When most of us think of divorce in Charlotte, North Carolina, what we are really thinking of is known as an absolute divorce. An absolute divorce occurs when the bonds of marriage are dissolved. Below, we take a look at how to seek an absolute divorce in this state. A family law attorney can help you with guidance to ensure you do not make any costly mistakes during the process.
The Process of Absolute Divorce in Charlotte, North Carolina
- Living Separately
Before filing for an absolute divorce, the state requires that you and your spouse must live apart and separately for at least a period of 12 consecutive months. What’s more, either one or both of you must have the intention to cease living together as husband and wife. One the first day after the 12 months of separation, either of you can file for an absolute divorce, which is discussed in full in the North Carolina General Statute in Section 50-6.
Being separated refers to the fact that you and your spouse must live in separate houses. It is not enough if you merely sleep in separate bedrooms in the same home. Further, if either of you resumes your marital relationship during this time period, and then separate once more, the 12-month time period may have to start over again depending on the facts surrounding your circumstances.
Should you and your spouse choose to indulge in isolated incidents of intercourse during the separation period, though, such acts are not likely to reset the 12-month time period. However, your actions might impact other claims, for instance, spousal support.
- Living in the State of North Carolina
Either of you must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing for the absolute divorce. This means that you intend to live in North Carolina indefinitely. If you leave the state temporarily, such as to attend college or go on a vacation, but you do intend to return, you still meet the requirements of residing in North Carolina.
It’s worth noting that this residence requirement is only applicable to the time period prior to filing for divorce. Once you have filed, neither of you have to continue residing in North Carolina for the state to have jurisdiction over the absolute divorce. You also do not have to be a United States citizen to obtain a divorce.
- Filing for Absolute Divorce in Charlotte, N.C.
Once the first two requirements are met, either of you can file a complaint for divorce. The complaint is a document wherein you will detail the grounds for divorce. If you wish to have your maiden name back once the divorce is finalized, you must include a statement to that effect in the document.
Details to include in the document include:
- That you are a citizen and resident of a North Carolina county
- That you have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing the claim
- That you and your spouse have lived separately for a year with the intent that this separation becomes permanent
- Details of any children of the marriage, their ages, and names
The complaint must be verified before a notary.
- Filing a Civil Summons
You will also need to file a civil summons which, along with the complaint, will be served on your spouse. The most common methods of serving a spouse in this state include:
- By certified mail with return receipt requested, via the United States Postal Service
- Via the Sheriff’s Office in the county in which your spouse is located
- By your spouse dating and signing an acceptance of service
- Filing an Answer to the Complaint
Once your spouse has been served with the complaint and summons, he or she has 30 days to file an Answer to the Complaint. Your spouse is also permitted to move the court for an extension for the time to answer, which would then give him or her 60 days to file an answer from the date of service. Often, the defendant does not even respond to a complaint for an absolute divorce.
- Motion for Summary Judgment
Once time is up per the statute and there have been no disagreements about the basic elements needed for the divorce, you can file a motion for summary judgment. A copy must be sent to your spouse either via hand delivery or the U.S. mail.
- Scheduling a Hearing
Once the motion has been served on your spouse, you can then schedule a hearing for your absolute divorce. You can do this after ten days if your motion was sent by hand delivery. If you sent the motion via mail, you are obliged to wait thirteen days to schedule your hearing.
- Live Hearing
You are also entitled to schedule the absolute divorce for a live hearing which will take place in front of the court and gives you the chance to testify about the basic elements needed for the absolute divorce. However, you may also choose to have an attorney appear in court on your behalf.
The procedure for the absolute divorce hearing tends to vary from county to county. In some counties, the judgments are given to the judge who has been designated to handle divorces during that week, who will then sign the judgment and give it to the clerk to file. In other counties, you or your attorney will appear in court in order to submit the divorce judgment to the judge for signature at that time.
Seek the Help of a Family Law Attorney
While filing for an absolute divorce in Charlotte, N.C. is a relatively straight forward process, there can be consequences that result from obtaining the judgment for the divorce, such as giving up marital rights you may have including equitable distribution of the marital property and spousal support.
Our Charlotte Family Law Attorneys will discuss the matter of absolute divorce with you – whether you are seeking the divorce or your spouse has served you with a complaint for divorce. Book an appointment with one of our experienced divorce lawyers today to find out your rights and for help through the divorce process in North Carolina.