If you are considering separation and divorce, emotional issues aside, there are a number of legal issues you need to understand and plan for. In North Carolina, to obtain an absolute divorce, you are required to live separate and apart for a year and a day. During this period of separation, you and your spouse must continuously live separate and apart in different residences – different bedrooms within the same house does not count. Additionally, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing for the divorce.
Before obtaining your divorce, however, it is very important that you and your spouse have divided up your property, and determined any potential spousal support. Any claim for equitable distribution, or the division of marital assets and debts, must be made before the divorce is finalized, or a court will not have jurisdiction over the claim. This is also true for spousal support. If a claim for alimony is not made before the divorce is finalized, the claim cannot be later asserted. The court would not have the authority to enter such an order.
Due to this, and in lieu of litigation, it is very common for parties to enter into a separation agreement before they are divorced. Separation agreements outline the terms of a separation, and most commonly cover property and debt division, and spousal support. Separation agreements may also discuss child custody and child support. Typically, however, it is not best practice to put child custody and child support in a separation agreement, versus a consent order. A consent order is enforceable by contempt, whereas a separation is enforceable by breach of contract. For most parties, it is beneficial to enter into a separation agreement because it saves them money (reduces attorney fees and litigation expenses), and gives them more control over what is in the agreement (the parties can determine to terms of the agreement versus a judge making the decision).
If you are considering separation and divorce, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation. Whether you decide to hire a family law attorney to guide you through your divorce, a consultation with an attorney can at least provide you with information on your rights, and help you make an informed decision on how to proceed. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville, and primary serves Mecklenburg County and the Lake Norman area.