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Understand the Difference Between a Separation Agreement and a Consent Order

Understand the Difference Between a Separation Agreement and a Consent Order

If your marriage is deteriorating, you may be looking for ways to start the separation process. If you’re struggling to figure out what to do, you might not realize that you have options other than immediately going to court to fight things out.

In this blog, we’ll review two legal options that are available to separating couples as alternatives to a court battle: separation agreements and consent orders.

What’s the Difference Between a Separation Agreement and a Consent Order

If you’re looking for ways to resolve the issues involved with a ending your marital relationship, a separation agreement or consent order could help. Here are the differences between them:

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a private contract between spouses that outlines how you and your spouse want to settle the issues related to your separation and the end of the marriage. You can enter into a separation agreement at any time after you separate. The terms of the agreement remain in full force and effect even after the actual divorce, which you cannot get until you have been separated for one year. This contract can deal with all issues related to a separation and end all aspects of the marital relationship except that you cannot get remarried until you are divorced.

Because a separation agreement is a contract, it’s not on public record and one party can sue if the other violates the terms of the agreement. Signing a separation agreement is serious, so it’s always a good idea to consult an experienced North Carolina divorce attorney before signing one.

Consent Order

A consent order is similar to a separation agreement in that it can resolve all issues related to the dissolution of the marriage. However, the parties sign it and it is then presented to a judge and it becomes a court order which is enforceable by contempt. To get a consent order, you must file a lawsuit against the other person. And because it’s part of a lawsuit, any consent orders are on public record.

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How Do I Know Which Option Is Right for Me?

Being able to get a consent order or separation agreement in place is generally the best option. This is because it means you and your spouse have resolved the issues related to your separation. This avoids going through an emotional, expensive process that can take a tremendous amount of time and effort by having to go to court and have a judge make the decision for you. Determining which option is right for you can be different in different cases, but it is generally best to put property division and alimony arrangements in a separation agreement and custody and child support agreements in a consent order.

RELATED: What Do My North Carolina Child Support Payments Cover?

Need Help During Your Separation or Divorce? Talk to a Lawyer First

If you’re struggling to initiate a separation, a consent order or separation agreement could be the solution you need. One of the best ways to protect your best interests, understand all your options, and make the process go smoothly as possible is to work with an experienced divorce attorney. An attorney can help you take the necessary steps to implement a separation agreement or consent order.

At Myers Law Firm, we have over 50 years of combined experience standing with people going through separations and divorces in North Carolina. We know how challenging it can be to identify the best solution for you and your family, which is why we make sure you understand the options available to you so you can make the best choice possible.

Myers Law Firm: Supporting People Through Separation and Divorce for Over 40 Years

If you need a separation, divorce, or ways to resolve a separation disagreement, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and see how we can assist you. We’ve helped countless clients like you get the tools and resources they need to imagine a brighter future, even when the present is difficult. If you need help with a divorce or separation in Charlotte or anywhere in Mecklenburg County, schedule your initial consultation by filling out our quick online contact form or calling our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889).

We are ready to walk with you every step of the way, providing the guidance and counsel you need to face the stressful prospect of a family law case with confidence.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?

When parents separate or divorce, children are forced to adjust in multiple ways. No matter how parents feel about each other, it’s critical that children continue to feel loved and secure, which requires a level of compromise and joint effort between the parents.

Unfortunately, not all parents put their child’s interests first during a divorce. Sometimes, one parent engages in manipulation that undermines and damages the other parent’s relationship with the child. This type of relationship damage is called parental alienation, and it can lead to grief and emotional anguish, not to mention concern for the children’s wellbeing and sense of security.

In this blog article, we’ll explore parental alienation and help you identify it sooner rather than later. We’ll also discuss what to do about parental alienation and provide advice about how to address the problem.

What Is Parental Alienation and Why Does It Happen?

Parental alienation occurs when a parent-child relationship deteriorates and becomes less close than it was due to interference and manipulation from the other parent. The engagement becomes more negative, less frequent, or both, and the parent feels like they’ve lost critical elements of their connection with their child. Parental alienation can range from mild to severe.

Relationships between parents and children will naturally evolve as the child (and the parent) grow and change. Even people who are very close with their parents can probably remember times in their life when the relationship became more distant for a while.

However, parental alienation is different than the natural relationship changes that life brings. Parental alienation happens because one parent engages in behaviors that actively harm the other parent’s relationship with the child. This type of harmful behavior is most common in cases that involve divorce or separation.

