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Specialist in Family Law by the North Carolina State Bar

At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, we understand the challenges facing someone who plans to get a divorce. Depend on our experience to guide you through the process. We’ll make sure you have the information you need to know to make the best decisions for your future.

Steps to take before a divorce

Divorce is not only emotionally difficult, it is a complex process. To ensure you understand of all your legal options, you should speak with an experienced Raleigh divorce attorney. There are several concepts specific to North Carolina you should know before you begin your divorce process.

Gather Financial Information For You and Your Spouse
Gather Financial Information For You and Your Spouse
How much you and your spouse earn and spend will be key issues when determining spousal support and child support. You can prepare by gathering all financial information. You should compile information that includes bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, stock certificates, IRA/retirement accounts and pension information for you and your spouse. Make copies of important documents. Store them in a safe place. You should also track down your expenses. How much do you spend on mortgage or rent payments, utilities, food and grocery shopping, clothing and educational expenses? Make sure to have documents such as receipts or bank account summaries that show these expenses.
Make a list of all your real and personal property.
Make a list of all your real and personal property.
Any separate property you brought into a marriage will remain separate in a divorce. However, marital property will be divided between you and your spouse. Generally, this is property that you and your spouse acquired after getting married and before the date of your separation. You should make a list of all this property. The list should include real property such as a home or land you purchased. It should also include all personal property. Examples include cars or other motor vehicles, appliances, furniture, entertainment systems or athletic equipment. Make copies of relevant documents such as deeds, vehicle titles or receipts. As with your financial information, keep these documents in a secure place.
Establish a budget
Establish a budget
In North Carolina, a divorce can be obtained if you live separate and apart from your spouse for 12 months. You will need money to live on during that period. You will need to set a budget. Setting this budget can help if you are seeking alimony or child support during the separation. If you aren’t going to seek this support, you will at least know what it will take to pay your bills and handle your other expenses while waiting for the divorce to be final.
Make living arrangements
Make living arrangements
If you plan to move away from the marital home when you separate from your spouse, you will need to make living arrangements without delay. This is because it can take a long time to find the right home or apartment that fits within your budget. This is especially true if you are seeking to remain close to work or within a specific school district.
Open personal mail and financial accounts
Open personal mail and financial accounts
You should open checking and savings accounts in your name before you separate from your spouse and start the divorce process. You should consider opening these accounts at a bank other than the one where you held a joint account with your spouse. You may also need to open a new credit card account. Again, do this in your name only. You should also get a new mailing address. You want all financial-related mail and legal mail to go directly to you. We suggest a Post Office Box address. You can start receiving mail at this address before you separate from your spouse. A P.O. Box also won’t reveal where you live after separation (if you wish to withhold that information from your spouse).
Make changes to legal documents
Make changes to legal documents
If you wish, you should make changes to remove your spouse from your will, living will or healthcare power of attorney. It’s not something you want to think about, but you could be involved in an accident or suffer a health crisis during separation. You will want to have your legal documents in order. You may also want to make changes to your life insurance coverage or other policies in which your spouse is named as a beneficiary.
Notify your child’s school, daycare or relatives looking after your children
Notify your child’s school, daycare or relatives looking after your children
You may wish to keep your divorce private. That’s understandable. However, when children are involved, it’s a good idea to inform their school or daycare about your situation. A teacher may be sensitive to your child’s needs during this situation. The school or daycare should also know which parent will be picking up a child and making decisions for the child. The same applies if your child is being looked after by a relative during the day.
Meet with a divorce lawyer
Meet with a divorce lawyer
The most important step is to meet with a divorce lawyer. Do your research. Find a lawyer that you believe has the skill, knowledge and experience to guide you through your divorce. You also want a lawyer who will take the time to listen to you and understand your needs and goals. Schedule a consultation. Get to know the lawyer and allow the lawyer to get to know you. At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, we believe that the initial consultation is one of the most important steps in the process. We can meet at our Raleigh office or a more convenient location. Our consultations are always completely confidential.

