How and when can you file for divorce?
In North Carolina, you can obtain an absolute divorce if you have been separated for at least one year and if one of you has resided in the state for a period of six months. There must have been no resumption of marital relations during the period of separation.
The process for obtaining a divorce involves several steps:
- The spouse initiating the divorce action, the "plaintiff," files a complaint and has the clerk of court issue a summons.
- The complaint and summons must be served upon the other spouse, the "defendant," in compliance with the rules of civil procedure. Typically, service is accomplished by certified mail or by sheriff. Proof of service must be filed with the clerk of court.
- The defendant has 30 days to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint.
- At the conclusion of the 30-day period, the plaintiff may move for a default judgment or for summary judgment, or may schedule the case for an evidentiary hearing.
- If the plaintiff seeks a summary judgment, the plaintiff must serve a motion and notice the case for a hearing.
- The clerk, in the case of a default judgment, or a district court judge, at the conclusion of the hearing, enters a judgment of absolute divorce.
In cases that are resolved by default judgment or summary judgment, neither spouse needs to go to court. The summary judgment process typically takes around 60 days from the date of filing. We charge a fixed fee for these cases, which includes the costs of filing and service.
It is important that you and your spouse resolve all issues related to the division of your property, spousal support, and the care and support of your children before filing for divorce. If either of you asserts claims for equitable distribution, spousal support, child custody, or child support, the steps involved in litigating those claims are different, more time-consuming, and costly. Seek the advice of a competent attorney.