Sometimes, the other parent is deliberately working to alienate the child from the other parent out of anger or spite, but that’s not always the case. The parent who’s causing the alienation may not realize what they’re doing on a conscious level, or they may tell themselves they’re only doing what is best for the child.

No matter why parental alienation happens, it can lead to emotional harm and trauma for both children and parents. So, parental alienation always needs to be recognized and addressed as early as possible.

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Parental Alienation: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Most children, especially young children, want to please their parents. When one parent fosters negativity toward the other, the child can feel conflicted and guilty. A child who is starting to experience parental alienation might experience, anxiety, anger, depression, problems at school, eating or sleeping disorders, and other behavioral issues.

The parent who is causing the alienation may hide their behavior or make no secret of it. Either way, watch for signs that parental alienation may be beginning in your family. The other parent might:

  • Deny you access to your child in person or over the phone
  • Withhold important information about your child or their activities
  • Schedule alternatives to tempt your child away from your scheduled time
  • Eavesdrop on your phone calls or monitor your text messages
  • Lie to you or your child about events and conversations
  • Refuse to pass along gifts or money you send to your child
  • Allow or encourage your child to say negative things about you
  • React poorly if your child says positive things about you
  • Interrupt your time with your child with lots of phone calls or text messages
  • Instruct your child to spy on you and report back
  • Use your child as a messenger instead of communicating directly
  • Unnecessarily share details of the divorce or settlement your child
  • Deliberately cause your child to experience hardship (skipped meals, unmet needs) and then blame you
  • Make statements that cause you to worry about your child when nothing is wrong
  • Refuse to be flexible and make reasonable changes to scheduling and visitation
  • Offer your child more than an age-appropriate say in scheduling and timeshare details, often while encouraging or manipulating the child to side with them in disagreements

If you see or suspect any of these alienating behaviors, you need to monitor the situation and determine what is going on. Just because one or two of these occur does not mean parental alienation is occurring. As mentioned above, relationships between parents and children change over time. However, if these actions are occurring on a regular and consistent basis, you should act sooner rather than later for the sake of your child’s wellbeing and your relationship with them.

What Can I Do About Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation can be very difficult to prove in court. However, if you can provide evidence and make strong arguments, you may be able to convince the court to intervene, possibly by changing the custody arrangements.

To gather evidence of parental alienation and make a compelling case in court, you should follow these steps.

Keep a Record of Events

Write down the date and circumstance any time you believe you were denied rightful access to your child. You should also record any incidents where your ex lied about you or spoke negatively about you in front of your child. If you end up in court, the records you’ve kept may help establish patterns of alienating behavior and convince a judge to intervene.

Create a Paper Trail

Hold on to emails, texts, and other communications in which you asked to see your child or discussed legal arrangements. Not only does this prove your effort to maintain your relationship with your child, but it could provide valuable proof if your ex lies about these conversations or doesn’t keep to their word.

Explore Counseling

An experienced therapist who has training in family issues should know about parental alienation and understand how to fight it. If you suspect parental alienation or see it starting to happen, talking with a therapist can be a valuable step. Not only will therapy give you and the child tools and vocabulary to address the issue, but it will also show that you’re working to improve the situation.

You may even want to consider asking the other parent to attend counseling sessions with you. These sessions can be joint or occur separately. Either way, it could lead to valuable progress. And making these types of efforts can only help your custody case, no matter how your ex responds. If you make a legitimate attempt to reach out and your ex refuses, a court may look favorably on your efforts in a future hearing.

Act Fast and Be Tenacious

Fighting against parental alienation can feel frustrating and exhausting, especially when the problem has become severe. However, you wouldn’t give up if the threat to your child were related to health or safety, so don’t give up here. Your relationship with your child, as well as their overall wellbeing, are at stake.

Remember also that it’s important to address parental alienation as soon as possible. If your ex succeeds in damaging your relationship with your child, it can create a vicious cycle. Your ex may claim that you’re spending less time with your child because you don’t care, which may drive your child further away. It’s never too late to try and repair the damage done by alienation, but it’s also never too early to

Don’t Fight Bad Behavior With Bad Behavior

If you believe your ex is trying to harm your relationship with your child, the worst thing you can do is to respond in kind. Do not talk badly about your ex in front of your child, and don’t try to keep your child away from the other parent in violation of a custody order or agreement. Remember that when you take the high road, the law is on your side. Family court judges do not take kindly to parents violating court orders or badmouthing each other in front of their children. If your ex is engaging in these behaviors and a judge finds out, your ex will be in trouble. But if you start behaving the same way, all your leverage will be gone.

