If you are considering a divorce in North Carolina, learn more about how divorce works to protect your rights. North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means the divorce process can be straightforward for many couples. But no-fault divorce is not necessarily fast because of the state’s separation requirement.
What Does No-Fault Divorce Mean?
“No-fault” means that you do not have to show any wrongdoing or fault by either spouse to get a divorce. One spouse can pursue a divorce without the other spouse’s consent. The judge can grant the divorce petition regardless of anyone’s “fault” in the marriage’s breakdown. North Carolina no-fault divorce does not factor in infidelity, abuse, or other marital issues (although child custody and support orders could factor them in). The judge merely considers if the spouses have fulfilled the separation requirement.
To get a divorce, you must show that (1) you have been separated for one year and a day or more and (2) that you have lived separate and apart for the entire year. You must live in separate residences, not, for example, in different rooms of the same house. In addition, at least one of the spouses must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months.
Spouses who separate, reconcile, and then separate again should know that the one-year period restarts when the second separation starts. You will have to live apart for another full year before you can seek divorce. Keep in mind that “reconciliation” is not a neat definition under the law. What is considered a reconciliation is measured by the “totality of the circumstances,” or all of the circumstances of a particular case, rather than any one factor. It has been determined that isolated incidents of sexual intercourse is not considered a reconciliation, but those actions coupled with behavior that could be construed as being in a relationship with the other party may be found to be a reconciliation. Although this is not generally a point of contention, it is wise to keep note of events that could trigger an argument for an earlier or later separation date. You should keep careful track in writing of the date that your separation begins – consider signing a separation agreement with your spouse or otherwise documenting the beginning of the separation in writing. A lawyer can assist with preparing an appropriate separation agreement.
How Do You Start to Seek a Divorce in North Carolina?
If you have not yet separated, seek legal advice about the need for a separation agreement or other protections. A separation agreement is a legally binding contract addressing issues such as property division, spousal and child support, and custody. Then you will need to begin your one-year separation. You do not need to file anything with a court to separate. You or your spouse merely need to move to a separate residence.
During the year, you and your lawyer may need to meet with your spouse and his or her lawyer to discuss changing child custody needs, financial or real estate matters, and any other issues that arise. It is most beneficial to address these matters during the year of separation since divorce, by definition, is an annulment of the marriage, as well as any of the rights and privileges that stem from that marriage under law. Therefore, all financial benefits that are afforded to you from your spouse will be null and void upon the dissolution of the marriage. With that being said, during or after the separation year, your lawyer can help you prepare the divorce paperwork.
After the year is up, you can file for divorce. Again, talk to your attorney to ensure that you have appropriate documentation of your year-long separation and your separate residence.
Will You Have to Go to Court to Get a No-Fault Divorce?
You must make a legal filing with the court to request divorce. Although divorce is straightforward in North Carolina, there is a possibility in every case that part of the divorce will be contested in court. You could run into an issue regarding division of property, spousal or child support, or custody. To finalize the divorce, you and your spouse must resolve all these issues with the help of your lawyers. This could involve court hearings, arbitration, or mediation. Your lawyer will help guide you through this process.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you want to know more about no-fault divorce in North Carolina, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.