Some people think of "divorce" as all of the legal issues that are related to separation and divorce (the assets, debts, spousal support, custody, and child support). However, those are each separate claims that must be addressed. The actual "absolute divorce" is the legal process that dissolves the marriage so that two parties who were previously married are no longer married. Legally, obtaining the absolute divorce is a simpler process than addressing the other complex issues. However, the entry of a divorce judgment can have significant effects on your legal rights regarding other financial issues. It is important that you meet with an attorney prior to the entry of a divorce judgment to confirm that you are not foregoing any legal rights by obtaining the absolute divorce.
A marriage may be dissolved, or a divorce final, after the parties have lived separate and apart for one year. One of the parties must of have resided in North Carolina for a least six (6) months prior to filing the action for divorce.
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Do we really have to be separated for a full year for the divorce to be final? Does sleeping in separate bedrooms count as being separated?
Yes, you do have to be physically separated for a full year prior the entry of a divorce judgment. Separation is the physical separation of the two spouses in separate residences, with it being the intent of at least one of the parties that the separation was permanent. However, you can resolve the financial and child custody issues surrounding your separation prior to the entry of a divorce judgment if you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on those issues.
Do I need a formal document in order to be legally separated?
No. Legal separation is the physical separation of the spouses in separate residences, with it being the intent of one of the parties that the separation was permanent.
Do we have to have an agreement on all of our financial issues before the divorce is final?
No. You can obtain an absolute divorce even if the financial and custody arrangements are not final. However, the entry of a judgment of absolute divorce extinguishes any claims you may have for equitable distribution and alimony. Therefore, if you have not reached a full and complete agreement on these issues that is memorialized in an enforceable Separation Agreement, then you must have a claim pending with the court for equitable distribution and/or alimony in order to be able to address those claims at a later time.
I was just served with a summons and complaint for absolute divorce. What should I do?
If the only claim is for absolute divorce and you do not respond to it in 30 days, then the Plaintiff (the spouse who filed the Complaint) will likely be able to obtain the divorce without any further response from you. You should meet with an attorney to determine if you need to formally respond to the Complaint for Absolute Divorce.
We were not married very long. Is there any way I can get an annulment?
There are very limited circumstances in which an annulment can be granted in North Carolina. Those circumstances typically relate to one of the parties being mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage, being married to someone else at the time of the marriage, physical impotence, or the parties being too close to each other in familial relation to have a valid marriage.