If you are separated but living together, the state of North Carolina may not recognize your separation as legal for a future divorce. For either marital party to apply for divorce in North Carolina, you must live separately and apart on your own for at least one year. So what does this mean for you? Let’s look at the idea of being separated but living together and see what a valid separation looks like in NC.
What is Separated but Living Together in North Carolina?
In some states, you can consider yourself separated from your spouse but stay in the same residence. However, North Carolina law makes it clear that you and your spouse must live separately in different homes for one year before you can file for an absolute divorce. The law means not in the same house or under one roof together.
Some couples may want to try a trial separation by living separate lives under the same roof. Other couples may wish to stay in separate bedrooms in the same house. But just because you’re not sleeping in the same bed doesn’t mean you’re living separately.
It’s understandable to want to keep your household the same, even if you want a divorce. Some of the biggest reasons couples want a “separated” legal status while still living under the same roof include financial instability and child-related reasons.
Some of the reasons why it makes sense to “separate” but still live together include:
- Paying one household of expenses vs. two households
- Health insurance issues
- Keeping your schedule for household chores and the same division of duty
- More manageable co-parenting plan and more time with your children
- Save money by eating together and sharing utilities, etc.
- Keeping a “Parenting Marriage” so the children don’t know you’re considering divorce
- Children stay living with both parents
While these reasons make sense to many couples, staying together without a physical separation in your place of residence does not meet the requirements for a legal separation. Let’s look at what those requirements are in North Carolina.
Requirements for Legal Separation in North Carolina
For a couple to separate in North Carolina, they must live apart. These ground rules mean living in different residences with at least one of you intending to live separate and apart permanently. One of you must also live in the state of NC for 6 months before filing for divorce.
There is no such thing as a “legal separation” in North Carolina. You are either married, or you are not. In North Carolina, as long as the two of you are living in separate residences and at least one of you intends the separation to be permanent, you may consider yourself separated. However, in the eyes of the law, you are still legally married until you receive an absolute divorce.
There is no need for a written document to declare your separation in NC. But a family law and divorce attorney may help you draw up terms for your separation and divorce that you can both live with. Without a written document, you may find yourselves easily bickering over issues you haven’t yet worked out.
Tips to Make Living Separate Possible
In order to continue saving money while living in separate residences, it might make sense for one of you to live with a friend for the year. It’s challenging to live together while being “separated” anyway. Many couples who choose to do so struggle with getting along, especially if one of you decides to start dating.
For your well-being and that of your children, it makes sense to go ahead and start a new arrangement and start working out the legal issues related to your future divorce plans.
For the quickest type of divorce, called an uncontested divorce, you’ll need to agree on all of your legal issues before filing for a divorce. If one partner can’t agree, you’ll need to work with your attorneys or start mediation to find a way to compromise together.
If you choose to live apart from your spouse, it is essential to be aware of the following:
- You can file for an absolute divorce after one year of living separate and apart if you wish to end your legal marriage.
- You may still be responsible for joint debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, and loans.
- If you have children, you will need to develop a parenting plan outlining custody, visitation, and support arrangements.
- You will need to agree to alimony or work with attorneys or the court to decide how much and when alimony should occur. Not everyone can work out a plan together without court intervention. However, if you can work with your attorney and agree to the same plan, you can save money.
- You will need to file separate tax returns.
Your Legal Rights During Separation and Divorce
Separating from your spouse can be a difficult decision. However, it is vital to ensure that you separate according to North Carolina law to protect yourself legally.
Your legal rights include issues such as:
- Equitable division of property
- Child support
- Child visitation
- Child custody
If you have any questions about separation or divorce in North Carolina, contact an experienced family law and divorce attorney in your area. An experienced attorney can protect your rights and help you get a fair outcome.
Proving You’re Ready for Divorce
If you file for an absolute divorce after your separation, the court may ask for proof that you met the requirements.
You may need to provide evidence such as:
- Utility bills in your name only
- Lease or mortgage documents in your name only
- Bank account statements in your name only
- Driver’s license or state ID with your current address
- Any other documentation that shows you are living at a different residence than your spouse
Can You Get Divorced if Separated but Living Together?
In North Carolina, when couples opt to “separate” but live together, the court does not recognize time under one roof as part of your separation period.
In other words, the court does not see that you lived separately for a period of one year. Until you meet the requirements for divorce, it is unlikely the court will grant a divorce.
We Can Help
At Plekan Law, our family law attorneys work with couples who are separated but living together in North Carolina. We understand the challenges you face and can help you find agreement on your separation issues. Protecting your legal rights during this difficult time is what we do. We can also answer any questions about how the separation period and divorce works in North Carolina. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.