10 Steps of Divorce
Part 1 Timelines and the Process
A Divorce can be a straightforward process or it could take a long time and that depends on a lot of factors such as areas of dispute, whether there are shared assets or not, if you have children, if there are circumstances beyond either parties control that delays the process, and a multitude of other reasons. In this article, we will discuss the expectations of the timeline of a divorce in North Carolina step by step by taking an optimistic approach to being able to tackle every part of the process in the most efficient and timely manner that the state will allow. The following timeline examples are estimates based on our experiences but in no way guarantees that the process will follow this same timeline, every divorce is different so there is no clear cut answer to satisfy a specific timeline but what we hope to do is ease some of your expectations by breaking down the process.
Separation- 1 year
The first step in the divorce process in the state of North Carolina requires both parties to live in separate residences for a year with at least one of the parties intending the separation to be permanent.
While there are steps that you can take during your separation to minimize the timeline through the other steps we will proceed under the assumption that every step is taken independently from the other.
Absolute Divorce- +46 Days= 1 Year 46 Days
According to the State of North Carolina, an Absolute Divorce is defined as follows:
“An Absolute Divorce is a complete divorce that allows the parties to marry again after their Divorce judgment becomes final, or to legally take action as a single individual, such as purchasing property or filing taxes as single. North Carolina law requires that the parties be separated for more than one(1) year before they file for divorce. The parties do not need an agreement to file for an Absolute Divorce. However, in order for a party to be eligible for an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina, the husband or wife must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six (6) months prior to the filing. You and your spouse must also have lived continuously separate and apart for at least one(1) year and one (1) day before the divorce can be filed. (See below for more information about North Carolina's separation requirement.) These requirements are set out in North Carolina law (or statutes) at North Carolina General Statute Section 50-6. There are no exceptions to these requirements to get an Absolute Divorce”.
Assuming you have satisfied the one-year separation and one of the parties wishes to finalize the marriage, one option for uncontested divorces in an Absolute Divorce. Once the appropriate forms are completed, filed with the clerk of courts, and filing fees are paid you must serve your spouse and wait 30 days for them to answer the filing. The thirty(30) day counting period begins on the date your spouse was served with the papers, not when the papers were filed with the Clerk of Court.
Once the defendant has answered the filing or the 30 days have been satisfied a court date can be set. A Notice of Hearing form must be sent to the defendant notifying them of the court date, this form must be delivered to the defendant at least 10 days prior to the court date. So assuming we go based off of expired time and the earliest opportunity for a hearing keeping in mind time to notify the other party 45 days would be the quickest using those examples.
Litigations 45 Days + 1 Year 1 Day= 1 Year 46 Days
Many of the litigation based complaints that can be made during the divorce process are something that can take place during the separation period of a divorce. For the sake of this article, we will go based on the assumption that any and all of these processes will take place after the one-year separation has been satisfied. Many areas of contention might see the court requires both parties to attend mediation as an alternative to approaching a trial. Custody, Separation of Assets, and creating a parental agreement are a few of the more common reasons why a judge might order mediation. The Mediation process from being order, to setting a date, and meeting with them mediator usually takes no more than 30 days from the date it is ordered within reason. Because what is discussed in the mediation itself cannot be used in court there are times where mediation alone will not work and depending on the reason for contention can create additional steps. In addition to mediation like all matters brought before a Judge, the defending party must be notified and given time to answer and then notified when a court date is set. So for most matters of litigation, there is an additional 45 days assuming immediate delivery and notifications are met. The following matters of litigation time estimates are all estimates based on past experiences and in no way guarantee a specific timeline, these time frames include time in court as well as interactions with your attorneys and communications with the other parties attorney.
Do not avoid these matters on the basis of expediting a divorce it can be a tedious process to address these issues after a divorce is finalized.
Custody + 90 days
In addition to mediation, a court may order a Custody Evaluation which can include individual psychological examinations of both parties as well as in-home examination, they may or may not also meet with your Child/Children. Because there are many schedules and people involved in this process. It's realistic to assume these process will add an additional 3 months.
Division of Assets + 30
Depending on the amount of property and the type of property that needs to be divided this matter can be handled by the court whereas they would divide the property equally, in a matter of a contested property division the case could extend for years. It's important to recognize that your divorce can be finalized before a division of assets has been satisfied, for example the sale of a marital home does not have to be finalized for a divorce to be granted in North Carolina pursuant to the fact that an order is in place for the division of monies earned by the sale of the home. It is fair to add an additional 30 days for discovery, investigation, calculations, and litigation.
Support Orders +30
Similar to the division of assets any orders put in place would be done so at the behest of the filing party. There are basic formulas that are in place to determine the amount of support one party might receive based on things like income, marital dependency, and custody orders. While financial records and proving a status of dependency can take time most orders are completed in a timely manner. Barring a need for additional investigation or intensive litigation most Support orders will only need an additional 30 days.
Divorce Trial and Final Decree
Assuming you have gone through litigation, once all matters have been finalized the court will set a date for the final trial. This will be a time to finalize all agreements and make any final changes to the Final Decree. Assuming everything is agreed upon and no additional litigation is required the timeline is similar to that of an Absolute Divorce, both parties will receive a notice of hearing when a court date is scheduled and follow similar timelines. This process can be created on the assumption litigation will be finalized in a timely manner however if pursuant to the completion of litigation then a safe assumption would be to give time for the date to be set and filing after and to expect 45 days from the satisfaction of all litigation.
I understand that these are only a few answers and that every situation is different so an answer for one person might not apply at all to someone else. If you have any more questions regarding the divorce process, your order, or if you feel your order is being violated make sure to contact your lawyer. If you do not have any current representation and have additional questions please feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to find you the answer.