One Year’s Separation: An Early Stepping Stone on Your Path to Divorce

Robin M. Mermans, Esq

It is no small task to embark on the difficult journey of divorce. For couples who have come to an impasse in their relationship, there is much to unpack—figuratively and literally. The dissolution of marriage is as complicated legally as it is emotionally.

If you and your spouse have decided to dissolve your marriage, you are undoubtedly heading down a rough road. Let us be your guide and offer a helpful hand, talk you through your options, and offer expert recommendations throughout your journey.

An early and important stepping stone on this path is establishing one year’s separation.

The North Carolina Judicial Branch explains that “to be considered separated from your spouse, you need to be living in different homes, and at least one of you needs to intend that the separation be permanent.” And, you are not legally separated if your relationship has ended but you still live in the same home, or if you live in separate homes without the intent to be permanently separated.

Understanding what one year’s separation entails

The most common divorce path North Carolina couples generally pursue is one year’s separation. This route can be taken and one year’s separation legally granted only when all three of the following circumstances have occurred:

  1. Each person in the relationship must have lived apart for a full year
  2. One or both people must agree that they have no intention of staying in the marriage
  3. One or both people must have resided in North Carolina for at least six months prior to the divorce.

Ensuring your one-year separation is recognized

If the above three circumstances we just outlined are met, you’re on the right track. But, there are still some additional points to consider, in order for your year of separation to be recognized.

No doubt you have lots of questions. Let’s take a look at seven common queries we get from clients working their way through divorce—and share some answers to help you better understand this process.

1. Can my spouse and I obtain a divorce if we’ve been separated less than one year?

Unfortunately, no. In the state of North Carolina, you and your spouse must have lived completely separate and apart for one year.

2. Does one year separation legally count if my spouse has been living in the basement, and I elsewhere in the same home, for part or all of the year?

No. You must not share the same residence as your spouse during your separation. And, that includes living in separate bedrooms or on different floors Instead, you must retain separate residence or addresses for the full year you are separated

3. What happens if my spouse and I, although living apart, are intimately involved during our separation?

This is a no-no. In addition to living at different addresses, you and your spouse must not engage in sexual relations during the separation. This generally includes even the most isolated and unplanned meetings. Such behavior can complicate and impair divorce proceedings.

4. What if my spouse doesn’t want to separate, but I do?

Taking the path of one year’s separation to obtain a divorce need only be wished by one marriage partner. And, that partner must also state an intention to cease cohabitation.

5. Do I need to prove to the court that our separation has been completed, and aligned with the rulings outlined here?

This is a welcome and easy answer: Your truthful testimony under oath is all that you need to prove your one year’s separation. You can present witnesses, if you wish, but it is not necessary.

6. What if my spouse did not live in North Carolina for very long, prior to our beginning a separation?

In order for your one year’s separation to be recognized, you or your spouse must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six months before your year of separation.

7. Does a recognized one year divorce than secure our ability to obtain an absolute divorce?

Yes! If you have completed your full year of separation and the three requirements outlined above have been satisfied, you can then obtain an absolute divorce. This is possible even if your spouse wishes to contest the divorce.

Still have questions?

That is understandable. There is much to think about when entering into the divorce process. But, you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help guide you as you maneuver through this difficult time—no matter if you’re looking for collaborative options or a traditional divorce attorney.

Give us a call today at (980) 260-1600 to learn more about the legal process for establishing one year’s separation and filing for divorce. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you.

The ROAD to RESOLUTION Divorce 101 Series can help you differentiate the fact from the fiction, and guide you towards the support you need during this difficult time.Use our resources and services to find all the info you need—from pre divorce education to drafting essential legal documents. Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.

Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.

Robin M. Mermans, Esq
Founder and Principal Attorney

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