Before filing for any type of divorce in North Carolina, the couple must have been living separately for at least one year and at least one party must have been living in North Carolina for six months or longer. Living separately means each person has their own residence. Living in separate parts of the same house does not count. When these two requirements have been met, either party can request a divorce, even if the other resists. North Carolina operates under “no fault” divorce standards and does not take adultery or other indiscretions into consideration when dividing property and assets. However, judges may take adultery into consideration when determining alimony.
Divorce can quickly become expensive, especially if the parties cannot agree on custody, child support, alimony, splitting of assets, or splitting of debts and end up spending multiple sessions in court arguing about them. However, if the couple comes to an agreement on these issues, they may consider an uncontested divorce. This type of divorce is especially advantageous for couples who haven’t been married long, haven’t accrued many assets, or have no children. However, a couple who has been married longer than five years or has children together can still have a successful uncontested divorce. Couples with complicated financials may want to consult a lawyer to help protect their assets. Here are the steps required for completing an uncontested divorce in North Carolina.
- Complete Divorce Complaint and Civil Summons forms. The very first step in a divorce is filing paperwork declaring your intent on divorcing your spouse. These include a Divorce Complaint, which you must have notarized, and Civil Summons. Once these are completed and filed with the Clerk of Court, you must serve them to your spouse through sheriff or official mail. Be sure to retain a copy of all documentation you submit throughout the divorce. If you wish to return to your maiden name after the divorce, you will need to request this in the Divorce Complaint paperwork. After your spouse has been served, there is a 30 day waiting period before you can request a court hearing date.
- Complete a Notice of Hearing form. Once a court date is set, you must alert your spouse at least ten days beforehand that their presence is requested in court for finalizing the divorce. In an uncontested divorce, you must come to agreements on all major issues before attending the hearing so that the divorce can be finalized at the first hearing.
- Judgment and Certificate of Absolute Divorce. These forms, along with copies of the Divorce Complaint and Summons, will need to be presented to the judge at the hearing. These forms declare the divorce final once the judge signs.
- At the hearing, you may be required to state your testimony on why you want a divorce. You can find testimony forms online or from the court to help you structure your testimony.
Once a judge signs the Judgment of Absolute Divorce and Certificate of Absolute Divorce at the hearing, you are officially divorced from your spouse. Although you could go through the whole process unrepresented by an attorney, it is wise to hire one if your spouse has hired one or simply to help you review any documented agreements to check for fairness and completeness before presenting the documents at the hearing. Once the orders and agreements have been set in court, it is very difficult to go back and change them. If you and your spouse cannot agree on certain issues, you may need to attend mediation beforehand to reach conclusions if you wish to have an uncontested divorce. If you cannot agree and choose to leave it up to a judge’s decision in court, the divorce is considered contested at that point. Although uncontested divorces can cost less and resolve relatively quickly, they aren’t useful for certain situations. In divorces containing abuse or complicated financials, immediately obtaining a lawyer may be a crucial step in protecting yourself.