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A Short Guide to Legal Separation & Divorce in North Carolina

Ferguson Hayes Hawkins, PLLC Jan. 25, 2017

A legal separation in North Carolina is often the step a couple will take before they declare an official divorce. A legal separation allows the couple to remain apart for a time but still have the option to get back together without having to get remarried. In most other respects a legal separation can look very much like a divorce on paper. If a couple wishes to get full divorced, they should contact separate Concord NC divorce lawyers to assist with the process.

The Separation Agreement

According to NC separation laws, a couple is legally separated as soon as they move into separate residencies with the intention of remaining separated. There does not have to be a formal agreement in order for this to happen. Having a formal separation agreement, however, can be very beneficial to ensure that each person abides by the expectations of the separation. A formal agreement is especially helpful if there are matters pertaining to child support and custody or property division. Since a formal and signed agreement is considered contractually binding, it is in both parties’ best interest to get legal counsel from separation attorneys in NC. It is important to remember that due to possible conflicts of interest the same attorney cannot represent both spouses even if they are in agreement about the terms of separation at the time.

One useful aspect of NC separation laws is that a couple can fully resolve a separation issue without ever filing a lawsuit or going to court. The separation agreement can be made and signed without ever involving the court. The court only needs to become involved if one spouse either refuses to agree to the agreement or later violates the agreement. In this case, the other spouse would have to obtain a court order requiring the spouse to comply with the agreement. This can only be done by filing a lawsuit. The assistance of separation attorneys in NC would be vital at this point.

Moving From Separation to Divorce

While a legal separation maintains the hope that the relationship might be restored at a later date, it is not equal to a divorce. Choosing separation first has several legal advantages. Since the couple is technically married, certain benefits, such as medical benefits, still apply. If one spouse is in the military, then the other spouse may also be entitled certain military benefits so long as the marriage lasts at least 10 years. This is true even if the two are separated.

A separation, however, does not allow for a remarriage. If a spouse wishes to marry another person, then they must complete the actual divorce process. Consulting with Concord NC divorce lawyers, like Jim DeMay, can help a couple finalize their decision. The separation agreement is still important here because most judges will use that agreement as an outline for the divorce agreement.