Talk to an Experienced Family Law Attorney

As mentioned, parental alienation can be difficult to prove in court. However, an experienced attorney should have the resources and training required to identify parental alienation and bring it to light in court. Sometimes, a lawyer can help you address the problem without even going to court. Your attorney can communicate with your ex and let them know you have representation and are dead serious about fighting for your relationship with your child, which may make your ex think twice before continuing to lie and manipulate.

RELATED: 5 Child Custody Myths, Debunked

Myers Law Firm Can Help With Parental Alienation and Child Custody Issues in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we understand parental alienation and other complicated issues that come up during a separation or divorce. We have years of experience guiding clients through family law matters, and we can come up with practical, affordable legal strategies to address whatever needs and challenges you’re facing.

To schedule your initial consultation with an attorney from our team, please call us at 888-376-2889 or use the simple contact form on our website.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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What’s the Difference Between Separation and Divorce in North Carolina?

The misconception that separation and divorce are the same is all too common. In fact, separation and divorce are two different things, and they serve different purposes.

In this post, we’ll go over the differences between divorce and separation in North Carolina, and we’ll provide insight about how the two events affect you, your relationship, and your family.

Separation Is Part of the North Carolina Divorce Process

Every marriage is different, and so there’s no one right way to address differences, take time away, or end a marriage. While divorce is the way to end the legal bond between two people, separation is the first step that can lead to many possible results, including divorce, indefinite separation, or reconciliation.

Defining Separation

Some states have legal separation, which is a legal filing in which a married couple formalizes a separation without dissolving their marriage. In North Carolina, there’s no official document or any other formal process for a married couple to become “legally separated”. You and your ex are only separated if you’re living apart and at least one of you intends to leave the marriage permanently. If one of you moves out of the marital home with the intent of leaving the marriage, you can mark the date of separation on your calendar, and that’s enough.

North Carolina couples must remain separated continuously for one year before they can file for divorce. If you get back together and resume the marital relationship but then realize it was a mistake, you have to start the one-year clock over again. However, isolated “hook-ups” do not automatically restart the clock, even if you and your ex engaged in sexual intercourse.

Initiating a separation is simple, but it also opens the door for couples to begin dealing with the issues of custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. This is where the real conflict comes into play.

Defining Divorce

Separation in North Carolina requires couples to live separate and apart for one year. However, separation does not affect your marital status. Unless your marriage was not legally valid and you can get an annulment (which is rare in North Carolina), divorce is the only way to permanently dissolve your marriage and go back to being a single person for legal purposes.

Technically, filing for divorce is a simple process. All you need to do is file a lawsuit with the court and go through the process, which takes about 50–60 days after the other party is served with the lawsuit. In the end, you get a judgment of divorce, and your marriage is over.

Issues Related to Separation

Although obtaining the judgment of divorce is simple, all the issues that will come up as a result of the separation can get very complicated. These are the major legal issues that go along with dissolving a marriage: property division (equitable distribution), child custody, child support, and spousal support (alimony). The legal process of resolving these divorce-related claims is where all the conflict actually happens. In contentious cases, these issues may not be finalized until after the divorce is final.

Remember this, because it’s important: You do not have to be separated for one year in order to resolve claims for child custody, child support, spousal support, or property division. You can resolve them at any time during the one-year separation period, and you can even use a separation agreement to resolve them before you actually separate (so long as you separate within 30 days of creating the agreement). We’ll talk more about separation agreements in the following section.

To learn more about the process of filing for and finalizing an absolute divorce in North Carolina, read our blog article about this subject.

RELATED: How to Obtain an Absolute Divorce in Mecklenburg County

What is a Separation Agreement in North Carolina?

A separation agreement is a legal contract between you and your spouse that resolves the legal issues we discussed earlier (child custody, child support, property division, spousal support). There’s no law in North Carolina that requires you to get a separation agreement, and a court will not issue one for you. Only you and your spouse can create the agreement, and both of you need to be on board.

If you and your spouse can agree on the terms, your separation agreement can resolve any or all of the major legal issues surrounding your divorce. Your agreement won’t be valid unless both parties sign the document in front of a notary, who will notarize the signatures.

