Divorce in North Carolina

Divorce in North Carolina

by Eric C Trosch, William C Trosch

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Providing accurate and objective information to help make the right decisions during a divorce in North Carolina, this guide provides answers to more than 350 queries such as What is the mediation process in North Carolina and is it required? How quickly can one get a divorce? Who decides who gets the cars, the pets, and the house? What actions might influence child custody? How are bills divided and paid during the divorce? How much will a divorce cost? and Will a spouse have to pay some or all attorney fees? Structured in a question-and-answer format, this divorce handbook provides clear and concise responses to help build confidence and give the peace of mind needed to meet the challenges of a divorce proceeding.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943886500
Publisher: Addicus Books
Publication date: 03/01/2017
Series: Divorce In
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 250
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Eric Trosch, a partner in Conrad Trosch & Kemmy, is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist, one of fewer than 200 lawyers statewide to achieve this distinction from the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. His focus is on family law and general civil litigation. Eric is also an active member of the Family Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, and is currently serving a three year term as as a Council Member. He has been appointed to serve on the statewide Collaborative Law Committee. As a member of the Mecklenburg County Bar, he has coordinated and presented at the biannual Family Law Section custody seminar and, for numerous years, chaired the Mecklenburg County Swearing-in Ceremony Committee. Eric has been a member of the executive steering committee of Mecklenburg Collaborative Law Group and is currently the Co-Chair. He is certified to practice Collaborative Law. Eric graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received his law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law. He is proficient in German, a skill he learned during studies at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Eric's wife, Elizabeth Trosch, is a Mecklenburg County District Court Judge. Along with his brothers, William Trosch and District Court Judge Louis A. Trosch, Jr., Eric is the third generation of attorneys to practice in his family's law firm. He is the grandson of T.C. Conrad and the son of Lou and Minette Trosch. Mr. Trosch resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. Bill Trosch heads the Litigation Department and is managing partner in Conrad Trosch & Kemmy. He concentrates much of his effort on the firm's civil and criminal litigation and appeals, while maintaining a general practice. Bill is an Associate member of the Graduate Faculty of UNC Charlotte and has taught a negotiations class for the MBA Program at the Belk College of Business. He has lectured at numerous seminars for lawyers and paralegals. While in law school, Bill was a member of the North Carolina Law Review. He was author of an article published in the Law Review that has been referenced by numerous publications and courts including Ohio's Supreme Court. A Charlotte native, Bill is married and the father of three children. Along with his brothers, Bill is the third generation of attorneys to practice in his family's law firm. He is the grandson of T.C. Conrad, the son of Lou and Minette Trosch, and the brother of Eric Trosch and the Honorable District Court Judge Louis A. Trosch, Jr. Trosch makes his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Divorce in North Carolina

Answers to Your Legal Questions

By William C. Trosch, Eric C. Trosch

Addicus Books, Inc.

Copyright © 2017 William C. Trosch and Eric C. Trosch
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943886-50-0


Understanding the Divorce Process

Divorce is scary. Life feels out of control. Nothing about the process seems to make sense. Overwhelming anxiety sets in: fear of the pain, the legal process, the cost, the future, and, especially, fear of the unknown. At a time when your life can feel like it is in utter chaos, sometimes the smallest bit of predictability can bring a sense of comfort. There is one part of your divorce that does have some measure of predictability, and that is the divorce process itself.

Most divorces proceed in a step-by-step manner. Despite the uniqueness of your divorce, you can generally count on one phase of your divorce following the next. Sometimes just realizing you are completing stages and moving forward with your divorce can reassure you that it will not go on forever.

It is important to develop a basic understanding of the divorce process. This will lower your anxiety when you feel your heart start pounding in fear while your attorney starts talking about "depositions" or "going to trial." Knowledge can reduce your frustration about the length of the process because you understand why each step is needed. It will help you begin preparing for what comes next.

Most importantly, understanding the divorce process will make your experience of the entire divorce easier. Who wouldn't prefer that?

