While the exact process for filing for divorce in NC may vary by county, the basic six steps for filing for an absolute divorce are the same throughout North Carolina.
How to File for a Divorce:
- First, draft the Divorce Complaint. The Clerk of Court does not have a form for the complaint, so you will have to draft the divorce papers yourself. Chapter 50 of the NC Statutes contains the law on divorce. If your complaint doesn’t contains the necessary language, the court will dismiss it. If you want to resume your maiden name ask for it in the complaint.
- Second, verify the divorce complaint by signing it in front of a notary public. Remember, you or your spouse must have been a resident of NC for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce. And you and your spouse must have been living separate and apart for one year. There is no way to get around the one year separation requirement.
- Third, file the divorce complaint and civil summons with the Clerk of Court. You will likely need at least 3 or 4 copies of these forms. You will need to know your spouse’s address for service.
- After you complete step 3, you will serve the filed complaint and civil summons on your spouse by the sheriff or certified mail. If you serve your spouse by mail be sure to keep both the white mailing card and the green signature card. If you are serving your spouse by mail, you must choose certified mail, signature restricted. Only your spouse can sign for the divorce complaint. Once your spouse has been served he/she has 30 days to file an answer to the complaint. Now you wait until the 30 days have past.
- Next, draft a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Notice of Hearing. Then, file them with the Court. You will need proof that your spouse has been served. If you served your spouse by Sheriff, the Sheriff will sign the Summons and return it to the Court. For certified mail, this is the green signature card. If you served your spouse by mail, you will need to draft an Affidavit of Service and file it with the Court. All documents you file with the court must be mailed to your spouse. After you file the initial complaint the documents can be sent regular mail.
- Finally, when you go to your divorce hearing on the court date you have selected, take a copy of the complaint and summons, the certificate of absolute divorce or annulment form (you will get a copy of this form from the clerk’s office when you initially file your divorce papers), and take 3 copies of the divorce judgment (you will draft this document). If you served your spouse by certified mail you will also need to take a copy of the affidavit of service by certified mail that you filed and the certified mail receipts. At the hearing, the judge will sign all three copies of the divorce judgment. The court will keep one copy, you will get one copy and one copy is for your spouse. You need to mail a copy of the divorce judgment to your spouse At this point, you are divorced. This means that you can live your life as a single person.Remember that issues of property, child custody, child support, and alimony are not decided by a divorce hearing and may be waived in not pursued beforehand.
Uncontested vs. Contested
An uncontested divorce or no contest divorce case can be filed in North Carolina based upon a one-year separation and a six-month residency requirement. In North Carolina uncontested divorce does not include allegations of fault such as adultery, abandonment, cruelty, or indignities. The court will not address allegations of fault at an uncontested divorce hearing.
Filing for Divorce Without an Attorney
A divorce is only one part of the process of ending a marriage. A divorce hearing or judgment does not settle issues of alimony or property division. Filing for divorce before you settle those issues means that you lose the right to pursue those claims at a later date. After the judgment is signed, you can’t go back and file for spousal support, alimony, or equitable distribution.
A divorce hearing does not settle issues of child custody or child support either. If these issues have not been resolved, you should consider retaining a divorce attorney to help you through the divorce process.
You will need a copy of the divorce judgment granting your name change request to take to the social security office, drivers license office, and bank to change your name on your documents. Start with the social security office. Once you have your new social security card, take it and the judgment to the DMV and get a new license. Then you can take your license and social security card to the bank and change your name on your accounts.