Dear Bob Hope:
Greetings. You do not file for legal separation. Legal separation in North Carolina is defined as the date that either of you leave the marital residence and one of you has the intent that the separation will be permanent. So, no court papers for it to be considered a legal separation.
Child custody during separation may be determined by the court or by agreement. If your spouse takes the children without your consent, you may try to negotiate an agreement with her or file with the court to determine your custody rights.
You may want to hire a private investigator to gather more evidence on your spouse if they are cheating. I do not know if it is “worth” it for you and would not know unless we meet and talked about your situation.
Children often need counseling during this time. One thing is that you can ask the court to do a child custody evaluation or a psychological evaluation and mandate all parties into therapy with the children. Best of luck.
Attorney with Rosen Divorce
4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607