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What is the Difference Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

A legal separation can have several meanings depending on the context in which it is used. If the parties want to obtain a divorce they must be legally separated under North Carolina law for one year. In this context legally separated means that at least one party intends to live permanently separate and apart. This means separate residences. Separate bedrooms or areas of the same house will not equal a legal separation. As soon as one of the parties moves out intending to live separate and apart then the clock starts toward their one year requirement. For example Bob and Mary want to separate, Bob moves out August 1, 2008 into his own apartment, Bob cannot file for a divorce from Mary until August 2, 2009. There is also a claim under North Carolina law known as Divorce from Bed and Board. This is a judicial decree legally separating the parties and is not really a divorce at all. If the parties obtain a divorce from bed and board they are not free to remarry. The grounds for a court to grant a legal separation by divorce from bed and board are fault based. A court may grant this based on abandonment, cruel or barbarous treatment, indignities, drug abuse, or adultery. A divorce is a judgment by the court which dissolves the contract of marriage between a man, woman, and the state. See “How do I Obtain a Divorce in North Carolina” for further reference.