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Here is a quick rundown of the top questions we hear from clients and potential clients about how best to move forward with an absolute divorce in North Carolina.

My spouse and I are considering a separation. Is there anything special we need to do to become legally separated?

No. As long as you are physically separated in two separate residences, that is sufficient. However, it is NOT sufficient to live in separate bedrooms. North Carolina does not recognize a legal separation while in the same residence. One of you must physically move out and find a new place to stay.

When can I file for divorce?

After you and your spouse have been physically separated for at least one year, you may file for divorce in the North Carolina county where one of you resides. If you sign up for a membership with DIY Online Divorce, you will get access to an interview that will help you to prepare all of the documents you will need.

My spouse left and stuck me with all the bills. Is there anything I can do to get some financial help?

It depends. You can sue your spouse for post-separation support. However, this process is not immediate – it may still take several months for a judge to order him or her to provide you with financial support. You may, but don’t have to, want to talk to a lawyer before filing this lawsuit. If you have kids, you can also apply for child support through your local child support enforcement office (and we highly recommend that you do that).

Can I date other people while my spouse and I are separated?

Yes and no. Legally, you are permitted to date other people while you are separated. However, from an emotional and strategic standpoint, we typically recommend that you take some time to process your separation and come to an agreement with your spouse on issues such as financial support, division of assets and debts, and custody. Until you have all of those issues resolved, we have found it is best to hold off on dating.

My spouse doesn’t want to divide any of the property we acquired during the marriage and is telling me that all the property is theirs. Is this true?

Property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be joint marital property. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If your spouse inherited the property or used funds from the sale of real estate or investments that they owned before the marriage, then the property could be considered their separate property. Also, if someone gave them real estate or investments during the marriage, these assets could be considered separate property.

But any property that was acquired using money that was earned during the marriage is considered joint marital property. This analysis can get tricky and confusing, so we recommend talking to a lawyer if you aren’t sure whether an asset is marital or not.

What if I can’t find my spouse to serve them with the absolute divorce paperwork?

I would not start the divorce process until you have located your spouse. The best place to start is the last known address you have for him or her. If that doesn’t work, you can use social media to try and search for their profile and see whether they have been active online.

If you still can’t find anything, then I recommend hiring a private investigator to try to locate them. PI’s have access to sophisticated online databases that will tell where they may have filed taxes, applied for a driver’s license, applied for credit, bought property, left the country, etc. They can even tell you if your spouse has passed away, unbeknownst to you. As long as you have their name, birthdate and social security number, the PI can get to work for you.

And these searches normally aren’t very expensive since the investigator is just running a quick database search using the information you provide.

How much does it cost to get an Absolute Divorce?

Currently, the filing fees are $225 to file for divorce. In Wake County, there is an additional $20 hearing fee to schedule the final hearing. If you are indigent, then you can file a petition to have those fees waived.

How long does it take to get an Absolute Divorce?

From beginning to end, the entire process typically takes anywhere from 2-3 months. It may take longer if you have a complicated case or if your spouse is uncooperative.

At what point does my divorce become “final”?

Your divorce becomes final after the judge signs your divorce judgment and that judgment gets clocked in with the clerk. If you are the defendant in the case, then your spouse should mail you a copy of the judgment.

What if we have property to divide or I need financial support from my spouse?

If you have property to divide or you require financial support (i.e. alimony) from your spouse, then you MUST preserve those claims prior to finalizing the divorce. If you do not properly preserve these claims by filing a complaint for alimony and/or equitable distribution with the court, then you will lose the legal right to pursue those claims in the courts forever.

If you have questions about any of the information in this article, then we highly recommend that you consult with a divorce lawyer in North Carolina.