If you have started thinking about divorce, it is helpful to have a general understanding of how the law works. At first glance, divorce law in North Carolina can appear confusing, so it’s important that you understand what you are getting into before pursuing a divorce. Judges and clerks of court are able to answer some factual questions but cannot give advice; only your own lawyer is able to advise you.
Hire a Divorce Attorney
The divorce process is time-consuming and complex. An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate this complicated legal process and protect your rights.
One Year Separation
In North Carolina, you must be separated for one year before you can be legally divorced. The clock starts ticking when you begin living apart; living in separate parts of the same house does not count. One night of unsuccessful “make-up sex” will not restart the clock, but resuming regular relations will. When you have been separated for a year, you can obtain an absolute divorce that will simply end the marriage. An absolute divorce will not solve the issues of spousal support, child custody and support, or property and debt issues. These issues are all handled separately and should be handled prior to the entry of an absolute divorce judgment.
There are legal actions available for individuals whose spouse will not leave the home. Please meet with an attorney before taking any actions if you think this is likely to happen in your marriage.
North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the actions of either spouse will not affect the ability to file for divorce. One spouse can initiate a divorce action and the other spouse does not have to agree to or sign anything for the divorce to be granted. Even though divorce in North Carolina is typically a no-fault divorce, “fault” can still affect post-separation support and alimony (spousal support).
Cost of a Divorce
It is very helpful to know what your divorce could potentially cost. Legal fees for the divorce itself are only one of the expenses. The family lawyers at Wilson, Reives, Silverman & Doran (WRSD) will be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation and provide a general estimate of what it will cost to manage the legal side of your divorce, taking into consideration the nature of the relationship and the issues that must be resolved.
In considering the costs of divorce, you need to budget for the expenses of two places to live, additional support services, legal representation, and possibly accountants if your financial situation is complicated. You may want to consult a financial advisor to understand the tax consequences of your financial options. Some people also need the services of a forensic accountant for auditing and investigative purposes.
Property Settlement Documentation
Collect documentation. You’ll need to prove everything you put forth in your case, so start saving copies of bills, tax returns, utilities. Find mortgage documents, deeds, and titles. Know who is listed as the beneficiary and/or co-owner of bank accounts, loans, credit card accounts, and insurance policies.
In NC, the default is that assets acquired after you were married are marital property and are split 50/50, while assets you brought into the marriage are yours to take out of it, provided they have not been converted to marital property.
If you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, read it. Even if you don’t understand all the language, reading it yourself will make you familiar with the terms again. Everything you can do to educate yourself will help reduce legal fees.
Prepare for Custody Decisions
If you have children from the marriage, it is important to both prepare them for the change in lifestyle and prepare yourself for child custody decisions. While not all divorces will result in a heated battle over custody, it’s better to be prepared. Keep a record of time spent with your children, who brings them to school and extracurricular activities, etc. These matters are not meant to be a competition of who is the better parent, but keeping a record of this information can provide your child custody attorney with documentation and help the court in making custody decisions.
Do Not Share Your News or Emotions on Social Media
Avoid sharing news and emotions on social media. Anything you post on social sites can and may be used against you if your divorce goes to trial.
Some couples find that their lives improve the day they separate, and they had no idea how much of their troubles would be gone once they were not living together. Other couples face a long road of doubt, grief, and uncertainty while they work through the dissolution of their marriage.
We support and legally protect clients in both situations. Educate yourself, organize, and prepare. We are here for you at all stages of your decision-making process. Turn to the family law attorneys at Wilson, Reives, Silverman & Doran when you are contemplating divorce and are ready to move forward with the divorce process.