After you and your spouse officially separate, at some point you may reconcile instead of seeking a divorce. Reconciliation doesn’t just mean making up and apologizing. It has a legal definition in North Carolina that affects your timeline if you do decide to divorce.
What Is Reconciliation?
To reconcile, you must legally separate first. In North Carolina, separation means living separate and apart from your spouse. One or both of you must intend to remain separate and apart at the time you separate. Once you separate, you can decide to reconcile – also often called “resumption of marital relations”. There is no one act that constitutes a resumption of marital relations. Courts consider a variety of factors in deciding whether a couple has reconciled.
Which Factors Could Show that a Couple Has Reconciled?
When a question arises about reconciliation, courts look at the “totality of the circumstances”, rather than favoring any one factor. The many factors that judges consider include:
- Have the spouses moved back in together?
- Does one spouse still keep a separate residence even if he or she moved back in?
- Are the spouses intimate (having sexual relations)?
- Are the spouses sharing finances, chores, and child care responsibilities?
- Are the spouses telling family and friends that they are “working things out” (instead of divorcing)?
- Are the spouses out in public together or engaging in PDA?
Note that isolated instances of sexual conduct alone have not been enough to show reconciliation in North Carolina. Instead, the court looks both at whether the spouses are being “consistently intimate” and at whether there are isolated instances of sexual conduct along with several other factors listed above.
Why Does Reconciliation Matter for Divorce Cases?
The concept of reconciliation is not typically a major point of contention, but it is wise to know how it could affect a future divorce. In North Carolina, you must be separated for at least one year before you can divorce. Reconciliation stops the clock on the year of separation. If you again decide to separate, you will have to remain separated for another full year. This can stall your plan to file for divorce.
Moreover, reconciliation can affect separation agreements. Your lawyer may want to include a section in your separation agreement describing what will happen if you reconcile with your spouse. Whether this is needed and how it will affect your case depends on your individual situation.
Marital property is valued as of the date of separation for the purposes of equitable distribution (property division). If parties reconcile and then separate again, this is the new date of separation and thus becomes the date at which marital assets are valued for the purposes of property division.
Lastly, reconciliation may excuse certain acts of prior marital misconduct. Illicit sexual behavior can be a basis for awarding or denying alimony. However, if the parties reconcile after knowledge of the marital offense, the condonation (or forgiveness) by a spouse effectively waives the opportunity to make an alimony claim on the basis of the marital misconduct.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are considering separation and divorce, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.