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Separation Requirements In North Carolina

In order for the Court to permit a divorce under North Carolina law, a couple must live separate and apart for at least a year. In addition, when that separation occurs, there must be an intent on the part of at least one spouse for that separation to remain “permanent.” In most cases, each spouse must live after the date of separation in separate residences. That is not always financially feasible. But it is a requirement of North Carolina law.

Legal separation occurs, for the purposes of eligibility for divorce, on the date when one or both spouses ends cohabitation (living together) with the intent of living apart permanently. You do not need a separation agreement, nor do you have to file any papers or documents to be considered separated in North Carolina.

In addition, at the time of filing for the actual divorce at least one spouse must also have lived continuously in the State of North Carolina for at least six months. I can help you navigate the process for your particular case so that you understand the steps and requirements.

How A Separation Works

There are a variety of ways in which you can go about being separated. Some couples may simply live apart for a year and afterward file for a divorce without any formal separation agreement. However, because there are risks involved when a couple live separately without any formal understanding as to the rights and responsibilities of each spouse, you may want to use this time to work together to decide how to resolve the issues. Once you have established that you are going to seek a divorce, you should work with a family law attorney to formulate an effective strategy.

Consulting with an attorney can help you:

  • Protect your property
  • Minimize the conflict you have with your children
  • Work to ensure your standard of living is maintained

The Benefit Of Contracts And Agreements

While TV and movies would have us believe otherwise, most separations do not necessary require actual court action. Court appearances are sometimes expensive and tend to prolong the matter, not hasten it. In fact, a lot of marital rights and responsibilities can be more efficiently and less expensively addressed by a properly prepared separation agreement or contract. Agreements and contracts (such as separation agreements and property settlements) take less time, are more affordable, and in the end tend to be more satisfying for the parties. An agreement or contract can be completed in hours, not days or weeks like a court case.

What Is A Separation Agreement?

A written agreement that is signed by each spouse in the presence of a Notary Public can be recognized in North Carolina as a separation agreement, marital settlement agreement, or other enforceable contract. Therefore, it is critically important that, because these agreements can be enforced upon a party whether they understand the document or its content, you have your written agreement prepared by and reviewed by an experienced family law attorney. If the agreement is not prepared by your family law attorney, always meet with a family law lawyer and review a separation agreement before signing it. It is very important that you understand both the short- and long-term effects of the agreement.

A separation agreement describes your rights, responsibilities and what is expected concerning:

  • Property — “who gets what”
  • How much alimony (if any) will be paid
  • Where your children will live and how decisions about the children will be made
  • How much child support will be paid

Typically the more detailed and thorough the agreement, the clearer it is to both parties and the more effectively that agreement may be to enforce. However, because both parties cannot always agree on all the terms of a separation or divorce, it is important to understand that an experienced family law attorney can help to prepare and counsel you as to the use of more limited or “partial” separation agreements.

The divorce itself is not contained in a separation agreement. In North Carolina, a divorce can only be obtained after the couple has lived for one year and one day of separation (living apart), and a divorce action itself is later filed with the court (a process that typically may take 6 to 8 weeks to complete).

Get The Answers You Need

Contact my law office, The Law Office of Kevin R. Brackett, in Greensboro by calling 336-273-8595 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. You owe it to yourself to have the information you need before moving forward.