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A North Carolina divorce begins with a legal separation

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.

Next steps

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.

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A Wonderful Experience

I had a wonderful experience with Kennedy Law Associates. Marsha Kennedy and her Associates were knowledgeable, efficient, and caring. I felt like my case was a high priority to them, and they helped me understand every step of the divorce process throughout my entire case. I would highly recommend this firm to anyone looking for assistance with a family law matter!
Jennifer Haines

Smart, Caring Staff

I am savvy financially, but had no clue about the divorce process. Through it all, Ms. Kennedy and her staff have been there for me and my kids.

The experience you need through a difficult time

Marsha Kennedy and her team has expertly handled each situation and guided me through the process.

Highly Recommend!

Kennedy Family Law did a wonderful job representing me in my divorce. Always responsive and kept me informed – they really cared about me.
Bette Frederick

Highly Recommend!

I have been working with Marsha Kennedy and her team and am so impressed with how my case is being handled.
Kelly Peterson
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