What Is the Difference Between Separation and Divorce in North Carolina?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

April 25, 2018

There is a difference between separation and divorce in North Carolina. Divorce in the state is usually entered into after the couple physically separates for one year. In other cases, a couple may obtain a legal separation in advance of divorce. In rare cases, a judge may grant a divorce if one of the spouses is declared insane, and the couple has lived in different physical homes for three or more years due to one of the spouse’s condition.

If you’re facing the dissolution of your marriage, Breeden Law Office can help you navigate through this difficult time and obtain an outcome that protects the interests of you and your family. Call a North Carolina divorce lawyer today at (919) 661-4970 to request a consultation.

How North Carolina Defines Separation

In North Carolina, you are required to separate and live physically apart from your spouse with at least one of the spouses intending for the separation to be permanent for a minimum of one year before you can divorce. If you and your husband or wife reunite, the clock starts over again if you decide to move forward with separation.

Many times, couples agree to separate, and one spouse moves out of the home. If this is the situation you are in, then you remain married during this time. You may arrive at a separation agreement during this time that covers matters involving child custody, alimony, asset division, and child support.

What is Legal Separation in North Carolina?

If you require a legal order to remove your spouse from your home before the divorce, you can obtain a legal separation called a divorce from bed and board. This is a court order that does not dissolve the marriage. In making a request for legal separation via a divorce from bed and board, you may allege that your spouse has done one of the following:

  • Committed adultery
  • Abandoned the family
  • Engaged in excessive use of drugs or alcohol
  • Endangered your life through cruel treatment
  • Acted in a manner that equates to an intolerable or burdensome condition of life for you

The spouse on the receiving end of the complaint has the right to fight back against your allegations. They may claim that the allegations are false, and that you had previously enabled or condoned their actions. Your spouse may ask for the matter to be presented before a jury.

Understanding Absolute Divorce in North Carolina

As a no-fault divorce state, North Carolina allows couples to divorce without legally assigning blame. After you and your spouse have lived separately for a year with the intent to remain separate and apart, the process of divorce may proceed amicably.

In the end, a judge must issue an order for absolute divorce to occur. Once the order is signed by the judge, the marriage has ended. The judge may make decisions about child custody, alimony, child support, and asset division at this time. If a separation agreement has previously been signed by both sides and has covered these issues, then the judge will not enter an order on these issues as the separation agreement will control. No matter what is placed in a separation agreement as it relates to custody, either party may petition the court for a different custody plan.

Contact an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Lawyer Today

The difference between separation and divorce can be confusing for some people to understand, especially in the face of the potential end of a marriage. Attorney Jonathan Breeden understands the stress that divorce can bring to a couple and their entire family. If you are going through this turmoil right now, you can count on attorney Breeden to help you navigate through the legal considerations involved while also advocating strongly for your rights and interests.

Contact Breeden Law Office today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule an initial case consultation.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden