Although divorce is often portrayed on television as a dramatic event that unfolds in a courtroom, the reality is often far different. Many couples try to work out their differences in an amicable way without resorting to lengthy disputes and emotional arguments. Although North Carolina family law does not contain any provisions that allow a divorcing couple to speed up the divorce process, it is possible to end your marriage fairly quickly if you can agree on all the issues.
The proper term for divorce in North Carolina is "absolute divorce." The word "absolute" has no special significance other than to indicate that a couple's marriage is ended permanently. In the majority of states, absolute divorce is simply referred to as "divorce."
Couples who wish to pursue an uncontested divorce can do so by filing "no-fault" grounds. In a no-fault divorce, neither party is required to prove that the other person caused the breakdown of the marriage. This makes the divorce process much faster and potentially less embarrassing. In today's society, no-fault divorce makes sense, considering most marriages do not break up for any specific reason. Instead, many couples simply grow apart or discover that they can't live together and be happy.
To file for a no-fault absolute divorce in North Carolina, the parties must have been separated and living apart for at least one year. State law requires that they actually occupy separate residences during this time. At least one spouse must have also lived in North Carolina for a minimum of six months.
Under North Carolina law, husband and wife must wait at least 30 days for a hearing following "service" of the divorce complaint on the non-filing party. To make sure individuals are aware that they are named as a party in a lawsuit, the law requires the filing party to "serve" copies of the court papers on everyone named in the case. To speed up the waiting period, divorcing couples can waive the service requirement along with the right to file an answer to the complaint.
Once the waiting period has passed, the court will schedule an initial hearing. If the parties have agreed to all the outstanding issues in their case, they can submit their final documents to the court to obtain their divorce right away. These documents are different from the Complaint, Civil Summons, and Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet filed in the beginning of the case. Couples who wish to finalize their marriage at this initial hearing must submit the following documents:
As the name indicates, an uncontested divorce is just that – uncontested. Parties must agree on all issues before the court will sign off on their documents. In an uncontested case, the court does not address issues such as property division and spousal support. Rather, the parties must set forth how they wish to handle these issues in their separation agreement and property settlement contract. Because the separation agreement is a binding, enforceable contract, it cannot be modified down the road unless the parties explicitly state that the agreement can be changed.
Although divorce is generally not something most people enjoy, it does not have to be a traumatic event. If the spouses can agree on the issues in their case, they can obtain a divorce in a little over a month.