Filing for divorce in North Carolina is a relatively straightforward process. Honestly, hiring an attorney is not strictly necessary. Even so, a lot of people prefer using an attorney because it gives them peace of mind the matter was handled correctly. For someone unfamiliar with the court system, filing for and obtaining a divorce judgment can be confusing and easily become overwhelming. For those of you who would rather do it yourself, below is some advice to help you avoid three common mistakes of a DIY divorce.
- File Your Complaint on the Right Date: In North Carolina, filing on the wrong day can make or break your case. You must be legally separated for a year before you file. Literally, the very next day after a year, you can file for divorce but filing any day before that will defeat your claim. So, if you and your spouse separated on January 1, 2017, make sure to wait until January 2, 2018 before filing your complaint for divorce.
- Preserve Your Claims: In North Carolina, you lose your right to file claims for equitable distribution and/or spousal support once a divorce judgment is entered. This means that if you and your spouse have still not settled the distribution of your assets and/or spousal support in a formal written agreement or order, you could be making a very big mistake by filing for divorce right now. There is little to nothing that can be done to address these issues once a divorce judgment is entered. It is highly advised that you speak with an attorney if these issues have still not been settled.
That being said, you can preserve your claims for equitable distribution and/or spousal support by including language to that effect in the divorce judgment you provide the Judge to sign at the hearing.
- Be Prepared for the Hearing: Even if your spouse isn’t contesting the divorce, most courts require the plaintiff to testify before granting a divorce. You’ll need to state very specific information on the record and, often times, judges will not assist by asking you questions. A good rule of thumb is to state the information included in your complaint, such as you and your spouse’s names, addresses, when you separated, etc. But don’t be shy about contacting the clerk of court’s office in the county you are obtaining the divorce. They usually have DIY divorce packets available which sometimes includes a fill-in-the-blank script for the hearing.
For free general assistance in filing a simple divorce, Legal Aid of North Carolina hosts divorce clinics. While they cannot provide specific advice, they can assist with general questions about the process.Find Divorce Lawyers