Final Divorce Order

A final order for absolute divorce in North Carolina is generally the end of the divorce process. The order is the document signed by the judge that finalizes the divorce proceedings. After the final divorce order is signed, the parties are no longer married under the law. The final divorce order may also incorporate issues of child custody, alimony, and property division. 

A final order is intended to be the end of the divorce process. However, even a final order may be appealed. A final judgment may be appealed to the court of appeals in North Carolina. If you have any questions about your judgment for absolute divorce in North Carolina, contact your family law attorney for help.

After Absolute Divorce is Granted

When a judge signs the judgment for absolute divorce, the divorce is official. The “bonds of matrimony which have existed between the parties” are dissolved. Absolute divorce may be granted, based on the findings of fact by the court, where:  

  • The court has jurisdiction over the divorce;
  • The defendant was properly served; 
  • At least one spouse has been a resident of North Carolina for more than six months; and 
  • The parties have lived continuously separate and apart for at least one year before filing the complaint. 

What is in the Divorce Decree? 

The final divorce order may or may not incorporate all the issues in dispute, including: 

Child Custody and Child Support 

Child custody is one of the most disputed issues in a divorce. Generally, the courts will make decisions for child custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. This includes whether the parents have shared or primary custody, the parenting plan, and visitation schedules. Child support is generally based on primary custody and the income of each parent. 

Alimony and Post-Separation Support

Alimony is paid to the dependent spouse by the supporting spouse when there is a substantial need for maintenance and support after a divorce. Post-separation support provides for the time between separation and the divorce. 

Equitable Distribution of Property

A final divorce order may provide for the distribution of property, including how to treat specific property, such as the family home. Property is generally classified as marital, separate, or divisible before the court decides how to allocate the property, assets, and debts, based on “equitable distribution,” where it is divided in a way that would be fair to both parties. 

Other Parts of the Divorce Order

The final divorce order may also include money judgment, where one spouse is ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the other spouse. This may be part of the equitable distribution or property division aspect of the divorce. 

As part of the final divorce order, a spouse may also include a name change. Under North Carolina General Statutes § 50-12, a spouse may also apply, as part of the divorce order, to change their name to a maiden name, or, in some situations, the surname of a prior spouse. 

Unresolved Issues After Divorce is Granted

The absolute divorce order does not necessarily mean the end of any divorce-related disputes. If already pled by either the plaintiff or defendant, some divorce-related issues remain open for further hearing. Granting divorce with issues remaining open allows the divorce to go forward even though not all issues have been resolved. However, issues that have not been pleaded may not be able to be reopened after the divorce is granted. 

For example, if you request alimony in a divorce proceeding, the court may be able to grant the divorce while leaving the alimony dispute open. However, you generally cannot file for divorce, have the divorce granted, and then raise the issue of alimony. It is important that all issues are raised in the initial pleadings. Issues that have not been raised may be closed after the divorce order is granted. 

Challenging the Final Divorce Order

There may be options for challenging the final divorce order. The options for disputing the final divorce order may depend on the basis for your dispute, depending on if you disagree with the contents of the judge's order or there was a procedural problem with the divorce filing. Generally, disputes of a final order can involve filing an appeal with the court, or a post-judgment modification

It is generally more difficult to appeal a final order or change a final order than it is to resolve the initial dispute. The burden is usually higher to overturn the judge's decision after an order has been issued. Talk to your North Carolina divorce lawyer about any concerns you have after the judge has granted the order for absolute divorce.

Understanding the Final Divorce Order 

Before filing for divorce, you should make sure to address all issues that may come up in the divorce. Once the final divorce order is granted, it may be more difficult to make changes regarding property division, alimony, and child custody. An experienced divorce attorney can put you at ease knowing you are in good hands through the difficult process. 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.