The decision to file for divorce is never an easy one, with numerous issues to be addressed. Under North Carolina law, couples much reach an agreement or the court must rule on child custody and support, alimony and property distribution. The couple must have lived apart continuously for one year prior to the divorce complaint being filed.
Divorce Proceedings in North Carolina
Provided one of the parties has been a resident for six or more months in North Carolina and the parties have been living apart for one year, you can file a suit for divorce. While you are not required to have a separation agreement in place prior to filing, it is better practice if there are disputed issues. In the event that you fail to deal with matters relating to alimony or property distribution, they cannot be reopened after a divorce is granted.
Child Custody & Support Issues
- Generally speaking, custody issues are best worked out between the parents when possible. However, should the court be required to make a determination, it will take the best interest of the child or children into consideration when determining final custody. It is important to know that custody schedules may change as the children grow older and if the parties’ circumstances change.
North Carolina child support matters may be handled by the Child Support Enforcement Program (CSE) or privately. Support payments are calculated based on the gross income of both parents, child support payments to other children, cost of day care and health care, the number of children, and the custody schedules.
Property Division: Understanding Equitable Distribution
The courts view most property accumulated during a marriage in North Carolina as marital property and in many divorce cases, they will attempt to divide both assets and debts on a 50/50 basis. Any property that was inherited by one spouse, gifted to one spouse or that the spouse ‘brought’ into a marriage is generally not considered marital property. This would include debts such as student loans and other debts one spouse may have had at the time of marriage. Other factors that may go into determining property division include the following among other things:
- Health of spouses and length of marriage
- Income of spouses and potential income
- Custodial parents may get preference in the marital home
- Other economic factors including pensions and retirement plans
Parties may work out an agreement between themselves prior to filing for divorce that provides for the division of both assets and debts and in most cases, the courts will approve these agreements. Whether you are considering filing for divorce or you have been served with divorce papers, you need to work with a family attorney who understands the laws in North Carolina.