1.1 What is a divorce?

A divorce is technically the "dissolution of a marriage." While an absolute divorce results in the dissolution of the legal marriage between the spouses, there are other claims that either must be brought prior to the dissolution of marriage or else be waived, preventing both spouses from ever being allowed to bring those claims. These waivable claims include equitable distribution (dividing up the property and debts) and spousal support (alimony). Other claims that may be relevant to a "divorce" include child custody and child support. For the purposes of this book, we include all these related claims as part of the "divorce," though technically they are separate claims and, in some circumstances (such as child custody and child support), the claims are not even related to a marriage (for instance, if children were born out of wedlock).

1.2 What is my first step?

Find a law firm that handles divorces as a regular part of its law practice. Though a board-certified specialist is not necessary in every case, hiring a firm with a family law division led by a specialist is important. Ask around. The best recommendations come from people who have knowledge of a lawyer's experience and reputation. Go to a law firm's website and look at the qualifications of the lawyer and the firm.

Start planning ahead, even if you are not ready to file for divorce. Call to schedule an appointment right away to obtain information about protecting yourself and your children. You should know your options and rights before you decide whether to proceed with a divorce. Remember that your spouse might already be preparing for a divorce.

When you speak to someone at the law firm you have chosen, ask what documents you should take to your initial consultation. Make a list of your questions to take to your first meeting. Start making plans for how you will pay your attorney to begin working on your case.

1.3 Must I have an attorney to get a divorce in North Carolina?

You are not required to have an attorney to obtain a divorce in North Carolina. A person who proceeds in a legal matter without a lawyer is referred to as being pro se (pronounced "pro-say"), meaning "on one's own." If your case involves children, alimony or spousal support, significant property, or debts, you should avoid proceeding on your own. Sometimes problems created early in a case by a pro se individual are irreversible. Other times, mistakes made by people proceeding pro se can be corrected (to a degree), but at a much greater cost than if a good attorney had been hired much earlier in the case.

The Divorce Process

The divorce process in North Carolina typically involves the following steps.

If both sides wish to settle, negotiate, or come to a collaborative settlement prior to a lawsuit for dissolution of marriage:

• Obtain a referral for an attorney.

• Schedule an appointment with an attorney.

• Prepare questions and gather documents for an initial consultation.

• Meet for an initial consultation with an attorney.

• Determine whether you want to hire the attorney with whom you met.

• Pay the attorney a retainer and sign a retainer agreement.

• Provide requested information and documents to your attorney.

• Take other actions as advised by your attorney, such as opening or closing financial accounts.

• Discuss your goals for settlement negotiations or a collaborative settlement fully with your attorney and follow your attorney's advice.

• Attorney voluntarily exchanges information with your spouse or your spouse's attorney.

• Attend one or more settlement conferences.

• Attorney drafts settlement documents, if the case settles.

If you are initiating the divorce before speaking with your spouse (after speaking with your attorney you may want to postpone or not pursue a divorce):

• Obtain a referral for an attorney.

• Schedule an appointment with an attorney.

• Prepare questions and gather documents for an initial consultation.

• Meet for an initial consultation with an attorney.

• Determine whether you want to hire the attorney with whom you met.

• Pay the attorney a retainer and sign a retainer agreement.

• Provide requested information and documents to your attorney.

• Take other actions as advised by your attorney, such as opening or closing financial accounts.

• Develop a tailored strategy for your individual needs. This strategy may focus on an out-of-court strategy or proceeding with litigation. This step is essential to how quickly, efficiently, and smoothly your case will be resolved.

• Attorney prepares the summons and complaint for your review and signature.

• Attorney files the summons and complaint with the clerk of the court.

• Attorney serves the summons and petition on your spouse.

• If interim relief (such as temporary child support, spousal support, or attorney fees) is appropriate, attorney prepares motion papers for your review and signature, files with the court, obtains court date, and serves pleadings on respondent.

If you have been served with divorce papers:

• Obtain a referral for an attorney.

• Schedule an appointment with an attorney.

• Prepare questions and gather necessary documents for an initial consultation.

• Meet for an initial consultation with an attorney.

• Pay the attorney a retainer and sign a retainer agreement.

• Provide requested information and documents to your attorney.

• Take other actions as advised by your attorney, such as opening or closing financial accounts.

