The process for obtaining a divorce in North Carolina generally begins with filing a complaint for absolute divorce. The complaint provides basic information about the individuals involved. The rest of the process after filing a complaint depends on a number of factors, including whether or not the divorce is contested.
If the divorce is not contested, a divorce can be completed in a little over one month. If the couple is in a dispute about the terms of the divorce, the process can take much longer. If you have any questions about filing for divorce, contact us for help.
Complaint for Divorce
The “complaint” is the name for the initial pleading in a civil action. It does not mean that the person filing the document is complaining about anything, only that they are beginning a civil court action—in this case, a divorce. The information required for the complaint may include:
- The name of the individual filing the complaint (Plaintiff);
- Name of the spouse (Defendant);
- At least one spouse is a resident of North Carolina, and has been for at least six months;
- The parties have lived continuously separate and apart for at least one year before filing the complaint;
- The names and ages of any children born of the marriage;
- The plaintiff understands that once the divorce is granted, it will be too late to file a claim for equitable distribution of property and debts or spousal support.
The complaint only requires basic information about the parties involved and does not need to be a detailed story about why you are filing for divorce. Divorce in North Carolina is a “no-fault” state, and therefore does not require a showing of marital misconduct, only that the marriage union is broken and cannot be salvaged.
Two requirements for filing for divorce in North Carolina have to do with residency and separation. Absolute divorce in North Carolina requires the couple to live separately in a different residence than the other spouse for a minimum of one year. Additionally, at least one of the spouses has to be a resident of North Carolina for at least six months before filing for divorce.
Filing the Complaint in Court
The complaint is filed with the court clerk's office in the district court division. The documents include:
- Civil summons (AOC-CV-100)
- Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
- Servicemember Civil Relief Act Affidavit
To file the documents, take the original and two copies of the documents and the filing fee to the Civil Clerk's office in the court. The forms must be properly notarized by a Notary Public. The Clerk may then provide a Certificate of Absolute Divorce, which must be completed and returned to the Clerk so it will be in your court file. You can also make a copy of the Certificate for your records.
Next Steps After Filing the Complaint
After the complaint is filed, the other party (the Defendant) must be sent a proper notice of the complaint to allow him or her to file an answer. Proper service can be done through the Sheriff's Department or using Certified Mail.
Service through the Sheriff in the county that the Defendant lives generally costs $30.00. Alternatively, you can use Certified Mail to send a copy of the documents. After you get the green return receipt back in the mail, you must then file an Affidavit of Service.
After service, you should wait 30 days to give the Defendant time to file an Answer. After 30 days from the date of service, you can request a court date from the Clerk of the Court's office. The Defendant must be sent a notice of the hearing 10 days before the court date.
During the divorce hearing, the judge will hear from each spouse to make sure the legal divorce requirements have been met, there was proper service and notification, and that all legal and financial matters (child custody and visitation, property division, etc.) have been settled. If the judge is satisfied the requirements have been met, the judge enters the judgment for absolute divorce and the couple is legally divorced.
Before Filing for Divorce
Before filing for divorce, you should make sure to address all issues that may come up, including property division, alimony, and child custody. Once a divorce is issued, you may not be able to then ask for alimony or certain property. An experienced family law attorney on your side can put you at ease knowing you are in good hands during a divorce. If you have any questions about filing for divorce in North Carolina, contact the Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC. Contact us online or by phone at 704-470-2440 today for a consultation.