If you are considering divorce in NC, you probably have a lot of questions and…
When a relationship falls apart, there can be a lot of confusion and an emotional toll that interferes with ensuring you and your assets are legally protected during the stages of the separation. It’s important to understand what your legal separation benefits are during the separation phase of your impending divorce.
It is important to know what rights a legally separated spouse has in North Carolina, so our divorce attorneys in Raleigh are everything you need to know about the separation. We have advice on how to navigate this separation period before your divorce to best protect your interests and assets.
Understanding Legal Separation in North Carolina
In North Carolina, a married couple must live separately for one year before filing for divorce. During this time, the couple is still legally married, which makes issues like separating finances and establishing ownership over mutual responsibilities like debt incredibly complicated. Additionally, trying to figure out a child custody schedule and a child support agreement can be exhausting, create resentments from one spouse to the other, and put your children at the center of your and your spouse’s debates.
Are there Legal Separation Benefits in NC?
Because of this point in time when you are in a relationship limbo of sorts– you are not entirely divorced, but you and your ex are not currently living together or in a relationship, having the ability to understand your financial and legal rights can be overwhelming. Technically, there is no such thing as "legal separation" in North Carolina and therefore there is no “legal separation rights” enforced regarding one spouse over another.
When a married couple decides to end their marriage, one or both parties leave the marital home or property and establish households separately with no plan to reconcile in the future. Then, after one year, they are legally allowed to file for divorce.
Do I File My Separation with NC Courts?
During the one-year separation, there is no need to file with the courts or make the separation "official" in any way, but it might be within your best interests to have the date your separation became effective to put in writing with signatures of acknowledgment from both parties. North Carolina does not require you to prove you and your spouse are separated, as the court accepts your testimony of separation when given under oath.
However, if you have concerns that your spouse may attempt to delay or stop divorce proceedings, saying you were not living separately, it may protect your interests to show proof of a newly established residence, such as a lease agreement elsewhere. As with everything during your separation and upcoming divorce, our NC divorce lawyers believe it is important to keep documentation of all the details related to your case as well as documentation of communication and decisions made between you and your spouse– particularly if you believe your spouse will be dishonest with the courts.
Because legal separation is not recognized, legally separated spouses do not have established rights. Marital property is still considered marital property, though the behavior of one party during the separation may affect the outcome of the divorce. For example, emptying joint bank accounts or refusing to pay mutual debts can negatively affect divorce proceedings and the judge may rule against a party for acting with spite or for deliberately misleading the other spouse.
Child Support and Custody During Separation
During the waiting period, parents can go to court to establish a court-ordered child support payment arrangement and child custody arrangement. Without a court order or separation agreement, parents have equal rights to child custody until a custody agreement is established. Regarding support, the acting or agreed-upon custodial parent can also file for child support with the court.
When separated from your spouse, this is a difficult time, not just for you and your soon-to-be-ex, but there is a significant impact on your children. It is important that, during negotiations for custody and financial support agreements, both parents avoid using negative language when discussing the other parent around the children and that each parent puts the interests of the children above their own.
Both parents are financially responsible during a support agreement, but additionally, it is the responsibility of both parents to put the children’s well-being at the forefront of any conversations surrounding parental support. Otherwise, children can feel like currency in your separation rather than feel like a person with opinions, thoughts, and feelings surrounding this difficult time in the family.
Creating a Separation Agreement
When two people separate with the intent to divorce, it is highly recommended that both parties create and sign a separation agreement.
A separation agreement is a mutually agreed-upon, legally binding contract that outlines the responsibilities both parties have and how property is divided during the one-year period prior to divorce. At Doyle Divorce Law, we often draft separation contracts for our North Carolina clients going through a separation or in the pre-planning stages of a divorce.
These separation agreement types include:
- Child custody and visitation agreements.
- Child support payment arrangements.
- Determining who is responsible for paying mutual debts, like a mortgage, credit card payments, or other shared debts.
- Determining who is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the marital property.
- The division of property, including who lives in the marital home, who has use of mutually shared vehicles, and who gets furniture or other important possessions.
- Determining who keeps pets shared during the marriage.
- Deciding how income taxes are filed and who can claim deductions if filing separately.
For many couples, a successful separation agreement serves as the foundation for their divorce judgment. A judge will look over issues related to child support and custody to determine the legality and what's in the best interest of the child.
Oftentimes, the details related to these separation agreements can carry over into the divorce proceedings. Doing this saves time and money, but more importantly, this is a mutually beneficial agreement for both spouses and the overall well-being of the household if children are involved.
Schedule a Consultation with a Separation Agreement Attorney in Raleigh
If you and your spouse are separating, Doyle Divorce Law can help make the process easier and less stressful by helping you create a separation agreement that removes confusion and solves arguments before they start.
Our Raleigh family law and divorce attorneys have worked with many local clients whose families became separated and needed assistance in determining separation agreements. Whether it’s to determine who is responsible for which financial debts or to iron out a fair, agreeable, and realistic agreement for shared child custody, our experienced and talented team of lawyers is here to help.
To schedule a consultation, reach out to us today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to get started.