Divorce is never easy for anybody, but there’s no reason to go through it alone. At Waple & Houk, PLLC in Charlotte, NC, we guide our clients through the end of their marriage with compassion. We look out for the rights and best interests of our clients with an effective and aggressive legal approach.
A reasonable compromise is always our focus, and we are very good at negotiating and communicating with the opposing side in a divorce. However, our Charlotte divorce lawyers never shy away from fighting for your rights in court if and when necessary.
If you need competent legal representation in your divorce, get in touch with our Charlotte family law attorneys at Waple & Houk, PLLC today for a confidential consultation. You can reach us by calling (704) 954-8697 or using the online form provided.
An Overview of the Divorce Laws and Divorce Process in North Carolina
Preparing for a divorce in Charlotte or elsewhere in Mecklenburg County? Your case will fall under North Carolina law. While there are many similarities in the divorce laws from state to state, there are also key differences. Here are essential things to know about divorce in North Carolina:
- Divorce May Be Contested or Uncontested: A divorce can be split into two broad categories: Contested divorces and uncontested divorces. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all major issues—from property division to child custody. In a contested divorce, litigation is required, and the court must step in to resolve at least one issue.
- Six-Month Residency Requirement: Before filing for divorce in North Carolina, at least one spouse must live in the state for a minimum of six months. This residency requirement ensures that the state has jurisdiction over the divorce. You should file for a divorce in the county in which you or your spouse lives.
- Equitable Distribution for Property Division: When it comes to dividing property in a divorce, North Carolina follows the principle of ‘equitable distribution.’ A 50/50 split of property is not guaranteed by law. Instead, courts can review a number of different factors to determine the “fair” distribution of property and assets.
- Best Interests of the Child for Custody/Visitation: In North Carolina, the child’s best interests are paramount when determining custody and visitation arrangements. The courts consider various factors to decide what would best serve the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina?
Different states have different laws governing various matters related to divorce. The legal dissolution of a marriage in North Carolina is known as an absolute divorce and the state provides only 2 grounds for this type of divorce:
- Spouses have lived apart for 3 years due to incurable insanity. Insanity, however, is hardly ever used as grounds for divorce in North Carolina today.
- Spouses have lived separately for at least 1 year and either spouse has been a resident of North Carolina for at least 6 months immediately prior to the filing for divorce.
North Carolina also has a legal separation in the form of a divorce from bed and board. It is a fault-based claim filed on several grounds, which include:
- Excessive drug or alcohol use
- Malicious turning of the other spouse outdoors
- Personal indignities that make life intolerable or burdensome
What Is a No-Fault Divorce?
North Carolina is a “no fault” state when it comes to divorce. A no-fault divorce is a type of divorce where neither spouse is required to prove that the separation and divorce is the fault of the other spouse. While neither spouse is required to provide any grounds for divorce, one of the spouses is still required to file the lawsuit for absolute divorce..
Why is the Date of Separation Important During a North Carolina Divorce?
In North Carolina, parties must be separated for one full year before they are eligible to file an action for absolute divorce. The date of separation establishes the earliest date that an action for absolute divorce can be filed. The date of separation is also important to property distribution, as all marital assets and debts must be valued from that date for purposes of equitable distribution.
Why Do I Have to be Separated for an Entire Year Before I Can Get a Divorce in North Carolina?
In short, it is the law. Under North Carolina law spouses must live separately — in two different residences — for one full year and a day before they can file for divorce.
Is a Separation Agreement Required to Get a Divorce in North Carolina?
No. Spouses are considered legally separated when they begin to live separately from each other, and when one party is committed to the arrangement — and impending divorce — being permanent.
What Is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
Legal custody gives the parent the ability to make decisions for the child. A parent that has legal custody has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s schooling and education, medical care, and religious upbringing.
Physical custody, on the other hand, gives the parent the right and obligation to care for the child on a daily basis. It allows the parent to have the right to live with the child. Typically, one parent is designated as the primary physical custodian while the other receives secondary physical custody.
How Is Child Support Determined?
