In order to get a divorce (or “absolute divorce”) in North Carolina, you and your spouse must be physically separated for at least a year. One of the parties must also live in North Carolina and have lived in the state for at least 6 months prior to the case being filed.
Once these jurisdictional requirements are met, you may file a complaint for absolute divorce. If both parties cooperate and are in agreement about getting a divorce, an absolute divorce can be filed and finalized in a matter of weeks and it is unlikely that either party will have to show up in court. Otherwise, it usually takes 45-60 days to file a complaint, have the matter heard by the court, and finalize the divorce.
If you or your spouse files a complaint for absolute divorce, it is very important you consider any claims you may have for equitable distribution (property division) and alimony. If you fail to file a complaint for equitable distribution and alimony before the court grants an absolute divorce, those claims will be barred and waived.
If you are served with a summons and complaint for absolute divorce, you should seek advice from an attorney immediately and contact the Law Office of Matthew J. Jensen.
To the extent that you and your spouse can agree on custody and a visitation schedule for your children, that agreement can be memorialized in a separation agreement, a parenting agreement, or a consent order filed with the court.
If an agreement on custody and visitation is not possible, you or your spouse may file a complaint for child custody and a judge will decide these issues. The judge’s decision will be based on what is in the best interest of your child, taking into account such factors as the age of your child, the stability of each parent and their home environment, the time each parent has to spend with the children, and whether there are any child abuse, substance abuse, or domestic violence issues.
Your child has a right to receive financial support from both parents. Child support obligations generally last until the child turns 18 and graduates from high school.
In North Carolina, child support is based on the income of each party and the amount of overnights each parent spends with the child. Other expenses like health insurance and daycare are also factored into the court’s child support calculations.
Child support orders are subject to modification to reflect changes in a parent’s financial circumstances. Salary increases, layoffs, or changes in child custody arrangements can lead to an adjustment in the amount of your monthly child support payments.
If you have a child support issue, please contact the Law Office of Matthew J. Jensen to schedule a consultation.
Post Separation support and Alimony
North Carolina law provides for 2 kinds of spousal support: post separation support and alimony. Post separation support is temporary in nature and awarded before a judgment of absolute divorce. Alimony is paid after an absolute divorce is granted and can be ordered for a specified term or an indefinite period of time. In some cases, alimony can be paid in one lump sum.
The factors used to determine the amount (if any) and duration of post separation support and alimony are similar and take into account things like the disparity of income between the parties, whether one spouse is dependent on the other spouse to pay his or her living expenses, the ability of the breadwinner to pay support to the other spouse, the length of the marriage, the lifestyle established during the parties’ marriage, the age and health of each party, the educational and work backgrounds of the parties, the extent to which the supported spouse devoted time to homemaking and raising the parties’ children, and any misconduct (such as adultery) committed during the marriage.
If you are in need post separation support and alimony to help you get on your feet, the Law Office of Matthew J. Jensen can help you.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. Property accumulated during the marriage, such as real estate, vehicles, investments, retirement savings, and debts, is considered “marital property” and subject to division.
Unless a court determines that an equal division is not equitable, marital assets and debts are to be divided equally. Factors for an unequal division of property include but are not limited to the duration of the marriage, the age and health of each party, the need of the custodial parent to occupy the marital residence, the contributions of one spouse to the other’s education and career, and the acts of either party to maintain, preserve, waste, or devalue marital property.
“Separate property” is all real and personal property acquired by a spouse before marriage or acquired by a spouse by devise, descent, or gift during the course of the marriage and is not usually subject to division in a divorce.
If you need assistance dividing your marital assets and debts, please contact the Law Office of Matthew J. Jensen to schedule a consultation.
If you are a victim of physical or verbal abuse from your spouse, significant other, or “ex,” you can file a complaint and motion for a domestic violence protective order (“DVPO”) with the court. A domestic violence protective order usually lasts for a year and can be renewed upon a showing of good cause.
North Carolina defines domestic violence as one of the following acts: (1) attempting to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury; (2) placing the aggrieved party or a member of the aggrieved party's family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress; and (3) committing any sexual offense described in North Carolina General Statutes 14-27.21 through 14-27.33.
If you are the victim of domestic violence (or you are being wrongfully accused of domestic violence), the Law Office of Matthew J. Jensen can help you.