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What’s in a Separation Agreement and What Happens to it after Divorce?

divorce paperwork

Sometimes it is best to separate from your spouse before you go full speed ahead into your divorce. Living separately for a while can help you to figure out if that is what is best for you both. In some states, such as North Carolina, it is mandatory to live separately for a year before you can legally get divorced.

While you are separated, many people find it helpful to create a separation agreement. While not legally required, a separation agreement can settle some aspects of divorce during the period before the divorce is final. A separation agreement is a contract, and both parties sign the agreement in front of a notary.

Here are some of the things you might include in a separation agreement:

  • Parenting arrangement. Your children are no doubt at the top of your mind if you’re getting a divorce. You can choose to set up a parenting agreement or include it with your separation agreement. Child custody is the first thing to be discussed, and then you can settle how much time the child(ren) will be with each parent. Be sure to include holidays, where they’ll go to school and what to do if one parent should relocate — though most parents agree to remain in the same state. (The parents’ location is also often a legally binding part of your child custody in your divorce decree.) You can also decide on some child support, with the parent who does not have primary custody helping pay expenses.
  • Distribution of debt, property, and assets. When you decide to separate from your spouse, some things are easy to divide, while others are not. Put into writing what will happen to the marital home and anything else you own jointly. You should also decide who will receive how much debt and assets.
  • Insurance. Life, health, and dental insurances are some other issues to cover in a separation agreement. Decide how each spouse and all of the children will be covered by insurance and who will have to pay for any uncovered dental and medical visits. Because you are still legally married, your partner can continue to keep you on his/her insurance plan or vice versa, if you choose. Include a deadline for switching to separate insurance plans based on the time of year and you or your spouse’s enrollment period.

What happens to the separation agreement after the divorce is final?
The separation agreement can guide you both through the year. However, if both parties agree, this agreement can be brought into the divorce decree. In some cases, the parties want to make changes. If so, you and your attorneys can work out those changes to create a new agreement for your divorce decree. If you cannot agree, you can try mediation, arbitration, or go before a judge (go to court) to receive a decision.

Get Help with Your Raleigh Divorce

A separation agreement can help reduce friction and stress once you decide to proceed with your divorce. If you and your spouse come to this agreement voluntarily at the beginning of your split, it saves time toward the end. However, not all couples are in an amicable situation. If you have questions about moving forward with your divorce, visit our monthly divorce workshop to ask a lawyer, a financial advisor, and a therapist for help.


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