If you are considering divorce in NC, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. One of the most common questions surrounding divorce is that of separation. Many people wonder if you need to be legally separated before you can officially divorce in NC and if so, how long you have to be separated before you can be granted a divorce.
While the answer is more straightforward than you might think, it is advised that you consult an experienced Raleigh family lawyer before taking any steps toward divorce.
Types of Separation in NC
Before we answer whether it’s necessary to be separated before divorce, it’s important to distinguish between separation and a legal separation.
A separation involves a couple living separate lives in separate residences without intent to reconcile.
A legal separation is a court decree that a married couple is legally separated. In North Carolina, this is known by the Latin A Mensa Et Thoro, or more commonly as a “Divorce From Bed and Board.” This filing is typically used by couples in which one spouse is being abusive, has abandoned the other spouse, has had an affair, or is refusing to cooperate or move out of the shared home. North Carolina does not require couples to seek a legal separation to order to divorce.
How Long Do You Have to be Separated Before Divorce in NC?
While the state of North Carolina doesn’t require legal separation before filing for divorce, it does require couples be separated for one year and one day before being granted an absolute divorce (complete end of the marriage.) The clock starts the date one spouse moves out of the shared home.
In addition to living separately for one year and one day without intent to reconcile, one spouse must have lived in North Carolina for six months before filing in order to be granted a divorce in NC. If and when these conditions are met, the couple may file for an absolute divorce.
Should You Contact a Lawyer Before Separating From Your Spouse?
It is always wise to consult an attorney before taking any steps toward separation or divorce, even if it’s amicable. An experienced family lawyer can help you understand your rights and ensure your claims (alimony, equitable distribution, etc) are viable and filed properly. Once an absolute divorce has been granted, you cannot make any of these claims, so it’s important to ensure they have been taken care of correctly beforehand.
At Doyle Law Group, our lawyers specialize in separation and divorce, alimony, property division, and custody. Let us take some of the stress out of this difficult time and give you peace of mind. To learn more or schedule your consultation, contact our Raleigh law firm by calling (919) 296-4017 or filling out the contact form.