Separation agreement is a general term used to describe a written contract that spouses enter into to address some or all issues arising from their marital separation. A separation agreement may be a simple agreement that establishes the parties’ date of separation, or it may deal with broader issues, including child custody, child support, alimony, and/or division of marital property and debts.
In North Carolina, there is no law that requires spouses to sign a separation agreement. Therefore, if a spouse refuses to sign a separation agreement, the other spouse cannot force the unwilling spouse to do so. This can be particularly frustrating if one spouse has hired an attorney to prepare a separation agreement and the other spouse refuses to sign it.
Coercion, manipulation, threats or unreasonable attempts to persuade a spouse to sign a separation agreement could result in problems concerning the validity or enforceability of the agreement. A separation agreement may be set aside and determined to be unenforceable if a party can show that the agreement was not signed voluntarily, that its terms are unconscionable, or that it was obtained as the result of fraud, duress, or undue influence.
When spouses are unable to reach an agreement between themselves as to issues arising from their separation, a skilled mediator may be successful in facilitating negotiations to help the parties reach a satisfactory resolution. Otherwise, it may be necessary to initiate legal action to bring the matters in dispute before the court for determination.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.