• Develop a tailored strategy for your individual needs. This strategy may focus on an out-of-court strategy or proceeding with litigation. This step is essential to how quickly, efficiently, and smoothly your case will be resolved.

• Attorney prepares a response to the summons and petition for your review and signature.

• Attorney files your response with the clerk of the court, usually within thirty days of service of the petition and summons on you.

• If you are served with requests for interim relief, attorney prepares your response to these requests.

After an action has been commenced and the response filed:

• With the assistance of your attorney, you will need to prepare financial disclosure documents (income and expense declaration and preliminary schedule of assets and debts).

• Negotiations begin regarding temporary custody and visitation, child and spousal support, payment of community obligations, and attorney fees.

• Attorney prepares any requests for temporary relief not previously made.

• If there are minor children, the parties comply with any local rules or court orders to attend parent orientation and to participate in mandatory mediation.

• Court holds hearing(s) on request(s) for temporary relief.

• Either the parties reach an agreement or the court issues temporary orders.

• Temporary order is prepared by one attorney, approved as to form by other attorney, and submitted to the judge for signature.

• Both sides conduct discovery (the process designed to obtain information regarding all relevant facts), and commence the process to exchange valuations of all assets, including expert opinions if needed.

• You confer with your attorney to review facts, identify issues, assess strengths and weaknesses of case, review strategy, and develop a settlement proposal.

• Spouses, with the support of their attorneys, attempt to reach agreement through written proposals, mediation, settlement conferences, or other forms of negotiation.

If you reach an agreement on all issues, then:

• Your attorney prepares marital settlement agreement and necessary paperwork.

• Both parties and their attorneys sign agreement and all necessary paperwork.

• Paperwork may be filed with the court.

• Either the parties waive the court date or the court holds a brief, final hearing.

• Judgment is entered and you will be divorced.

• Your attorney completes necessary orders and supervises the property transfer until all agreed terms are satisfied.

If you are unable to reach an agreement on all issues, then:

• Your attorney completes all necessary discovery to bring the case to its trial-ready point.

• Your attorney files an at-issue memorandum to obtain trial dates.

• If agreement has been reached on any issues, your attorney prepares a stipulation on those issues. All other issues are set for trial.

• You work with your attorney to prepare your case for trial.

• Your attorney prepares witnesses, trial exhibits, legal research on contested issues, pretrial motions, trial briefs, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, opening statements, witness subpoenas, and your closing argument.

• You meet with your attorney for final trial preparation.

• Trial is held.

• Your attorney requests a statement of decision.

• The judge issues a tentative statement of decision and directs the statement to be prepared.

• Both sides make any objections they have to the statement of decision. If appropriate, the court sets the matter for hearing.

• The judge signs the final statement of decision and judgment of dissolution, dissolving your marriage or domestic partnership.

• The attorneys supervise any property transfers until all agreed terms are satisfied.

Your posttrial rights are discussed in chapter 16 on appeals.

1.4 Should I settle with my spouse first, then get an attorney to "draw up the papers"?

You should not settle anything until you know what you are settling or you will likely base your settlement negotiations on inaccurate or incomplete information. Though the Internet can be a great supplemental resource, you should avoid relying on it for understanding your legal rights. You may see laws from other states which differ from North Carolina's and incorrectly assume the laws are the same. In addition, North Carolina laws themselves change frequently and judges may even differ from county to county (or even within the same county). You may not be able to understand the context of what is being written on the Internet. Finally, and probably most importantly: Even for North Carolina sites, much of what is on the Internet is just simply wrong and it can be difficult to determine which sites provide correct information and which sites do not.

Let's say you do give the "keep lawyers out of it" approach a chance and, armed with all of your (hopefully correct) independent research, you approach your spouse to negotiate a settlement. You make a reasonable offer with the expectation that your spouse will see it like you do. They never do. Once you make offers or concessions to your spouse, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to take them back later. For instance, you may be entitled to alimony and not know it. If you were to tell your spouse that you were not going to seek alimony, your spouse will take that as a given in future negotiations. Yes, you can sometimes legally take back these offers and concessions, but that does not mean that your spouse will be open to giving them back to you in a settlement, driving the case to an inevitable (and expensive) trial.

