The dissolution of a marriage through divorce is often a complex process involving personal matters and financial considerations. North Carolina, like many states, offers “no-fault” divorce, which means neither party has to prove the other has caused their marriage to end. North Carolina also enables couples to execute a divorce without legal help.
The outline below explains the steps in a divorce in North Carolina. Call the Raleigh divorce attorneys of Charles R. Ullman & Associates or use our online contact form for more information and assistance. We serve clients throughout Raleigh and Wake County.
Steps for Separation and Divorce in North Carolina
Divorce is a complex legal process that is different in each case. But, in general, divorce in North Carolina proceeds as follows:
Separation - A married couple that decides to end their marriage and divorce first becomes separated. This is a physical separation, which requires the couple to not live together, i.e., not cohabitate. However, a couple that is physically separated is not deemed legally separated in North Carolina unless one of the spouses obtains a “divorce from bed and board.” Different grounds may be cited to obtain a legal separation.If a spouse abandons the other, engages in cruel or barbarous treatment, abuses drugs, commits adultery, or otherwise engages in a pattern of conduct that makes the filing spouse’s “condition intolerable and life burdensome,” the spouse can obtain a divorce from bed and board. A legal separation does not entitle a person to remarry, but a legally separated spouse may obtain orders for:
Post-separation support and permanent alimony
Divorce - To obtain an absolute divorce, which is final termination of marriage, one spouse must file a divorce complaint with the Clerk of Court in the county of their residence. A divorce attorney may file the notice on behalf of a client.The county Sheriff (or a deputy) will then serve the divorce complaint upon the other spouse. In most cases a divorce notice is delivered by certified mail.After the couple has lived separate and apart for at least 12 consecutive months, either spouse may then file for a legal divorce. This is if at least one of the two, at the time of the separation, intended for the separation to be permanent. Also, if the couple reconciled during the separation – actually moved back in together, not just having had isolated incidents of marital relations – the calendar on the 12 consecutive months of separation re-sets to when they split again. Upon filing for a divorce, such factors as child support, spousal support, child custody and asset division come to the fore. Decisions and agreements in each of these areas should be made before a divorce goes to court.
Mediation - If you and your spouse are engaging in an amicable divorce, you may choose to enter into mediation. In some cases, the court will order mediation. Mediation can mean the difference between a lengthy, expensive and public court battle and a timely, cost-efficient and confidential resolution to your divorce or separation. A mediator can help a couple come to an agreement in a less formal and less adversarial setting and can help find creative solutions to unique situations.
Final divorce - A judge hears testimony and arguments and then makes the decision for final divorce orders that she or he thinks are best for each individual. A judge will take recommendations from each spouse’s attorney before making a decision, but the judge’s decision is final. This is why it is best, if possible, to have matters resolved before heading to court. A divorce ends one’s rights to alimony and equitable distribution of property, for example, so those rights must be asserted before a divorce and, if possible, the couple should arrive at an agreement before they appear before the judge. Once the judge signs the order, you and your spouse are divorced. Each of you may remarry if you so desire.
Separation Agreement -During the process of reaching a divorce, you may choose to negotiate and enter into a separation agreement with the other party to settle matters such as alimony, asset division, child custody and child support. It is often reached during mediation. Once this agreement is signed and notarized, it can be enforced in any court. If you choose to enter into a consent order as part of your divorce, this agreement can be enforced by a court through use of its contempt powers.Keep in mind: Any terms in the agreement dealing with child custody and child support can be modified by a court if the court finds the terms do not serve the best interest of the child. However, unless it is proven otherwise, North Carolina courts will presume that the agreement’s terms are fair, reasonable and serve the child’s best interest.
Experienced Raleigh Family Law Attorneys Are Here to Help
In most cases, either spouse in a divorce will benefit from experienced legal guidance, the Raleigh divorce lawyers of Charles R. Ullman & Associates believe. A skilled divorce attorney can protect your best interests and help you avoid personal and/or property matters that may cost you money down the road.
We provide you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. Charles Ullman is certified by the North Carolina Bar as a Specialist in Family Law. Trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively.
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