Do We Need to Have a Separation Agreement Before We Get Divorced in North Carolina?

blog2222222222Do We Need to Have a Separation Agreement Before We Get Divorced in North Carolina?

Every state has a set of laws and rules that you must follow when you seek to end your marriage. North Carolina allows for a no-fault divorce, which means that neither party needs to blame the other for the end of their marriage. In order to seek an absolute divorce in North Carolina, there is a requirement for couples to live apart for a period of one year prior to divorce. This is meant to ensure that the couple is certain about their decision to end their union. A knowledgeable divorce attorney will assist you through the separation and divorce process.


Do We Need a Separation Agreement?

Although the law requires you and your spouse to live apart for a year before your divorce, you are not required to have a separation agreement in place. Couples must live apart and not under the same roof, even if they are living separate lives. Instead, you must live in different residences with the intent to end your marriage. If you get back together during the year, the separation period must restart again if you choose again to divorce. While you are not legally required to have a separation agreement, it could be a good option for many couples who decide to begin the divorce process.


Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “Do I have to be living separately to meet with a lawyer about divorce?”


What is a Separation Agreement?

A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that outlines many facets of a divorce settlement. The agreement is not necessary for divorce, nor does it change the marital relationship. The agreement provides details for how couples are to handle their finances, living arrangements, bill and loan payment, and more during the separation period. The agreement is in effect for the period you specify in the document, and both parties must agree to it. You can modify the agreement as you would any other legal contract and only with approval from both parties.



Benefits of a Separation Agreement

A separation agreement can make the divorce process easier and less stressful. When you agree to the contract, you approve of the way you and your spouse will handle various aspects of your divorce. A separation agreement is a way to ensure that couples will take care of their obligations throughout the divorce proceedings. Specifically, the separation period is a time of potential turmoil, but a separation agreement can make this time less acrimonious. Many of the terms of the divorce settlement, including issues regarding children, can be ironed out ahead of time and put into the separation agreement.


Putting a Separation Agreement in Place

You can put a separation agreement in place at any time. It is helpful to seek guidance from a qualified divorce attorney. Your lawyer will help you draft and review the contract to make sure it will protect your rights as well as provide you with some resolution to issues that could come up during the separation and divorce process. A separation agreement is a contract, so you will not want to sign one unless you and your attorney review it first. To learn more about separation agreements and the divorce process, contact our experienced legal team at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828.



The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.



marital settlement agreement | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (

Separation and Divorce | North Carolina Judicial Branch (


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