In North Carolina, couples have to live separately for a minimum of one year before filing for a divorce. During this time, one or both parties can draft a separation agreement that outlines child support and custody arrangements, property division, and who is responsible for paying debts and bills.
Often, these agreements can be used as the foundation of a divorce agreement so there is no need for a lengthy and expensive courtroom battle and both parties can meet their goals. But what happens when you draw up a separation agreement and your spouse won’t sign? Our divorce lawyers in Raleigh are exploring this topic to break down your options.
Separation Agreement Laws in North Carolina
In North Carolina, a separation agreement is a written contract between two spouses, and while they can make the separation process easier, they are not a legal requirement. Therefore, if one party approaches the other with an agreement, the other party is under no obligation to sign the document.
It’s also important to note that any signature obtained on the agreement must be obtained through lawful means. This means a spouse can’t coerce, manipulate, or use aggressive persuasive tactics to convince the other spouse to sign.
For example, one party can’t threaten to withhold visitation of a child, make harassing phone calls, or block access to marital property until the other party signs the agreement. Doing so can make the contract unenforceable in a court of law if it can be shown that a signature was obtained through fraud, manipulation, or duress.
Working with a Mediator to Create a Separation Agreement
If you would like to have a separation agreement in place, but you’re concerned about your spouse not signing, you may want to consider mediation. A third-party mediator would work with both of you to negotiate a separation agreement that includes terms that are acceptable to both parties.
Once both parties have signed the agreement, it is legally binding. For example, if one party promises to pay the mortgage, then doesn’t, the other party can sue for breach of contract. However, child custody and support are not legally binding, and a judge can modify the arrangement if it’s in the best interest of the child.
Protecting Your Interests Without a Separation Agreement
When your spouse refuses to sign a separation agreement and won’t work with you to negotiate one, you need to protect your interests. First, if you have children together, you can get a court order for child support and custody during the separation period. You’ll also want to protect yourself financially during this period until the divorce is finalized, whether you and your spouse create a divorce settlement or it’s settled by a judge. While we highly recommend getting personalized advice from an experienced divorce attorney, you can do the following:
- Cancel joint credit cards and separate debt. This may involve both parties paying off joint debts, or dividing the debt and transferring it to credit cards individually held.
- Run your credit report and check it for changes
- Determine your marital assets and separate assets
- Get copies of your financial statements and tax records
- Secure cash or liquid assets by setting up a bank account in only your name and transferring enough to cover your bills. Draining the account can lead to problems during the divorce
Schedule a Consultation with a Divorce Attorney in Raleigh Today
If you need assistance in drafting a separation agreement or need an aggressive divorce attorney who will fight on your behalf to protect your interests, schedule a consultation with The Doyle Law Group today. We are dedicated to helping our clients get favorable outcomes so they can begin their life after divorce with confidence and security. Call us at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to get started.
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