You can also put your agreement into a document called a consent order. This is an agreement that is signed by you and your ex and then by a judge. There are different reasons for doing a separation agreement versus a consent order, and we’ll talk about these differences in a future blog article.

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Do I Need a Divorce Attorney If I’m Separated?

If you’re separated or planning to leave the marriage, it’s never too early to start getting legal advice from an experienced family law attorney. Divorce can be a complicated, confusing, and stressful process, especially if you try to go through it without a lawyer.

Not only can a divorce lawyer take all the paperwork and legal preparation off your plate and make sure your rights are protected, but they will also attend to important details you may miss. As an example, some couples forget about various insurance accounts or retirement funds, which often name beneficiaries. If these accounts don’t get included in property division, it can be a mess to figure out what to do with them after a divorce finalizes.

Certain situations also demand the help of an attorney for the health and safety of the family. If you have a partner who is abusive or unstable, a lawyer can get the authorities involved and get court orders that protect you and your children.

No matter what your situation looks like, hiring a lawyer will most likely save you money in the long run unless you have a very simple, uncontested divorce. Make sure to choose an attorney who has experience handling divorce cases, and feel free to meet with multiple lawyers and search for someone who gives you confidence and makes you feel at ease. Your divorce may be a long process, and having the right advocate by your side can make all the difference.

Contact Myers Law Firm If You Need Help with a Divorce or Family Law Matter in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Myers Law Firm, we understand that the end of a marriage is never an easy time for either spouse, so we approach every case with compassion and understanding to search for solutions. While we excel at respectful negotiation and will work to find common ground with the other side, we are ready to stand up in court and fight for your rights with an aggressive approach if that’s what it takes.

The attorneys at Myers Law Firm have experience handling all of the major family law issues that surround the end of a marriage, including alimony, child custody, child support, and property division. We’re here if you need help. To get in touch with us, call our offices at 888-376-2889 or fill out our online contact form today.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

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We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Surviving Marital Separation: 6 Tips That Can Get You Through

For North Carolina couples, a 12-month period of marital separation must take place before either spouse can file for divorce. But not all separations end in divorce.

A marital separation can be a time of healing, introspection, and reconciliation. Separations can provide valuable time for couples to sort out their wants, needs, and individuality as they examine their relationship with their spouse (and often with themselves).

Even if a separation can have positive effects, that doesn’t mean separating is easy. Whether you end up filing for divorce or reconciling, a period of trial separation often sets off a rollercoaster ride of emotions and potential conflicts. If you’re experiencing a marital separation or facing the prospect of one, keep reading to learn some tips that can help you survive your separation.

Separating From Your Spouse? Here’s How to Make the Process Less Painful

Every situation is different, but we’ve found in years of family law practice that couples can take a few consistent steps to make their separations less painful and complicated.

Avoid Over-Sharing on Social Media

Keep the details of your separation to yourself. Avoid sharing too many details with friends, colleagues, or even family members and be especially cautious on social media. It’s healthy to find a support system, but use judgment while doing so. What you post on the internet is forever, and many people find that harsh words posted in the heat of the moment come back to haunt them later during the divorce process. Remember that anything you share on the internet can be used against you later during a court case, so it’s usually best to avoid posting about your separation at all.

Prioritize Emotional and Mental Health Over “Winning”

If your split is less than friendly, you may feel tempted to get back at your spouse, get revenge, or “win” the divorce. While feelings of hurt and even spite are normal, they shouldn’t be the focus of your separation.

Letting these feelings control your actions can backfire on multiple levels. Not only can you harm your case for divorce-related issues like child custody and child support, but giving in to anger and vengefulness can also hurt you on an emotional and psychological level. Try to focus on yourself during this time; prioritize your emotional health and well-being instead of seeing how much you can hurt your ex.

Practice Self-Care

It’s easy to get down and start feeling hopeless during a difficult time. Make sure to carve out time for yourself and acknowledge feelings of depression or anxiety rather than try to deny them. This is a good period of time to evaluate areas of your life that aren’t working and try to make positive changes. You may want to focus on exercise and fitness, get in touch with friends you haven’t made time for in a while, explore meditation, or take up a new hobby.

It may also help to keep a diary and write down what you’re experiencing, even if you’ve never been much of a writer. You may be surprised at what comes out, and it might give you insight on how to move forward toward the future you want.

