What is the Divorce Process in North Carolina?

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Divorce is an unpleasant reality for many people in North Carolina. The divorce rate in 2021 was 3.2 per 1000 people, an increase compared to the previous year. Divorces are most likely to happen in January around the holiday season, but they can, of course, occur at any time of the year.

If you are looking for legal assistance with divorce, the North Carolina divorce attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. can assist in the process. Our divorce attorneys have extensive experience with divorce cases in the state and can offer clear and practical advice to help simplify the more complicated aspects of North Carolina divorce law. Let us take on the legal challenges of any of the types of divorce while you focus on emotional recovery and moving on with your life.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in North Carolina?

One of the most common questions people going through the divorce process ask is how long everything will take. We understand that most people are eager for it to be over as soon as possible, but there is no single answer for how long it will take. The duration of the process is dependent on several factors, but the general rule is that contested divorces take longer.

Regarding the basic filing requirements with the clerk of court, it generally takes at least 45-90 days to get divorced in North Carolina. After divorce documents are served to your spouse, there is a 30-day waiting period even if your spouse signs the documents right away. Once the waiting period is over, the divorce can be finalized with the ultimate divorce judgment.

What Are the Steps to Getting a Divorce in North Carolina?

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Considering how difficult the divorce process in North Carolina law can be, it is useful to know the steps before moving forward. Here are all the essential steps to getting a divorce in North Carolina.

Step One: Separation Period

The first step in a divorce is establishing grounds for divorce. Since North Carolina is an at-fault state rather than a no-fault state, North Carolina divorce requires you to meet one of two requirements even for a no-fault divorce.

The first requirement is living apart from your spouse for a period of at least one year and one day. Throughout this separation, at least one of you must meet the requirement of being a resident of North Carolina for at least six months before filing for divorce. It does not invalidate the one-year separation if the first six months of that year of separation took place outside of North Carolina. An official separation agreement may or may not be part of this step, depending on the unique circumstances regarding your legal separation.

The only alternative to this is in cases of incurable insanity. If one spouse suffers from a severe mental illness and their treatment or circumstances necessitate that they live apart from their spouse for at least three years, you may also proceed with a divorce. You will need testimonials from doctors to demonstrate this in court in most cases.

Step Two: Serving the Divorce Papers

Once the separation period has been established, you will need to serve the divorce papers. The respondent has 30 days to answer to being served via certified mail or otherwise. If the divorce is contested, it may be best to have an attorney file and serve the other party instead of doing it personally.

Step Three: Asset Division

As part of the divorce, you will need to determine how property will be divided between you and your spouse. Marital property is the only property typically up for distribution. It specifically refers to property that was obtained from the date of marriage through the date of separation, whether it be small items or real estate. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, meaning that North Carolina courts tend to see a fair property division between divorcing spouses.

Step Four: Child Custody and Support

Child custody and support varies based on the circumstances of the individual divorce, but most cases involve the parents having joint legal custody of their children. In most cases, only one parent is granted primary physical custody, though joint physical custody is possible too. The courts in North Carolina will make a decision based on the best interests of the child. Note that this process, in addition to child support, can be started prior to the divorce being finalized.

Step Five: Alimony

Alimony is not included in a divorce filing, so you must file for it separately. Afterward, the court will investigate the financial situations of both parties to determine what kind of spousal support will be most equitable. Having an attorney on your side can help you get the result you want regarding alimony filings and determine which type of alimony or post-separation support will work best for your situation.

How Much Does an NC Divorce Cost?

The total cost of a divorce in North Carolina varies based on your unique situation, but the filing fee for an absolute divorce action is $225. Just about every action that is required in the process has its own fee. You will need to factor these costs into your budget as well. These include fees for serving papers to your spouse and filing other relevant documents with the court.

If you are looking for a name change, that comes with an additional fee. It is important to remember that a contested divorce tends to be much more expensive because the process lasts longer.

Who Is Supposed to Leave the House in a Divorce in North Carolina?

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If you and your spouse cannot agree on who leaves the marital house in a divorce, you will need to get the courts involved. They have no inherent favor toward either spouse, so you will have to produce evidence to support a claim that your spouse should be divorced from bed and board. While an antiquated concept, family law still utilizes it as a judicially sanctioned separation in situations in which it is necessary. Every case varies, but you can generally force the other spouse out by demonstrating they have committed one of the following faults:

  • Willingly leaving the marriage without just cause and without consent of the spouse
  • Maliciously turning the other spouse out of doors
  • Cruel treatment that endangers the life of the spouse (domestic violence)
  • Indignities that create an intolerable and burdensome life condition
  • Excessive alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Adultery

Why Should I Hire a North Carolina Divorce Attorney?

The divorce process is tough enough to deal with at the best of times, so it is always helpful to have a North Carolina divorce lawyer to help you with the process and let you focus on emotional recovery and moving on. The division of property, alimony, custody, and more are all crucial factors that can impact the rest of your life. Seek help from a North Carolina family law attorney to help protect your legal rights in court.

Our experienced Charlotte divorce attorneys can do the work for you. At Melone Hatley, our Mecklenburg County law firm is happy to offer free eBooks, free legal advice videos, and easy online scheduling. Call us at 800-479-8124 or complete our online contact form to schedule an appointment with a client services coordinator.

Ben Hefferon

Written By Ben Hefferon

Ben Hefferon is a native of Charlotte and has consistently been rated by his peers as a top divorce and family law attorney. His commitment to his clients and dedication to the field of law make him an invaluable asset in navigating the complexities of your case.
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