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How the divorce process works in North Carolina

Married couples who are considering a divorce should be aware that certain criteria must be met before any documents can be filed. One spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months, and the couple must complete a one-year separation prior to the initial filing of the divorce. During the separation phase, although they are living apart, the couple is still considered to be legally married.

The preliminary documents that get the ball rolling in the divorce process are the complaint and summons, which are filed with the court. The other spouse is served with these documents and has the option to sign and return them to the court if they are in agreement, or they may decide to contest the divorce and file their own papers with the court. The final step is that a judgment will be determined and entered by a judge, and once each spouse receives an official copy of this document, they are legally divorced.

An attorney for each spouse can provide guidance and discuss legal options that are conducive to an outcome that is as fair and favorable as possible. Reviewing topics like separation agreements and temporary support may provide a spouse with a better idea of how to get through the separation period before the divorce begins.

The process for a divorce sounds simple enough, but cases are not always simple. Spouses who are unable or unwilling to compromise on matters can cause a divorce to drag on for a prolonged period. Some issues, like alimony and property distribution, need to be addressed and determined before the final divorce, so retaining the services of an attorney to protect a spouse's best interests can be a valuable move.

Source: Women's Law, "What are the basic steps for filing for divorce in North Carolina?", December 31, 2014

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