We hate to do it to you, but the answer is “it depends.” There are a lot of factors at work in determining how long a divorce will take. Some of them you can control, while others may be unavoidable.
First, there are time limits in the law. To get divorced in North Carolina, you must meet these two criteria:
- At least one spouse must have lived in North Carolina for the past six months
- The spouses have lived separately for a year and a day, with at least one spouse intending the separation to be permanent
So, that means you will have to wait at least a year and a day after the point at which one of you has moved out of your residence. If you’re looking to get divorced as soon as possible, you must begin living apart immediately.
Once that year and a day have passed, you can file for divorce. However, you will have to serve the papers to your spouse, and they have 30 days to file a response. Additionally, they can ask for an additional 30 days, under certain circumstances.
If you meet the criteria for a divorce at that point, you can ask the court for a summary judgment ruling. This means that there is no dispute for the court to hear. It will take about three to five weeks for the judge to review your motion for summary judgment from the time it is filed and, if it is approved, issue a final divorce judgment. At that point, you are officially divorced.
Decide whether you can negotiate or mediate your issues
To complete your case, you will have the option to negotiate or mediate answers to some or all of the following issues:
- How will we divide our shared property and debt fairly?
- Who will have authority over the kids and how will we divide our time parenting?
- Who will pay child support and how much?
- Will there be alimony and, if so, how much?
If you are unable to resolve these issues you can still get a divorce and preserve the claims by having them filed with the court before your divorce judgment is signed.
If you can’t negotiate or mediate solutions to all of your issues, the remaining issues will have to be resolved in a court hearing, either before or after your divorce is official. This hearing takes time to schedule. Once you have your hearing, the judge will need time – perhaps several weeks – to come to a decision and issue a final judgment.
If you have decided to divorce, get started by hiring a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile to help.