In North Carolina, you can only obtain a divorce by filing the correct paperwork with the court. By contrast, you can get a legal separation from your spouse by simply living apart from them with the intent to keep living apart. Under North Carolina law, you can only obtain a divorce for two reasons: separation for one year or incurable insanity of one spouse combined with separation for three years. If you wish to file for divorce on the grounds of separation for a year, then you or your spouse must also meet a residency requirement of living in North Carolina for at least six months.
What Paperwork Do I Need to File for Divorce?
To file for divorce, you will need to file a Complaint for divorce, a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, and a Civil Summons with the court. While you will need to create your own complaint, the other two documents are forms that you can obtain from the court. After you have filed these documents, you will then need to serve the complaint and summons to your spouse.
Community Property vs. Separate Property
North Carolina is an equitable property state, meaning that any marital property will be divided between you and your spouse in a manner that is fair, rather than equal. Marital property is the majority of the property and assets you and your spouse have acquired while being married to one another. Separate property, however, will not be included in the equitable division of all of your property and assets. For property to be separate property, it must have been:
- Received as a gift or as an inheritance by only one spouse
- Acquired prior to getting married
- A business license or professional license acquired by one of the spouses
- Acquired in exchange for other separate property
- Income derived exclusively from separate property
What Should I Do If There Are Children Involved?
You and your spouse will initially be in charge of figuring out the custody arrangement and child support for any children you may have. However, if you and your spouse have a disagreement about custody, the court will be placed in charge of determining the custody by considering which parent is the most fit to be the custodian and what is in the best interest of the child. The court will look at things such as the child’s education, age, preference and bond with each parent. You can also choose to decide child support and custody in a separate court proceeding, but hiring a lawyer specifically to deal with child custody and child support will likely cost at least $3,000, so it is best if you resolve the matter along with everything else during the divorce proceedings.
Do I Need to Pay Alimony?
In the event that one spouse was financially dependent on the other spouse, North Carolina may require the supporting spouse to provide alimony to the dependent spouse. Also, a spouse will be required to pay alimony if they committed adultery, which is having illicit sexual relations with someone other than their spouse prior to separation. Conversely, a spouse is barred from receiving alimony if they engage in adultery. In the event that both spouses engaged in adultery, then it is left up to the court to determine how much, if anything, should be paid out in alimony. When determining just how much should be paid in alimony, the court will take into consideration factors such as the contributions the spouses made to the marriage, the age and health of each of the spouses, and the duration of the marriage. The alimony payments can end on a date the court sets, death of either spouse, the remarriage of the dependent spouse, or the cohabitation of the dependent spouse with a new partner.
Where Can I Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?
Figuring out how to divide a life that you spent building with your spouse can be extremely difficult. A North Carolina divorce lawyer can help you with resolving issues regarding support, custody, and division of your assets.