In North Carolina couples have to be separated for at least one year and a one day before they can file a complaint asking the court for an absolute divorce. Separation means that husband and wife live separate and apart in different residences. Merely living in different bedrooms or different areas of a house does not qualify as being separated in the eyes of the law.
A couple can get a divorce without one spouse having to prove the other spouse’s marital fault, such as abusive behavior, drug or alcohol addiction, or adultery. The only requirements are that one spouse is a resident of North Carolina and you and your spouse have been separated for at least one year and one day with the intent for the separation to be permanent.
A separation agreement or a distribution of property is not required prior to obtaining an absolute divorce. However, it is highly advised that you speak with a divorce attorney before filing for divorce. If you don’t assert your rights on matters like alimony or equitable distribution of your property before your divorce is finalized, you can lose these rights forever.
If your spouse has engaged in unprovoked and un-condoned marital misconduct, making your marriage and your family life intolerable, you may file a claim for a divorce from bed and board. Examples of this kind of marital misconduct include adultery, abandonment, abusive or violent behavior, and substance abuse.
Divorce from bed and board is a legally sanctioned separation based on a claim of misconduct. If you wish to remarry, however, you must still obtain a judgment of absolute divorce.
To begin the divorce process, you need to file a complaint for absolute divorce with the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where you live. The person filing the complaint is the “Plaintiff,” and the other spouse is the “Defendant”. Issues such as alimony, child support, and property division can also be included in a complaint seeking an absolute divorce.
In North Carolina the Defendant typically has 30 days from the date the complaint was served to file an answer. With the Answer, the Defendant may file counterclaims for claims related to child custody, spousal support, child support, and property division.
Divorce mediation is a meeting between spouses or partners going through a separation or divorce, with a third party mediator who is trained in conflict resolution. The goal is to find a mutually acceptable agreement on as many of the conflicting issues as possible. So you end up with a written directive outlining the terms of the agreement.
In order for divorce mediation to work, both parties need to be willing to compromise and be serious about reaching agreement on common ground.
The benefits of divorce mediation are that it’s less time consuming and costly than court hearings. It also gives you a say in the terms of your settlement. If you are unable to settle and go to court, a judge will make the decisions for you.
At your initial consultation, which is a confidential discussion of your situation, our family law attorneys will walk you through the divorce process in North Carolina, and help you determine your best course of action.
Cases are often settled on the day of the trial and in some cases even during the trial. So even though you failed to reach an agreement in mediation, there are other opportunities to settle your case. A settlement agreement has some big benefits. It allows you and your spouse or partner more control over your future living and financial arrangements, instead of relying on a judge in a public courtroom to decide your fate.
And then there’s the consideration of time and money. If you go to trial, you may have to wait months for your case to be heard by the judge. This long wait inevitably means that fees will climb, especially as the trial date approaches.
This is called discovery. This is a process of gathering and exchanging information in preparation for trial or settlement. During discovery, both you and your spouse or partner will gather and provide documents, answer questions, or admit or deny allegations related to your case.
Discovery is a term for the formalized exchange of information that occurs within the context of litigation. This is often a critical process for investigating all the facts in a case. Through discovery, each party can gain a better understanding of the facts in the case and, thus, of the strengths and weaknesses of a particular position. This increased understanding of the facts is gained in discovery through the disclosure of requested information.
If you or your partner file a lawsuit for child support, spousal support, or property divisions, under the Wake County Family Court rules, you will both be obligated to provide certain documents to the other party and to complete documents setting out your marital assets and debts. See child support, spousal support, and property divisions for selected forms and requirements.
If the parties can settle all or some of their issues, they can go to trial and have a judge decide their future. The length of your trial can last from a few hours to many days. It depends on the time the court allocates as well as the number and complexity of the issues to be decided.
Remember, you’re not walking the path alone. Your attorney will be your key advisor, guiding you and advising you on your best legal choices. Talk to your attorney, and it may also be helpful to seek advice from a trained counselor.