The First Step in Getting a Divorce

You have decided that you want a divorce from your spouse. Your mind is made up. Perhaps you have been arguing for years and you have finally decided the marriage cannot be saved and you want to move forward. What is the next step? In North Carolina, a married couple must be separated for at least one year before either spouse can file for divorce.

The first thing that must be done is you or your spouse must move into a separate residence. The couple must live separate and apart with the intention of being permanently separated. Sometimes a married couple will live separate and apart, such as if one spouse is deployed in the military, but the couple has every intention of getting back together after this relatively brief separation. These people still hold themselves out as a married couple despite living separately. Under these circumstances, the couple is not living separate and apart for purposes of North Carolina’s divorce law.

Although the couple must live separate and apart with the intention of being separated, there are no legal documents to sign or file in order to be legally separated in North Carolina. The only necessary thing under North Carolina law is simply to live physically separate. Note that the couple cannot live in the same house but in different bedrooms for purposes of separation. The spouses must have separate addresses. Finally, on the 366th day after separation, either spouse can file for divorce with the court.


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