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Separation & Absolute Divorce in North Carolina


The most common issues that need to be addressed in contemplating separation, and ultimately, ending any legal union, are the legal issues surrounding claims for: 


       Child Custody and Visitation

       Child Support

       Division of the Property or Equitable Distribution

       Spousal Support


People wanting to begin the marital separation process often ask:


What are the requirements for legal separation in the State of North Carolina?”


The simple answer to this question is that the requirements vary in accordance with the purpose for which a person is seeking to be "legally separated."  The term “legal separation” is often misused and people mistakenly believe that there is a formal legal procedure that must be undertaken by a party or parties in order to begin the separation process in anticipation of subsequent divorce.   


If your simply looking to obtain a “legal separation” status in order to begin the running of the time period to obtain an Absolute Divorce in the State of North Carolina, the good news is that there are no specific legal documents or filings required.  That is not to say that there are no requirements to be eligible for an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina. 


To be eligible for an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina, all of the following conditions must be met: 


1)   Spouses must have lived separate and apart from one another;

2)  One with the intention to end the marital relationship (and without reconciliation); and

3)  For a time period in excess of one year.  


Once these conditions are met, you are eligible to ask the Court for an Absolute Divorce in the State of North Carolina.  As in any lawsuit, there are formal legal requirements that must be met for your request to be granted by the Court.


If you as seeking a “legal separation” to obtain some other benefit as it relates to employment, taxes, healthcare, or finances, then there may be certain legal documents that you will be required to prepare and provide to third parties.  In that case, “legal separation” may have several different meanings and requirements.


In many cases, it is advised that parties execute a formal Separation Agreement that includes provisions for child custody and visitation provisions, child support, division of the property, and/or spousal support, as individually applicable.  A formal written Separation Agreement is often utilized to prove “legal separation” to third parties in order to obtain some other benefit as described in the preceding paragraph.


Ending a marriage, whether of long or short duration, can be a highly stressful life event that affects the parties’ and their families on an emotional, physical, and financial level.  Couples who are anticipating divorce should independently seek the advice of an attorney to identify any legal issues that need to be addressed in the event of separation and ultimately the dissolution of their marriage. 




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