When is my North Carolina Divorce Final?

Posted by Jonathan Jerkins | Jan 24, 2019 | 0 Comments

Even in the most amicable divorces, the process can be exhausting for both parties. If the divorcing spouses cannot agree on key issues, the process takes much longer, and the parties may wonder if their divorce will ever be final so they can move on to new relationships. Some divorcing couples find themselves trying to reach a resolution for years after they first separated. The length of time required to get your final Divorce Decree in North Carolina varies based on your unique circumstances.

The Divorce Decree

Officially, your divorce is final when the judge signs the Divorce Decree. This is the court's formal order stating that your marriage is terminated. Your copy is proof that your marriage has been terminated, and you need this proof if you wish to remarry. If you lose your copy, you can obtain another one from the Clerk of Court's office in the county courthouse.

In a Contested Divorce, the Divorce Decree contains the judge's decisions regarding the issues that the divorcing couple could not agree upon. Contentious issues are usually:

  • property distribution,
  • alimony,
  • child support, and
  • child custody.

Even if you do not agree with the judge's decision, violating the terms of the Divorce Decree can lead to a Contempt of Court charge.

North Carolina Divorce Timeline

If you are seeking an absolute divorce in North Carolina, this is not a quick process. North Carolina law only allows absolute divorce in two circumstances -- in cases of incurable insanity or if the couple has lived separately for at least one year.

If you are seeking an absolute divorce due to incurable insanity, then:

  • you and your spouse must live separately for at least three years, and
  • you must provide the court with proof of your spouse's insanity.

Other divorcing couples must live separately for at least one year. This means that they must set up separate residences -- simply moving into a separate bedroom in the same residence does not qualify.

After one year, you may file a Complaint for Divorce, which you serve on your spouse along with a Summons. Your spouse has 30 days to file an Answer and any Counterclaims and may ask the court for a 30-day extension. You then must respond to the Counterclaims. Your attorney and your spouse's attorney will negotiate contested issues, trying to reach a resolution before the court hearing.

In the best situation, your North Carolina divorce can be final in 45 to 90 days after filing the Complaint for Divorce. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, or if you cannot locate your spouse to serve the legal papers, the process can take much longer.

In other words, do not plan on your divorce being final on a specific date.

Hire an Experienced North Carolina Divorce Attorney

Your divorce attorney is your strongest advocate and will do his best to make the process move smoothly. Attorney Jonathan Jerkins has the experience necessary to successfully negotiate with your spouse's attorney to reach a mutually agreeable settlement or to fight on your behalf in court. But remember, the more issues you can settle out of court, the faster the court can finalize your divorce. If you are considering divorce in North Carolina, contact us today.

About the Author

Jonathan Jerkins

Jonathan "Jay" Jerkins, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, intentionally focuses his practice on all aspects of North Carolina family law litigation and negotiations. Jay was admitted to the practice of law in North Carolina in 2014.


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