 

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North Carolina is a No-Fault Divorce State

North Carolina is a “no-fault divorce” state. This means that you do not need to prove marital fault such as adultery, cruel and abusive behavior, economic fault or habitual drunkenness or addiction in order to obtain an absolute divorce in our state. Instead, you need to establish one of two grounds: separation for one year or incurable insanity.

At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, our law firm’s Raleigh, NC Divorce attorneys can help you determine whether you qualify for a North Carolina no-fault divorce on either of these grounds. We can also help with the paperwork and all other aspects of the divorce process.

We have the skill, experience and compassion it takes to meet your goals. We welcome the opportunity to have a confidential discussion of your case. Call us today or use our online contact form to schedule a confidential consultation at our office in the historic Wyatt House in downtown Raleigh. We serve clients throughout Wake County.

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Tips from Our Raleigh Divorce Attorneys

It is important to be informed about the documentation you should gather before you proceed with your divorce, and about what information your spouse may use against you. Our experienced attorneys will help you better understand how each of these factors plays a role.

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Consider your social media presence. Any information on your social profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, can be used as evidence against you.

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Gather all of your financial records to help you in filling out a Financial Affidavit. Details matter as you complete this form.

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There are specific steps to the division of marital assets. Our attorneys will help you understand this process so you can get an equitable distribution of assets in your divorce.

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There are several factors to determining distribution of marital debt, and we’ll make sure you understand them all.

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In North Carolina, pets are considered property, so you may need to work out pet custody arrangements in the divorce process.

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Want to Get A Divorce? What’s Next?

The decision to end a marriage is not an easy one to make, particularly when children are involved. Once the decision is made, you may need to know what is involved in the process you are facing. It may also help to know that, when you work with Charles R. Ullman & Associates, our dedicated divorce attorney will stand by you every step of the way.

  • North Carolina is a no-fault state, which means that you do not need to prove marital fault in order to obtain a divorce. You do have to live separately and apart for at least one year with the intent of permanent separation before you can get a divorce.
  • Our firm can prepare a separation agreement containing the terms of your divorce, to be signed by both spouses when you separate. The agreement will address issues such as property and debt division, child custody, child support, visitation, and spousal support.
  • After a year of separation, you may file for divorce with the court. Our firm can prepare and file the paperwork for you and arrange for your spouse to be served. You must wait 30 days (40 in some cases) after service to request a hearing, during which time period your spouse may file an answer to your complaint with the court.
  • You should personally attend the hearing, as the judge will have final say over the terms of your divorce. The judge’s decision will make your settlement agreement (possibly modified by the judge) into a binding legal agreement.

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What Are the Grounds for Divorce in NC?

If you have lived separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year, and at least one of you have lived in North Carolina for a minimum of six months, you can file for an absolute divorce. Let’s take a closer look at the two elements for this type of divorce:

1. Separate and apart

man getting divorcedwoman getting divorced

To qualify, you and your spouse must have actually lived separate and apart for the full year. Merely living in different bedrooms or different areas of a house would not meet this element.

If you resume marital relations with your spouse, or reconcile, it will restart the one-year period. For example: You may live separate and apart from your spouse for nine months, reconcile and then separate again. You would need to remain living separate and apart for the next 12 months, or one year, to qualify for an absolute divorce. The nine months would not be counted toward the separation period.

 

What is reconciliation?

It depends on the circumstances. An isolated reunion likely wouldn’t be deemed reconciliation, but multiple ones likely would. If you hold yourselves out as married to the public, it would be considered reconciliation.

The date that your separation starts is important. It not only begins the one-year period for obtaining a divorce, but it also may serve as the date that’s used to place a value on your marital assets when you are dividing property.

2. Residency

To qualify, at least one spouse must have established residency in North Carolina for at least six months immediately prior to filing for the divorce. Residency means having an actual physical presence in the state and the intent to remain in the state for an indefinite time.