Finally, try and settle on a daily schedule that includes productive activities and keeps you moving toward some goals. With all the change and uncertainty in your life, it’s easy to lose any sense of normalcy. Creating a routine can help you feel like you’re moving in a particular direction instead of just drifting without purpose.

Explore Therapy and Divorce Support Groups

No matter how long you’ve been married, a split is a major lifestyle change. Even if you were unhappily married, you were still used to seeing your ex-partner, and a sudden shift can leave you feeling disoriented and sad.

You’re far from the first person to experience these feelings during a separation. Connecting with people going through the same process can make it easier to cope and heal, and therapy or counseling can help you work through personal issues and pain. If you’re not sure where to start, Psychology Today hosts a search tool you can use to find divorce support groups in your area.

Audit Your Finances

Divorce can be an expensive process. If you and your spouse are separated, take this opportunity to audit your finances and look for ways to save. If that you do make your split permanent, you’ll need to replace shared items, find a new place to live, and potentially get your own essentials. Expenses you should plan for may include insurance policies, vehicles, and a phone plan. Keeping track of your expenses and cutting back on non-essential purchases is essential to prepare for an uncertain future.

Get Your Records in Order

Having your vital documents and records organized is never a bad idea, but it’s especially critical if you’ve separated from your spouse. Items you’ll need to gather include information on loans, credit card statements, pay stubs, employment history, healthcare, retirement information, and more.

If you have questions about what documents you should be collecting and organizing, or if you need help doing so, talk to an experienced family lawyer right away. If you have a will, power of attorney, or healthcare power of attorney that names your spouse as the executor or attorney-in-fact, you need to revise these documents.

Put Your Children’s Needs First

Divorce is never easy on kids. The COVID-19 pandemic has already created an anxious and unsettling environment for many children, so you’ll need to be extra mindful about how your separation affects your family.

When you and your spouse first separate, the number one thing to do is make sure you have a plan that prioritizes the needs and well-being of your kids. Decide how you’ll co-parent, implement a routine, and make sure to spend plenty of time with your children throughout the process. Do the best you can to keep your kids out of any conflicts with the other parent.

It’s also important to communicate with your children and explain to them what’s going on. Be as honest as you reasonably can based on your child’s age, developmental level, and temperament. However, you must keep them out of the conflict — and never bad-mouth the other parent to your kids! Talking bad about your ex in front of the kids is not only unfair but could hurt you during a court case if it comes out.

You’ll need to discuss your co-parenting plan with your partner, so try to be as level-headed and empathetic as you can. If you need help reaching an arrangement you both can live with, seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

RELATED: How to Co-Parent: 6 Tips for Success

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Experiencing a Separation or Dealing With Divorce in Charlotte? Contact Myers Law Firm Today

At Myers Law Firm, we have decades of experience helping clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg County find the best solutions for their families. If you need help with legal separation, divorce, or related family issues, get in touch with us. We can meet with you to discuss your options and a create a plan to protect your rights.

To schedule your initial consultation with an experienced family law attorney from the Myers Law Firm team, call us at (888) 376-2889 or use our quick and easy contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

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Premartial and Postmartial Agreements

Contrary to popular belief, premarital and postmarital agreements (which most non-lawyers call prenuptial and postnuptial agreements or “prenups” and “postnups” for short) aren’t just tools for the wealthy and frequently divorced. Signing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can help a couple protect their individual assets and clarify expectations before and during the marriage. Prenups and postnups can also control what happens in case a couple separates and eventually divorces.

For various reasons, many people want to know whether you can sign a prenup if you’re already married. The answer is no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a marital agreement in place — it just needs to be a postnuptial or postmarital agreement.

In this blog, we’ll explain when you can sign a prenup and discuss the difference between prenups and postnups. We’ll also describe some scenarios where creating a marriage agreement may be the right choice.

For the rest of this article, we’ll refer to marital agreements as prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements or prenups and postnups since that’s what most people call them. Just remember that prenuptial agreement and premarital agreement are different terms for the same thing, and the same is true for postnuptial agreement and postmarital agreement.

When Can I Sign a Prenup?

Prenuptial agreements are legal agreements that couples sign before getting married. A prenuptial agreement can create a structure for the financial aspects of the relationship during the marriage, and it can also control how assets and property get divided if the marriage ends in a separation and divorce.

