Sometimes couples find that, despite their best efforts to keep a marriage together, it is in everyone’s best interest to separate. Once that tough decision is made, it is time to start deciding how to divide up their lives.
A separation agreement is typically used to document how a couple will divide property, debt, financial (spousal) support, and at times child custody and support.
North Carolina law does not require separating couples to have a separation agreement, but it is always wise to have everything in writing, signed, and notarized. A separation agreement can also save time and money over court costs and legal fees down the road.
While some couples may decide to negotiate their separation agreements themselves, which can be very dangerous, we think that an experienced divorce attorney is a “must-have” when negotiating a separation agreement.
Here are our top 4 reasons why:
1. A Great Divorce Attorney Will Stand by Your Side Throughout the Separation and Divorce Process.
The separation and divorce processes are incredibly stressful. An experienced divorce attorney will make sure you know what to expect at every step of the way. He or she will provide you with valuable advice on how to navigate each decision and how best to structure your agreement to protect yourself going forward.
For example, did you know that if you did not have your own credit card before you shared one with your spouse, you should always apply for one before the shared card account is closed?
An experienced divorce attorney will give you this type of practical guidance, so you can act in your own best interest.
2. An Experienced Divorce Attorney Will Know What Needs to Be Negotiated.
If you and your spouse decide to hammer-out a separation agreement without an experienced attorney, you could probably cover all of the surface-level issues that first come to mind when you think about dividing up your lives: Who gets the house? Who will get the kids on what weekends? How will we divide financial accounts?
But what about the not-so-obvious issues like:
- Who will claim exemptions for the kids on their taxes?
- What about extra-curricular activity costs for your children?
- Will one spouse be paying alimony to the other? If so, how much and for how long?
- How do you divide ownership of a business?
Should the separation agreement be incorporated as a decree of divorce?
An experienced divorce attorney will help you think through the questions you may not have considered and make recommendations based on your specific situation and priorities.
3. An Experienced Divorce Attorney Will Help You Think Through Your Priorities.
Speaking of priorities, an experienced divorce attorney will help you think through what is truly important as you move into the next chapter of your life and what you would be willing to give up in exchange for your highest priorities.
Negotiating a separation agreement is an emotional and complicated process. Your attorney should help separate emotions from the business of dividing your assets. He or she should help keep you from getting hung up on the small stuff (who cares who keeps the forks!). Instead, he or she should keep you focused on the most important matters.
4. An Experienced Divorce Attorney Will Make Sure You Understand Everything You Are Agreeing to.
You should never sign any legally-binding contract or agreement without having your lawyer review it first.
An experienced divorce attorney will walk you through every clause in the separation agreement to ensure that you understand your obligations under the agreement. He or she can explain technical language and legal jargon. He or she will ensure that the agreement serves your best interests and protects you from future legal and/or financial trouble.
Looking for a great divorce attorney to help you negotiate a separation agreement? The lawyers at Perry, Bundy, Plyler, and Long LLP have over 110 years of combined experience representing North Carolina residents in family law and divorce cases. Give us a call at 704-289-2519 to learn how we can help you and your family through this difficult time.