The Courts in North Carolina typically determine child support on the basis of a strict calculation that’s established in the Child Support Guidelines of the state. The calculation considers a number of different factors, which include:
- Health insurance premiums paid for the child by either parent
- Any work-related childcare or daycare expenses paid by the parents
- The gross monthly incomes of the parents
- Other dependent children the supporting parent is responsible for or pre-existing child support obligations.
- “Extraordinary expenses” paid on behalf of the child, which may include things such as private school tuition or expenses for visitation-related travel.
Still, it is possible for you and your lawyer to argue for a deviation from the guidelines if you establish that the guidelines either aren’t applicable in your situation or are not reasonable based on your unique circumstances. For instance, a child’s special education needs might be a valid reason for the court to set child support at an amount different than that prescribed in the guidelines.
Furthermore, the basic child support schedule established in the guidelines does not apply if you and your separated spouse’s combined gross income is higher than $300,000 annually. In such cases, the court exercises its judgment and sets support at an amount enough to meet the reasonable needs of the child.
Local court rules generally establish how you need to prove your income along with the monthly needs and expenses of the child when determining child support. In the vast majority of North Carolina counties, either one or both parents are required to file a financial affidavit using a specific form.
How Will Property Be Split in the Divorce?
You can either come to an agreement with your spouse regarding how you prefer the marital property to be split, or you can leave it up to the court to decide. If you had entered into either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, the court would need to abide by the provisions in that agreement.
If you leave it up to the court to determine how property will be split in your divorce, it will reach a decision based on several equitable distribution factors that can be found in North Carolina statutes, which are:
- The duration of the marriage.
- Any obligation for support from a previous marriage.
- The mental and physical health of both spouses.
- Direct or indirect contributions made by one spouse to help the career potential of the other spouse.
- Reasonable expectations of a retirement, pension, or other compensation rights not considered marital property.
- The property, income, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.
- Any indirect or direct contribution to the increase in the value of separate property that happens in the course of the marriage.
What Is Equitable Division?
Equitable distribution refers to how property is divided between spouses during a divorce. “Equitable” does not automatically refer to “equal.” Rather, the court divides property in a way that’s considered fair.
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Contested Divorce
- Property Division
- Uncontested Divorce
- LGBT Family Law
How Does Equitable Division Work?
Equitable division involves 3 steps that are undertaken by the court at trial:
Step 1: Identification of Marital and Separate Property
The first step involves the court determining which property is marital and which property is separate. Separate property is the property owned by either spouse prior to the marriage, gifts received individually by a spouse, or inherited property.
The remaining property is regarded as marital property. It includes property acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage and is still owned by both spouses on the separation date. All marital property is subject to equitable division.
Step 2: Valuation of Marital Property
The valuation involves assigning a fair market value to each item of marital property. Appraisers and other experts are often used to determine the value of the property. “Fair market value” under the law refers to the amount that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the acquisition of the asset.
Step 3: Distribution of the Property
The final step involves the court determining the division and distribution of property equitably. Under the statute, equal distribution is necessary unless the court determines that equal distribution would be inequitable after considering several factors such as:
- The duration of the marriage
- Direct or indirect contributions to education or career development
- Income and liabilities of each spouse
- Direct contributions to increases in property value that occurred during the marriage
- Expectation of retirement or another deferred compensation right that isn’t marital property
- Parental needs relating to the custody of children
- Age and mental/physical condition of both spouses
It is worth noting that a distribution of property under the statute isn’t subject to reversal by an appeals court unless abuse of discretion by the court is established.
What Happens to the House in a North Carolina Divorce?
The marital house, or any other marital assets, can be divided between the spouses through either an out-of-court agreement, or through the court process that’s referred to as equitable distribution that has been explained in great detail above.
How Long Will a Divorce Take?
A simple divorce in Charlotte, North Carolina can take anywhere from 45 to 90 days to finalize after filing with the courts. However, more complicated divorces, such as those where spouses cannot agree on child custody or child support, are likely to take much longer to finalize.
How Much Will a Charlotte Divorce Lawyer Cost?
