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Family Law FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from Our Raleigh Family Law Attorney

  1. How do I get a divorce in North Carolina?
  2. How long does the North Carolina divorce process take?
  3. What is alimony?
  4. How is marital property divided in North Carolina?
  5. Does a spouse have to prove fault to obtain a divorce?
  6. What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?
  7. What are the different types of child custody?
  8. May I withhold visitation because my spouse will not pay support?

1. How do I get a divorce?

Under North Carolina law, a person must meet the following requirements in order for a divorce to be granted:

  • You and your spouse have to have lived in North Carolina for a minimum of 6 months before filing
  • A divorce must be filed with the Clerk of Court in the county where you reside
  • The divorce complaint has to be delivered to your spouse through certified mail or by a county sheriff
  • After the waiting period, you or your attorney has to appear in court so the judge can sign an order

2. How long does the divorce process take?

Divorce in North Carolina takes a minimum of 45 days from the date the divorce complaint is filed. The answering party has 30 days to file an answer or extension request once the divorce complaint is received. The divorce process can vary in length because of the many variables that can occur you’re your lawyer can give you a better estimate after evaluating your circumstances.

3. What is alimony?

Alimony, also commonly referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is a court-ordered arrangement requiring one spouse to provide the other dependent spouse with financial support to cover living expenses during and after a divorce. There are three different types of alimony that can be awarded in the state of North Carolina:

  • Permanent Alimony – This type of arrangement requires the paying spouse to make regular payments to the dependent spouse indefinitely. Payments cease if the receiving spouse remarries or passes away.
  • Temporary AlimonyThis type of alimony is awarded during the divorce process to help the dependent spouse meet the costs of the lawsuit and personal needs until a permanent alimony arrangement is determined.

  • Lump Sum Alimony – A paying spouse can choose to pay alimony in one lump sum as long as the amount is equal to the total amount of future monthly payments.

4. How is marital property divided in North Carolina?

Unless proven to be separate by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, all property is considered to be marital property in Raleigh. Sometimes property will be split 50/50, and other times different factors will be used to determine who gets which property. The unequal earning power of the parties, the expectation of pension or retirement benefits, contributions made by one spouse to the education or career development of the other, the need of a parent with custody of a child or children of the marriage to occupy the marital residence and use or own its household effects are all considered when dividing marital property.

5.Does a spouse have to prove fault to obtain a divorce?

No. North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state whereby either spouse may obtain an absolute divorce based on one year's separation (the only other ground is proving incurable insanity which is rarely used).

6. What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

Divorces are not final for at least 6 months, while a legal separation can be final almost immediately. The largest difference between the two is that if you proceed with a divorce you are no longer married. A legal separation only separates the two parties – they remain married.

7. What are the different types of child custody?

Child custody can be broken down into three separate categories:

  • Temporary Custody – Custody is assigned temporarily to one parent while permanent custody arrangements are being made.
  • Legal Custody – Separated into both sole legal custody and joint legal custody,
  • Sole Legal Custody - When only one parent holds the right to make legal decisions for the child.
  • Joint Legal Custody - When both parents hold the right to make legal decisions for the child.
  • Physical Custody – Separated into both sole physical custody and joint physical custody,
  • Sole Physical Custody - When the child lives with one parent and the other has specific visitation rights.
  • Joint Physical Custody - When a child is able to reside with each parent for a substantial amount of time during the course of a calendar year.

8. May I withhold visitation because my spouse will not pay support?

No. Do not take the law into your own hands by withholding time alloted to the other party because he or she will not pay child support. Bring this matter to a knowledgeable attorney. We can advise you on what step to take. Contact a Raleigh family law attorney at Hopper, Hopper & Mulligan, PLLC today with any questions you may have about family legal issues!

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