Becoming Legally Separated

How do we become legally separated?

A question often asked is if you need a separation agreement to be legally separated. The answer is no. A married couple in North Carolina is legally separated when they begin living under separate roofs and at least one of the parties has the intention for the separation to be permanent. A separation agreement is in fact not required for a couple to be legally separated.

Keep in mind, however, that it is necessary for you to be physically living under separate roofs to establish a legal separation. People often wonder if they are legally separated if they are living in separate bedrooms in the same house. Or, for instance, if one spouse lives in the basement, a detached garage, or an extension of the house with a separate entrance, if any of those will qualify as a legal separation. The answer to that is no, according to the law in North Carolina, you are not separated so long as you are both living at the same address, or under the same roof, so to speak. A legal separation literally requires the parties to live at separate dwelling places with separate addresses.

So, you may be wondering, why have a separation agreement if it has nothing do with legal separation?  There are several reasons, one of which being that it takes a period 1 year before either party can file for divorce and become single again in North Carolina. During that year of separation, parties are typically working to resolve things like: who stays in the marital home, who pays what bills, who has custody of the children what the visitation schedule make look like, and other issues.  All of these issues can be addressed within a separation agreement.

Keep in mind, a separation agreement extends beyond just the separation period. A separation agreement typically details all final settlement terms that the parties have agreed upon that will continue beyond their divorce.

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