If you’re considering a divorce in North Carolina, you may be holding your breath, wondering what’s next. While it can be difficult to think about the changes that lie ahead, knowledge is the key to moving forward with your life as you navigate the North Carolina divorce process. This guide answers the most commonly asked questions about getting divorced in your state.
Since divorces in North Carolina are “no-fault,” the basic procedure is simple and straightforward. While the court might take the behavior of you or your spouse into consideration when determining child custody as well as the division of property and debt, neither of you has to find fault with the other.
You or your spouse must be a legal resident of the state to file for divorce, and you must have resided there for at least six months. Additionally, you must be separated from your spouse for twelve months before being granted an “absolute divorce.” The state of North Carolina uses the term “absolute divorce” instead of the more common term “final divorce.”
Additionally, an absolute divorce may be granted if the husband and wife have been living separate and apart without cohabitation for three consecutive years, due to one spouse’s incurable insanity.
Like many other states, North Carolina residents may go through the process of Contested Divorce or Uncontested Divorce. In uncontested divorces, both parties are able to agree to potential issues such as child custody, alimony, property division, and division of debt. In a contested divorce, the parties disagree.
Many states stop at these two distinctions. North Carolina has a few more options. The state’s third type of divorce is called Divorce from Bed and Board. This can be confusing, because getting a North Carolina divorce from bed and board doesn’t mean that you’re legally divorced. Instead, it’s a term for legal, judicially authorized separation. If you’re considering a divorce from bed & board as an alternative to legal divorce, at least one of the following situations must exist:
Divorce from Bed and Board is rarely granted, but when it is, there’s no need for a six-month filing period. If you think that you are eligible for this type of legal separation and you need help getting the offending spouse out of your home, you may file with the court right away.
In case you and your spouse have difficulty agreeing but you’d like to avoid traditional litigation, you may choose to work with a mediator. The mediated divorce process is undertaken with the goal of reaching a tailored divorce agreement, which may then be submitted to the court for judgement. Some North Carolina divorce mediators are attorneys, while others are family court specialists who can take a neutral stance and help both parties during the dissolution process.
There are two main advantages to mediated divorce: First, this process is typically far less costly than litigation. Second, people tend to adhere to their divorce agreements when they have played a role in the decision-making process. Mediation can be less emotionally taxing, as well.
In North Carolina, collaborative divorce is a step up from mediated divorce. This procedure usually involves two attorneys or mediators instead of one, and it often calls for assistance from divorce coaches and/or financial specialists who can help both parties come to a mutual agreement.
If you think that you might need to move to litigation, you will have to hire a second attorney since attorneys who assist in collaborative divorces are barred from representing either party once a contested legal proceeding begins. If, on the other hand, you think that you and your spouse will be able to reach an agreement without a judge’s intervention, you may find that collaborative divorce is less costly than traditional litigation.
While an annulment is not the same as a divorce, it is a legal dissolution of marriage. In North Carolina, annulments are granted in cases of bigamy, i.e. when one spouse is already legally married to another person at the time of the second marriage. The following circumstances are also considered grounds for annulment in North Carolina:
Because North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, the court decides how to divide marital property so that each party receives a fair share, according to the net value of the property. The state’s laws define marital property as “all real and personal property acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the course of the marriage and before the date of the separation of the parties, and presently owned, except property determined to be separate property or divisible property.” Non-vested pensions, retirement accounts, and other forms of deferred compensation are included, along with any vested and/or non-vested military pensions that are deemed eligible under requirements laid out under the Federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA).
If the court determines that one spouse is dependent on the other, then the dependent spouse may be awarded alimony. Other factors besides dependency go into the court’s decision to award spousal support in North Carolina. In general, the court uses its discretion and takes the entire picture into account.
Claims of adultery or illicit sexual behavior prior to or on the date of separation, on the part of either spouse or both spouses. If the dependent spouse was the only one to commit adultery, then the court shall not award spousal support. If the supporting spouse was the only one to commit adultery, then spousal support shall be awarded to the dependent spouse. When both spouses committed adultery, it is up to the court to determine whether this behavior is a deciding factor in awarding alimony.
Some other deciding factors include:
Dependent spouses may be eligible for post separation support, which is awarded after a hearing but before divorce is final. Marital misconduct on the part of either spouse can have an impact on whether post separation support is awarded, as can additional factors including those outlined above.
Divorce can be a complicated, draining and expensive process, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking to file for an uncontested divorce in California, do it the easy way with our friends at It’s Over Easy, the only online divorce solution that guides you through every aspect of your case, founded by celebrity divorce lawyer Laura A. Wasser.
“After practicing Family Law for over 20 years I came to realize that people deserve a better way to get divorced. I founded It’s Over Easy to give people a high-quality, less expensive & more amicable option. Our platform takes the user through the entire dissolution process. We provide information and support along the way through our content on our Insights Blog, the Divorce Sucks! Podcast and The Index, our curated professional and lifestyle resource guide. Divorce is difficult but the legal part shouldn’t have to be.”
–Laura A. Wasser
You may find the following resources helpful when gathering advice on the divorce process:\n
National Association of
Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice on any subject matter. Consult with an attorney for more information regarding your individual situation.
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