What is legal separation and how will it impact my divorce in North Carolina?

Ending a marriage is a difficult decision that should not be taken lightly. However, if you and your spouse have been having problems for a while, divorce may seem like the right choice. Many people think separating from your spouse is the same as divorce, but they are two different issues. In North Carolina, you and your spouse must be legally separated before you can file for divorce.

How do I become legally separated?

In North Carolina, you and your spouse do not need to file for legal separation or enter into a separation agreement to become legally separated. Instead, a legal separation in North Carolina requires:

  • At least one spouse to intend on permanent separation
  • Physical separation for a minimum of one year

What constitutes physical separation?

Generally, you and your spouse will need to live separate and apart for the entirety of the one-year period to have met the criteria for physical separation. Merely living in different rooms of the same house is not enough to constitute physical separation. In most cases, one spouse will move out of the marital home and establish residence somewhere else entirely to achieve physical separation.

Benefits of a separation agreement

As we mentioned earlier, you and your spouse do not need a separation agreement to be legally separated in North Carolina. However, a separation agreement can address issues relating to your divorce and be a part of your final divorce order. A separation agreement can include details regarding:

  • Property division
  • Payment of bills
  • Child custody and support
  • Spousal support

You and your spouse can each get your own attorney and both attorneys will prepare a written separation agreement to best suit your family. Once the terms are agreed to, the agreement will be signed by both spouses and the signatures will be notarized to make it official.