In North Carolina, couples must live apart for at least one year prior to receiving a divorce judgement. There is not a formal legal process for separation. At least one party must move out of the marital residence. At least one of the married individuals must intend for this separation to be permanent when it begins. On the day following the day one party moves out, the one-year separation clock begins to run. For example, if the moving date was July 23, 2020, then your date of separation would be July 24, 2020. This would make you eligible for a divorce on July 24, 2021.
When a couple is separating for the purpose of divorce, the next logical step is a separation agreement. A separation agreement is a legally binding contract. In a separation agreement, the couple can address multiple issues that might otherwise be contentious in the divorce. These issues may include: child support, custody, alimony, spousal support, distribution of property, and division of debts.
Ideally, your separation agreement will cover all of the aforementioned topics if you and your spouse have children. Child custody is typically the most difficult issue for separating parents to agree on. It is beneficial to include child custody in your separation agreement; however, because otherwise a judge can decide. Most parents feel more comfortable making such a decision for their children than allowing someone they do not know. Child support is also an important topic to cover. Including child support in your separation agreement will ensure that your children’s physical needs are met during your separation.
There are also topics that are important to cover in your separation regardless of whether or not you have children. Figuring out certain issues amongst yourselves can save you a significant amount in legal fees and court costs. For instance, you can split up personal property ahead of a divorce and record who received what in your agreement. Personal property includes things such as your clothes, family heirlooms, cars, and furniture. The same can be done for real property, such as a house or a vacant lot. Even debts a couple owes together, can be allocated in this way to promote a more efficient divorce proceeding.
For questions about how to begin a separation see our post “Three Things to Do Before Separating in North Carolina.” Additionally, if you have any questions regarding separation agreements please contact any of King Law offices. Our attorneys are happy to assist you in navigating this process.