Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation: North Carolina - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation: North Carolina

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Through the development of the family law system, modern divorce proceedings are becoming more transparent and accessible to ordinary clients. Not everything is subject to strict algorithms. Almost every aspect of divorce cases has nuances, from local features of family legislation to individual planning for each divorcing couple.

The dissolution of marriage is an emotionally and psychologically challenging episode in life. And in most cases, the one who takes the initiative in the process and decides to file for divorce, acting as a petitioner, can hardly imagine a step-by-step development of the situation.

Without a doubt, a basic understanding of the divorce process is an essential component of its successful completion. This article contains a few details about why it is important to distinguish between divorce and legal separation. We’ll also describe some of the features of these two types of legal cases in North Carolina.

Key Features of the Legal Separation and Divorce Options

Both a divorce and a legal separation legally create a space between spouses because of living separately. In legal terms, a legal separation is a court order that mandates the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married but living apart. In a divorce, the spouses are no longer married.

In both cases, the ex-family finances are separated, child custody, child support, division of marital assets and debts, and spousal support (called alimony in case of divorce) are all ordered by the court.

Nevertheless, legal or physical separation of the spouses does not obligate divorce in the end. Sometimes separation can be a time of forgiveness and renewed commitment. Many couples separate in hopes of saving a marriage, and sometimes, it does.

Legal separation may offer the same protection as a divorce and, in some cases, works out better. There are also personal and financial benefits to consider when determining which option is right for each individual case.

Basically, a divorce officially ends a marriage. Beyond this major difference, divorce is quite similar to a legal separation. Spouses would need to get a court to approve this decision and come up with an agreement that divides property and defines a plan for children. Since divorce and legal separation are pretty similar, they may cost about the same and take around the same amount of time to process.

Legal Separation Definition and Basic Requirements for Residents of North Carolina

A legal separation is like putting your marriage on hold. Typically, both spouses move to different homes and start living separate lives. A legal separation is more formal than just moving apart, though. Spouses would need to get a court to approve a decision and put together a legal separation agreement. It is a document that divides property, sets an arrangement for raising children, and ends the financial connection between spouses. If a couple reunites, then the time that was spent separated will be voided.

When it comes to divorce, unlike some other states, North Carolina only allows no-fault divorce, which requires the spouses to live separate and apart for a minimum of one year before they can file for a divorce. This is known as an absolute divorce. In most cases, this means living in two different places. But it’s not necessary to obtain a formal agreement, document, or court filing to start the process of living apart.

Another type of legal separation in North Carolina is known as divorce from bed and board. In this case, the petitioner obtains a legal separation through a court order to have their spouse leave the home. A court order for divorce from bed and board is available only under limited circumstances where the spouse requesting the order can prove serious fault. Despite the misleading name, divorce from bed and board does not end the marriage, but it affects the rights you and your spouse have regarding each other’s estates.

Other Rules and Regulations for Legal Separated Couples Status

Isolated hook-ups do not automatically restart the clock, even if ex-spouses are engaged in sexual intercourse. Initiating a separation is simple, but it also opens the door for couples to begin dealing with the issues of custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. This is where the real conflict comes into play.

It is also necessary to take into account that in some states, a legal separation is a legal filing in which a married couple formalizes a separation without dissolving their marriage. Meanwhile, there is no official document or any other formal process for a married couple to become legally separated in North Carolina.

The spouses are only separated if they live apart, and at least one of the spouses intends to leave the marriage permanently. If one of the spouses moves out of the marital home with the intent of leaving the marriage, they can mark the date of separation on their calendars, and that would be quite enough to consider it legal.

Divorce Definition, Features, and Regulations for NC Petitioners and Respondents

Separation does not affect the marital status. Unless the marriage was not legally valid and the couple can get an annulment (which is rare in North Carolina), divorce is the only way to permanently dissolve the marriage and go back to being single persons for legal purposes.

Technically, filing for divorce is a simple process. The applicant just needs to file a lawsuit with the court and follow the process, which takes about 50–60 days after the other party is served with the lawsuit. Both parties of the process get a judgment of divorce. After that, the case is completed, and the marriage is over.

North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, allowing couples to divorce with the absence of blame. For those who want to file for divorce in North Carolina, a court order from a judge is needed to complete the process. A judge will decide terms of child custody, child support, alimony, and other legal factors. When a judge signs the divorce order, the divorce is official.

Divorce Over the Internet: is that Possible in NC?

State residents who plan to file for divorce can use special web services for preparing divorce documents. This format is often more preferable and has many benefits and advantages, but your case must be uncontested to qualify. It is considered to be more affordable, inexpensive, fast, and convenient.

Before getting their divorce papers prepared over the internet, the spouses need to reach a mutual agreement on all possible contentious issues. The petitioner and respondent should not have the slightest hint of mutual claims in the context of their former life together.

The couple should diplomatically settle all possible disputed issues related to joint property and the separation and distribution of all common debts, assets, credit lines, and mortgages. In addition to the division of property, it is preferable to talk about all acceptable options for child and spousal support and child custody.


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