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Being aware of your rights during divorce makes a difference

If you're planning to separate or divorce, you need to understand the basics of doing so. For example, if you decide you want to divorce, you don't necessarily need a legal separation or to file for that separation. Living in separate homes is enough to prove that you've been separated for a period of time.

You can file for a legal separation, though, if you don't want to get a divorce or want to protect yourself against liabilities while you're separated. If you simply wait a year, you can file for divorce directly without the legal separation documents.

Within the time frame of your separation, you can work out a separation agreement. This separation agreement may include information like what you would receive in alimony or how much one spouse would receive in child support. The division of your property will also be discussed in the agreement. Remember, once the agreement is confirmed and approved by the court, it is legally binding. Make sure it's the best possible agreement for you before you agree to sign the documents. If you don't agree with them, take time to go through mediation, negotiations or arbitration, so you feel comfortable with your decision.

After your divorce, you won't be able to file a claim for alimony or property in most cases. Sometimes, if a spouse has hidden assets, you could be able to file a claim for that discovered property. It's best to try to find all property and assets before you divorce, so you can walk away from the marriage without having to worry about future interactions in court.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Understand the basics of separation and divorce," Sep. 28, 2017

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