What is Marital Separation in North Carolina?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How should I prepare if I intend to file for divorce in the near future?”


What is Marital Separation in North Carolina?


Couples who are preparing to end their marriages must live apart before they can obtain a divorce. A separation period is the time that couples live apart from each other before they divorce. Many couples do not realize that they must be separated for at least a year before going forward with a divorce. The separation time provides couples the opportunity to make sure that they want to end the marriage. A knowledgeable divorce attorney in North Carolina will help guide the process and assist you through the separation and divorce proceedings. 


Do I Need a Separation Agreement?


Separation from your spouse is necessary before you can obtain absolute divorce in North Carolina. Couples must live apart for a year without reconciliation before filing for divorce. While it is not a requirement, a separation agreement can be a helpful tool in managing your separation and divorce. A separation agreement is a legal document that binds both parties to specific terms. The agreement may include such things as how to manage bank accounts, how to pay for housing expenses, and what to do about child custody and visitation. The agreement can significantly cut down on disputes that could otherwise occur regarding the many divorce settlement matters that you must resolve. 


Hands holding two halves of broken heart

Can Separated Couples Get Back Together?


Couples who are separated can get back together. However, if they want to later divorce, they will need to begin a full year of separation again. When a couple decides to remain married or give their marriage another try, they are ending their separation period. If the couple has a legal separation agreement in place, it should include terms that will end the agreement should the couple remain together. If a couple decides to separate again, they should consider implementing a new separation agreement. 


How is a Separation Agreement Beneficial?


A separation agreement can be of benefit to both parties in a divorce. As one of the first steps toward dissolution of marriage, a separation agreement gives both people the opportunity to iron out some of the most common areas of disagreement. Both parties need to have access to money for ongoing living expenses, as well as for costs associated with their children. Parties need to disclose their finances and provide each other with information about their income and other sources of money. When you put an agreement in place you are better able to move through the divorce process without as much stress or aggravation. 


Putting a Separation Agreement in Place


When you want to put a separation agreement in place, you need to take it seriously. It is a legal document that must be properly written and executed. An ambiguous agreement could be worse than having no agreement in place. A verbal agreement is also not helpful should disputes arise. The best way to implement a separation agreement is with help from a qualified divorce attorney. Your attorney will help you through the many issues that you must consider and will make certain that your agreement addresses them. 


Separation and divorce is not easy, but it can be much less stressful with guidance from a knowledgeable attorney. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.






The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes four 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.



legal separation | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)

Separation and Divorce | North Carolina Judicial Branch (nccourts.gov)


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