How to File for Divorce in NC
One of the many services that a family law attorney from Charles R. Ullman & Associates provides for clients is handling the paperwork involved in a divorce. While you focus on your family and yourself, we focus on making sure that all pleadings and forms are accurately filed in a timely manner. Our goal is to remove as much stress as possible from the divorce process.
To learn more about the steps and paperwork that our attorneys handle for clients throughout Raleigh and surrounding areas, please read the brief description below. You can also call (888) 975-0406 or filling out our online form.
North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means you can divorce without showing that either spouse caused the marriage to end. The process, however, is not as simple as that may sound. For instance, filing for a divorce can involve extensive paperwork, including:
Paperwork in a North Carolina Divorce
A divorce is essentially a lawsuit. You “sue for a divorce.” If you live in Raleigh or surrounding areas, this requires filing a complaint in the Wake County Clerk of Court’s office. The complaint must outline which spouse is seeking the divorce, attest to certain facts and request the court to grant the dissolution of your marriage.
This is a document that attests to the authenticity of the divorce complaint. It must be signed and notarized before it is filed in the clerk’s office.
This document identifies the spouse that you are serving with your divorce complaint. If the Wake County Sheriff’s Department serves the complaint on the spouse, you will need to complete and file a “Notice of Assignment Card.” If you serve the complaint by mail, you will need to ensure that you comply with procedural rules and complete an “Affidavit of Service by Certified Mail.” If all attempts to serve your complaint fail, you will need to publish notice in the local newspaper of record – for instance, the News & Observer in Raleigh – and you will need to complete an “Affidavit of Service by Publication.”
The judgment is the legal decree that grants your divorce. Once you have obtained a divorce, you must return to the clerk’s office to file the judgment.
There is more to filing for divorce than filling out the necessary forms. As the Wake County Clerk of Court explains in a package of sample forms and instructions on its website, the information does not cover child support, child custody, distribution of property or spousal support. These matters must be worked out as part of the divorce process as well. However, an attorney from Charles R. Ullman & Associates can provide assistance in those areas.
5 Steps in a North Carolina Divorce
As you file for a divorce, your case will progress through certain stages or “steps.” The following is a breakdown of those stages:
A divorce in North Carolina starts with the separation. You must physically separate and be apart from your spouse for at least one year. Separation is the stage at which the couple must determine how they will resolve matters such as child custody and child support, division of assets and debt and alimony. These issues can be addressed in the separation agreement. If the terms of a separation agreement are a matter of dispute, you will benefit from the assistance of an attorney who knows how to protect your rights and interests.
Once you and your spouse have been separated for a year, you can complete, file and serve your complaint, verification and civil summons. You will be filing multiple copies of these documents with the Clerk of Court’s office along with a fee that must be paid in cash.
As described above, your divorce complaint can be served on your spouse by certified mail, in person by a sheriff’s deputy or by publishing notice in the newspaper. Once your spouse has been served, a Certificate of Service will be returned to you. You must then wait 30 days (40 days for service by newspaper publication) before you schedule a hearing. During the service waiting period, your spouse may file an answer to your complaint if he or she wishes to contest the divorce or make counterclaims. An answer generally consists of admitting or denying the facts of the original complaint.
Eventually, a judge will hear your divorce and enter a judgment that grants the dissolution of your marriage. If there are no matters to be contested, the judge may enter a summary judgment in which he or she accepts your separation agreement and grants the terms of divorce that you and your spouse have agreed upon. If disputes remain, you and your spouse – and possibly others – may provide testimony at your divorce hearing. One the judge has heard testimony, reviewed evidence, etc., he or she will make a decision for your final divorce orders that she or he thinks is best for everyone involved. The judge’s decision seals your settlement agreement (possibly as modified by the judge) as a binding contract. All questions about alimony, asset division, child custody and child support are answered and settled. (The court can modify the divorce terms later if evidence shows it is not proper, but this is an additional legal matter.)
Because the judge has final say over the terms of your divorce, it is better for you, your spouse and all members of your family if you can appear at the hearing with a settlement agreement that both spouses endorse. This is not always easy.
At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, we are skilled and experienced negotiators. We will work diligently to protect your rights and interests as an agreement is developed.
Once your final judgment is entered by the judge, you must still file three copies of the document at the Clerk of Court’s Office to be officially divorced. If you are a woman who is resuming her maiden name, you will have to file an additional certified copy of the judgment with the Social Security Administration to begin that process.