When you are involved in a divorce, you likely want and need closure. You want to move forward and close this chapter in your life, but it could be a little confusing to figure out when your divorce will become final.
When Is a Divorce Final?
In North Carolina, a divorce is final when a judge enters a final order, sometimes called a judgment. The order states that the marriage has ended.
Until the judge enters the order, the divorce is not complete. Issues of alimony and property division, which may be discussed in the final order, may not be settled either. The order may include the judge’s decisions on these issues.
What Is the Rest of the Divorce Process in North Carolina?
The divorce process starts with a legally required separation period. The separation must last for one year and must involve the spouses living separate and apart from each other, in different residences. At least one of the spouses must intend that the separation is permanent.
After a year and a day have passed, you can file for divorce. This involves filing papers with the court, something that a lawyer can help you with. There are specific forms to fill out and information that you need to include. This may include information about your request for spousal support or property division. You do not need your spouse’s consent to begin divorce proceedings.
Once documents are filed with the court, your spouse will need to be served with the divorce papers. Serving means delivering a copy to your spouse, following legal requirements to prove that he or she received them. Again, your lawyer can assist with properly serving your spouse.
Before the court can make a final divorce order, at least 30 days must pass from the time your spouse gets served. Due to COVID-19-induced decrease in court personnel and delays in the U.S. Postal Service, some courthouses have extended the 30-day requirement. It is important to speak with a family law attorney that practices in your county to determine the required time frame. In addition, the court may need to hold additional hearings to review property division and spousal support issues. If you don’t ask the court to consider these issues, then a final divorce decree will foreclose you from getting alimony or having joint assets divided.
What About Child Custody?
A final divorce decree typically does not decide child custody issues. In North Carolina, either parent can file for child custody at any time regardless of divorce or separation status. Custody is decided separately from divorce, spousal support, and property division. Moreover, child custody can be revisited and changed after a final divorce decree is entered.
Many couples decide to enter into separation agreements that discuss child custody during the separation. Either party could still file a child custody case regardless of the custody terms in your separation agreement or if your divorce is final. The judge deciding the custody case may or may not respect the terms of the separation agreement in deciding what is in the child’s best interest.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are considering ending your marriage, 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.