Divorce In North Carolina – Things You Want to Know
Below I have listed some common questions and answers about the divorce process in North Carolina based on the many years I have practiced family law in North Carolina. This is not a comprehensive list, but it does reflect the questions that I am frequently asked.
Q. Do I need a separation agreement to be “legally separated?”
A. The only basic requirements for a divorce in North Carolina are that the parties involved be separated for one year prior to the filing of the divorce, and that the court has jurisdiction over at least one party. A written separation agreement is NOT necessary to start the clock running on the one-year requirement. You DO have to live separate and apart (in separate residences) for one year.
Q. What if I can’t locate my spouse?
A. This problem happens frequently, particularly when the parties have been separated for a lengthy period of time. If you can’t locate your spouse, you can serve them through “publication”. This means that a notice would be placed in a newspaper one day a week for three consecutive weeks announcing the filing of your divorce, and informing your spouse that they have 40 days to respond from the date the notice is first published. Before resorting to publication, you must make good faith efforts to locate your spouse. This may include checking with other relatives, friends, sending mail to the last known address, checking social media, and other methods of trying to locate the spouse.
Q. What is an “uncontested divorce?”
A. An uncontested divorce is where both parties agree to the divorce AND have already agreed to ALL other issues related to the marriage before the divorce is filed. The date of separation is not in dispute, nor are there any issues regarding child custody, child support, alimony or property division. You are requesting a divorce only and the opposing party does not file an answer disputing anything in your complaint or assert any counterclaims or defenses.
Q. How much does an uncontested divorce cost?
A. Our current fee for an uncontested divorce is $750.00 (October 2023). In addition, there are court filing fees and the cost of having the opposing party served. If publication is necessary, there are additional attorney fees along with the cost of publishing the notice. This fee is only for an uncontested divorce and does not include any other matters such as child custody, child support, alimony or property division.
Q. Can other issues such as custody, support, and property be resolved without a lawsuit?
A. Yes, and we encourage parties to work things out this way. It can be far less expensive, and usually much less stressful. You and your spouse can enter into a written separation agreement that resolves all other pending issues. However, for child custody and child support it may be better to enter a “friendly lawsuit” and have a consent order entered through the court in some instances.
Q. How long does it take?
A. We can usually obtain an uncontested divorce for you within 45 days from the day you hire us. This depends largely on how soon the opposing party can be served and whether your divorce can be entered by the Clerk of Court or has to be entered by a judge.
Q. Will I have to go to court?
A. If the divorce is uncontested, you will not have to appear in court.
Attorney Sam Spagnola is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist with over 25 years of experience in family law matters. He is a divorce attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina.