Unlike other states, North Carolina has a very long period in which a couple must be legally separated before they can get a divorce. Specifically, a couple has to be legally separated for basically one year before a court can grant a final and permanent decree of dissolution.
This rule can create some additional legal wrinkles, since a lot can happen during the one year while a couple remains legally married but are each living separate lives.
No paperwork is strictly necessary to be legally separated in North Carolina. If a Statesville couple takes up separate residents, and it is clear that they have no immediate plans to start living as husband and wife again, then the law will consider them separated, and the one-year clock will begin to run.
However, there may be situations in which a husband or wife will want to formalize their separation with legal paperwork requesting temporary court orders. These temporary orders can address immediate matters like custody and child support.
In some cases, such as when one spouse has been left with a bunch of bills and expenses, a person can also request that a judge order one spouse to pay the other what is called “post-separation support,” which is basically a way in which a court can make sure that both spouses are paying their fair share of the expenses during their legal separation.
The requirement that North Carolina couples wait one year plus one day after their separation before they get a divorce can present some issues with respect to things like custody and support, particularly if the couple’s relationship is contentious. However, there are legal options available to people facing these sorts of situations.