In North Carolina, a divorce is referred to as an “absolute divorce“. You may have also heard of a divorce from bed & board – this is NOT a legal divorce.
North Carolina is one of the many states that has abolished fault as a grounds for divorce. This law lessens the potential harm to the husband and wife and their children caused by the process of divorce. All that is required is that one of the parties to the divorce has been a legal resident of North Carolina for 6 months, and that the parties have been separated for at least one year. Either spouse can file for an absolute divorce after the period of separation. Fault, however, may be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony and determination of custody issues.
Each divorce case is unique and therefore settlements vary. Even though fault is not an issue, the division of property and possessions and responsibility for support may become contested matters. The legal process for obtaining a divorce usually will involve issues of spousal support, child custody, child support, distribution of property and division of debt, though these matters are usually only ancillary to the absolute divorce.
The divorce process is highly emotional and traumatic for everyone it touches. Marriage partners often do not know their legal rights and obligations. Court clerks and judges can answer some of your basic questions but are prohibited from giving legal advice. Only your lawyer is allowed to do that. Court procedures must be strictly followed or you may lose certain rights forever. It is recommended that you obtain the services of an attorney concerning legal questions, your rights in a divorce, your children’s rights, your property rights, your responsibilities resulting from the marriage or tax consequences. A knowledgeable lawyer can analyze your unique situation, and give you the information you need to help make decisions that are in the best interest of you and your family.
A divorce must be certified by a court of law to become effective. The terms of the divorce are usually determined by the court, though they may take into account prenuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements, or simply ratify terms that the spouses may have agreed to privately in an uncontested divorce. Be cautioned that in the absence of an agreement, a contested divorce will be stressful to the spouses and lead to expensive litigation. Less adversarial approaches to divorce settlements have recently emerged, such as mediation and collaborative divorce, which negotiate mutually acceptable resolution to conflicts.
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