Clients frequently ask me whether they can be legally separated if they are still living in the same house. They ask whether it is sufficient to sleep in separate bedrooms, live in different parts of the house, or arrange a schedule where they are never home at the same time. There are countless scenarios in which a couple is emotionally separate, but not legally separated.
This idea of an “in-house separation” makes sense in tough economic times. Many couples cannot afford two leases or mortgages. But, they don’t want to wait forever to be eligible for divorce.
The problem is that in North Carolina, in almost all cases, the parties have to be physically separated for 12 continuous months before they can even ask for a divorce. (There are some rare exceptions to this rule, but they are beyond the scope of this post).
In North Carolina, legal separation means living in separate dwellings. No matter how “separate” your lives, you have to live in separate dwellings to actually start the 12 month separation period in North Carolina.
Other states, notably Virginia, may allow in-house separations. But, North Carolina does not.
Each case is different, and everyone should consult an attorney about their specific case and situation before making decisions. But, at least to date, North Carolina does not recognize in-house separation.