As we've discussed before, North Carolina law doesn't require specific grounds for divorce, meaning we're considered a "no-fault" divorce state. That said, there's no "quickie" divorce here. Except in very unusual cases, North Carolina couples can only file divorce papers after living apart for a full year with the intention of remaining apart. This period is called legal separation.
Most couples manage the legal separation period just fine. They may simply wait it out, or they may get started on resolving their divorce-related issues right away by developing a legal separation agreement. Such an agreement is very useful for several reasons. First, you may not want to go a whole year with the issues of child custody, visitation and support, alimony, and property division unresolved. Second, separation agreements can work like trial divorce agreements that you can tweak when the time comes. Or, if the separation agreement works well, it can be made part of the final divorce decree.