Divorce in NC: The Process & Cost

Going through a divorce can be a stressful and complicated experience. Regardless of the length of your marriage, a divorce judgment has numerous legal implications. Speaking with a North Carolina attorney when considering a divorce will help you understand the divorce process, the cost of divorce, the potential pitfalls, and the legal effect of obtaining a divorce. Every divorce is as unique as the people involved in the marriage.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce in North Carolina?

The average cost of a divorce in North Carolina is approximately $13,100 for cases without children and $19,700 for divorces involving children. These costs (all costs subject to change) include:

  • Filing an Absolute Divorce - $225
  • Service fees - $30
  • Serving defendant via mail - $7

The cost of a divorce in NC will vary based on the type of divorce and what issues are in play. Contested divorces are often the most expensive because of the time it takes to settle all issues. High-net-worth divorces, especially those with hidden assets, can take years to resolve. In comparison, uncontested divorces are more cost-effective due to their nature.

Although every divorce is unique, some common questions will help an attorney determine what might be necessary for you:

  • Are you seeking post-separation support and/or alimony? Is your spouse likely to make these claims?
  • Do you have joint or separate assets and debts that must be resolved or divided in equitable distribution before your divorce?
  • Will it be difficult to serve your spouse with legal documents?

Answering YES to any of these questions means that you should consult with an attorney before filing for absolute divorce. Even if you answered NO, there are potential roadblocks ahead.

What is the absolute divorce process in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, once you have been living separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year with the intention that your separation remains permanent, you are eligible to file for an absolute divorce. An absolute divorce is a very powerful document that severs the bonds of husband and wife in the eyes of the government and all third parties.

It is important to ensure you have made arrangements for all of your marital property and debts before filing for divorce because once an absolute divorce has been granted, you may not file claims for spousal support, post-separation support and alimony, or equitable distribution. That also means any jointly-owned debts or assets will continue to be in both of your names unless you petition the court for a division. Therefore, it is imperative that you either address these issues in a separation agreement prior to filing for divorce or file claims for equitable distribution, postseparation support, and alimony when filing your complaint for absolute divorce. Without addressing these issues, the real cost of divorce could become much greater than anticipated.

Imagine convincing your spouse to pay half of the credit card debt or sign over the house years after the divorce. The unsuspecting party can cause himself or herself anguish and increased legal costs trying to unravel the tangles of a poorly-handled divorce.

What if I don’t have any support issues or property and debt? Are there other pitfalls?

Even if you’ve already handled all your property and debt, there are other pitfalls on the road to an absolute divorce. If you seek an absolute divorce, you may hire an attorney or proceed without one. Suppose you decide to file for an absolute divorce on your own. In that case, many courts have a Do-It-Yourself packet including forms you will need to complete, such as a Complaint for Divorce, Civil Summons, Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Affidavit, Calendar Request, Motion for Summary Judgment, Judgment of Absolute Divorce, and Certificate of Absolute Divorce. Additionally, you must pay a filing fee, ensure your spouse is properly served under the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, and appear in court. You must fully understand North Carolina laws before attempting to file for divorce on your own. Montgomery Family Law has assisted many clients who have attempted to follow the Do-It-Yourself packets only to find they have wasted their time and resources, are frustrated, and still married.

One of the most important steps in obtaining an absolute divorce is that you must achieve proper service on your spouse. That means that you need serve him or her by sheriff, by acceptance, or by designated delivery at his or her place of usual abode or where he or she usually lives. If your spouse lives outside of the country, you need to obey the laws of that country or of the Hague Convention to serve him or her with legal process. If you cannot prove that you have proper service according to North Carolina law on your scheduled hearing date, the judge will not grant your divorce.

A divorce that is done incorrectly can be set aside by the court. This can cause significant problems, not only for you, but if you’ve remarried, to your new husband or wife who suddenly finds him or herself not legally married to you.

Whoa! I can’t risk messing up my absolute divorce. What should I do?

The skilled attorneys at Montgomery Family Law can help you whether you have support and property issues or want to ensure a professional handles your divorce correctly. Suppose you are interested in hiring an attorney to assist you in filing for absolute divorce and you have no other outstanding issues. In that case, Montgomery Family Law will offer to complete your divorce for a flat fee that captures the costs of divorce in NC, fees, and attorney time associated with obtaining a divorce judgment. You can sit back and rest assured that your divorce will be handled adeptly by attorneys who know the pitfalls and how to avoid them. If your divorce is uncontested, it’s likely that you won’t even need to appear in court.

For divorces including out-of-country or difficult service, or claims for equitable distribution, alimony, and/or postseparation support, the cost depends entirely on the complexity of your particular case. Call (919) 348-2317 for a private consultation with one of our skilled attorneys to discuss your unique situation.

It is strongly recommended that you consult with a North Carolina attorney when considering a divorce in NC to ensure that you do not unintentionally waive your rights to spousal support and equitable distribution, even if you decide to file on your own. Consulting with a Raleigh family law attorney may also help ease any concerns you may have about the divorce process. The compassionate attorneys at Montgomery Family Law are able to assist you during this difficult time in your life.

To schedule an appointment and learn more about our services and fees, contact our NC attorneys at (919) 348-2317. Life is short and your time is too important to waste.