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The Process of Drafting a Divorce Settlement in North Carolina

If you are going through a divorce in North Carolina, you might have heard that a divorce settlement agreement is a much better alternative compared to a drawn-out, stressful, and expensive trial process. When spouses agree on most aspects of their divorce out of court, they can finish up their separation without much hassle. When you present your settlement agreement to a judge, they will simply read it over, make sure that everything is drafted correctly, and approve it.

With this approach, spouses can exert a significant amount of control over their separations. It can be stressful to leave critical decisions regarding your divorce up to a judge who obviously does not have the same level of intimate knowledge of your relationship as you and your spouse. When a divorce settlement agreement is possible, it is almost always the best option. That being said, sometimes spouses cannot agree on key aspects of their separation, and a trial is inevitable. 

But how does a divorce separation agreement actually work in North Carolina? How do you draft one? How long does it take, and what does the process actually look like from start to finish? If you have questions such as these, it is probably a good idea to get in touch with a qualified, experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina. These legal professionals can explain the finer details of a divorce settlement agreement. They can also help you draft the agreement when you are ready and move forward. 

How Does a Marital Settlement Agreement Work in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a divorce settlement agreement is generally referred to as a Marital Settlement Agreement, or "MSA" for short. Although your MSA will allow you to circumvent many of the legal processes typically associated with an all-out divorce trial, it is still a legally binding document. This means that you must be careful when drafting specific details. You should also know that you may be charged with fraud if you are not careful. For example, both spouses must be completely aware of the agreement's contents before signing the document. In some cases, spouses may be accused of misleading or coercing their exes with MSAs. This is one of the many reasons you should work with an experienced attorney who can help you avoid these costly mistakes when drafting your MSA. 

The Process

The process of drafting a Marital Settlement Agreement starts in essentially the same way as a standard divorce. One spouse will still need to file a petition for divorce (usually filing for divorce under "irrevocable differences). The divorce papers will then need to be served to the other spouse. You will need to write the date that you filed your petition in your MSA. Next, you will need to separate (live apart) from your spouse for one year and a day before you can move forward with the next stage of your divorce. 

However, you do not have to simply wait around during this 12-month period. You can take this opportunity to begin drafting your Marital Separation Agreement alongside your spouse. One option is to meet in an informal setting and simply hash out the details. Another option is to hire a professional mediator, and you can also choose something called collaborative law. This is when you and your spouse both bring your lawyers to the negotiation table and you all work as a team to try and negotiate and draft a fair MSA together. 

There are several vital details you must include in your MSA. Aside from the major decisions like child support, child custody, alimony, and property division, you must also include the following:

  • The date of your marriage
  • The date of your separation
  • The names and ages of your children
  • The grounds for your divorce
  • Current living arrangements and addresses

After you and your spouse have drafted the MSA, you will go before a judge in an informal hearing. Essentially, the judge simply asks both spouses whether they actually understand the MSA and whether they have agreed to it voluntarily. The judge then issues a divorce decree based on the details of the agreement. 

Enlist the Help of a Qualified, Experienced Attorney Today

If you have been searching the North Carolina area for a qualified, experienced divorce attorney, look no further than Arnold Smith, PLLC. We have helped many spouses efficiently move through their divorces, and we are more than familiar with the process of drafting a divorce settlement agreement. If you want to deal with your separation quickly and easily, working with an experienced attorney is essential. Reach out and book your consultation today.