Divorce is difficult no matter what. For some, the cost to file for divorce in North Carolina adds significant hardship to an already financially stressful situation. Filing fees are something couples need know about beforehand, as they might impact decisions on when to begin divorce proceedings.
This article provides basic information on filing for divorce in North Carolina, including when it might be possible to avoid the typical fees. We’ll also discuss how an attorney can help with the entire process.
Filing for Divorce and Applicable Fees in North Carolina
Filing for divorce is a relatively straightforward process. However, you cannot begin with it until you’re certain of your eligibility for divorce in North Carolina.
To file for divorce:
- A couple must be separated (living apart) for at least one year
- One must be a North Carolina resident (at least one of the spouses) for at least six months before the case is filed
Once you’re sure of your eligibility, take the following steps:
- Prepare your forms, including a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, a Civil Summons, and a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The North Carolina Judicial Branch provides these in a divorce packet on their website. Sign the forms and make copies for yourself and your spouse. Be sure to hold off on signing anything that must be notarized until you can meet with a notary.
- File the forms with your county’s court clerk. There is a fee for filing divorce papers, and it is subject to change. Currently, the cost to file a Complaint for divorce is $225. If you wish to resume a maiden or former name, there is an extra $10 filing fee. However, this is well worth the cost; the process of changing to a prior name as part of a divorce is much easier than the regular name change process.
- Serve the papers. This simply means having the forms delivered to your spouse by a sheriff or certified mail. If you want to deliver the papers yourself, your spouse must sign a waiver to accept that. Having papers served comes with a fee – typically $30 for the sheriff in North Carolina to do it. Lesser fees may apply if serving the papers by mail.
- Wait 30 days after your spouse has been served to move forward with the divorce (whomever delivered the papers should be able to provide a service date). The other party has 30 days to file an Answer. If the case is an uncontested divorce, the other spouse usually does not file anything, but you still have to wait the 30 days.
This Process Only Applies to Divorce
If you’re considering divorce in North Carolina, you need to be aware of some very important points. First, filing for a divorce is separate from the other claims for custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution. These are the claims dealing with the main issues that surround a separation. While you must be separated for one year before you file for divorce, you can file in court for custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution at the time you separate, or you can agree on all of these issues even before your separation in some instances. The divorce that is filed after the one-year of separation does not affect the other pending claims or your settlement if you have resolved everything already.
VERY IMPORTANT: Under North Carolina law, you must have either resolved your claims for equitable distribution and alimony before the divorce is granted OR you must have filed claims for equitable distribution and alimony before the divorce is granted. If a divorce has been filed against you and these other issues have not been resolved, you should contact an attorney to make sure you have properly preserved the claims for equitable distribution and alimony.
Under North Carolina law, you must have either resolved your claims for equitable distribution and alimony before the divorce is granted OR you must have filed claims for equitable distribution and alimony before the divorce is granted.
Possible Exemptions for Avoiding Fees
The courts understand that it’s extremely difficult for some couples seeking divorce to cover the fees for filing and serving papers. In such cases, it may be possible to get a filing fee exemption and avoid some or all of the cost to file for divorce in North Carolina.
One way to avoid court costs is to file as indigent and have the fees waived. Typically, receiving the following benefits qualifies you as indigent:
- Food and Nutrition Services
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Work First Family Assistance
If you think you qualify as indigent and want to avoid filing and serving fees, submit a Petition to Proceed as an Indigent (Form G-106), located on the North Carolina Courts website and at your county Clerk of Courts. Fill out the form and indicate your reason for applying as an indigent. If you do not receive any of the benefits listed above (Food and Nutrition Services, SSI, or Work First Family Assistance), check the box indicating that you are unable to advance the court filing costs.
Attorneys Can Help You Avoid Unnecessary Fees
While county clerks will help you find and submit the proper paperwork for your divorce case, they cannot provide legal guidance as you complete the forms.
If the cost to file for divorce in North Carolina is adding to your stress, an attorney may be able to help you avoid unnecessary spending and make the process go more smoothly. Myers Law Firm has a track record of successful client outcomes, and we’d be honored to assist you in your divorce proceedings and cost reduction.
Contact Myers Law Firm for Divorce Help Today
If your family is about to enter divorce proceedings, the knowledge and guidance of an experienced attorney can be invaluable, from helping you avoid filing fees to ensuring you achieve your goals for custody and alimony.
To schedule an initial consultation, please call (888) 376-2889 or fill in the simple contact form on our website. Let us put our experience to work for you!
North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission. (2019, June). North Carolina Divorce Packet. North Carolina Judicial Branch. https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/inline-files/NC-Divorce-Packet-Aug-2019.pdf
North Carolina Judicial Branch. (2012, December 1). Court Costs and Fees Chart. https://www.nccourts.gov/assets/documents/publications/court_costs_chart-1Dec2012-civil.pdf?lfc05ngZRmwkQGdR8vwSWiNmQIZ175Xu
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.