Do you have to separate before you can divorce in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2024 | Family Law |

In North Carolina, married couples must live separately for one year before they can file for divorce. This is the “separation” requirement.

Understanding this rule can help you navigate the divorce process.

What qualifies as separation?

To meet the one-year separation requirement, you and your spouse must live in separate residences. You do not have to live in different cities or counties, but you cannot be living in the same home. The separation period begins when one spouse permanently moves out with the intent of ending the marriage.

How do you document the separation period?

There are a few key documents that can help prove you and your spouse separated for the required period in North Carolina. Draft a separation agreement when you officially decide to separate.  A written agreement detailing the date you separated, division of assets and child custody arrangements can not only serve as proof of your separation but also set expectations while you wait for a legal divorce. Separate utility bills, signed lease or mortgage records and affidavits from family members can also serve as evidence of the separation to satisfy that requirement.

Is there any way to bypass the separation rule?

In rare cases, a couple may receive an absolute divorce without a one-year separation. This requires proving the marriage is “incurably broken” due to adultery, abandonment, excessive drug or alcohol use or other serious marital misconduct. You will need solid evidence to convince the court.

The one-year separation requirement gives spouses time apart to be certain they want to end their marriage in North Carolina. Understanding the basics of separation sets the expectations for the journey ahead of you.