If your marriage is in trouble, you may be wondering about whether to pursue a legal separation or a divorce. First of all, know that a divorce is the legal ending of a marriage, while a separation — although it can feel like a divorce in many ways — does not legally end a marriage.
Because both separation and divorce can involve issues of custody, alimony, property and debt division, and more, you should have an experienced divorce attorney by your side regardless of which avenue you choose.
Legal Separation in North Carolina
The most important thing to know regarding legal separation in North Carolina is that the state doesn't have a separate and distinct process. If you and your spouse live “separate and apart,” and at least one of you intends for the separation to be permanent, you are separated as far as the law is concerned. There is no paperwork with the state required to be considered legally separated from your spouse.
That said, as part of your separation, you and your spouse may decide to draw up a separation agreement to address issues concerning various practical aspects of the split. A separation agreement is a binding legal contract and can get quite complex depending on the issues involved — and a poorly drafted agreement can end up meaning more conflict. Having an attorney guide you through this part of the process can be invaluable.
Divorce in North Carolina
A divorce is the legal ending — through a court decree — of a marriage. In North Carolina, neither party can file for a divorce until the spouses have been separated for a year. Again, there is no requirement that you have written proof of your living apart, but if your spouse is likely to challenge a divorce filing, you should ensure that you're complying with the requirements for separation; a court may refuse to grant a divorce if there was not a year-long separation before filing.
Even if you are just starting down the road of separating from your spouse, now is the time to consider all your legal options. Contact Caulder & Valentine Law Firm today for a consultation.