In many states, separation is an alternative to divorce for people who can’t continue to live together but do not want to end their marriage. It’s also the first step required by North Carolina for couples who do want to divorce.
The term ‘legal separation’ can cause some confusion. In many states, it involves having the separation formalized by a court order. North Carolina is different because there is no formal process for separation. Once you and your spouse have begun living apart, the separation has started. In North Carolina, couples only need to meet the legal requirements of separation before filing for a divorce.
North Carolina requires that prior to divorce, spouses must live apart for a period of 12 months. It is insufficient to live in different parts of the house or in different bedrooms. If you and your spouse live in different places but maintain the appearance of your marriage, you cannot meet the separation requirement. Examples of maintaining the appearance of being married include appearances in public places, shared meals, shared travel, access to one another’s living spaces, as well as other factors.
What is a Separation Agreement?
The Separation Agreement is not a formal court order but is as binding as a contract. The agreement is between both spouses and sets forth terms that address issues such as:
- Division of Property
- Child Custody
- Child Support
The terms reached in the separation agreement will define the relationship once the divorce is granted by a judge.
Why Should I Get a Separation Agreement?
Many couples choose to individually consult with an attorney before or during their separation. The attorneys are able to draft the agreement and property settlement papers. Because separation agreements are as binding as contracts it is in the best interest of the individuals to meet with an attorney so that they not only understand their rights, but also understand the separation papers before signing them.
North Carolina is unique in that couples are able to settle issues such as property division, custody, and child support privately and outside of the courtroom. If couples are unable reach an agreement they may ask a judge to settle the issues during litigation.
Divorce is personal. It is your life, your home, your finances, your children and your future. When choosing your attorney, you need the right person who understands the personal and legal challenges that you face. At SeiferFlatow, we have the knowledge and confidence necessary to handle the complex personal and legal issues that affect your family life. We focus on the individual needs of our clients and provide them with the knowledge, tools, and understanding needed to navigate the complicated issues that may arise during the legal process.