In North Carolina, you must live separately for one year before you can file for divorce. Many people do not understand exactly what it means to live separately. If you and your spouse fail to meet the legal definition of living separately, your divorce could end up taking longer than one year.
What Does It Mean to Live Separately?
Living separately means that one of you has to move out of the house. Sleeping in a separate bedroom or even living in a garage apartment does not qualify. You must have the intent of living apart permanently; going on a military deployment or business trip does not count as living separately.
During the year when you and your spouse have separate residences, you are legally separated. During that time, you cannot resume your marital relationship with your spouse, or you will no longer meet the requirement of living separately.
What if My Spouse Refuses to Move Out?
You can file a legal action known as “divorce from bed and board.” A judge can then order your spouse to leave the house.
The court may grant divorce from bed and board on application of the party injured, made as by law provided, in the following cases if either party:
- Abandons his or her family.
- Maliciously turns the other out of doors.
- By cruel or barbarous treatment endangers the life of the other. In addition, the court may grant the victim of such treatment the remedies available under G.S. 50B-1, et seq.
- Offers such indignities to the person of the other as to render his or her condition intolerable and life burdensome.
- Becomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome.
- Commits adultery. N.C.G.S. § 50-7.
Will I Give Up Any of My Rights if I Move Out?
By moving out, you do not give up your rights to an equitable division of your home or any other marital property. However, it could put you in a more difficult position if you want to seek primary physical custody of your children. In determining child custody, the court will look at what you did during your marriage and during your period of separation.
Will We Have to Prove We Lived Separately?
You and your spouse will not have to provide proof that you lived separately. However, you should not just agree to say that you lived apart. If one of you changes his or her mind, your divorce could take longer than one year.
How Will We Pay Bills During Our Separation?
Our divorce attorneys can help you reach a temporary agreement regarding your finances. Our attorneys can also help you obtain temporary orders from the court for child support, alimony, child custody and visitation while you are separated. The court may also order the providing spouse to pay bills such as the mortgage and car payments.