When you legally terminate your marriage in North Carolina, it is called an “absolute divorce.” To obtain the divorce, you must meet residency requirements, establish grounds for the divorce and file and serve all required forms and other documents.
The process of obtaining the divorce may sound simple and straightforward, but many complex issues may surround your divorce such as:
If you are contemplating a separation or divorce in North Carolina, you should work with an experienced divorce lawyer who will guide you through these issues and make sure your rights and interests are fully protected.
The attorneys of Strickland, Agner & Associates have a deep background in handling divorce and related legal issues for clients in Goldsboro and surrounding areas in North Carolina.
We can provide services to you that include:
- Making sure all of your divorce paperwork is properly and timely handled.
- Conducting a thorough investigation of your case to determine the marital assets and debts that could be distributed between you and your spouse.
- Helping you to file for post separation support and alimony or challenge any claims for post separation support or alimony.
- Helping you file for child custody and child support or ensure that the amount of child support you are ordered to pay is fair and as low as the law allows
- Seeking an acceptable separation agreement and/or custody order that resolves all issues surrounding your divorce.
- Representing you at any necessary hearings.
If you work with us on your divorce, you will quickly see that our sole focus at Strickland, Agner & Associates will be on you and your goals.
The following is important information that you should know about absolute divorce in North Carolina. To discuss the specific facts and issues in your divorce, call us today or reach us online.
- What Is North Carolina’s Residency Requirement for an Absolute Divorce?
- What Are the Grounds for an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina?
- How Do You File for a North Carolina Absolute Divorce?
- What Is a Divorce from Bed and Board in North Carolina?
- How Should You Prepare for Your North Carolina Absolute Divorce?
What Is North Carolina’s Residency Requirement for an Absolute Divorce?
To meet the residency requirement for a North Carolina absolute divorce, at least one party – you or your spouse – must have legally resided within the state for at least six months prior to filing the divorce complaint. This means that the party must physically reside in North Carolina with the intent to indefinitely or permanently remain here.
When you file a divorce complaint, which initiates the divorce process, you will file it in the county where either you or your spouse resides.
For instance, if you and your spouse both live in Wayne County, you would file for divorce in Wayne County. If you remained in Wayne County, while your spouse moved to a different county or state, you could still file the divorce complaint in Wayne County.
What Are the Grounds for an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina?
North Carolina is a “no-fault divorce” state. To obtain a divorce, you do not need to show that one spouse did something wrong. Instead, you must establish either of these two grounds for a divorce:
Separate and Apart
This is the most commonly asserted ground for a divorce in North Carolina. You must establish that you and your spouse:
- Have lived physically separate and apart
- For a continuous period of one year prior to the filing of the divorce complaint, with the intent of remaining separate and apart.
You and your spouse must live in different homes – not different bedrooms in the same home – to meet this requirement.
If you and your spouse reconcile and live together (cohabitate) at any point after your initial separation date, it breaks the continuity. If you separated again, you would need to remain separated for 12 continuous months before you could establish your eligibility for a divorce.
To establish this ground, you must show that you and your spouse have lived physically separate and apart for a continuous three-year period (presumably because your spouse needed to be institutionalized or treated).
You would also need to show that your spouse is legally insane. You would need to establish this fact through the expert testimony of two doctors – one doctor from the institution treating your spouse and another doctor unconnected to that institution.
How Do You File for a North Carolina Absolute Divorce?
To file for an absolute divorce in North Carolina, you must go through the following steps:
- Filing – You must file three documents with the Clerk of Court in the county where either you or your spouse resides:
- Complaint – A formal request for a divorce which contains basic information such as your name, your spouse, your respective addresses, the date and place of marriage, whether there are children in the marriage and the grounds for your divorce.
- Verification – A sworn, notarized statement that affirms the accuracy of what you stated in the complaint.
- Summons – A document essentially informing your spouse that the divorce complaint has been filed and a hearing will be held.
