If you’re considering filing for divorce, you may not know where or how to begin, or whether you even have grounds for divorce. To help you navigate this unknown and intimidating terrain, we’ve compiled answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions about divorce in North Carolina.
1. What are the requirements to file for divorce in North Carolina?
To file for divorce in North Carolina, the couple must have lived separate and apart for one year, and one party must have resided in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing. In North Carolina, you must live in separate homes to be considered as living separate. Sleeping in separate beds and refraining from sexual contact does not meet the state’s definition of “separate and apart.”
2. What if I want a divorce, but my spouse doesn’t?
You don’t need consent from your spouse to file for divorce in North Carolina. If you have lived separate and apart for one year and if one of you has lived in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing, you can petition for divorce.
3. How do I file for divorce?
To file for divorce, you must fill out a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, a Civil Summons, and a Complaint for Absolute Divorce (available through the Self-Help Center of Mecklenburg County). Afterward, you’ll need to file these forms with the Clerk of Court’s office in your county. Remember to keep copies of every form for your own records.
4. How much will the divorce process cost?
You can determine the costs for filing the above forms on the North Carolina Courts website or by calling your county’s Clerk of Court office. However, beyond these filing fees, additional costs are difficult to estimate. For example, you may incur costs for serving the other party, filing additional documents with the courts, and petitioning to have your name legally changed. Once you get into the legal process of divorce and especially the related legal issues — child custody, spousal support, and so on — it becomes impossible to estimate the costs of any litigation without knowing the individual facts of your case.
5. How long will the divorce process take?
The length of time until a judge grants your divorce is also difficult to estimate. Once you file the Absolute Divorce Complaint, the sheriff’s office in your county will serve these papers to the other party. The other party then has 30 days to respond, and they can receive an additional 30 days upon request. If you and your spouse don’t agree on some of the issues, such as the date of separation, then you may have to get a hearing where you go in front of a judge, which could delay the process.
If you and your spouse agree on the divorce, we can prepare the necessary paperwork for you. In this scenario, the process usually takes 50 to 60 days.
6. What other issues will I need to address during my divorce case?
The claim for divorce is only one of five possible claims that arise out of a separation. The other four issues are: alimony/spousal support, equitable distribution (the division of marital property), child custody, and child support. Not all of these other claims will necessarily apply to your situation.
7. Do all these issues have to be resolved before my divorce is granted?
No. These are separate legal issues that can be filed with the court and heard by a judge or resolved by agreement at any time after separation. You do not have to wait the one-year period to deal with those claims. However, your legal claims for alimony and equitable distribution must be filed with the court (not necessarily resolved) before the divorce is granted. Claims for child custody or child support can be filed at any time.
8. Can I get (or will I have to pay) alimony?
In North Carolina, alimony (also known as post-separation support or spousal support) is determined by the courts, and it isn’t applicable in all cases. If you feel you are entitled to spousal support, you should contact an attorney. An experienced attorney should be able to help you compile the necessary paperwork to prove that you were a dependent spouse or to prove that you were a victim of marital misconduct — both factors that can play a role in whether a court determines alimony is appropriate in your case.
9. Do I have to go to court?
Not necessarily. If you and your spouse agree on the divorce, we can handle the divorce claim without you having to go to court.
With regards to the other issues which may apply in your situation (alimony, equitable distribution, child custody, child support), if you and your spouse settle these claims outside of court, then you will not need to appear in court to resolve those issues either. If, however, there are disputes that you can’t resolve through compromise, then you will have to go to court.
10. Do I have to hire an attorney?
You can get divorced in North Carolina without hiring or even speaking to a lawyer. However, talking with an experienced divorce attorney before you begin the divorce process may be in your best interest. An attorney can listen to the facts of your situation and should be able to give you expert, practical advice about your legal rights and options. They can also argue on your behalf in court, and they may be able to draw from their knowledge of the law to highlight important information that could affect the outcome of your case. Sometimes, this information might be a detail or event that a person with no legal training would have a hard time recognizing as important or even relevant.
If you are seeking alimony or wish to make any other claims, an attorney should ensure that these claims are properly addressed. Once your divorce is granted, you cannot make further claims for alimony or equitable distribution, so it’s important that you handle these matters carefully and thoroughly during the divorce process. Additionally, if you and your spouse disagree on child support or the division of marital property, an attorney can help you craft a separation agreement and mediate on your behalf.
Contact Myers Law Firm, a Trusted Source in Family Law for Clients in Mecklenburg County
If you are considering filing for divorce or if you are going through a divorce, the professionals at Myers Law Firm are here to help. From determining child custody to dividing personal property, our team of professionals is prepared to answer any questions you may have and guide you through every step of the process. While we pride ourselves in handling divorce issues peaceably and efficiently, we are dedicated first and foremost to protecting and advocating for your rights.
To schedule your initial consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or contact us online using our online contact form.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.