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Filing Separation Papers vs. Becoming Legally Separated

Do You Know What it Means to be Legally Separated in North Carolina?

Signs pointing in different directions at a fork in the road when deciding when to file your separation papers

Not sure when to file separation papers? Heard different things about what exactly it takes to be "legally separated" in North Carolina for purposes of divorce?

Many people I see are confused by the terms thrown around by different people and many have a distorted understanding that leads to problems. Let me explain exactly what a couple seeking a divorce must do to effect a legal separation in this state. 

Basically, the first step is that one of you decides you want to move out and not get back together. Then, you hit the road or you have your spouse move out. There you go. That's it.

People are not required to file anything in order to effect a legal separation. It just requires a physical separation (you cannot live in the same house) with at least one of you intending the separation to be permanent.

Should You Move Out of the Marital Home?

Now that you know what it takes to become legally separated in North Carolina, it is important to add that this does not mean it's a good idea to just move out.

In fact, it's usually not. Moving out can cause you all kinds of legal problems so please, do not just leave blindly without talking to a divorce attorney. There are many situations in which you need to take steps before moving out, or you would be well advised to file a civil action before doing anything. Naturally, you must consider support issues, marital misconduct claims, interim property and debt issues, child custody issues, and many other things. You could be causing many avoidable problems for yourself by moving out of the marital home.

I believe people often confuse the voluntary process of negotiating a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement, with the need for filing some paperwork that declares a married couple separated (see our website description on the family law page). In truth, while the government used to favor marriages in public policy, and to a lesser extent still do, they could care less if you separate (unless it means they can get more taxes). Accordingly, they do not want you filing anything just for purposes of announcing you have separated.

Consult with a Raleigh Divorce Lawyer on Questions about Legal Separation

Please contact our Raleigh divorce attorneys at (919) 301-8843  before making any decisions regarding moving out of your marital home unless you feel unsafe, and consider seeking a qualified marriage counselor if you are not sure what you want to do. You can speak with our Raleigh family lawyer by completing the form below.

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