Although not a favorable situation, divorce may be necessary for some married couples. Beginning the divorce process can be intimidating, especially when considering the financial and emotional turmoil accompanied by these proceedings. Understanding the pieces of the divorce process, especially crucial requirements for filing and key terminology, can make these proceedings seem much easier to understand.
No matter which state the couple was legally married in, each lawfully married spouse in North Carolina has the right to file for divorce. Before filing for a divorce, two crucial stipulations must be met to start the divorce process. Before filing, one spouse had to have been a legitimate North Carolina resident for at least six months, and at least one spouse must have had the intention to break the marriage throughout that time. The couple must also have lived apart for at least a year straight.
The separation stipulation is crucial, and to start the separation process, either spouse must leave the marital home and declare their intention to end the marriage. If a couple agrees to separate and then tries to rectify their relationship by moving back in with each other, but they ultimately settle on separation, they would have to restart their time living separately before filing for divorce, regardless of the time spent living apart before moving back in together. Once these requirements are met, the filing spouse may submit a Complaint for Absolute Divorce to the Clerk of Court for a filing fee of $225, starting the divorce process.
In some situations, spouses had to prove their spouse’s wrongdoings to seek a divorce, putting them at “fault” for why the relationship needs to end. North Carolina is now a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that it is not required that a spouse needs to provide evidence of misconduct to begin the filing process. Marital transgressions may affect a divorce, particularly regarding spousal maintenance or alimony, but are not necessary for beginning the process. When deciding whether to grant support and how much support to grant, the court may take into account wrongdoing, including infidelity, using this to justify any final awarded amounts.
Although absolute divorce is the standard for proceedings, other forms of divorce can be taken depending on the factors of the case. A divorce from bed and board refers to the legal separation of a couple but does not legally divorce them. The pair is still technically married in a divorce from bed and board, and neither spouse is allowed to remarry without first obtaining an absolute divorce. Divorce from bed and board in North Carolina is based on fault, meaning that proof of misconduct must be made to file. The court may issue a divorce from bed and board per North Carolina Statute § 50-7 if either spouse:
A spouse may continue to ask the court for alimony, child support, property division, or child custody after the divorce from bed and board is granted. Although seemingly confusing, especially considering that a divorce from bed and board only legally counts as a separation, the requirements for filing these proceedings are less rigorous than an absolute divorce. For example, a divorce from bed and board does not require legal separation before filing, giving the party filing a way to remove their spouse from their home to begin the necessary year of separation needed for an absolute divorce. Regardless of the initial filing, an absolute divorce is still needed to separate a married couple.
North Carolina is a no-fault state, meaning that divorce proceedings can be filed at any time for any reason without obtaining consent from both parties. That being said, gathering important information about personal assets or shared children, along with understanding and verifying any state requirements for divorce, should be done before starting the divorce process, which may include receiving information from a spouse.
A spouse is normally entitled to some amount of alimony or spousal maintenance depending on their financial position and newfound financial responsibilities and depending on the outcome of the divorce courts’ ruling. Although an equitable distribution state, if the courts do so rule, a spouse may also be entitled to 50/50 parts of the marital estate as a form of financial compensation from the divorce.
One of the biggest and trickiest aspects of the divorce process is asset division. Even in an equitable distribution state, any and all assets can be divided to make a divorce settlement fair for both parties, meaning that taking on larger assets before filing for divorce could jeopardize crucial asset retention for other holdings once in the property division stage of these proceedings.
In North Carolina, equally dividing assets ensures that both spouses retain a fair and equitable share of their estate. However, state divorce laws take into account several circumstances that often point to the necessity for an unequal division of marital property, in which case a 50/50 split would not be equitable. For example, if one spouse is the sole provider for their family, the other spouse may receive more assets to fairly divide their combined marital estate.
Although troubling, divorce may be a necessary and very important process for certain couples. The process can be long, confusing, and stressful, but understanding the crucial elements of a divorce case can help make this process easier for all parties involved. At Lassiter & Lassiter, our legal team can assist with any divorce inquiries, so contact us to get started on filing today.
Call our office at 704-873-2295 or email us today.
Attorney Mike Lassiter grew up in Statesville, makes his living serving the people of Statesville and published a book capturing the changing landscape of small town life across North Carolina and Iredell County. His keen sense of history, dedication to the area and 30 years of legal experience make him an ideal attorney for your legal needs.
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