If the personal connection between you and your spouse has led to a decision to end your marriage, it is important to recognize that you are dissolving a legal relationship as well. As such, you need to follow the process and meet the requirements as defined by North Carolina’s statute on divorce. Failure to comply with the relevant laws and procedural rules could lead to delays and errors in divorce proceedings, and could also harm your interests through unfortunate mistakes.
Instead of putting your rights at risk, your first priority should be retaining a Monroe, NC divorce attorney who will tackle the legal challenges involved with how to file for divorce in North Carolina. Your lawyer can guide you through the process and handle essential tasks, including:
- Physical Separation: Even before filing your documents to initiate the divorce process, you and your spouse need to physically separate for at least one year. Specifically, this means you must live in separate residences; if you do cohabitate, you may not meet this prerequisite, so you could delay divorce proceedings. On a related matter, you should note that one spouse must also have resided in North Carolina for at least six months.
- Negotiations and Mediation Options: Many parties are able to resolve divorce issues through settlement, including:
- Asset division;
- Alimony; and,
- Child custody, visitation, and support.
If you and your spouse can reach a compromise on any or all of these issues, it may be possible to enter a separation agreement or consent order in court – thereby avoiding a trial. Mediation is also an option for resolving disputes. During this proceeding, a trained mediator will guide the parties in productive conversations with a goal to facilitate agreement.
- Final Hearing and Trial: Any divorce issue that remains in dispute must go to court for a hearing, during which both parties will have the opportunity to testify, present witnesses, and introduce documentary evidence. The judge will review the facts and apply the divorce laws of North Carolina to make a decision on equitable distribution of marital property, spousal support, and issues related to minor children. These issues can be tried before or after the divorce becomes final.
- 4. Filing the Complaint for Divorce: As your year of physical separation comes to a close, you and your attorney can prepare the paperwork to start divorce proceedings. The main document is the complaint for absolute divorce, in which you state the facts and request the court to dissolve your marriage. Because North Carolina is a no-fault state for purposes of divorce, you do not need to show cause or include allegations that your spouse was at fault. The only issue for divorce is have you and your spouse been separated for one year. If you have not resolved your asset division (equitable distribution) or spousal support (alimony) prior to the divorce judgment you must raise them at that time or those claims shall be lost forever.
Consult with a North Carolina Divorce Lawyer About Your Options
While this overview may help you understand the basics regarding how to file for divorce in North Carolina, it is important to work with experienced legal counsel who will help with the details. To learn how our team can assist with your divorce, please contact Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long, LLP to set up a consultation at our offices in Monroe, NC.