Establish a new residence, with the intent to live apart. North Carolina will recognize the marital separation as of the first day of physical separation. Both spouses may consult an attorney to explore their rights and options through the separation and negotiate an agreement.
Resolve marital issues through mediation or negotiation. In many cases, this is preferable to going to court and having a judge make the decisions. Finalize the agreement in a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement. North Carolina does not require you to finalize the terms of custody, child support and the division of property in a divorce agreement. Therefore, you can make a legally-enforceable private agreement addressing these issues during the separation.
Remain separated for a year and a day, if your intention is to obtain a legal divorce. This is the minimum period North Carolina will allow between a marital separation and a final decree of divorce. If you can't resolve property division and other issues, you request a hearing on the matter. If you agree after the case is filed but before the hearing takes place, you can draw up a binding Consent Order and have the judge review and sign it.