When you decide to separate, you’ll need to think about these four issues: equitable distribution (dividing the marital property), child custody, child support, and alimony. All of these issues can be settled out of court in a separation agreement or can go through litigation.
There is no legal document for separation. You do not need to do anything other than start living separate and apart. Spouses must live in two separate residences. Your sworn testimony or sworn affidavit for an absolute divorce will prove that you’ve been separated for at least one year, so it is important to remember the exact date of separation (i.e. the exact date that you and your spouse began living separate and apart).
You can move out, but be careful not to put yourself in an abandonment situation. Abandonment is a form of marital misconduct. Take a look at our article What is Abandonment? for more information.
Typically, the “norm” for child custody is joint custody, or 50/50 like you mentioned. You and your spouse will need to negotiate a schedule that is best for the children. The best interests of the children is the standard in NC for determining child custody arrangements. The schedule you come up with can be temporary until a more permanent schedule is determined.
Some people decide to have all issues settled (by way of a separation agreement) prior to actually separating. That way, it is clear who will take what property, who will pay what debt, how the children’s expenses will be paid, when the children are with each parent, etc. Sometimes, this is not practical and a separation must occur first.
Sometimes people choose to discuss these marital issues with their spouse before involving lawyers or the court but others will involve a lawyer first. This is personal preference and depends on each person’s individual situation.
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