Divorce and Family Law Issues in North Carolina
- What is Absolute Divorce?
- What “Living Separate and Apart” means
- Filing a Complaint for Absolute Divorce
- Alimony, Property Division, Child Custody & Support
- Contesting Settlement Issues
- Do You Need a Divorce Attorney?
What is Absolute Divorce in North Carolina?
“Absolute divorce” is simply the legal terminology for “divorce” and is granted in North Carolina after one year of separation. North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state, so neither you nor your spouse is required to prove any marital wrong-doing.
The Court mandates the following requirements for absolute divorce:
- That the spouses have been residents of the state for more than six months preceding filing of the action;
- That the spouses have lived separate and apart for more than 12 months preceding filing of the action;
- That one of the spouses intends for the separation to be permanent.
What “Living Separate and Apart” means
To qualify for the “year of separation,” you and your spouse must live “separate and apart” for the 12 months. You may not simply stop having sexual relations and continue living in the house in separate rooms. Separate and apart means ceasing cohabitation which includes residing in different living quarters.
Previously in North Carolina law, separated couples who engaged in sexual intercourse re-set their 12-month year of separation time clock, but current law re-defines resuming marital relations to be a “voluntary renewal of the husband and wife relationship, as shown by the totality of the circumstances. Isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties shall not constitute resumption of marital relations.”
Filing a Complaint for Absolute Divorce
One year and one day after separation began, you may file a complaint for an absolute divorce with the Court. The complaint requires that the spouse filing the complaint verify that they have been a resident of the state for a least six months prior to the filing. It will also include, among other things, whether or not there are children of the marriage and if they are minor children.
Alimony, Property Division, Child Custody
During the separation period and prior to the divorce being granted, couples typically begin dealing with settlement issues such as child custody and support, post separation support and division of property. It is important to understand that if claims for certain rights are not filed before entry of the divorce decree occurs, entitlement to those rights are lost. Claims which will be barred after the divorce is granted include rights for spousal support and property distribution.
Rights to child custody and child support are not barred after entry of the divorce decree. These claims are fluid and can be filed until the child reaches the age of majority. In many cases, an absolute divorce is granted when these issues are still pending before the Court. The Court’s judgment will simply reserve these issues for future determination.
Contesting Settlement Issues
If the couple cannot reach agreement on the issues, mediation is good way to resolve the problem. The two parties and their lawyers meet with a neutral third party, a trained mediator, to work through the contested issues in an effort to settle the matters amicably and avoid a costly trial. It should be kept in mind that mediation requires concessions on the part of both parties.
If the parties cannot reach agreement and some matters remain unsettled, a trial will be necessary. In this event, each party will present their case in court and a judge will make a final decision on the issues.
Do You Need a Divorce Attorney?
A judgment of absolute divorce can have costly consequences – both materially and emotionally – if not handled properly. Whether your case is simple or complex, you want to make sure you do not waive any of your rights.
An experienced, caring family law and divorce attorney can help you navigate the numerous legal requirements, manage any unexpected crisis that may arise and give you peace of mind that you are not alone in the usually stressful process. If your spouse has initiated separation and divorce proceedings, it is especially important that you seek qualified legal help right away to protect yourself and secure a fair settlement of the marital issues.
Greenville NC Divorce and Family Law
Attorney Cynthia Mills
Your future will be determined by the legal action you take today! Insure that you take the right path and secure what matters most to you and your family. Let me help you through the uncertainty and emotional stress of your family legal crisis with skill, experience and dedicated representation. Email email@example.com or call me at 252-752-6161.