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How and Where is a Divorce Complaint Filed in North Carolina?

Although North Carolina allows for no-fault divorces that make the proceedings much easier than having to state a reason or assign blame, the divorce filing process is not as simple as one might believe. This is especially true when it comes to filling out and filing the proper paperwork. In North Carolina, the only requirements a couple must meet in order to file for Absolute Divorce is to have been separated for one consecutive year and for one spouse to have lived in North Carolina for at least six months. Once these conditions are met, you must then fill out the required paperwork and go through the necessary steps to move your divorce proceeding forward before finalizing it.

At Marshall & Taylor PLLC, we know going through a divorce can be an emotionally taxing ordeal. Not only are you dealing with the stresses of the divorce proceeding, but you’re also coming to grips with a failed marriage and a drastic change in your life. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this alone. The Raleigh divorce paperwork lawyers at Marshall & Taylor PLLC can handle your case every step of the way, making sure you fill out and file all paperwork on time so you can focus on your own well-being. Contact our offices today by calling 919-833-1040 and speak with a skilled legal representative about your rights and options.

Why Hire a Lawyer to Assist with Your Divorce Paperwork?

Filing for divorce can be challenging. One of the most practical difficulties is correctly completing all the necessary paperwork. You need an experienced divorce attorney to guide you in properly filing for your divorce so that you can ensure that the divorce can proceed smoothly and on a reasonable timetable.

Every divorce is different. Depending on the specifics of your divorce, you may find that you need to file additional paperwork that is rarely required. A knowledgeable divorce attorney will know this and make sure that everything is submitted in your petition for divorce, and will deal quickly with any questions and complications that may arise along the way with the proceedings.

You can’t put the rest of your life on hold to take care of every detail of your divorce petition even when it’s straightforward and amicable. Therefore, if your divorce is more complicated by extenuating circumstances, hiring a competent divorce lawyer will help ensure that your divorce is as smooth as possible and is granted in a timely manner.

Why Choose Marshall & Taylor PLLC?

At Marshall & Taylor PLLC, we have the expertise and experience to provide you with exceptional counsel and representation during your divorce proceedings. We will work closely with you to ensure that your needs from the divorce are successfully met.

Our empathetic team can make this stressful process easier by helping you through the divorce filing process. Marshall & Taylor PLLC also offers professional mediation and arbitration services, which can help you and your spouse successfully negotiate sticking points in the terms of the divorce. Additionally, our depth of knowledge about North Carolina divorce gives us the ability to anticipate and prepare for challenges that may arise during your divorce proceedings.

At Marshall & Taylor PLLC we are well equipped to help with complicating divorce factors like the dividing assets, deciding custody, and finalizing spousal support agreements. We can also help handle sensitive matters that may arise during a divorce, such as domestic violence or abuse.

At Marshall & Taylor PLLC we are committed to providing our clients with excellent legal services and successful outcomes.  Jeff Marshall, one of our firm’s partners, has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including being named among North Carolina’s Super Lawyers, Top Attorneys in North Carolina by Charlotte Magazine, and Top 100 Lawyer by the National Advocates. Jeff is board-certified in family law and certified in family financial mediation.

Divorce Paperwork

There are a number of forms involved in a divorce proceeding. Along with filing paperwork for a divorce, it’s important to remember that if you are seeking any decisions on child custody, alimony, division of assets, or child support, you must file for those before filing for divorce to avoid losing rights. All the divorce forms will have blanks for “plaintiff” and “defendant” and some have to be signed in front of a Notary Public before they can be completed and delivered to your spouse. The forms you should know about include:

  • Complaint: Because divorce is a type of lawsuit, you must file a complaint at your County Clerk’s office detailing who is seeking the divorce and asking for a judge to grant you a divorce.
  • Verification: A document signed and notarized that verifies the complaint is legitimate.
  • Civil Summons: This document identifies the spouse you are serving divorce papers to and seeking a divorce from. If the sheriff’s department serves the papers, you must also file a “Notice of Assignment Card,” or, if you choose to mail the complaint, you must fill out an “Affidavit of Service by Certified Mail.”
  • Judgment: This is the legal document that grants your divorce request. After receiving this, you must go back to the clerk’s office and file it.

