Divorce Lawyer in North Carolina
Nobody plans for divorce. Everyone hopes to be in the other half of the population who will stay married, but sometimes it is just what is best for all involved. A marriage creates legal rights and responsibilities, and divorce is the process of dissolving them. It’s not only the separation of two individuals; however, it’s the separation of all the things that you share – children, assets, etc.
In the most basic terms, divorce is a legal process of termination of a marriage by dissolving the bonds of matrimony between a married couple. It entails reorganization or cancelation of legal responsibilities and duties of a legal relationship –marriage.
In North Carolina, you MUST live separately and apart from your spouse for ONE YEAR before you can file for divorce. This physical separation is also considered a legal separation, as no paperwork is required for you to declare yourself separated. But you must live in different residences (not just in separate rooms). One of you almost must have been living in North Carolina for a minimum of the last six months from time of filing.
If you are thinking about separating from your partner, you have to go through this detailed guide before. We at Camino Law can be your divorce lawyer in North Carolina – we can’t make the process entirely painless, but we can make the process a lot easier.
Contact us at 336-365-0749 to schedule a time to discuss your case.
Here’s all you need to know about divorce laws in North Carolina! Please review this guide before you initiate the process:
What is an ‘Absolute Divorce’?
When there is no dispute as to what assets there are to divide, AND you have been separated for one year, you can file for what is called “Absolute Divorce.” This means you and your spouse have either already entered into a separation agreement regarding the division of your assets, OR you have no assets to divide (you rent your home, you don’t own it, you each have your own car, etc.) – this is the simplest type of divorce because it can be handled without scheduling complicated court appearances and hearings.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce is a divorce in which both partners have disagreed on one or many divorce-related outcomes, such as division of assets, child custody and support, and alimony. The contested divorce demands legal or court assistance for negotiating in the divorce hearings in court.
If you and your spouse do not agree, you can also choose divorce meditation or collaborative divorce. However, in a contested divorce, it is helpful if both parties retain competent legal representation to navigate the process.
Eligibility Criteria for Divorce in North Carolina
Anyone who lives in North Carolina and is married legally to his/her spouse is eligible for divorce. The state where the couple got married has nothing to do with divorce in North Carolina. Anyone who meets the following two requirements is eligible to file for divorce:
1. You and your spouse must have been living separately for one year and at least one of you intended to dissolve the marriage.
2. One of you must have been a resident of North Carolina for six months before filing a divorce case.
The paperwork can’t be initiated unless one of you has the intention to end the relationship – but even if the other party is not in agreement (i.e. he or she doesn’t want the marriage to end), the person who wants to end things is still free to do so.
This separation requirement is crucial and must be for one complete, uninterrupted year. If you reconcile with your spouse after 11 months apart and then decide to separate again, you’ll have to start the one-year separation all over again.
A Step-by-Step Process of Filing Divorce in North Carolina
Divorce is a complex legal procedure that depends upon the laws of the state you are living in. Here’s a complete process of filing a divorce petition in North Carolina:
1. Physical Separation from Your Spouse
When a couple decides that things aren’t going to resolve between them, the first requirement for legal separation demands physical separation of the couple. The physical separation period must be at least 12 months with no reconciliation of the couple in between.
A legally separated person can’t remarry until the divorce is finalized, but he or she can obtain orders for the following:
⁌ Child Custody
⁌ Child support
⁌ Distribution of Assets
⁌ Post-Separation Support
2. Filing a Divorce Complaint
After completion of the one-year legal separation period, you can then initiate your claim for Absolute Divorce, which can include at a minimum, the following documents:
1. Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
2. Civil Summons
3. Complaint for Absolute Divorce
4. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Affidavit
5. Judgment of Absolute divorce
6. Certificate of Absolute Divorce
To proceed to the next step, you must have at least completed the Complaint for Absolute Divorce, Civil Summons, Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Affidavit. Take the three copies of these forms to the clerk’s office. The state filing fee is $225.
Your case will be allocated with a file number, and you will receive 2 copies of your complaint package with a ‘file-stamp’ from the clerk; one copy for the you and one copy for your spouse (the defendant).