At the time you file these documents, you will need to pay a $225 filing fee in cash to the clerk’s office. If you have not done so already, you may also choose to file at this time for alimony, equitable distribution of property, child custody or child support.
- Service – After you file the three above documents, you must serve all three documents on your spouse. This is called “service of process.” You can serve your spouse by certified mail or by using the sheriff ‘s office in the county where your spouse resides. For proof of service, the sheriff’s office will file a certification of the summons, or you will file an affidavit of service.
- Answer / Counterclaims – Your spouse will have 30 days from service in which to file an answer in which the spouse admits or denies the facts alleged in the divorce complaint. The spouse may also choose to file one or more counterclaims at this time. Keep in mind: The only real issue that your spouse can dispute to hold up the divorce is the date of separation.
- Hearing – Once an answer is filed or after 30 days after service of the complaint and summons, you must serve the spouse with a notice of hearing. The hearing date must be no less than 10 days from the service of the notice. The Clerk of Court will provide you with the hearing date. You (and your lawyer) must appear at the hearing, where a judge will review the evidence and enter a divorce judgment.
- Filing the divorce judgment – After the court enters judgment, you must file three copies of the judgment with the Clerk of Court’s office. Once an absolute divorce is entered, you are free to remarry. If you wish to return to your maiden name, you can also file appropriate paperwork at this time.
When an absolute divorce is granted, you should know that any claim for alimony and equitable distribution of property will be barred.
For this reason, you and your spouse (working with your lawyers) should seek a separation agreement that resolves those issues before your divorce hearing takes place. In most cases, you will use mediation to reach that agreement.
Additionally, if children were born to the marriage, you and your spouse should seek to resolve your child custody and child support issues ahead of the divorce hearing date.
If you are served with a complaint and summons for absolute divorce, you should contact a lawyer immediately. If you fail to answer the complaint within 30 days or take any other legal action, you may lose your right to alimony and equitable distribution.
What Is a Divorce from Bed and Board in North Carolina?
A divorce from bed and board is different from an absolute divorce. It is essentially a legal means by which to force a separation. Although it can establish certain important rights, it does not terminate your marriage like an absolute divorce does.
In most cases, a divorce from bed and board is sought when one spouse refuses to leave the marital home or to reach a separation agreement.
You do not need a divorce from bed and board in order to separate from your spouse and start the 12-month period required for obtaining an absolute divorce.
In order to obtain a divorce from bed and board, you must meet the same residency requirement as in an absolute divorce and go through a similar filing and service process.
Unlike an absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board is fault-based. The grounds for divorce from bed and board are:
- Cruel and barbarous treatment that endangers the life of the other spouse
- Indignities that render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Maliciously turning the other out the doors.
The spouse who is served with a complaint for divorce from bed and board may raise defenses. For example, the spouse can argue that you condoned the conduct that you now assert as grounds for a divorce from bed and board.
A hearing date will be scheduled, and a court order will enter an order that either allows or denies the action.
If you file for divorce from bed and board, you may choose to file for spousal support, equitable distribution of property, child custody and child support at the same time.
How You Should Prepare for Your North Carolina Absolute Divorce?
If you are contemplating getting a divorce in North Carolina, you should consider taking these steps in order to prepare yourself for the process that lies ahead:
- Gather all of your financial information, including a tally of your savings and how much income you earn and spend each month.
- Make a list of all property that you believe is marital property and could be divided between spouses.
- Set a budget for yourself and your children.
- Find a place to live if you plan to leave the marital home.
- Open personal financial accounts so that you can keep your financial affairs separate from your spouse during the separation period.
- If you plan to have custody of your children, notify the school, daycare or relatives looking after your children so they will know, for instance, that you will be the person dropping off and picking up the children.
Our North Carolina Divorce Attorneys Can Help You
The process of obtaining an absolute divorce in North Carolina can be a stressful and emotional experience. At Strickland, Agner & Associates, we will focus on easing your stress and making sure your top priorities are served at every stage in the process.
We work with clients in Goldsboro and surrounding areas in North Carolina. Contact us today to discuss your case.
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