For those weighing whether to divorce or remain together, a legal separation is often an option.
Some couples use separation as a way to reconcile the end of their relationship while still adhering to religious beliefs that forbid divorce, so they may remain separated indefinitely. Other couples may temporarily separate only to gain space and clarity before they decide whether to try again or end their marriage.
In North Carolina, however, separation is also a legal requirement if you eventually want a divorce.
Essentially, spouses must actually be living apart to be considered separated, and at least one-half of the couple must intend for the separation to be permanent.
You cannot be legally separated, for example, if you consider your marital relationship over but you’re still living with your spouse, nor are you legally separated if you and your spouse are living apart without any intention of remaining that way.
It is worth noting that before you can file for a divorce in North Carolina, you and your spouse must be separated from one another for one year and a day.
Putting a formal separation agreement in place allows you to address issues like child support and child custody ahead of your actual divorce. Unfortunately, most separation agreements (with limited exceptions) have to be agreed upon and signed by both parties. That might not be possible if your spouse is still hoping to reconcile.
Whatever your concerns about the future and your marriage, it’s always wisest to explore your legal options as early as possible. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of separation and divorce, it might be time to speak with someone who can help you understand more.