Separation Before Divorce in North Carolina

September 22nd, 2022
Divorce Basics - thelegalexpertcom

In North Carolina, before you file for divorce, you must go through a period of separation for at least one year. This means that a couple cannot simply decide to get a divorce, and then file for it the same day. They must wait for at least a year while living separately. This rule is in place to make sure that couples are serious about their decision, and won’t change their minds later. To make things go more smoothly with your divorce later, a separation agreement can be very helpful. Dating can be complicated during this time, so it’s likely best to avoid it while you are living apart. If you are considering a divorce, it’s a good idea to speak with an experienced attorney before you take any further steps. They can help you figure out the best course of action that allows you to protect yourself financially.


In many states, like North Carolina, a separation is required before divorce. A couple must live in separate homes for a period of at least one year before filing for a divorce. While some couples choose creative custody arrangements like “nesting” where they continue to live under the same roof but in different areas of the house, this will not qualify for your year of separation. In addition, at least one spouse must intend to separate for a separation to be legal.

Separation Agreement

While it’s not a requirement, a separation agreement can be a great idea. A separation agreement is a legal document that a couple signs that outlines things like custody arrangements, spousal support, and splitting of assets. Having a separation agreement in place can help your divorce proceedings go more smoothly later on.


Dating during the separation period can be a little bit tricky, so it might be best to avoid it altogether. While a couple is technically allowed to date during this time, there are some things to consider. For example, your separation agreement might stipulate no overnight guests at your home, or no introducing new partners to your children. In addition, it can make your divorce proceedings much more complicated, especially if your partner suspects the affair started before your separation.

How to Start the Process

If you are considering seeking a divorce, it’s a great idea to reach out to an experienced divorce attorney before taking any more steps. They can walk you through the steps you need to take, and explain the separation period clearly. They’ll make sure that you know how to protect yourself financially, and help you with the next steps of the process.

In North Carolina, as in many other states, couples cannot immediately file for a divorce. Instead, to make sure that they are not going to change their minds about their relationship, they must go through a separation period of one year. During this time, they must intend to separate, must not reconcile, and must live apart. Creating a separation agreement that outlines things like custody and spousal support can be a great idea and can make the divorce process smoother later on. Dating during this time can be tricky, and is probably not the best idea. Instead, wait until your divorce is final so that dating doesn’t affect your settlement. If you are considering a divorce, speak with an attorney before you make any further moves to ensure that you are taking the correct steps and protecting yourself financially.