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What’s the difference between separation and divorce in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2021 | Divorce |

There is often a lot of heartache and contention involved when spouses decide to go their separate ways. Knowing the legal requirements for a North Carolina divorce can take some of the stress out of the process.

What are North Carolina’s divorce requirements?

Other states provide for different types of divorce, with different rules depending on the reason why the couple decided to get divorced. In North Carolina, however, things are simpler. There’s only one type of divorce – a no-fault divorce – and the rules are the same for everybody.

In order to get a divorce, North Carolina law requires that the couple first be separated for a year and a day. Being separated means that you live in a different house from your spouse. A couple can’t keep living together and fulfill the separation requirement, even if they sleep in different rooms.

How do I legally fulfil the separation requirement?

Some North Carolina couples create what’s called a separation agreement. A separation agreement isn’t necessary, but it can be useful under certain circumstances.

A separation agreement is a private contract concerning the terms of your separation that you and your spouse negotiate. It can include things such as allocation of expenses, child care, spousal support and anything else you can agree on.

You can have attorneys present while you negotiate it, which often helps the process to go more smoothly – especially when the attorneys are also experienced mediators – but the presence of attorneys isn’t strictly necessary. All that is needed for the agreement to be legally valid is that the agreement be in writing, signed by both parties, and notarized.

Regardless, even if you and your soon-to-be ex spouse don’t create a separation agreement, you can still fulfill the legal separation requirement. All that needs to happen is for you to live separately for a year and a day, and at least one of you has to have the intent for the separation to be permanent.

This means that if you live apart temporarily for work or school, that time won’t count towards your separation period, since neither of you intends for that separation to be permanent.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce, make sure you talk about all that a divorce entails beforehand. If both of you know what is expected of you in the divorce process, it will go a lot more smoothly, and will leave you time and energy to focus on the important issues.