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How Does Mental Illness or Insanity Play a Role in Divorce?

If you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least three years due to the spouse’s “incurable insanity,” you may qualify for a no-fault divorce as well. What constitutes incurable insanity? Under North Carolina law, this means that the spouse was either adjudicated insane within the three-year period, institutionalized for that period or can otherwise be deemed to be incurably insane.

Also, you will need to present expert testimony. At least two doctors must testify that the spouse’s insanity is “incurable.” And at least one of those doctors must be a psychiatrist at one of the state’s four-year medical schools.

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What Are the Laws about Property Division and Divorce in NC?

One very important aspect of divorce is the division of marital assets and debts. This can be settled one of three ways in North Carolina:

  • Separation agreement (agreed upon and signed by both spouses)
  • Equitable distribution court order (as determined by the court)
  • Consent judgment (agreed upon by the spouses and ordered by the court)

Dividing marital assets is basically a three-step process. First, all assets must be identified and classified as either separate or marital. Second, a value must be attached to each asset. Third, the assets must be distributed fairly or evenly.

The courts favor an equitable 50/50 split of debts and assets in North Carolina. They consider various factors in determining marital asset distribution, but marital misconduct is not one of them, unless it was misconduct that lowered the value of the marital estate, such as reckless spending or hiding financial accounts.

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What Are the Changes to My Taxes after Divorce?

In preparing your separation agreement, our seasoned divorce lawyer will consider the tax consequences likely to result from the division of assets as well as the value of the property you receive. If the marital home is sold in order to split the proceeds, for example, capital gains tax might apply.

When children are involved in divorce, it needs to be determined which parent will be allowed to claim them as dependents on their tax return. In some cases, parents alternate years, which would need to be specified in the separation agreement.

A spouse receiving alimony must pay taxes on that income, while the paying spouse is allowed to deduct the payments. Child support payments are neither deductible for the payer nor taxable for the payee.

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What Are the Legal Concerns for My Children in a Divorce?

The number one concern for most divorcing parents is the effect the divorce will have on their children. Their emotional and material well-being is a top priority in working out the terms of a separation or settlement agreement between spouses.

Child support payments can help provide for the financial needs of the children. Child custody terms in a parenting agreement can help ensure that children are able to spend as much time with both parents as possible. The decision as to whether the custodial parent remains in the marital home can affect the children’s sense of security and stability.

Typically in North Carolina divorces, one parent will assume physical custody of the child while the other has visitation rights. This is one of the most emotionally charged areas of divorce, as both parents want to spend the maximum time possible with their children and have a say in decisions affecting their lives. In cases when child custody is contested, the court will decide based on the best interests of the child.

Talk to a Raleigh, NC Divorce Lawyer

Helpful Resources for a North Carolina Divorce

An Experienced Raleigh, NC Divorce Lawyer Can Help You

Because neither party has to prove marital fault in order to obtain the divorce, “no-fault divorce” grounds generally are the most straightforward and easiest to prove. However, as you can see above, there are still nuances involved in the process. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced Raleigh, NC divorce lawyer when seeking such a divorce. Additionally, matters related to a divorce need legal attention. For instance, you must assert your rights to alimony and equitable distribution of your property before a divorce is finalized.

At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, we recognize that when it comes to divorce, the consequences for you and your family are quite serious. We’re here to help. Learn more about how to choose an attorney to represent you. If you would like more information, or to schedule a confidential consultation with our Raleigh divorce lawyers regarding your no-fault divorce options, contact us by calling us toll-free or by filling out our online contact form.

Last Updated January 31, 2017 

Family Law BLOG

You and your spouse are legally separated. North Carolina won’t grant the divorce until the state-mandated one-year physical separation is over, but you have met someone new. Can you start dating during the separation period? The truth is, you should... Keep Reading

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