A brief guide to divorce in North Carolina
Couples experiencing marital problems who wish to separate in North Carolina should be aware of the following things:
North Carolina state divorce laws
Parties wishing to file for divorce in North Carolina must be residents of the state for at least six months and file in the county where either they or their spouse reside.
Grounds for divorce
Except in cases of no-fault divorce, there are six reasons plaintiffs may cite when filing for an at-fault divorce in North Carolina, including:
• Abandonment of any length of time
• Being forced out of the home without due cause
• Behavior endangering the life of a spouse
• Actions which render married life intolerable
• Abuse of alcohol or drugs
Couples who need to separate temporarily but are unsure whether they wish to follow through by filing for divorce in North Carolina may draft a separation agreement. This is a document drawn up without the help of court establishing clear guidelines for child support, the terms of separation and other areas. These terms may later be used as the basis of a divorce agreement.
Types of divorce
Couples who are able to come to terms on all areas of their divorce can file a joint petition. This kind of uncontested divorce is not possible if both parties are in disagreement over any issues. These couples must appear in court to pursue a contested divorce in North Carolina.
No fault divorce
It is only possible to get a no fault divorce in North Carolina if both parties have been living apart for at least a year. No allegations of wrong-doing are required.
Steps in the divorce process
Unless parties are filing a joint petition for marriage, one party will file a petition for divorce in North Carolina with their district court. Their partner will then be notified by certified mail or have notice served by a sheriff and have a period to respond. A divorce in North Carolina cannot be approved by a judge for 50 to 60 days from delivery of notice, depending on the method of delivery.
Temporary or permanent alimony may be negotiated or awarded by the judge. Factors taken into account include:
• Spousal misconduct
• Both parties’ earning ability
• The marriage’s length
• Any impact alimony will have on both parties’ tax returns
• The marital standard of living
• Any contribution made by one spouse toward another’s earning potential or education
• Property owned by both spouses
• Both spouses’ education levels
Monthly child support payments may be agreed upon to by both parties or established by the court. Pay stubs, tax returns and other financial documents will establish the fiscal state of both parties. The court will consider the child’s needs. In some cases, the state may be required to pay for health insurance for the child.
Fathers’ and mothers’ rights
North Carolina prohibits awarding child custody on the basis of gender. Both parents’ fiscal and emotional fitness to look after their child will be considered before any custody judgment is made.