Absolute Divorce in North Carolina typically occurs after the issues of Child Custody, Child Support, Alimony, and Equitable Distribution are resolved. It doesn’t always happen last, however. In order to obtain an Absolute Divorce in North Carolina, a couple must be physically separated for at least one calendar year prior to the filing of the Divorce Complaint, with at least one of the parties intending the separation to be permanent. It is important to have an experienced, competent divorce attorney by your side during these proceedings, to protect yourself and your children.
A Pre-marital Agreement, also known as a Prenuptial Agreement, is a contract that you enter into with your future spouse in which you decide how certain issues that can arise in divorce will be handled in the event that the marriage doesn’t work out. Alimony and Property Distribution (known as Equitable Distribution in North Carolina) are two common issues that are addressed in a Pre-marital Agreement.
For example, couples can decide how much Alimony will be paid in the event of separation and divorce, or if there will be no alimony paid by either spouse. Couples can also make clear which property they are bringing into the marriage and which property each will leave with in the event of separation and divorce. Division of the marital home can also be addressed in the Pre-marital Agreement, as can the division of debts acquired by each person prior to the marriage. Child Custody and Child Support issues are usually not included in a Pre-marital Agreement, as North Carolina law specifies that a judge has final say in those matters, whether there is a contract or not.
Many couples do not like to think about a Pre-marital Agreement, as many believe that such an Agreement is “bad luck” or “insulting” or any number of other reasons. The fact is that a Pre-marital Agreement can protect money and assets and save each person a lot of money in divorce litigation should something go wrong.
A Separation Agreement is a binding contract between two spouses who have decided to end the marriage. It is valid even after the divorce. A Separation Agreement typically resolves the issues of Child Custody, Child Support, Alimony, and Property Distribution (Equitable Distribution in North Carolina). It can, and typically does, address other issues as well, such as pre-divorce tax filing status, claiming of yearly child tax exemptions, inheritance rights prior to divorce, and third-party marital tort claims.
A Separation Agreement is typically much less expensive than divorce attorney litigation fees for months or years of litigation. Another advantage is that the Separation Agreement allows separated and divorcing couples to maintain more control over their settlement terms than if the matter is decided by a judge in court. Once a judge hears the case, the parties are no longer in control – the judge is. Neither person may like what the judge decides on the issues of Child Custody, Child Support, Alimony or Equitable Distribution, and if the couple can settle their issues in a Separation Agreement, the control they have over the final language generally is more satisfactory to them than an Order issued by a judge.
A divorce lawyer can help you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse come to agreeable terms and avoid years of litigation.
In North Carolina, Equitable Distribution is a system that courts use to divide property and debt. Property division can be settled in a Separation Agreement, or either party can ask the court to divide their property and debt. When an Equitable Distribution lawsuit is filed, if there is no settlement, there are four basic steps the court will follow to determine how to divide up the property and debt. The four steps are IDENTIFY, CLASSIFY, VALUE and DIVIDE. First, the property and debt will be IDENTIFIED, usually by requiring that each party list the property and debt in an Affidavit so that the court is aware of what exactly is being divided. Next, the property and debt must be CLASSIFIED.
That means that the property and debt must be labeled as marital, separate or divisible. Since the court can only divide marital or divisible property, this step is critical. Third, the court will VALUE the property and debt being divided. This step is where valuation tools such as appraisals come into play. In North Carolina, every piece of property that is divided between spouses must be valued, including retirement accounts and pensions. Finally, a court will decide who gets which property and who will assume certain debts.