If you do want to try and settle yourself, it is a wise move to meet with an attorney. Be sure you understand your rights and how to make a negotiation plan so that you do not make your lawyer's job in future negotiations more difficult than it needs to be.

1.5 Is North Carolina a no-fault state or do I need grounds for a divorce?

North Carolina, like most states, is a no-fault divorce state. This means that neither you nor your spouse is required to prove that the other is "at fault" in order to be granted a divorce. Though they may be relevant to other domestic law issues, factors such as infidelity, cruelty, or abandonment are not necessary to receive a divorce in North Carolina. Rather, North Carolina allows divorces in two circumstances:

• Separation for at least one year

• Incurable insanity (which is almost never used anymore)

1.6 Do I have to get divorced in the same state I married in?

No. Regardless of where you were married, you may seek a divorce in North Carolina if the jurisdictional requirements of residency are met.

1.7 How long must I have lived in North Carolina to get a divorce in the state?

Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the State of North Carolina for at least the six months immediately before the divorce proceedings are filed. This is referred to as the jurisdictional residency requirement for a divorce in North Carolina.

1.8 My spouse has told me she will never "give me" a divorce. Can I get one in North Carolina anyway?

Yes. North Carolina does not require that your spouse "agree to" a divorce. If your spouse threatens to "not give you a divorce," know that in North Carolina this is likely to be an idle threat without any basis in the law.

1.9 Can I divorce my spouse in North Carolina if he or she lives in another state?

Provided you have met the residency requirements for living in North Carolina for six months, you can file for divorce in North Carolina even if your spouse lives in another state.

Discuss with your attorney the facts that will need to be proven and the steps necessary to give your spouse proper notice to ensure that the court will have jurisdiction over your spouse. Your attorney can counsel you on whether it is possible to proceed with the divorce.

1.10 How can I divorce my spouse when I don't know where my spouse lives now?

North Carolina law allows you to proceed with a divorce even if you do not know the current address of your spouse. This is a very difficult process and is full of procedural land mines. It is one in which a good attorney will be needed (and maybe a good private investigator).

First, take action to attempt to locate your spouse. Contact family members, friends, former coworkers, or anyone else who might know your spouse's whereabouts.

Utilize resources on the Internet that are designed to help locate people.

Let your attorney know of the efforts you have made to attempt to find your spouse. Inform your lawyer of your spouse's last known address, as well as any work address or other address where he or she may be found. Once your attorney attempts to give notice to your spouse without success, it is possible to proceed with the divorce by giving notice through publication in a newspaper.

Although your divorce may be granted following service of notice by publication in a newspaper, it may be more difficult to get other court orders, such as those for child support or alimony, without giving personal notice to your spouse. Talk to your attorney about your options and rights if you do not know where your spouse is living.

1.11 I just moved to a different county. Do I have to file in the county where my spouse lives?

You may file your divorce action either in the county where you reside or the county where your spouse resides. For example, if you live in Charlotte (Mecklenburg County) and your spouse lives in Raleigh (Wake County), you may file your divorce action in either Mecklenburg County or Wake County.

1.12 I really need a divorce quickly. Will the divorce I get in another state or country be valid in North Carolina?

If both you and your spouse regard North Carolina as your true home and you both intend to remain in the state, a divorce from another state or country will not be valid. If North Carolina is the permanent home for both of you, you cannot obtain a valid divorce in another state or country, even if you reside there temporarily.


Excerpted from Divorce in North Carolina by William C. Trosch, Eric C. Trosch. Copyright © 2017 William C. Trosch and Eric C. Trosch. Excerpted by permission of Addicus Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 Understanding the Divorce Process,
2 Coping with Stress during the Divorce Process,
3 Working with an Attorney,
4 Attorney Fees and Costs,
5 The Discovery Process,
6 Negotiation and Mediation,
7 Emergency: When You Fear Your Spouse,
8 Child Custody,
9 Child Support,
10 Alimony,
11 Division of Property,
12 Benefits: Insurance, Retirement, and Pensions,
13 Division of Debts,
14 Taxes,
15 Going to Court,
16 The Appeals Process,
In Closing,
About the Authors,

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