If you are considering a divorce, or if you have already made the decision to divorce and are wondering how to move forward, you might have many questions. That’s entirely understandable. Without a doubt, divorce can be a complex and often difficult process, as couples attempt to work through personal and emotional issues, and to make practical decisions about a variety of important matters in their lives.
When faced with so many decisions and changes, the divorce process itself can seem overwhelming, and that’s understandable. The good news though, is that it doesn’t have to be. Often, breaking a complex process down into smaller steps can be quite helpful. With that in mind, let’s take a look together at the basics of filing for divorce in North Carolina:
- No fault is needed: First and foremost, it’s important to understand that North Carolina, like many states, is now a “no-fault” divorce state. This essentially means that neither spouse needs to prove that the other spouse did anything “wrong” or engaged in any sort of marital misconduct that led to the end of the marriage. Historically, fault was often an important concept in the divorce process – but it is no longer so today. Today, in North Carolina and most other states, a couple can decide to divorce for their own personal reasons – whatever those reasons may be. Deciding to divorce is only the first step of the process, however.
- Residency requirement: Many states have “residency requirements” for those couples who are seeking a divorce. Generally, this is simply a certain amount of time that at least one spouse must have resided in the state before being able to file. In North Carolina, the residency requirement is six months.
- Legal separation: After deciding that divorce is the best path forward and fulfilling the residency requirement, the next step in the process of filing for and obtaining a divorce is beginning a legal separation. In North Carolina, before being able to obtain a divorce a couple must live separate and apart for at least a year, with the intent to end the marriage. Generally, this means living in separate residences – not simply living in separate rooms in the same home. If at any time the couple moves back in together, or resume behaving and interacting as a married couple, the clock will stop running, and the separation period will need to begin again if the parties later decide that they do indeed want to move forward with a divorce.
- Finding the right attorney: Many couples choose to retain attorneys at the beginning of the separation period, and that is usually with good reason. Often, parents will want to enter into an agreement during their separation setting forth how issues will be handled during that time – issues involving custody of their children, finances, and various other matters. This is not to mention the fact that during the separation period, many people want to use that time to look toward the future – to think about what the next chapter may look like, and to plan ahead for it. Retaining a competent, knowledgeable, and experienced attorney can be tremendously helpful as spouses attempt to organize necessary information, identify important issues, and generally prepare and plan for the divorce itself, and the future that lies ahead afterward. Finding the right attorney is essential – so it is not a decision that should be made quickly, or without thought. Really take the necessary time to think through your objectives, including what type of dynamic you want to cultivate during the divorce process, and the goals you have for the issues that matter to you the most. Don’t hesitate to meet with several attorneys in the course of trying to find the one who you believe will be best suited to help you through your divorce. The effort to find the right one will be well worth it and can make all the difference between a smooth and successful divorce process, and a stressful one.
- Filling out and filing necessary paperwork: From a technical perspective, those who want to file for divorce will need to fill out the necessary paperwork. This paperwork technically consists of a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, a Civil Summons, and a Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The summons will ultimately be “served” on one spouse by the other – which is essentially a way of sending an official legal notification that a process, in this case, a divorce, has been initiated. The complaint will set forth the details regarding the divorce itself. At this point, the divorce will officially be underway.
- Address and resolve necessary issues: As noted, during a divorce, many issues arise. There will be issues pertaining to your children, if you have them– issues regarding your custody arrangement, and child support. There may be issues regarding alimony or spousal support. Couples will also need to address and resolve how they will divide and distribute any assets or debts. Depending on your circumstances, you may have any number of other issues to resolve as well. As a couple, you will need to determine how you want to resolve those issues – whether in or outside of, a courtroom. Increasingly, many couples are choosing to resolve their issues out of a courtroom – through alternative resolution methods like mediation, lawyer-led settlement negotiations, or collaborative law. Often, these methods are preferred by many couples because they provide the freedom and flexibility to address issues in a way that works for each individual family – as opposed to having those matters decided by a judge. After all, even the most well-intentioned of judges will never know and understand your family the way that you do. In other circumstances, however, the dynamic between a couple is simply of such a nature that cooperating in a casual setting outside of a courtroom won’t work. In those cases, the best option may be to have a judge decide the issues between you.
- Obtain a decree of divorce: After you have gone through this process, and all issues have been resolved, you’ll obtain what is known as an official “decree” of divorce. Once that decree is granted, you will no longer be married in the eyes of the law, and you’ll be free to move ahead toward your next chapter, and all that it holds.
While this is a general “step-by-step” summation of the process that many couples in North Carolina go through to seek and obtain a divorce, it’s important to remember that every couple is different. Each couple will have their own unique circumstances, and as a result, certain aspects of the divorce process may vary. That’s why it’s important to seek advice and representation from an attorney you trust. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here for you.
The Law Office of Dustin McCrary – Here for You
Whether you are considering filing for divorce in North Carolina, or whether you are already somewhere in the midst of the divorce process, at the Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’ll meet you wherever you are. We’re passionate about helping clients through each step of the divorce process with the right blend of compassionate and comprehensive representation you need. We know divorce law. We’ve represented countless clients just like you, who want to move forward toward a better and brighter chapter ahead. We’re here to help you get there.
If you need help with any aspect of the divorce process, there’s no time like now to take the first step and give us a call. We would be honored to have the opportunity to listen, learn about you, and let you know how we may be able to assist you. At the Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we consider it a privilege to serve this community, and we are proud of our reputation for doing that well. We look forward to speaking with you soon.