In North Carolina, legal separation indicates that a married couple has been living in separate residences with the intent to continue to live apart. Filing for legal separation requires the creation of a separation agreement, a court-recognized document between a husband and wife signed before a certifying officer. Aside from madness, one full year of legal separation is the only way for couples in this state to divorce.
Consider Professional Assistance
The first step in this process is to determine whether or not you will need an attorney. Since separation may affect child care, custody, alimony and other shared assets, consider consulting an attorney or third-party mediator when writing an agreement. A professional's expertise can help prevent both inconvenient oversights and unnecessary emotional stress as you hammer out your agreement.
The Important Details
Write a detailed separation agreement that indicates that both parties will be living in separate residences. North Carolina requires that each party live apart for at least one year before obtaining a legal divorce through this method. Include details about how you and your spouse will handle shared assets, bills, childcare and custody, if applicable, along with other shared interests.
If You Can't Agree
You can seek resolution in court with a North Carolina judge if you cannot resolve these issues privately, or through lawyers or mediators. This involves a specific process in the courts, called a claim for equitable distribution. Essentially it asks the court to allocate your marital assets fairly between the two parties, as other states do in the case of a divorce proceeding.
The Final Steps
Sign the separation agreement with your spouse in the presence of a certifying officer. In North Carolina, a certifying officer is a notary public or justice, judge, magistrate, clerk, assistant clerk or deputy clerk of the general court of justice for North Carolina. Most importantly, the certifying officer must not be a party to the contract. Retain a copy of the separation agreement for your records. You can now use the written document in court should divorce proceedings occur.