How Is the Date of Separation Determined (And Why Is It Important)?

The date of separation is determined by the actual date that the parties begin living separate and apart from each other in separate residences. Establishing separate bedrooms while living in the same house does not count toward the period of separation.

The date of separation is an important date in matters related to divorce. In North Carolina, before a legal action for absolute divorce can be filed, the parties must be physically separated for at least one full year with the intention on the part of one of the parties that the separation be permanent.

Additionally, the date of separation plays a critical role in equitable distribution matters. For purposes of equitable distribution, the marital estate is essentially “frozen” as of the date of the parties’ separation, and the assets and debts that the parties own as of that date are those that are presumed to be marital property that is subject to division between the parties. As part of the equitable distribution process, the marital assets and debts must be valued as of the date of separation.

When spouses resume their marital relationship, their separation ceases and the date of separation must be reestablished by subsequent separation. Isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between spouses who are separated will not toll the one-year separation period.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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