If your marriage is suffering from serious problems, a legal separation may be on your mind. Like most people, you probably have questions about how it will affect your life. Let attorney Regina Taylor guide you through the need-to-know basics of legal separation in North Carolina.
Do You Need a Legal Separation from Your Spouse Before You Can Get a Divorce?
North Carolina does not require a legal separation in order to get divorced. However, you do need to meet certain legal requirements for separation from your spouse. By law, you must live separately for 12 months or more in order to file for divorce. Living in separate parts of the same home doesn't satisfy this requirement, nor does living in separate homes but keeping up appearances of a relationship. If you and your spouse reconcile, the separation period is finished, starting over if you decide a second time that you no longer want to be together. The law does not consider having sporadic sexual intercourse with your husband or wife to be reconciliation, but if you're regularly going on dates and sleeping together, you're considered to be reconciled.
How Does Legal Separation Differ From Divorce?
Unlike divorce, a separation doesn't terminate your marriage. You can only remarry if you're divorced. Instead, a legal separation lets you live separately and remain married while you decide to divorce or reconcile. Also, though the law doesn't require either spouse to be at fault for a North Carolina divorce. Lastly, divorce papers can't be filed until you and your spouse have been separated physically for a year, but you can file for a legal separation immediately.
Can You Date Someone Else During a Legal Separation?
The short answer is yes. You can start another relationship while you're separated, but you should keep some things in mind. If you and your spouse have started negotiations for a separation agreement and he or she becomes bitter that you're seeing someone so soon after the split, they could make custody or alimony negotiations difficult for you. Also, while it's not illegal to date someone else while married, it's a Class 2 misdemeanor to commit adultery in North Carolina.
What Does Legal Separation Mean for Your Children?
You'll arrange a plan for care and custody of your children in a separation agreement that will specifically state visitation rights, physical and legal custody, vacation times, and child support. North Carolina looks at the best interests of your children and creates a plan that best fits their needs. If it's later found that the agreement doesn't do so, it can be modified.
Divorce and separation are an emotional time for you and your family. Attorney Regina Taylor can guide you through the process, making it less stressful for everyone involved. Call us at (704) 861-0700 today.