People often seem to be confused about the process of separating from a spouse. The requirements for marriage, divorce, and other family law matters are determined by state law, rather than federal law. Therefore, the laws on these issues vary dramatically from state to state. Movies, media, and even the experiences of friends in other states therefore often mislead and confuse people about how to legally separate from a spouse in North Carolina.
In North Carolina, in order to get an absolute divorce on the grounds of separation (which is most common), a couple must have been separated for a period of one year. There is no need to prove fault or obtain a court decree. Separation simply means that the couple physically lives separate and apart — not under the same roof. At least one of the parties must intend to cease cohabitation — the intent of the other spouse is irrelevant to the claim. In North Carolina, there is no need to show that both parties agreed to the separation or to have a decree of the court declaring that they have separated. After a year has passed since the couple stopped cohabiting, either party can secure an absolute divorce upon proof that the couple has been separated for the statutory period of one year. Once that is proven, neither spouse can contest the divorce, as long as all other technical requirements have been met.
Even if you have been separated for a year, however, talk with a lawyer before filing for absolute divorce to ensure that you do not forfeit any important claims that may be available in your case.