This blog is the 3rd in our series on separation by Lisa Angel of Rosen Law Firm.
Can the court order a separation?
Yes, and this is done via a divorce from bed and board which is a court-ordered separation of the parties. The parties remain married until an absolute divorce is obtained but a divorce from bed and board grants the parties a legal separation.
Most of the time parties separate on their own accord and a divorce from bed and board is not sought by either side. A divorce from bed and board is rarely granted or pursued by separating individuals.
What happens if spouses reconcile?
Spouses are free to reconcile at any time after they separate. Reconciliation occurs when the spouses voluntarily renew the marital relationship.
The primary ground for which divorces are granted in North Carolina is based on a separation of a year and a day. The policy behind the year waiting period was to give spouses a chance to assess if they really did want to go through with the divorce. The waiting period often frustrates people because in many other states the waiting period for obtaining a divorce can be as little as a few weeks.
Spouses do sometimes reconcile before the year is up. If that happens, then a new one year waiting period is required. Isolated incidents of sexual relations is not usually considered a reconciliation. Spending time together on a sporadic basis isn't typically considered a reconciliation either. However, if you do truly want to separate it is best to avoid this type of conduct to eliminate any question about your separation status.
What is a Separation Agreement?
Often, just prior to or during separation, people consult with attorneys about the separation process and frequently hire attorneys to draft their Separation Agreement and Property Settlement papers. Within these separation agreements people often outline how their property will be divided, how much, if any alimony will be paid, how child custody will be arranged, and what amount of child support will be paid. A separation agreement can address any one or all of the issues.
The only issue pertaining to the end of a marriage that cannot be contained in a separation agreement is the divorce itself. The divorce can be obtained after one year and one day of separation in North Carolina.
Separation agreements are papers, which once signed by both parties involved, are as binding as contracts. It is always in your best interests to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights and to make sure that you understand the separation papers before signing them.
Lisa Angel is the President of Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh, NC.