To get a divorce in North Carolina, the courts require that spouses be legally separated for more than one year and one of the spouses must have resided in North Carolina for at least six months.
Why people divorce
The most often cited reason for divorce is money. Other reasons include infidelity, boredom, poor communication, incompatibility, lack of commitment, sexual problems, abuse, and addiction (e.g., substance abuse and/or alcoholism). An individual who is the victim of domestic violence should seek help from a domestic violence shelter immediately. We encourage others to attempt marriage counseling before seeking a divorce. Talk to a mental health professional about the situation—can the problems be resolved through marriage counseling or is the conflict too great?
Taking steps toward divorce
Divorce can be emotional and stressful, and the choices you make during this time may affect the outcome of your settlement or contested court case. Read 10 Steps you should take to help you survive divorce. You should see a divorce attorney licensed to practice law in North Carolina. We do not believe you should try to do it yourself (DIY). Even though many companies offer a cheap online divorce, a do it yourself divorce can have severe negative consequences for you and your family.
Estimate your post-divorce financial situation
Use a Financial Standing Affidavit (FSA) to determine if your income covers monthly basic necessities to live separately. Consider your income and expenses, and check your credit report. The court will require that you file an FSA or similar document to justify your claim for post separation support and/or alimony as part of the divorce. While you may be interested in estimating child support or alimony, exclude these from the examination, as you don’t know exactly how much a court will award. If you’re financially unable to live separately, consider where the extra income will come from—a friend or relative, second job, career change, or other avenue—until your claims for post separation support and alimony are resolved. And if you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s important to leave now, regardless of financial considerations.
Consider the effect of divorce on your children
Divorce can be especially difficult for your children. Answer their questions honestly, while avoiding temptation to harp on your spouse’s flaws. Divorce affects them as well, and they will appreciate your openness. However, don’t involve children in adult issues and don’t discuss any pending or planned litigation. Children should not be aware of the disputes between parents. We strongly recommend you consider attending a parenting class for divorced parents. Dr. George Gates and Denise Scearce offer a Cooperative Parenting & Divorce class in Wilmington, NC.
Divorce by Power of Attorney
Though it can be difficult to concede anything to your spouse, especially if abuse or infidelity is a factor, compromise can save you anxiety, time, and money. An attorney can point out your options, helping you carefully negotiate division of assets, child custody and visitation.
Be ready to negotiate
While an attorney in fact can handle most litigation under a valid power of attorney, it is our position that person cannot handle a divorce for you. Our Court of Appeals has held that “an action for divorce based upon one year’s separation cannot be maintained by a general guardian…” See Freeman v. Freeman, 34 N.C.App. 301, 237 S.E.2d. 857 (1977).
Carefully choose a divorce attorney
Choose a law firm that will represent your interests, rather than immediately signing on with a law firm that was shared by a neighbor or friend. Review the list of nine things to consider when selecting a divorce attorney that will protect your children and your assets.
If you wish to handle your own divorce, we have provided pro se divorce forms. However, we recommend that you need to consult with an attorney before starting a divorce.