony – The separation agreement can also establish an alimony arrangement, which can call for alimony to be paid in one lump sum, on a continued basis, or that no alimony will be paid to either spouse. The agreement should establish the amount, the date it must be paid, and the interest that will be charged for failure to make timely payment(s). It should also state the date on which alimony will end.
  • Child custody and child support If the parties have children, they may use the separation agreement to establish a plan for child custody and child support. It is important to note that the Court always has the authority to act in the best interest of children when it comes to custody. These terms can establish who has physical and legal custody of the child; visitation rights and schedules; and even state with whom the child will spend vacations and holidays. The agreement can also set forth who will pay for the child’s education, even though that is not required under North Carolina law, and the amount of child support.

Finally, it is worth noting that the separation agreement should also establish how potential reconciliation would affect the contract, which state’s law will govern the agreement, and also explain the process that must be followed if a party seeks to amend or rescind the agreement.

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