As we discussed in a previous post, the law here in North Carolina dictates that a divorce cannot be secured unless 1) one spouse has lived in the state for at least six months and 2) the spouses have been separated for at least 12 months.
Regarding this second point, we indicated that the mandated period of legal separation begins once the spouses start living separate and apart, meaning they'll have to find different places to live for an entire year if they want to divorce.
As difficult as it can be to find and get settled into a new home, it's important to understand that soon-to-be former spouses will also have to come to some sort of short-term arrangement concerning their children, their finances and other important issues.
In these scenarios, experts indicate that couples should give serious consideration to the idea of executing what is known as a separation agreement.
This is essentially a legally binding document that allows couples to establish their rights and expectations regarding everything from spousal support and property division to child custody and child support during the pendency of their separation.
Indeed, given that separation agreements are legally binding, a spouse can take legal action in the event of non-compliance by their soon-to-be ex. Here, the lawsuit would ask the court to find that the separation agreement had been breached and order the noncompliant spouse to specifically perform their duties under the contract.
As you can see from the forgoing discussion, a separation agreement, while not legally mandated, can still go a long way toward providing much-needed stability during what are typically emotionally trying times for all parties.
If you would like to learn more about separation agreements or the divorce process, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.