Divorce and Family Law
If a marriage does not work out for any reason, after a one-year period of separation, a spouse can file a complaint for a simple divorce.
Separation requires the spouses to live under separate roofs for an entire year, with at least one spouse intending for the separation to be permanent. At least one spouse must also have been a resident of North Carolina for the six months preceding the filing of the divorce complaint. When the divorce complaint is filed, the other spouse must be “served” with the summons and complaint. A North Carolina sheriff can serve the papers for a fee; or the spouse can be served by certified mail, FedEx or UPS; or an attorney or the spouse can sign an acceptance of service form. If no answer is filed to dispute the facts stated in the complaint and 30 days pass after service, a judge can enter a divorce judgment after brief sworn testimony by a spouse. A divorce can be done by “summary judgment” so neither spouse must testify in court. A spouse can file an answer to the complaint, or an answer and counterclaim to assert other family law claims for custody, child support, alimony, attorney’s fees and/or equitable distribution. Entry of a divorce judgment cuts off the rights to spousal support and equitable distribution if those claims are not pending in a lawsuit when the divorce judgment is entered.