Divorce lawyers in North Carolina charge fees by the hour, with the average minimum fee being $230 an hour and the average maximum being $280 an hour. The hourly rates charged by any individual lawyer, however, may vary for several reasons such as family law expertise and where they are located.
A Divorce Does Not Have to Be a Difficult Legal Battle: We Look for Amicable Solutions
You have probably heard plenty of horror stories about divorces gone wrong. There is no doubt that ending a marriage can be one of the most difficult experiences that life can throw at you. At the same time, a divorce does not have to be a contentious, nasty fight. At Waple & Houk, PLLC, we take an approach that is grounded in the belief that a peaceful and collaborative divorce is not only possible but preferable. We are focused on helping clients find amicable solutions when possible.
By avoiding litigation in a divorce, you can save yourself time, money, and heartache. We have deep experience with divorce negotiation, including more formalized processes such as mediation. We encourage our clients to engage in constructive dialogue, aiming to resolve conflicts in a manner that promotes harmony and mutual respect. At the same time, we are a trial-tested family law firm. Our Charlotte, NC, divorce lawyers are always ready to take aggressive action to protect your rights.
We Provide Comprehensive, Solutions-Driven Family Law Representation
Navigating the divorce process in Mecklenburg County is about a lot more than simply filling out the right paperwork. You and your spouse need to proactively address all of the material issues related to your marriage. The goal should be to find a comprehensive solution that resolves the matter and sets you and your family up for a better and more stable tomorrow. Our law firm takes on all types of family law issues.
Why Trust Our Charlotte Divorce Attorneys
Ending a marriage is never easy—even if you and your spouse are both on the same page that it is the right decision. At Waple & Houk, PLLC, we are ready to help navigate every aspect of your divorce—with a focus on securing your future. When you contact our Charlotte law office, you will have a chance to consult with a North Carolina divorce attorney who can:
- Listen to your story and answer your family law questions;
- Gather and prepare all relevant documents and records;
- Handle the divorce filings and other legal paperwork;
- Represent you in any settlement talks, including mediation; and
- Take action to protect your family law rights and your financial interests.
Every marriage is different. Divorce is the same way. The approach that works well for another couple may not be effective for your specific situation. You need personalized guidance and support from your lawyer. Our Charlotte divorce attorneys invest the time, resources, and attention to detail to help ensure that our clients are able to secure the best outcome.
Contact Our Charlotte Divorce Lawyers Today
Ending your marriage will probably one of the most difficult periods in your life. The difficulty isn’t just emotional, but also legal. If you are going through a legal separation or divorce, you should consider seeking the counsel of our experienced and professional Charlotte divorce lawyers at Waple & Houk, PLLC.
Contact us today by calling (704) 954-8697 or using the online form provided to schedule your confidential consultation. We looking forward to helping you navigate this difficult period in your life.
Frequently Asked Questions for Our North Carolina Divorce Attorneys
No. If you and your spouse have lived separately — in two different residences — for one year and a day, he or she intended that your separation would be permanent, and one of you has lived in North Carolina for at least six months, the North Carolina family court will enter a Decree of Absolute Divorce.
The safest answer and approach are to wait until your divorce is finalized before you start dating. This is because dating or getting involved in an intimate relationship with another person comes with some inherent risks that may impact the outcome of your divorce proceedings. For instance, if you share children with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, your new partner’s relationship with the children may impact your child custody case. In addition, your spouse may make claims that your relationship was occurring before your divorce, which may impact your ability to receive — or give your spouse a case to receive — spousal support. Talk to a divorce attorney near you about any current relationships, so you know how it will impact your overall case, so there are no surprises later.
When dividing marital property, multiple inclusions that may not be top of mind, including credit card points, frequent flyer miles, incentive programs, and loyalty rewards can really add up. These are all marital property, when obtained during the marriage, and should be divided accordingly.
To obtain an actual divorce, known as an absolute divorce, in North Carolina, you must file the legal paperwork that will be approved by the court. You may make all the necessary decisions regarding your separation and divorce during the mandatory one-year waiting period. However, if you or your spouse have a child custody or property division dispute that cannot be agreed upon privately, or during mediation, you will have to go to court to litigate the outcome.