Let's face it, getting divorced is stressful. Going through North Carolina's complicated divorce process only makes matters worse. But don't worry, you don't have to go it alone. Whether you're the one who initiated the divorce proceedings or you've just been served divorce documents, we're here to support you through every step.
In this article, we'll cover the following: 1. Why do I need a divorce lawyer in North Carolina? 2. What other options does North Carolina have for divorce petitioners? 3. What are the benefits of hiring a divorce lawyer?
Grounds for Filing a Divorce in North Carolina
When individuals marry, they enter into a legally binding contract. Generally, this contract terminates only upon the death of a spouse. An absolute divorce, on the other hand, indicates that both parties intend for the contract to terminate early.
Divorce laws vary from state to state. In fault-based states, a petitioner must be able to demonstrate a valid legal basis for filing for divorce in order for the court to grant the divorce. Such grounds may include conduct that caused the dissolution of the marriage or instances of "marital misconduct," infidelity or abuse.
In non-fault-based states, petitioners do not need to prove marital misconduct in order for the divorce to be granted. In these jurisdictions, the only requirement for ending a marriage is demonstrating irreparable harm to the union, as long as the sentiment is expressed by one spouse.
The remaining states adopt a mixed approach to divorce, which allows judges to assess marital conduct while also providing spouses with the option of obtaining a divorce without fault.
North Carolina is considered a no-fault state. Its no-fault divorce process is relatively straightforward. In accordance with statutory divorce laws, there are two threshold legal requirements to obtain a no-fault a divorce in North Carolina:
A couple must have been physically separated for at least one year.
At least one spouse has resided in North Carolina six months prior to filing.
In addition, incurable insanity is another ground for divorce in North Carolina. Incurable insanity is not a marital misconduct ground and will not be considered one. A spouse is deemed to be incurably insane if they have been institutionalized for a minimum of three years in a medical facility, resulting in separation between them. In order to demonstrate incurable insanity, a medical expert must testify in a court of law confirming that the healthy spouse is correct in their assertions.
Divorce from Bed and Board
An alternative resolution to an absolute divorce in North Carolina is a divorce from bed and board. Although the word “divorce” is used in its name, this court order is not technically a legal divorce; it is a judicially sanctioned separation. This option is granted rarely under one or more of the following circumstances:
One spouse has abandoned another.
A spouse kicks the other spouse out of their residence.
A spouse has committed adultery.
A spouse has committed acts of domestic violence.
A spouse excessively uses alcohol and/or drugs.
There is proof of indignities (conduct that humiliates and degrades the other spouse) such as abusive language and neglect.
North Carolina also offers the option of getting an annulment, rather than a divorce. When a person wishes to get their marriage annulled, they wish to legally erase proof of a marriage as if it never existed. State residents in pursuit of an annulment must meet at least one of these relatively narrow qualifications:
Either spouse was already married to another person at the time of the marriage.
One spouse was forced to enter a marriage.
One spouse entered into a marriage due to the misrepresentation and lies of the other spouse.
Either spouse was too young to enter a marriage without court or parental approval.
The spouses are in a marriage that is legally considered incestuous.
One spouse was diagnosed as emotionally disturbed or mentally ill at the time of marriage.
One spouse was incapacitated (under the influence of drugs or alcohol) at the time of marriage and could not properly consent to this decision.
One spouse was physically incapable of having sexual relations at the time of marriage and during the marriage.
Do I Need an Attorney to File for Divorce?
The process of filing for divorce in North Carolina does not necessitate the hiring of an attorney. However, due to the complexity of state divorce laws, court proceedings can sometimes appear confusing and difficult to navigate on your own. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with a divorce attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of divorce law before filing to ensure that you have satisfied all the criteria for a full, uncontested divorce and that there are no additional claims that need to be filed before the divorce is finalized.
In North Carolina, a party who is granted a divorce does not have the right to file claims for alimony or equitable distribution after the divorce is finalized. However, even if a party does not hire a divorce attorney to represent them during the divorce proceedings, consulting with a divorce lawyer for advice will enable the party to make an informed decision based on their options and circumstances.
Experienced North Carolina Family Law Attorneys
Divorce can be a difficult and emotionally taxing process. It can often feel as if no one ever comes out of it unscathed. Either party involved in a divorce can benefit from the guidance and legal counsel provided by the experienced attorneys at Webster & Back. We are dedicated to safeguarding your interests and providing assistance. Contact us today for a consultation.