Do you know the difference between separation agreements and consent orders? It’s not common knowledge, and these different types of divorce documents may leave you without the legal upper hand. Before signing any divorce documentation, make sure you know what you are agreeing to – and how these types of divorce documents can leave you vulnerable!

Man standing in a family law attorneys office reading the difference between separation agreements and consent orders

What Is a Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a contract between spouses who are already separated or will be separated in the near future. Separation agreements include important terms such as who will be responsible for which bills, who will continue to live in the shared home, and where their children will live – if applicable. This means a typical separation agreement should include property division documentation, spousal support details including child custody, and future financial responsibility.

Separation agreements are not required to legally separate from your spouse, however, they can resolve many potential issues while protecting each party. To receive a separation agreement that will protect your assets and ensure a healthy split, or to get help if your spouse won’t sign a separation agreement, you should seek help from a divorce attorney.

What Is a Consent Order

A consent order is an agreement between two parents that can agree on the terms of child custody. The parents then seek the help of a divorce attorney to submit it to the court for a judge to approve and sign. The benefit of a consent order is that there is no trial necessary for the terms of the agreement to be approved by the court.

However, if the judge rejects the terms and it does not get court-approved, neither party has any legal protection if the other party breaks the arrangement. If you’d like to pursue a consent order, speak with an experienced divorce attorney in Raleigh. Before you sign any custody or divorce documentation, it’s imperative that you understand what’s legally required for your situation.

Assumptions to Avoid Making in Divorce

It’s not uncommon to find clients that have signed a separation agreement or consent order that doesn’t work in their favor. Naturally, after the fact is too late to be asking questions about the different types of divorce documents and what they should have signed for their best interest.

The best general policy is to never sign any kind of marital agreement or consent order without understanding the nature and effect of what the documents mean. That does not mean that it is enough to understand what is included. Let’s walk through examples of common assumptions people make when signing marital or divorce documents – that they should not.

  • Do not assume that dental expenses are the same as medical
  • Do not assume your spouse will help with college for your children
  • Do not assume that non-reimbursed medical expenses are included or will be divided
  • Do not assume your spouse will ease up on you or give you a break if you are low on cash one month
  • Do not assume you can stop paying alimony when your spouse gets a job
  • Do not assume your spouse will help you with your bills when “they have the money”
  • Do not assume your spouse will have to sign a deed
  • Do not assume you will be getting any equity if something is sold later
  • Do not assume anyone will make payments on time
  • Do not assume you can come back and change or add things later
  • Do not assume anyone is going to refinance anything into their name alone
  • Do not assume that retirement savings or pensions will be split when you “divorce”
  • Do not assume that separation agreements found on the internet are legally binding
  • Do not assume anything

Do You Know What Is Not Included in Your Divorce Agreement?

You need to understand what’s not included as well. You also need a clear understanding of what you will do if the agreement is violated or what will happen to you if you violate the agreement. I recently read a separation agreement prepared by a lawyer that required a relatively low-income individual to pay permanent alimony for a short-term marriage as well as pay for every conceivable expense any individual could ever incur for the rest of the life of the other party.

People tend to want to just “get out” and are willing to sign anything in some cases. Please, take a breath, think, and act to protect yourself.

Consult a Divorce Attorney for Your Separation Agreement

Talk to an experienced family law attorney or divorce lawyer before you sign anything regarding your separation agreement or consent order. If you’d like more information about these types of divorce documents or steps you should take, we are here to help. Know your rights before it’s too late by completing the online contact form below to speak with a Raleigh divorce attorney today or contact us at (919) 301-8843.

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