Many people choose legal separation over divorce for various reasons. In the state of North Carolina, a couple must separate before filing for divorce.
If you live in our state and are contemplating divorce, the first step is for you or your spouse to move to a separate residence.
Reasons for a legal separation
To be clear, a divorce decree officially ends a marriage. However, in a legal separation, the two spouses live apart from each other but are still legally married. Sometimes, a couple chooses legal separation because their religion forbids divorce. In other instances, legal separation may be the answer to financial issues. For instance, a nonworking spouse must be married for 10 years to receive Social Security benefits from the earnings of the working spouse. A couple may also opt for legal separation because divorce would cause them to lose the tax benefits they receive from filing joint returns.
Legal separation in North Carolina
North Carolina law requires a couple to live apart for one year before filing for divorce. This means you or your spouse must move out of the marital home. It does not mean continuing to live on the property, such as in a garage apartment. Military deployment does not qualify either. Once you and your spouse are living apart, you are legally separated and cannot resume a marital relationship.
The “bed and board” action
Certain circumstances exist under which you can file a “divorce from bed and board” legal action. Those circumstances include family abandonment, abusive and life-threatening treatment, excessive drug or alcohol use, and adultery. In cases like these, the judge can order your spouse to leave the house, and she or he may also grant divorce based on the bed and board application.
Rely on legal assistance in developing a temporary agreement to help with details such as financial arrangements and child custody issues that may emerge during the period of your legal separation. Divorce is a major, life-changing event, but living apart helps a couple learn how to survive the breakup and move forward with confidence.