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How to File for Divorce in North Carolina

couple sitting across from one another with divorce papers between them

For spouses in North Carolina considering getting a divorce, the process can seem rather daunting.  Between work, taking care of the kids, and other social and professional responsibilities, working to develop an understanding of the divorce laws in their state can inadvertently fall ever lower on their to-do list.  For this reason, many spouses choose to work with an experienced Raleigh divorce attorney at Triangle Divorce Lawyers.

North Carolina separation and divorce law has outlined the requirements and procedural safeguards involved in getting a divorce in the state.  While consulting with your divorce attorney is almost always the recommended course of action, there are certainly some general points that all North Carolina residents should be aware of.  Therefore, this article aims to provide a general outline of how to file for divorce in North Carolina.

Divorce Eligibility in North Carolina

To be eligible for a divorce in North Carolina, spouses need to have been separated for at least one year and a day.  The term “separation” in this context means living in different homes, with at least one spouse intending for the separation to be permanent.  In addition, either spouse must currently live in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing.

Start With a Complaint

The complaint in a divorce case declares the facts of your particular case.  Additionally, any requests for property division or spousal/child support must be included in the complaint, along with any necessary supporting information.  Because there is no standard complaint form in North Carolina, spouses should work closely with their divorce attorney to draft this document.

Create a Summons

A summons in a divorce case is the official court document that informs the other spouse that a divorce case has been initiated.  It informs the other spouse of their rights, as well as any time limits on actions the other spouse wishes to take.

After a complaint and summons have been created, the spouse who has initiated the divorce case must ensure these documents are served to the other spouse.  Serving these documents typically entails paying a fee to have the sheriff personally serve the other spouse with these documents.  Alternatively, you can submit them via mail, however, if you choose this method then you must provide some form of proof that the other spouse received the forms.

File Additional General Forms

There are a few general forms that must be included in your divorce case.  For example, a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet is used by the courts at the administrative level to easily reference the important information about your case.  

In addition, you must provide an affidavit informing the court whether or not your spouse is in the military.  This is a requirement under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  Finally, you must pay the standard court filing fee. If you are unable to afford this fee, you can apply to file as indigent by completing one additional form.

Property Distribution 

There are many divorce cases where spouses’ incomes and overall financial situations are vastly different, and the divorce would lead to a drastically different quality of life for one or the other.  In these cases, spouses should file for property division before the divorce is finalized.  If they do not, they forever forfeit their right to property distribution, meaning each spouse only keeps assets that are in their name.  

Property in both spouses’ names will stay in both names, as will any joint debts.  Because of the high-stakes circumstances surrounding property distribution in a divorce, many spouses in North Carolina choose to employ the services of a divorce attorney to ensure their rights are preserved.

Child Support

Unlike the time restrictions on property distribution in North Carolina, spouses can file for child support claims at any time, provided the child in question is under 18 years of age.  This flexibility reflects the state’s intention to maintain the best interest of the child in cases of divorce.

The Benefit of Legal Professionals

Getting an experienced divorce attorney to provide insight and guidance on your case should be an obvious decision by this point.  After all, the general procedure for filing for divorce does not take into account your unique situation, and your possible need for alimony and/or child support.  In North Carolina, the courts can be unforgiving in situations where your information and documents are not properly in order.  

For years, the North Carolina divorce attorneys at Triangle Divorce Lawyers have been helping residents around Raleigh and North Carolina to understand the laws surrounding the divorce process.  Contact Triangle Divorce Lawyers today for expert counsel targeted to your unique situation.


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