The Importance of Separation Agreements in Divorce Proceedings

It can take a while to get a divorce in North Carolina. During that time, who has to pay the bills, take care of the children, and maintain the family home? These and many other details can get dealt with in a separation agreement. When there is no clear direction on these things, the credit rating of both spouses can plummet, potentially costing them thousands of dollars a year for years after the divorce.

North Carolina divorce attorneys can explain the importance of separation agreements in divorce and help you with this critical aspect of your divorce.

Financial Topics That Can Be in a Separation Agreement

Financial issues can be covered in a separation agreement. For example, the document could include provisions about the following:

  • Who pays which bills
  • Who pays child support and the amount of child support
  • Whether either party pays spousal support to the other, and how much they have to pay
  • Who gets access to which bank accounts and credit cards

Depending on your situation, your separation agreement could include additional financial matters.

Living Arrangements

Both spouses might insist on living in the marital home, but if they can reach an agreement on that issue, those terms can be put in the separation agreement. If they cannot agree, they might need to ask the judge for a temporary order addressing this issue. It is rare for a couple going through a divorce to live in the same residence without conflicts.

Child-Related Topics

In addition to child support, the separation agreement could address the schedule of each parent with the children. The agreement might name one parent as the temporary custodial parent for physical custody or designate one parent’s residence as the child’s “home base.”

It can be helpful to include specific custody and visitation terms in a separation agreement to allow the parents and children to follow those arrangements for a while before the terms get set in stone in a final decree. The initial arrangements might sound good at first, but have fatal flaws when put into practice. 

Parents should pay particular attention to how the children are coping with the temporary arrangements of the separation agreement. Now is the time to make adjustments for the benefit of the children. If the parents want to make changes after the divorce is final, they will have to go back to court and pursue a motion to modify. Motions to modify can take as long as a divorce and cost as much as one, depending on the dispute.

The Final Decree

Although the initial intent of a separation agreement is to provide ground rules for the temporary stage of going through divorce, a separation agreement allows the parties to test drive the terms of the document and let the judge know what works well and what does not. Sometimes, the final decree will simply incorporate the terms of the separation agreement into the final decree, while in other divorce cases, they modify the terms based on the “test drive” they had during the separation. You can talk to North Carolina family law attorneys about how a separation agreement could benefit you in your divorce case. Contact us for help with your case.