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Creating a separation agreement before a divorce

North Carolina law requires spouses to live separately and apart for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. Each individual must reside in his or her own home for the court to recognize a legal separation. 

When a spouse decides to move out of a shared home, he or she must demonstrate the intent that it is permanent before seeking a divorce. To prove permanency, an individual may wish to create a separation agreement. While not required to file for a divorce, it serves as a message that the marriage is over. 

Documenting the separation agreement

A separation agreement is a legally enforceable document that may help prepare for a smooth divorce. By putting issues down on paper, an individual could begin making plans for child custody, financial support and property division. Both spouses, however, must sign the agreement for it to become a binding contract upheld by the divorce court. 

In many cases, a newly single individual cannot support a residence on his or her own. A separation agreement may include details of a financial support arrangement made between the two soon-to-be-ex-spouses. Favorable support terms could then become permanent during the divorce procedure through a court’s order. 

Dealing with financial issues

When a couple falls into financial trouble, relationship problems generally escalate. Financial issues, if unresolved, may result in a divorce. A separation agreement could then outline terms for handling debts such as joint credit cards or loans. 

As reported by Forbes magazine, a separation agreement may contain a clause preventing a spouse from incurring additional debts. An agreement may also detail who will pay off new credit card debts or who will take responsibility for remaining balances on jointly owned accounts. 

Adjusting to visitation issues

Children may require some time to adjust to living with one parent and visiting another parent at his or her own residence. A separation agreement may address a custody arrangement and visiting schedule that meets each family member’s particular needs. Without putting these issues into writing ahead of time, a divorce court judge may instead decide on a resolution.