Before making a decision about separation or divorce, it is important to find out more information about the divorce process so you know what to expect. For couples with complex property division issues or children, the divorce process can be more challenging and take months or years to be finalized.
Before filing for divorce in North Carolina, you and your spouse must live separate and apart for at least one year. The "divorce" in North Carolina refers only to the ending of your legal relationship as a married couple. However, domestic issues like custody, child support, spousal support, and property division can be addressed prior to the divorce, and often need to be. For parties who can agree on the terms of these issues, a Separation Agreement or Consent Order can be prepared resolving some or all of these claims.
For parties who are unable to reach an agreement on their domestic issues, the issues that cannot be agreed upon will have to be decided in court. In particular, claims for property division and spousal support must be filed for before a divorce judgment is entered. Claims for custody and child support, however, can be raised at any time in the separation or divorce process.
When many people ask what they can expect to get in the "divorce" or "divorce judgment" they are really referring to the domestic issues like property division. Again, the divorce judgment in North Carolina is the legal document that generally only addresses the date your married relationship as husband and wife officially ends under North Carolina law. In regards to the issue of property division,North Carolina is an "equitable distribution" state, meaning that there is a presumption that marital assets and debts should be divided equally between the parties. North Carolina law does set out factors that the courts can consider for when a party may be entitled to an unequal distribution of marital property in their favor. Spouses must remember that only marital property can be divided or addressed by the courts. Property owned by a party prior to the marriage or received by a party through inheritance is generally considered separate property and cannot be distributed to the other spouse in a divorce. There are certain exceptions, such as when a spouse takes separate property and titles it in the other spouse's name or mixes separate funds with marital funds. The law differs depending on the nature of the property and the actions that the spouse takes, so it is important to consult with an experienced divorce attorney regarding the type of property you have and the actions you have taken during your marriage, so that you know what the law provides and what you can expect in the property division and divorce process.
The divorce process can be complicated, particularly for couples who have a large number of assets or complex property issues. Getting the right information about laws regarding property division and other domestic issues related to divorce can help you understand your options and can help you make sure your rights are protected throughout the process.
Source: The North Carolina Court System, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed on July 25, 2017