Equitable Distribution Without Divorce in North Carolina

By Heather Frances J.D.

North Carolina requires spouses to live apart for a certain time as one of its grounds for obtaining a divorce, but that doesn’t mean you need a judge to grant you a legal separation before the divorce. Instead, you and your spouse can agree at any time before you fulfill the requirement to live apart about how you want to split your property.

Separation Agreements in North Carolina

North Carolina offers only two grounds for divorce: one year’s separation or insanity. Though almost all divorces are based on separation, you and your spouse can create a separation or settlement agreement before or after you split up to address property issues or other terms of a divorce. Once you sign a separation agreement, it is legally binding as a contract, but you do not actually have to file for divorce a year later. Even if you remain separated after the year is up or get back together with your spouse, your separation agreement remains a legally binding contract.

Divorce from Bed and Board

Signing an agreement is the most common way for spouses to separate in North Carolina, but you can also petition the court for a “divorce from bed and board” under some circumstances. Divorce from bed and board is similar to legal separation in many ways. It allows a judge to decide property distribution and other issues without actually terminating your marriage, but it is not available under all circumstances. You must be able to establish evidence to prove one of six fault-based grounds, including abandonment, cruel treatment or adultery. If you qualify for divorce from bed and board, the judge can split your property and even force you or your spouse out of your marital home.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Post-Divorce Proceedings

Unlike other states, North Carolina allows spouses to divorce without first resolving property settlement issues. If you and your spouse cannot reach a settlement agreement, you can still obtain a legal divorce, but during the divorce proceedings you must reserve the right to revisit property settlement issues after the divorce. If you do not ask the court to decide property issues later, and they are not decided during the divorce proceeding, you lose the right to go back to court and ask for a property division order later after the divorce is final.

Equitable Distribution

If you and your spouse ask the court to divide your property, it will use its judgment to make an equitable distribution. This does not necessarily mean an equal split, though most judges favor equal divisions of property in most cases. North Carolina courts consider several factors before dividing marital property, including the length of the marriage, your ages and health, other support obligations, the contributions each spouse made to the marital property, and the earning capacities and financial situations of the parties. The court does not follow a specific formula to automatically decide how property must be split.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Arkansas Laws for Separation


Related articles

How to File for Legal Separation in North Carolina

Legal separation is one of those terms that can mean different things, depending on where you live. Some states don't recognize it at all – including North Carolina. The state doesn't recognize a judicial process resulting in a separation decree. Separation is still a pivotal aspect of the state's divorce laws, however. You can't file for it, but you generally cannot get divorced without it.

What Happens if I Refuse to Sign a Separation Agreement in Virginia?

Virginia is one of a handful of states that does not recognize the phrase “legal separation,” but this doesn’t mean you can’t legally separate there. You and your spouse can part ways, then negotiate and sign a separation agreement resolving issues between you. Virginia calls separation agreements “property settlement agreements,” although they address issues of custody as well as property. If you refuse to sign the agreement, your spouse can involve the court to resolve any issues.

How to Get a Non-Contested Divorce in Illinois

An uncontested, or non-contested, divorce is typically considered the easiest way to end your marriage. It's less stressful and less costly than a contested divorce -- plus, you can often complete it in only two weeks or so in Illinois. The most significant requirement is that you and your spouse must get along well enough to negotiate a resolution of all your issues on your own, without any involvement of the court.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

North Carolina Divorce a Year After Separating or Signing a Separation Agreement

North Carolina is somewhat unique among states in two respects: spouses can divorce without first resolving issues of ...

Meaning of Bifurcation in Divorce

Divorce can be a long, drawn-out affair. If it's contested, it can take years. In the meantime, spouses remain legally ...

How Many Days Apart Equals a Legal Separation?

Legal separation is not typically defined by the amount of time you and your spouse live apart. In many cases, it ...

Can You Execute Your Own Divorce Separation Agreement in Michigan?

Michigan law allows a divorcing couple to execute their own separation agreement -- sometimes called a settlement ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED