Approximately 33,600 divorces were filed in North Carolina in 2022. If you’re one of the many facing this difficult transition, here’s what you need to know…
In order to get a divorce in North Carolina, either you or your spouse must live in North Carolina and have lived here for at least six months. Assuming you meet that requirement, here are the six basic steps:
Live apart for a year
You or your partner live apart for a year with at least one of you intending for that separation to be permanent. Make a note of the date you started living apart. As soon as you can, hire your attorney to set up a separation agreement. This is a legal agreement between you and your divorcing spouse that temporarily covers your financial issues and child custody arrangements during the separation and divorce period.
File papers with the court and pay the filing fee
Generally, your lawyer helps you with these and handles the filing because it’s crucial for the paperwork to be complete and correct.
Here are the steps required to initiate divorce:
- Serve your spouse. According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, this generally requires only mailing the appropriate documents to your spouse using the U.S. Post Service’s certified mail and return receipt service. Or, you can use a paid delivery service such as FedEx or UPS with a signature requirement. You will need to file the returned receipt or signature with the court. Your lawyer can take care of this, including in those cases where a process server or other service method is needed.
- Negotiation. Either directly or through your lawyer, you will generally try to come to a resolution on all the issues of divorce. These include child custody, visitation, child support, dividing your property and debts, and alimony. If you can come to an agreement on all the issues, the remainder of the divorce process is relatively quick and painless.
- Mediation. If you can’t negotiate an agreement, the next step is generally mediation, which is an out-of-court settlement process the courts require. A neutral mediator will help you and your divorcing spouse communicate effectively and come to your own resolution of the divorce issues if you can.
- Court hearing: If you still can’t reach agreement, there will be a court trial. If you have reached agreement, however, there only needs to be a short hearing. At the end of the hearing, the judge will issue a divorce judgment. This means your divorce is final.
It’s important to note that a lot of issues can arise during the negotiation or mediation process. How long it will take and how much it will cost depends on the complexity of the issues and how quickly you and your divorcing spouse can come to an agreement.
Contact an experienced, compassionate divorce attorney who knows how to handle tough, emotional issues and who will put your family first.