In North Carolina, there are two ways to obtain an “absolute” divorce. The first, is for the couple intending to divorce to live separate and apart for one year – that is being physically separated and not living together for at least a year and a day with the intent of no longer coexisting as a married couple – prior to filing to divorce. In North Carolina, as in all other 50 states in the country, this is considered a “no fault“ divorce, which essentially means that no particular reason is necessary for the divorce, other than that one spouse simply believes the marriage can no longer be maintained.
The other way to obtain an absolute divorce is if one spouse suffers from “incurable insanity”. This essentially means that one spouse suffers from a mental illness or impairment which prevents the spouses from continuing to live together as husband and wife. Typically, a judge will only grant an absolute divorce on these grounds if the illness has caused the spouses to live separate and apart for three consecutive years before the divorce proceedings began.
North Carolina also recognizes “fault-based” divorce, or “divorce from bed and board,” which require proof of misconduct. Typically, in a divorce from bed and board situation, the parties go to court, and the spouse who has been the victim of the misconduct attempts to prove to the judge that misconduct was committed. The judge may then issue a special divorce judgment declaring that the parties will no longer live together, and deciding some, though not all, of the marital issues. This type of divorce is only a limited, and not an absolute divorce, and the parties will still later have to return to court to obtain the absolute divorce at some point in the future.
Is an Attorney Really Necessary?
One question that we are frequently asked is whether an attorney is really necessary to get an absolute divorce in North Carolina. Many people mistakenly make the assumption that they can pursue a “self-help” (otherwise known as a “pro se” divorce), which is essentially a divorce that they pursue on their own without the assistance of an attorney, and in doing so, save money. The short and simple answer to this question is – no. Having an attorney it is not required – but for your divorce to go as smoothly as possible, it truly is the best choice and is highly recommended.
After all, from a legal perspective, “absolute divorce“ is simply the final piece of paper, the judgement, officially dissolving a marriage. As many who have been through a divorce can attest though, divorce is in reality far more than that. Divorce is a process – a very complex, and often lengthy and very emotionally difficult process.
The truth of the matter is that pursuing pro se divorce often ends up costing parties far more than they expect in the long run – and it can significantly add to the stress level that a couple experiences during a divorce. Because many people who pursue pro se divorce are not particularly familiar with the law, they may not have a sufficient understanding of the particulars of divorce practice, and all the nuances that apply to various circumstances. As a result, those who pursue an absolute divorce on their own may inadvertently sacrifice valuable rights and privileges they would have otherwise been entitled to.
This is not to mention that unlike an experienced attorney, those who pursue divorce on their own may not be familiar with how the court system works and with certain procedural rules and jurisdictional preferences that vary from county to county. Some of these mistakes can end up being quite costly. As a result, it is typically best to have an attorney represent you during the divorce process, to avoid making costly mistakes that you may later regret.
Call the Law Office of Dustin McCrary Today
At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we understand that people sometimes choose to pursue pro se absolute divorce on their own because they are concerned about the expense associated with hiring an attorney – and this worry is entirely understandable. It is why we are always honest and reasonable about our fees, and why we strive to keep those fees affordable for our clients. We firmly believe that each and every client deserves to pursue the divorce process with peace of mind and confidence that they are working toward the best outcome and a bright new chapter ahead. We’re here to help you do exactly that.