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What Does Legal Separation Mean In North Carolina?

legal separation in north carolina

As a Raleigh Family Law Attorney, I am often asked by my clients what it means to be officially “separated” as a married couple in North Carolina. Under North Carolina law, a married couple must be separated for one year and one day before they can file for divorce – but what exactly does it mean to be “separated” in the eyes of the law?

The following provides some helpful answers to questions clients have regarding separation in North Carolina.

When am I considered to be “separated” from my spouse?

Under North Carolina law, a married couple is considered “separated” when they live separate and apart for an uninterrupted period of time, and at least one of the spouses intends to end the marriage.

Do I need to file anything to be separated from my spouse?

No, you and your spouse do not need to file anything to become separated. Clients often ask if they need to officially “file” for a separation, but in North Carolina that is not necessary. North Carolina law only requires you and your spouse to live “separate and apart” for more than one year before you can get a divorce. The Court does not need any sort of formal notification that you and your spouse have begun living separately. Separation can be achieved simply by you or your spouse moving elsewhere so the two of you no longer live together.

Why do we need to be separated for a whole year?

The purpose behind North Carolina’s requirement that a married couple must live separate and apart for over a year before they can file for divorce is to encourage married couples not to make hasty emotional decisions. It is possible that you and your spouse may reconcile after a short period of time apart and change your mind about getting divorced. Or, it is possible that after you have lived separately from your spouse for a whole year, you thought about things more clearly and decided that you are ready to be divorced and move on with your life. Either way, the law encourages married couples to make rational and well thought-out decisions when it comes to ending their marriage.

What if we live in the same house but stay in separate bedrooms?

In North Carolina, in order to become separated from your spouse you must live physically separate and apart from one other and the two of you can no longer cohabitate. You must appear to others as if you are no longer married, and living in the same house gives the impression that your marriage is still intact. In other words, living in the same house (even if in different bedrooms or in a different part of the house) does not count as separation in North Carolina.

What happens while we are separated?

You and your spouse can work out certain details of your separation such as support, property division, custodial time with your children, etc., by agreement while the two of you are separated. There are also certain legal actions that can be taken as well. It is a good idea to have a knowledgeable family law attorney help you navigate through these issues in order to ensure that your interests are being protected.

Contact a Raleigh Divorce Attorney

At The Doyle Law Group, P.A., our Raleigh Divorce Attorneys can help you with any questions you may have about separating from your spouse. Call us today at (919) 301-8843 to set up a consultation. We are here to help you!

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