As we mentioned earlier, North Carolina law says you can only sign a prenuptial agreement before you get married. However, if you’re looking for ways to protect your assets after you’ve already gotten married, a postnuptial agreement is a good option. Like a prenup, a postnup describes how you and your spouse will divide property in the event of a split; the only difference is that you sign the postnup after the wedding.

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How Are Postnups Different Than Prenups in North Carolina?

Like prenups, postnups describe what will happen to a couple’s assets in the event of a separation and divorce. Prenups can include stipulations for spousal support, but they can’t settle issues of child custody and child support. On the other hand, postnups usually can’t settle issues of spousal support. This is one of the main differences between prenups and postnups.

It might be possible for you and your spouse to use the same lawyer to create a postnuptial agreement, but we strongly discourage it. Instead, we recommend you and your spouse seek independent attorneys, which will help protect both parties and ensure that all the important issues get addressed.

You can also get a postnuptial agreement even if you already have a prenuptial agreement. The new agreement will replace the old one. So, if you and your spouse are no longer happy with the terms of your prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement may be a good solution.

RELATED: Who Gets the Dog in a Divorce? Understanding North Carolina Pet Custody Laws

No matter where you are in your marriage, it’s never wrong to think about protecting your assets. Married couples separate and divorce for all kinds of reasons, from infidelity to the spouses growing and changing as people over time. And signing a marital agreement, whether it’s a prenup or postnup, doesn’t mean your marriage is on shaky ground. In fact, working with your partner to create a marital agreement can spark some healthy conversations about finances and other practical matters.

Here are a few potential scenarios where a prenup or postnup can prove useful:

  • You or your spouse have children from previous marriages. When families blend, it can create legal complications down the road, so you may want to protect your child’s inheritance in case you die unexpectedly or the marriage ends. A prenup or postnup can protect your wishes and provide for your child’s future.
  • One of you acquires an inheritance and wants to keep it separate. Inheritances technically count as separate property in a divorce, but it’s very easy to lose that protection by commingling your inheritance with marital property. A prenup or postnup can clearly define an inheritance and make sure it stays with you in case the marriage ends.
  • One of you makes a financial decision the other doesn’t agree with. Let’s say your spouse prefers to make high-risk investments, and you’re not comfortable with the potential losses. In that case, a marital agreement can protect you from the fallout in case an investment goes bust.

What if My Spouse and I Already Plan to Separate?

If you and your spouse already know you want to separate or divorce and you don’t have a prenup or postnup in place, then you shouldn’t create a postnup now. Instead, you need a separation agreement.

A separation agreement is a document you and your spouse sign when you expect to separate within 30 days. Separation agreements aren’t limited like postnups — they can resolve all aspects of separation and divorce. If you and your spouse are on good enough terms to work out a separation agreement, then you can separate peacefully and minimize the amount of time and money spent.

If you have questions about prenuptial and postnuptial agreements or separation agreements, get in touch with an experienced family law attorney. Only an attorney can give you expert advice based on your unique circumstances.

Have Questions About Prenups and Postnups in North Carolina? Myers Law Firm Can Help

If you have questions about drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or about how an existing agreement will affect your divorce case, the team at Myers Law Firm is here to help. We can answer any questions you may have and address your issues with legal solutions tailored to your unique needs.

While we pride ourselves in handling divorce issues peaceably and with compassion, we won’t hesitate to fight aggressively to protect your rights. To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us online by filling out our online contact form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Myers Law Firm

We are committed to continuing to serve our clients’ legal needs

Single Divider

We are able to meet with clients and hold consultations with prospective clients via telephone or video conference. If you need to contact us, please do not hesitate; we are happy to speak with you about your situation, your needs, and how we can help.

Schedule Your Consultation Now!

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Prenuptial Agreement

While many people associate prenuptial agreements with the very wealthy, they can actually benefit couples at all levels of income and debt. In fact, at Myers Law Firm, we encourage all couples to consider signing one before they marry. 

Keep reading to learn more about how prenuptial and postnuptial agreements work in North Carolina as well as how they affect divorce cases. 

A Brief Explanation of Property Division in North Carolina

The first step towards understanding North Carolina nuptial agreements is learning about divorce and property division. After all, marriages don’t simply involve a romantic union—you’re also combining your finances and assets. 

For legal purposes, married couples have three types of property: 

  • Marital property: Most income, property, assets, and debt that you acquire during a marriage. 
  • Divisible property: Property that was earned before a couple separates but then changes in value post-separation. 
  • Separate property: Income, property, assets, and debt you acquired before your marriage. Additionally, inheritances and gifts to a single spouse are typically separate property. 

