Can I Date My Former Spouse After Separation in North Carolina?

Although many of us in North Carolina strive to base our lives on logic and common sense, this is not always possible when dealing with raw human emotion. Like it or not, romantic relationships have a tendency to turn our lives upside down. In some cases, this means separating from our loved ones only to reconcile later. Unfortunately, the legal process of separation makes this a little tricky. Although you should not be dissuaded from reigniting relationships with past spouses, you should also be aware of the legal ramifications.

If you are concerned about things like child support, alimony, and the division of assets, you should reach out to a qualified divorce attorney in the Charlotte region as soon as possible. As you will learn, reconciliation becomes “final” in the eyes of the courts if you maintain a relationship with your former spouse for an extended period of time. Before you “commit” to this eventuality, you may want to discuss your legal options.

The One-Year Waiting Period for Separation

When you decide to separate in North Carolina, you should expect a somewhat lengthy process. This is in stark contrast to the way separations are handled in other states, such as California. In states such as these, divorces can be finalized in a matter of weeks. In the Tar Heel State, couples must remain separated for one year before they can move forward with the next stage of the divorce process.

For those in the Charlotte region who wish to wrap things and move with their lives as soon as possible, this can prove to be frustrating. With that said, there is a legitimate reason for this type of approach in North Carolina. The state’s policy is to encourage reconciliation among couples so that the family unit (the foundation of all strong communities) can be maintained. With a one-year waiting period, couples are afforded plenty of time to think things over and reconcile if they wish.

When Does Reconciliation Occur?

If you do reconcile with your former spouse in North Carolina, it needs to be under somewhat specific circumstances. While there are strict guidelines that govern this process, the legal definition of “reconciliation” is in some ways open to interpretation. In theory, this gives you a little bit of “wiggle room” in a court of law, whether you are trying to prove that you have reconciled with your spouse or whether you are trying to maintain that the alleged reconciliation never happened.

Generally speaking, reconciliation occurs when you and your former spouse start behaving like a married couple again. This means living under the same roof, being intimate with each other, and working together in certain tasks and responsibilities, like raising children.

It is important to note that a judge will often decide that spouses have reconciled even if they are sleeping in separate bedrooms in the same residence. If you are serious about separating, then you need to actually live in a completely different residence for a period of one year. Otherwise, the “clock” may restart, lengthening the time you need to wait before obtaining a divorce.

Why a Few Isolated Intimate Encounters do Not Constitute Reconciliation

It is important to note that if you meet up with your former spouse once or twice while separated, this does not constitute an automatic reconciliation. This is true even if your encounters are of a sexual nature. One relevant case was Fletcher vs. Fletcher in 1996. Two spouses spent hours together over a period of about a week, eating together and engaging in sexual intercourse. They also spent time with their children in the marital home.

Eventually, one spouse alleged that the separation agreement had been breached, and she pursued legal action. Her goal was to seek an equitable distribution of marital property. However, the court ruled against her and determined that this relatively isolated string of intimate encounters did not constitute a reconciliation.

The Potential Impact of Reconciliation on Alimony

Reconciliation can impact alimony in a number of ways. Perhaps the most notable is the fact that spouses may be able to seek alimony after reconciliation even if they had previously been banned from doing so. For example, illicit sexual behavior (such as an extramarital affair) may disqualify spouses from alimony after separation.

However, once spouses reconcile, it is essentially assumed that the two spouses have forgiven each other for any past misgivings, including illicit sexual behavior. In a legal context, this is known as “condonation.” This is another important factor to keep in mind when reconciling with your former spouse.

Get Legal Help Today

If you need help with reconciliation, separation, divorce, or any other related issue, it is best to enlist the assistance of a qualified local attorney. Reach out to Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704-370-2828 now, with three convenient offices in Mooresville, Monroe and Charlotte.