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North Carolina’s Divorce Process

man and woman sitting on couch unhappy with each other

Unlike marriage, which has a relatively standard process no matter which state you’re in, divorce can be complicated, with each state having its own process and “rules.” In North Carolina, understanding the divorce process is the best way to ensure you know what to expect and how to best preserve your rights.

Filing for Divorce in North Carolina

No couple enters into a marriage thinking they’ll one day file for divorce. But according to Census data, the divorce rate in North Carolina during 2018 was 8.6 per 1,000 couples, which is slightly higher than the national average of 7.7.

Divorce may not be uncommon nowadays, but it can still be difficult to navigate. Fortunately, having a trusted lawyer on your side can help ease the process and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

Understanding the Difference Between Separation and Divorce

Before filing for divorce, you’ll have to decide if that is, in fact, the right course of action. North Carolina allows married couples who no longer wish to be together file for either separation or divorce. And while divorce may seem like the most sensible option, there are valid reasons to consider a permanent separation.

Common reasons why couples choose to separate rather than divorce:

  • The couple can not get divorced because of religious reasons.
  • The couple wishes to legally stay married, often for the sake of their children.
  • One spouse will lose health benefits if they are divorced.

Being separated means so much more than just living apart. Like a divorce, a separation requires a legal document outlining child support, custody, and more. While separated, parties are legally allowed to date other people, however they will remain legally married. This means neither spouse can get married to another person.

North Carolina is a “No-Fault” State

In North Carolina and across the country, “no-fault divorce” is the most common way people file. This means that neither party is responsible for the marriage ending, such as through infidelity or incarceration, rather the couple has “irreconcilable differences” that prevent them from staying happily married any longer.

Residency Requirements

If you want to file for divorce in North Carolina, one spouse must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months, regardless of what state the marriage took place in. The couple must have also been legally separated for at least one year before filing.

Determining Child Support and Custody

After you’ve filed for divorce, you and your spouse will have to decide several things — the most complicated often being child support and custody. If you have children, there’s a good chance your divorce will take a bit longer than usual.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Parents can have physical custody, legal custody, or a combination of both. Physical custody simply refers to the time each parent gets to spend with their child and how the child will divide their time between each of the parents’ homes.

Legal custody refers to each parents’ rights to make decisions about their child, like healthcare, religion, education, and more.

Property Division

One of the most highly contested aspects of a divorce is property division. No one wants to lose their home, or split their property with someone they’re now divorcing. Before beginning the divorce process, it’s important to understand how property will be subject to distribution.

  • Marital property: Property that a married couple acquired during their marriage.
  • Divisible property: Divisible property is marital property that underwent any diminution or appreciation in value.
  • Separate property: Property that you owned before getting married. It can also include property you acquired while married, but was given as a gift to you individually or inherited.

You should also know that “splitting” assets doesn’t mean each spouse gets 50/50. If you can not come to an agreement, the courts will distribute property equitably, which means based on what is fair.

At Blood Law, PLLC, we believe in helping our clients achieve their goals – no matter how complex their divorce or other family law issue. Our Charlotte divorce lawyers provide tailored legal services with a unique, team-based approach to do our best to achieve these results.

To learn more about our legal services, contact our Charlotte divorce lawyers online or give us a call at (704) 286-0570.