North Carolina offers divorcing couples an opportunity to a “no-fault” divorce. This is called an absolute divorce, which requires courts to grant divorces without asking why the marriage is ending. Instead, family courts only look to the date the couple separated and whether the parties have been separated for at least one year. While this rule sounds simple enough, there is a lot of thought and planning that goes into separating and ending a marriage well.
Living “Separate and Apart”
To constitute a separation in the eyes of the law, couples must live “separate and apart.” In essence, this means that their marital relationship has ended and that they live in separate residences. While some couples have tried to save money by living in separate rooms within the same house, this is insufficient for purposes of separation to obtain an absolute divorce.
As you can imagine, figuring out where people are going to live will take planning and budgeting. Who is going to remain in the home? Is it affordable to keep the home or does it need to be sold? What is each spouse’s budget going to look like with the added financial obligations of moving, and rent or mortgage for a second residence?
The Year Must be Uninterrupted
A lot can happen between a separated couple over a year. An intimate relationship is not something that people easily walk away from, and couples can change their minds and try to make the marriage work. If a couple reconciles, then the separation period is severed and the clock goes back to zero. There is no credit given for a prior period of separation. This means that a couple should put care and thought into any decision to get back together.
But notably, isolated instances of sexual intercourse between a separated couple do not constitute a reconciliation. Instead, courts look at the totality of the circumstances of whether the couple “renewed” their husband-wife relationship.
Children and money are the two biggest issues that weigh on divorcing couples. A year goes by quickly, but it can feel like a long time, and establishing certainty and stability for your children and yourself can help lessen the trauma and disruption of a divorce.
While there is nothing that a couple must file in court to trigger a separation, many couples choose to create a post-separation agreement. This is a legally binding written agreement that couples can create when they separate. This agreement creates a contractual obligation between parents regarding critical issues like property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support.
New Direction Family Law
If you want information about divorce or ending your marriage, contact New Direction Family Law. Our attorneys are intelligent, proven professionals who will listen to you and treat you with respect. Divorce involves very big decisions, and we understand the impact and gravity that these decisions have on our clients’ lives. Let us help you. We serve men and women in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.