It’s important to make sure you do not sign forms that require notarization until you are in front of a Notary Public. You should also make two copies of every form to ensure you have a copy for yourself. An experienced divorce attorney can make sure you fill out and file all forms correctly, making the process as smooth as possible.

Divorce Process

After filling out and submitting the proper paperwork, the divorce proceedings go through various stages before being finalized. Those include the following:

  • Separation: The entire process begins with a physical separation apart from your spouse for at least one year. This is the stage where child custody, alimony, and other decisions are resolved and addressed in a separation agreement.
  • Filing: After a year, you can legally file and serve the divorce complaint, verification, and civil summons, and the corresponding fees, with your local County Clerk’s office.
  • Service: You cannot legally serve your spouse the divorce complaint in person. It can only be done by certified mail, in person through a sheriff’s deputy, or by publishing a notice in the local newspaper. After your spouse has been served, you must wait 30 days before scheduling a hearing. During this time your spouse can file an answer to your complaint in the event they want to contest it.
  • Hearing: A judge will hear your divorce and submit a judgment officially granting your marriage dissolution. If there are still disputes between both parties, they can be addressed during this hearing where the judge will hear both arguments and make a decision in the final divorce order.
  • Finalized: After the divorce is entered by the judge, you will file three copies of the document at the Clerk of Court’s Office. If you want to restore your previous surname, you can begin that process by filing another certified copy of the judgment with the Social Security Administration.

Because the divorce process is so involved and can also be an emotionally stressful or heated process, it’s a good idea to consult with a divorce attorney as soon as possible to ensure you not only follow the proper steps but that you reach your desired outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I date other people during the divorce process?

You can begin dating after you are legally separated (to be granted a divorce in North Carolina, you must be legally separated from your spouse for one year).

However, dating before your divorce is finalized can be risky. Your spouse may use this to accuse you of infidelity (which can affect the divorce’s outcome) and they may become uncooperative in meeting your terms.

Do I need my spouse to agree to the divorce? What if they don’t want a divorce?

Your spouse does not need to agree to the divorce for it to be granted. Only one spouse needs to file for a divorce for the marriage to end. If you want a divorce and the requirements for divorce have been met, then you should be granted a divorce.

What should I do if I’ve had difficulty serving my spouse the divorce complaint?

If serving your spouse through certified mail or a sheriff’s deputy is unsuccessful (usually because the spouse can’t be located), you may be able to serve them through publishing the divorce notice in a newspaper.

The divorce notice must run in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. Once the notice has been published, your lawyer will file an affidavit with the court indicating what paper the notice was published in and why the notice needed to be served via the newspaper.

After the divorce notice has run for three weeks, you should be able to proceed with the divorce even if your spouse can’t be found.

How long will a divorce take?

It depends. After you petition the court for divorce, your spouse has 30 days to respond before the hearing. After 30 days, your attorney can schedule a hearing. If the divorce is uncontested, then the divorce can be granted.

What is a contested divorce?

Contested divorces occur when there is a dispute between spouses during the divorce process. If the spouses can’t agree on the terms of the divorce, it is considered a contested divorce.

Disagreements can arise for a number of reasons. For example, one spouse may claim that the couple has not been separated for a year and challenge the divorce. Other common reasons that a divorce may be contested include disagreements about child custody, alimony, or asset division. When these types of disagreements can’t be resolved by the spouses, the court resolves them.

In child custody disputes, the court decides who gets custody based on the best interests of the child. With alimony disputes, the court will consider the financial situations of the spouses, the standard of living during the marriage, as well as other factors.

When spouses can’t agree on how to divide their assets, the court will work to divide them fairly. However, this doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be divided equally between both spouses.

Do custody arrangements, alimony agreements, and asset division need to be decided before the divorce?

These agreements should be made before your divorce is finalized. If you do not settle them before your divorce is finalized, the court will decide them for you and the terms may not be as favorable to either spouse.

Therefore, it is important to try to resolve these matters in the initial phase of filing for divorce, and have an experienced divorce lawyer help you come to agreeable terms with your spouse.

Contact Us Today

The Raleigh divorce lawyers at Marshall & Taylor PLLC have the experience and the heart to help individuals just like you pursue and finalize the best solution to dissolve their marriage and move on with their lives. This is not an easy process and requires a legal representative with the resources and stamina to see it through to the end. To schedule a free consultation and begin your divorce proceedings, contact us today by calling 919-833-1040.


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