3. Serving the Defendant
Once your case has been filed, it must be sent to the other party before anything else can happen. This can often be the “bumpiest” part of the process since the Rules of Civil Procedure are so strict and so specific. You cannot just hand the documents to your spouse, or email them over – instead, you must serve one of the methods below:
Service by Sheriff
The easiest and safest method by which your spouse can receive the divorce complaint is by sending it through the sheriff. The complaint and summons package must be dropped off with the sheriff, and there is a $30 fee.
Once the documents are successfully delivered to your spouse, the sheriff will return the original copy to the clerk’s office, which proves to the court that the papers were properly served.
Service by Certified Mail
In the alternative, you can choose deliver the divorce complaint and summons through certified mail. This is handled at any United States Post Office, and there must be a green return card affixed to the envelope. Upon receiving the papers, your spouse must sign that green card, and when it comes back to you, you will need to submit it to the court with an Affidavit of Service.
Service by Publication
As a last resort, if neither of the above methods work, or in the event that you truly have no idea where your spouse resides, you can serve your spouse through an announcement in the local newspaper. This method is time-consuming and expensive, and would be a good place to consult a North Carolina divorce lawyer for guidance.
4. Wait 30 Days
After serving the defendant, the following things will happen:
If you are filing for absolute divorce and there is nothing in dispute, you simply have to wait the 30 days after your spouse has been served. This requirement is to allow the other party to file an answer -- perhaps he or she wants to contest what you are alleging or ask for claims that he or she believes are in dispute.
⁌ If no answer has been received after 30 days, the Clerk will review your file to be sure that all elements have been met (residency, year of separation, service) – if there are no problems with the filing, the Clerk may grant your divorce, and there is no appearing in court.
⁌ You will need to keep an eye on the calendar to note the end of that 30-day period, since the Clerk will not contact you (this is where lots of cases fall apart – the divorce is not final without one last step, and it is easy to overlook it if you are representing yourself). You will need to return to the Clerk’s office to request that the Clerk finalize everything.
⁌ If your spouse, on the other hand, contests any part of the case and files an answer and counterclaim, it is wise to seek the advice of an attorney, as the case has now moved to the litigation phase.
How to Split Your Marital Assets
North Carolina court divides marital assets “equitably” to both plaintiff and the defendant. Marital assets include the following:
⁌ Real Property
⁌ Personal Property (cars, furniture, jewelry, etc.)
⁌ Bank Accounts
⁌ Retirement and pension accounts
⁌ Debts –auto loans, mortgages, credit card debt
The things you owned before the marriage are considered separate property, which will not be included in marital assets for division.
In North Carolina, the division of assets is done based on equitable distribution, with both parties receiving an equal share of both assets AND debts. There are many steps to the Equitable Distribution phase, including mandatory mediation, exchange of income affidavits and other accountability to the court to facilitate a resolution. A North Carolina divorce attorney can guide you through the process.
What About Child Custody, Child Support, and Alimony?
Claims for child custody, child support, and alimony can complicate and impact the outcome of divorce.
Child custody is a legal process that determines the legal and physical custody of the children. If your child is living with you and you are taking care of his day-to-day needs, you have physical custody of the child. However, legal custody refers to the responsibility and right to make important decisions for the child. The most important decisions include healthcare, education, and religious practice.
Child support is court-ordered financial assistance by one parent to the other.. The amount is based on the income of both parties and the time each parent spends with the children.
Alimony is financial aid by “the supporting spouse” to the “dependent spouse” to ensure the financial stability of that spouse, even after the dissolution of the marriage.
Child custody child support and alimony are detailed and complex procedures that demand multiple filings and court appearances. You can read our detailed guides to learn more.
Get Help From A Divorce Attorney in North Carolina
A divorce is a significant event in one’s life that has a major impact on the future. It demands a divorce attorney who not only has a good understanding of divorce law but also has the warmth and ability to communicate the process so you feel more confident.
Our attorneys at Camino Law are client-focused and child-centered, we have handled hundreds of family law cases, have a track record of favorable client results, and we prioritize communication and client care throughout. We propose unique suggestions and the best possible solutions to problems like child custody, child support, and alimony.
If you’re looking for a capable, experienced, and skilled attorney to handle your divorce case, call us today at 336-365-0749 to hire your North Carolinadivorce lawyer.