In North Carolina, couples can obtain a divorce decree from a court if they have been separated for a year. Known as an “absolute divorce,” couples who divorce in this state enjoy the advantage of a “no-fault” divorce that focuses solely on the year-long separation rather than the sometimes-messy reasons underlying the divorce.
Some couples that separate find that a lot can happen in a year. Long-term relationships are never easy to quit, and regardless of the reasons for the separation, there are a lot of reasons that people change their minds and get back together. This includes love, comfort, routines, and children. In short, what we want one day can easily change the next. At New Direction Family Law, we believe that couples should make every effort to rebuild a healthy marriage; however, we also believe that people should be aware of the legal implications of those efforts.
Reconciliation Resets the Clock
Under the North Carolina General Statutes, a couple must live “separate and apart” for a period of at least one year prior to seeking a divorce. Well-settled law establishes that this one-year period must be consecutive and uninterrupted, and that “apart” means separate residences. Unfortunately, if there is a reconciliation between the spouses, or a “resumption of marital relations”, then the one-year clock resets if the couple thereafter chooses to separate again. In other words, they get no credit for the time period during which they separated the first time.
What Counts as Reconciliation?
A resumption of marital relations is defined as a “voluntary renewal of the husband and wife relationship, as shown by the totality of the circumstances”. Significantly, the statutes explicitly state that “isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties shall not toll the statutory period required for divorce predicated on separation of one year.”
In other words, courts do not look at a few incidents of sex as a reconciliation that restarts the clock. Instead, the focus is on the totality of the circumstances. In weighing the totality of circumstances, courts have looked at evidence that a couple has essentially moved in together, are keeping their belongings at each other’s residences, are holding themselves out to the public as being married, or are otherwise acting like a married couple.
Contact New Direction Family Law New Direction Family Law represents men and women who need family law assistance in North Carolina. Our attorneys are smart, experienced professionals who work tirelessly to serve our clients’ interests. If your marriage is ending and you want advice, contact us. We serve men and women throughout Wake, Johnston, Durham and surrounding counties. Call us at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or visit us online through our website.