If you're contemplating a divorce or beginning the process, you're undoubtedly concerned about ensuring that you protect yourself and your family financially. You may know that getting an agreement in writing to determine how you and your partner will split finances and assets, even temporarily, is a good idea. But what is the difference between a separation agreement and a divorce in North Carolina? In this article, we'll discuss the differences between separation and divorce agreements so you can make the best choice for your family.
Informal Separation Agreements
Before divorcing, you and your spouse may sign an agreement to determine how you will split your assets and income, how each of you will meet your financial obligations, and providing for child and spousal support. No North Carolina law requires that you do this, but it's a good idea to execute a separation agreement if you have children, joint debts or financial obligations, or joint property. However, you can't typically enforce these agreements unless you both sign them and have the agreement notarized.
There is no need to obtain a court-ordered separation agreement in North Carolina. As long as you live in separate residences and at least one of you intends it to be permanent, you are legally separated.
Divorce from Bed and Board
Aside from mutually agreed-upon separation agreements, you can also obtain a formal separation from a North Carolina court in some cases of abandonment or abuse. This separation is called a "Divorce from Bed and Board." See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-7 (2018). A "Divorce from Bed and Board" allows you to maintain eligibility for health insurance and social security benefits while marrying apart. You will also still be considered next of kin to your spouse and able to make end-of-life decisions. However, even with a legal separation from a North Carolina court, you are still married. You can't remarry and may still be liable for your spouse's debts.
After a formal divorce judgment, also known as "absolute divorce," you will lose all the "rights arising out of the marriage." See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-11 (2018). You will also no longer be responsible for your ex-spouse's debts. If one of you requests it, a court will typically issue an order for equitable distribution of the marital property and divisible property. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-20 (2018). You can obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina after the two of you separate for at least one year.
You Need an Experienced North Carolina Family Lawyer
If you're contemplating divorce or just beginning the divorce process, you need advice from an experienced North Carolina family law attorney. Call Jerkins Family Law at 919-719-2785 or contact us online. You need skilled legal guidance, and we can help.