Can You Legally Separate Instead of Divorce in North Carolina?
When a marriage begins to fall apart, divorce is often seen as the only option. However, there are a myriad of circumstances that may make obtaining a legal separation more advantageous. A divorce officially ends a marriage completely. By contrast, a legal separation does not terminate the marriage, but sets forth terms relating to property matters, financial support and parenting for spouses who live independently. Unlike some states, North Carolina does not offer legal separation status on spouses who live in different residences. Under the law, you are either married or not. However, you and your spouse can create a contract that addresses custody, child support, property division and spousal support.
Reasons why a couple may wish to live apart but remain married rather than start the divorce process include:
- Hopes of reconciliation — Separation is an option for some couples who are eventually hoping to reconcile. Living independently gives people time and space to think things through carefully.
- Keeping the family intact — Some couples want their independence, but they also wish to stay legally married to keep the family intact for the sake of their children.
- Religious beliefs — Certain religions look down on divorce. Legal separation is a way for religious to live independently without going against their beliefs and values.
- Maintaining access to insurance/government benefits — Some couples want to be completely independent, but would lose certain insurance benefits or financial advantages if they got divorced. They use legal separation to maintain insurance coverage or other valuable benefits.
- Taxes — Some people stay legally married to lessen their tax burden. Federal and state income taxes, and various state property and ad valorem taxes can often be minimized by staying married.
Whatever your particular reasons might be, developing a legal separation agreement offers many potential benefits, including:
- Creating a detailed parenting plan that ensures both parties spend substantial time with the children they share
- Establishing a date for the valuation of marital property
- Reassigning financial responsibilities and addressing if spousal support should be provided
- Developing the framework for a settlement in the event that the couple eventually divorces
Though the court won’t require you to negotiation a separation agreement or modify your legal marital status, taking the time to discuss parenting and financial matters is a wise choice. Working with a qualified attorney, you can complete an enforceable contract that averts confusion and conflict when you’re both already going through a tough time.
Located in Asheville, The Moore Law Office, PLLC is one of western North Carolina’s most respected law firms, and we help clients going through divorce. Our family lawyers are thorough and diligent. If you have a domestic relations matter, feel to contact us or call 828-333-4796 for an initial consultation.