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5 Things You Think You Know About Separations But Really Don’t

Do you think you know everything about what constitutes separations in North Carolina? Let’s put your knowledge to the test with a pop quiz. All questions are true/false.

1. You can be separated from your spouse while living in the same house as long as you sleep in separate rooms.

FALSE. To be separated, you must reside in separate residences, not hold yourselves out as being together and at least one of you has to have formulated the idea that you want the separation to be permanent.

2. If you have sexual relations with your spouse during separation, the separation period has to start over again, i.e., the sexual relations terminate the separation.

FALSE. A separated couple can have isolated instances of sexual contact and may even vacation together. It’s the public policy of the State of North Carolina to encourage reconciliation, so limited actions such as the above do not terminate the separation in the hope that they lead to a full reconciliation and moving back in together.

3. It takes only one party to determine that a separation is permanent and may even keep that determination from the other spouse.

TRUE. If a spouse moves to a different city for employment with no intention of separating but after a week or month or a few months decides “hmm, I am enjoying this, I think I want to be separated and then decides “yeah, I am separated” but does not inform the other spouse. Guess what? You are separated. There is case law in NC to that effect. Only one person needs to intend to separate and they need not inform the other spouse; however, it’s a good idea to tell someone in case the date of separation is in dispute. In fact, it is best to inform the other spouse…in writing.

4. You must have a “Legal Separation” in North Carolina to be separated.

FALSE. There is actually no such thing as a “Legal Separation” in this state. You are legally separated when you and your spouse no longer reside in the same residence and at least one of you intends for the separation to be permanent. What most people are referring to is a Separation Agreement, but even that does not make your separation legal; hopefully the agreement resolves the various issues brought about by the separation (custody, child support, alimony and property settlement.)

5. You must be separated for one year before you can file for divorce in North Carolina including custody, support, alimony and equitable distribution.

TRUE…and FALSE. You can only file for an absolute divorce…getting unmarried, one year and a day after separation. (if you separated on February 1, 2020, the earliest you may file for divorce is February 2, 2021. However, you may file for custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution at any time after separation (but before divorce or you may lose some rights.)

Extra Credit: The family law lawyers at Weaver, Bennett & Bland have the knowledge, skill and determination to guide and assist you before and after separation. TRUE.