What is the Difference Between a Consent Order and a Separation Agreement in North Carolina?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How can an attorney help me with my Divorce or Separation in North Carolina?”


If you are contemplating a divorce in North Carolina, you may be considering your options to resolve your disputes with the spouse. Often, couples think that going to court is their only option to get a divorce in North Carolina. However, that is not true. There are two viable alternatives to divorce litigation — a separation agreement and consent order. But what is the difference between the two?

shaking-hands-separation-agreement-Concord-Mecklenburg-Statesville-Family-Lawyer-300x225Consult with a skilled family lawyer in North Carolina to help you explore your options and advise you on alternatives to divorce litigation. Schedule a case review with our attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, by calling (704) 370-2828.


Is There Any Difference Between a Separation Agreement and a Consent Order?

Yes. Although many people use the terms “a separation agreement” and “a consent order” interchangeably, the two terms refer to two completely different processes.


What is a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement is a contract created and signed by the spouses in private. The agreement details how the spouses want to resolve their divorce-related issues, including alimony, timesharing, and child support, among others.

Under N.C.G.S. § 50-6, spouses must be legally separated for a year and a day before filing for divorce in North Carolina. However, the parties are allowed to create and enter into a separation agreement at any time after your separation.

The best part is that the terms of the separation agreement remain valid and legally binding even after the spouses finalize their divorce. Since a separation agreement is a contract signed by the spouses, the terms of the agreement can remain private.

Even though the contract is private, a party to the agreement can sue the other party for violating its terms. Creating a separation agreement is a serious matter, which is why it is best to speak with a knowledgeable divorce attorney in North Carolina to help you draft the contract.


What is a Consent Order?

Similar to a separation agreement, a consent order allows the spouses to resolve their divorce-related issues. Obtaining a consent order requires one party to file a lawsuit against the other. For this reason, unlike separation agreements, consent orders are a public record.

After the parties sign the consent order, it will be presented to a family law judge for it to become an enforceable and binding court order.


Choosing Between a Separation Agreement and a Consent Order

If you are trying to choose between a separation agreement and a consent order and are not sure which one is best for your particular situation, consult with a lawyer.

No matter which option you choose, it may still be better than taking your divorce case to court, where you have little to no control over the outcome. Divorce litigation can be an adversarial, expensive, stressful, and time-consuming process.

You need an experienced divorce lawyer in North Carolina to review your unique situation and help you choose between a separation agreement and a consent order. Schedule a consultation with our divorce lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to talk about your case. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.






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