Is A Do It Yourself Separation Agreement The Best Option?

people looking at papers

A do it yourself separation agreement is rarely the best option for couples in North Carolina. If you are considering a divorce, it is best to have an experienced family lawyer on your side even during the separation phase. We can help you create a fair and legally sound separation agreement as you go through this difficult transition.

What is a Separation Agreement?

Here in North Carolina, couples must go through a separation period before they can file for divorce. “Separation” means that you are living in two separate households, so either one or both of you must move out of the family home. After one year and one day, you are able to file for divorce. However, during the separation, you and your spouse will need to make decisions regarding finances, property, children, and more.

That’s where a separation agreement comes in. This document is a contract that outlines your agreements in writing. If the parties sign off on an agreement, the judge does not have jurisdiction to modify it so your divorce agreement is the separation agreement. So, it is important that you have a fair one. After all, this document can have an effect on the rest of your life, not just your life during the one-year separation period. A do it yourself separation agreement could set you up for an unfavorable divorce agreement.

Here at Morgenstern & Associates, we specialize in helping North Carolina families through the divorce process. Our board-certified lawyers have experience with a wide variety of cases, including both amicable divorces and extremely difficult divorces. Don’t wait to call us until you are eligible for a divorce. We can help with your separation too.

Things to Include

A separation agreement is not a cookie-cutter document. That’s why having an experienced separation lawyer is important. We can make sure you don’t miss anything. Here are a few things commonly found:

Depending on the circumstances, your separation agreement may also cover things such as who will be responsible for paying bills related to jointly-owned property. Every marriage is different, so we carefully review all details with each client. We tailor your separation agreement to fit your needs.

You don’t legally need a separation agreement in order to separate. However, without one, you could find yourself in an unfavorable situation or in heated arguments with your former partner. It’s always better to put your agreement in writing.

Limitations of a Separation Agreement

It’s important to have an experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina write or review your contract. We’ll help you create a document that is fair and unambiguous, so you’ll have a favorable outcome if the agreement is challenged later.

Most commonly, a judge will intervene and overrule a separation agreement in relation to child custody and child support. Having a separation agreement does not stop your spouse from filing a child custody or child support case. The judge is always going to make decisions based on what they think is best for the child, regardless of any agreement you may have previously signed.

Keep in mind that a separation agreement is different from a Divorce from Bed and Board (DBB) order. A DBB is a court-ordered separation, typically when one spouse has proof of a serious problem such as drug abuse. Even though a DBB is not voluntary, you can still voluntarily sign a separation agreement once separated. Without a separation agreement, a DBB does not automatically decide issues of custody, support, property division, etc. We can create a separation agreement for you regardless if your separation is voluntary or a DBB order.


Since every separation is different, we can’t give you specific advice about your agreement online. However, we can answer a few commonly asked questions about this type of contract and the separation process.

Is a do it yourself separation agreement legal?

While a do it yourself separation agreement can be legal, it can also have costly mistakes and lead to unfair and unfavorable outcomes for your divorce. Remember, just because your divorce may be amicable, it doesn’t mean you should go through it without a lawyer. An experienced divorce attorney can actually help ensure that things stay amicable.

What if my spouse won’t sign a separation agreement?

Your spouse doesn’t need to sign anything in order for you to get a divorce. However, you also can’t require your spouse to sign a separation agreement. If they are unwilling, this can make the year of separation even more difficult. We advise our clients how to handle this type of separation based on each specific situation. Don’t worry, though; you don’t have to be stuck in an unhappy marriage. You do have options, even if you’re dealing with an uncooperative spouse.

Can I skip the separation and just get a divorce?

No. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, you have to go through the separation process, which requires one year of living in separate households. The only exception to this rule is if you and your spouse qualify for an annulment. Annulments in North Carolina are extremely limited, so most couples will need to go through the one-year separation.

We’d love to answer your specific questions about separation agreements and the separation/divorce process. You can use the chat feature for assistance or click here to send us an email about your case.

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