In North Carolina, the divorce process isn’t as fast as it is in some other states. Before you can file for a divorce, you must first live physically separately from your spouse for at least one year and one day. However, you don’t have to sit around doing nothing during this time. With the help of marriage attorneys near me, you can use your year of separation to prepare for your divorce so you get the best possible outcome.
What is Separation?
First, you need to understand the requirements for separation. This isn’t just you and your spouse deciding that you no longer want to be married. You need to live (i.e. sleep) in different homes. That means that one or both of you will need to move out of the home you share together.
While some couples have a second property or another easy solution such as a family member looking for a new roommate, this is not the case for many separating couples. You and your spouse may argue about who will be moving and how you’ll split the bills associated with maintaining two households. That’s where we come in. Our experienced divorce lawyers can help you create a separation agreement to outline responsibilities for both parties.
Property Division During a Separation
Whether you are staying in your family home or moving out during the separation period, you may be unsure which items you have a legal right to keep. The answer is tricky and depends on many factors including any prenuptial agreement you signed before your marriage.
In North Carolina, the courts recognize three different types of property.
- Marital – this is anything acquired during your marriage but before your separation
- Divisible – passive change in value of marital property after the date of separation
- Separate – property you each owned before the marriage, property you acquired after the separation, and certain property that one of you received as a gift or bequest from a third party
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which means that each spouse has a right to property and money acquired during the marriage. In other words, it doesn’t matter if one spouse was the primary breadwinner while the other spouse was a homemaker or received a lower income.
“Fairly” does not always mean a 50/50 split. If you and your former partner cannot agree, a judge will decide how to split your assets based on several factors such as income, health, length of marriage, and more. Our job is to ensure you receive what is fair, even if your spouse argues otherwise. Keep in mind that the courts divide your debts as well, so part of our job is to make sure we split debts fairly during a separation.
It’s important that you don’t sign any agreement before you have your own separation attorney review it.
Child Custody and Support During a Separation
Along with dividing your property, during the separation period you and your spouse will need to make plans for your children. This kind of agreement typically has three parts:
- Physical custody/visitation
- Legal custody
Physical custody is where a child will live after the separation. If the child spends at least 123 nights in each household, you have shared custody. However, if the child spends less than 123 overnights with one spouse, the other spouse has primary custody. Depending on the situation, one parent may have visitation rights, either with or without supervision. If you and your spouse cannot agree about physical custody, a judge will decide based on what is best for your children, to give them as much stability as possible. We can help you argue your case for joint or primary custody, or for visitation rights.
Regardless of which parent has physical custody, parents can share legal custody. This is the right to make major life decisions for the child regarding education, healthcare, religion, and more. If you share legal custody, you must consult one another before making major decisions for the child, and if you can’t agree, a court must make the final decision.
Lastly, you’ll need to determine if either partner has an obligation to pay child support. Typically, the parent without physical custody of the child pays support, but several factors come into play when a judge decides if child support is appropriate.
You can learn more about child custody in North Carolina here, but if you find it confusing, don’t worry. We can help. Our team has over 40 years of combined experience in family law, including overseeing many child custody cases.
FAQs about Hiring Marriage Attorneys Near Me
Every separation and divorce is different. So, we recommend a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys in order to review your specific case. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Here are a few questions our clients frequently ask about hiring the best marriage attorneys near me for help with your separation:
Can you help with both my separation and divorce?
Yes. In most cases, it makes sense to use the same legal team for both your separation and divorce, since they are closely linked. That said, if you are already separated and were unhappy with your previous separation attorney, we can review your case to see if our team would be a better fit.
How can I ensure I hire the best marriage attorney for my case?
The best lawyer for you isn’t just the team with the most experience. Yes, experience is important, but it’s also important for your personalities to be a good fit. We want you to feel completely comfortable with our philosophy and representation. To see if we are a good fit for your separation or divorce case, contact us to learn more about scheduling a consultation or use our live chat for real-time assistance.