When you decide to legally separate from your spouse in North Carolina, you must live in separate locations for 12 months and one day before filing for divorce. Given this period of time, if there are assets or children between you, it is important for you two to write up a separation agreement and file it with your home county's register of deeds. The agreement will address asset and debt division; child custody and support; alimony; and harassment, among other things relevant to your marriage. This process will cost you time and money, so preparing for it as soon as possible will help you in the long run.
Although time-consuming, you can write up your own separation agreement. There are templates and forms available at various websites and office supply stores that can guide you through the information that should be covered in an agreement. Also, you can visit your county courthouse to review filed separation agreements and get ideas for what should go in your own. Rosen Law Firm has a free searchable PDF file of 20 separation agreements from across the state that can easily support self-creation of your agreement. You simply give them your email address to gain the ability to download the file. Going this route will have minimal costs with time of at least several hours.
Outsource Agreement Creation
In case your marital assets are complicated or you do not have the time to pay attention to the creation of your separation agreement, you can hire a lawyer to create it. Typically, your lawyer will have a template in which she will input your information and negotiate with the other party on your behalf to come to a mutual agreement. This will cost little in your time but could financially cost $400 to $2,500 or more. When speaking to potential lawyers, understand what is included in the quoted price. The quoted price may be a starting price that increases with each action -- such as an email, phone call, mailing or sequential draft -- following one completed draft of your agreement.
Once you and your spouse have come to an agreement, signed and notarized it, you should file the agreement with your county's register of deeds. You can have the agreement notarized for no cost at your bank or by another notary for a maximum cost of $5 per signature. Price for filing is $14 for the first page plus $3 per additional page. Agreements can range in size approximately five to 40 pages or more, having a filing cost of $26 to $131 or more.
When considering the costs of creating separation papers, getting them notarized and filing with your county, your separation agreement could have a total cost as little as $26 or as high as more than $2,600. The amount this total cost and your time spent on the matter could rise or lower is very dependent on how cooperative your spouse is in this process. Creating a fair separation agreement would benefit all parties and could lead to a lower-cost divorce in the end.