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. In other words, divorcing couples must divide their marital and divisible property fairly (this doesn’t have to be a 50/50 split, although the court will start by presuming a 50/50 split is fair). Your separate property will stay yours unless you commingled it with marital property. 

What Are Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements, and How Do They Affect Property Division? 

Nuptial agreements, when valid, dictate how a couple will divide their property and debt if they separate or divorce. They can also stipulate how much alimony or spousal support a spouse will receive. 

RELATED: Considering a DIY Divorce? Read This First

There are two types of nuptial agreements: prenuptial and postnuptial. You enter a prenuptial agreement (prenup) before the wedding. If you sign an agreement during your marriage but before a separation, it’s a postnuptial agreement (postnup). 

You might benefit from a prenup or postnup if: 

  • You or your spouse accumulated significant assets before you married. 
  • One of you has significant debt or plans to take on debt. 
  • You have a child from a previous marriage and want to protect his or her inheritance. 
  • You want to protect a family business. 
  • You want to exclude family heirlooms, property, or other valuable assets from your marital property. 
  • You want to predetermine how much alimony a spouse will receive. 
  • You are supporting your spouse while he or she completes a lucrative academic or vocational program. 

In other words, if you want to control your spouse’s access to certain assets or limit your exposure to his or her debt, a prenup or postnup is a good idea. 

Prenups also offer another benefit: transparency. Financial problems are one of the most common causes of divorce. To enter a prenup or postnup, you and your fiancé or spouse will have to discuss your financial situations with each other in detail since failure to disclose your debts and assets might invalidate the nuptial agreement. 

While proposing a prenup isn’t most people’s idea of a romantic gesture, entering a marriage with a full understanding of your spouse’s financial circumstances could prevent unpleasant surprises later, and it can actually provide a wonderful way to start a marital relationship on solid and honest ground.

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Are There Limits to What a Prenup or Postnup Can Do?  

While prenups and postnups can be very useful, they have their limits. A nuptial agreement cannot set any stipulations or terms that violate North Carolina law or public policy. A nuptial agreement also cannot: 

  • Determine child custody 
  • Set child support payments 
  • Encourage divorce by offering financial or other incentives 
  • Delegate spousal responsibilities, such as caring for children or completing household chores. 

If you have questions about the validity of a nuptial agreement, you should contact a family law attorney immediately. 

How Can My Spouse and I Enter a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement? 

North Carolina’s general statutes have a special section devoted to prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. This section is called the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act (UPAA). 

According to this act, a valid prenup or postnup must be: 

  • In writing
  • Entered into voluntarily by both spouses
  • Based on full disclosure of each spouse’s financial situation (including debts)

While not specifically required by the UPAA, we recommend that a prenup be signed in front of a notary. 

It’s important that your prenup clearly defines its terms and conditions. Vague or misleading language could result in disagreements and litigation later on. And, if your prenup or postnup contains unfair or illegal terms or conditions, the court might invalidate all or part of the agreement. While you can try to draft a prenup or postnup on your own, it’s typically in your best interest to consult an experienced family law attorney for help.  

Additionally, you and your fiancé or spouse cannot have the same prenup or postnup lawyer. A prenup lawyer can’t fairly represent two parties when they have potentially conflicting interests. While this might seem unnecessary or expensive, the cost of drafting a valid and binding prenup still might be significantly less than the cost of a contested divorce. 

How Nuptial Agreements Affect Divorce Cases in North Carolina 

Since property division is one of the most contentious issues during a divorce, a valid prenup or postnup can help expedite your divorce and reduce conflict. When you have a valid prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse should simply follow its terms, which can speed up the property division part of your divorce process and cut down on litigation costs. 

Before you file for divorce, it’s important to get a copy of your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Your attorney will need to review the agreement and make sure it’s valid. If the prenup appears invalid, it may be fully or partially set aside. If the prenup is valid, however, the court must follow its terms.

Contact Myers Law Firm If You Need Help with a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement 

If you have questions about drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, or about how an existing nuptial agreement will affect your divorce case, the attorneys at Myers Law Firm are here to help. We can answer any questions you may have and help you find affordable, efficient legal solutions that meet your needs. 

While we pride ourselves in handling divorce issues peaceably and with compassion, we won’t hesitate to fight aggressively if needed to protect your rights. To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us online using our online contact form. 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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