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'Legally separated' does not equal 'divorced' in North Carolina

Going through a divorce can be an emotionally, financially, spiritually and socially trying time in a person's life. It is a natural human desire to seek out companionship and comfort from others to help to cope with the roller coaster of emotions that go along with divorce. But before delving into another relationship, it is important to take a few matters under consideration.

First, consider the legal issues, like the legal waiting period between filing for a separation and the granting of a divorce. In the state of North Carolina, those seeking to dissolve their marriage must have one year of separation prior to granting a no-fault divorce. Anyone who begins dating before the final divorce decree is essentially committing adultery in the eyes of North Carolina law.

Second, consider the emotional cost. In America, 50% of all first marriages end in divorce. About 67% of all second marriages end in divorce. A whopping 74% of all third marriages end in divorce. These numbers should serve as a cautionary tale that the process of ending a marriage may not be the perfect time to begin a new emotional attachment. This is a great time for self-assessment and healing from the relationship which is in the process of ending. To help the healing, ex-spouses can seek out professional counseling or join a support group.

Third, ex-spouses should consider the family they created. Any actions taken in the recent wake of a divorce can have a big effect on tomorrow's child support, spousal support and division of assets negotiations. If there are children involved, consider how each child will respond to a new person while still processing the termination of their parent's marriage.

Remember, legal separation does not end a marriage. Instead, it clarifies the rights and duties of each party to the marriage. Grounds for a legal separation mirrors the grounds for divorce in most states. However, during a legal separation, a marriage between two people still exists.

Source: The Root, "Can I Date During My Divorce?," Demetria L. Lucas, July 19, 2012

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