One of the worst things about divorce is that it demands your clearest thinking and soundest judgment at a time when you are most likely to be angry, confused or fearful about the future. At Sherrill & Cameron, PLLC, our family law attorneys help you make good decisions for yourself and your children no matter how difficult your situation right now might be. We work closely with you to get a good idea of your immediate problems and long-term goals. We advise you about your rights and responsibilities under North Carolina law so you can avoid impulsive choices that can cause you pain and expense for years to come and instead make decisions based on reason and solid legal grounds. We can show you how to achieve most, if not all, of what you need through negotiation, and we can represent you in court if it becomes impossible to reach a satisfactory agreement.
North Carolina is a hybrid state for purposes of divorce, permitting no-fault actions under limited circumstances and limiting the effects of a divorce action where grounds are cited. State law allows absolute divorce, which is a complete dissolution of your marriage, only if the spouses have lived separately and apart for more than one year. However, the state does not allow divorce for marital misconduct, such as adultery or cruelty. In such cases, the injured spouse can go to court and, upon sufficient proof of the offensive conduct, get a “divorce from bed and board,” which is more like a legal separation. It settles all the ancillary issues of divorce and puts the guilty spouse outside the home. But neither spouse is free to remarry, so the couple has time to reconcile. If they do not reconcile, they can get an absolute divorce after one year.
North Carolina also allows absolute divorce in cases where a spouse has been diagnosed with incurable insanity, if the mental illness has caused the spouses to live separate and apart for three consecutive years.
There are two requirements for a no-fault divorce in North Carolina:
Filing no-fault eliminates the need to prove marital misconduct, but it does not mean your divorce will be uncontested. Spouses still must settle a variety of issues:
Your divorce could also be complicated by questions about:
Depending on your circumstances, it might be more advantageous to seek a divorce from bed and board before filing for a no-fault divorce.
North Carolina has no provision for a simplified divorce. However, it is possible to achieve an uncontested divorce if you reach a marital settlement agreement with your spouse through negotiations or mediation. The basic steps in the divorce process are as follows:
After these preliminary steps, the case is registered with the court, and the difficult work of reaching a marital settlement can begin. Spouses must exchange financial information and, through the discovery process, can demand answers to questions and the production of certain documents. If the spouses are able to reach a settlement by the date of their first court hearing, they can present that document to the court for approval. The court then uses the settlement as the basis for its divorce decree.
If the parties cannot reach a settlement, any outstanding issues are scheduled for trial. Unfortunately, when you leave specifics such as child custody, alimony, or property division to the discretion of the court, you risk an adverse decision that can be very costly. Our experience allows us to give you a good idea of how a court would likely rule in your situation so that you will know when to make concessions and when to hold firm to your position.
Naturally, trial extends the time it takes to get a divorce. An uncontested divorce can be final in a couple of months, but when your case requires hearings on various issues, the process can last for many months or even years.
It’s important to get your divorce settlement right the first time, because your options are very limited afterward. You cannot ask the court for a modification of your property settlement unless you can prove there was fraud or misrepresentation in the process. As for the terms of your alimony, child custody and child support agreements, you cannot seek a modification unless you’ve experienced a significant and material change in circumstances.
At Sherrill & Cameron, PLLC, our family law attorneys represent parties petitioning the court for a modification and those opposing such a motion. We come to court prepared on all the issues so we can make your best case for the result you seek.
If you are contemplating divorce, trust Sherrill & Cameron, PLLC to provide the quality representation you need to protect your property and your parental rights. Our dedicated lawyers draw on more than 50 years of combined legal experience to provide reliable divorce counsel. Call today at 704-633-5723 or contact our Salisbury office online to schedule an appointment.