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In this article, you will learn about:

  • The various timelines for finalized divorce, and what factors affect it.
  • The role of children in finalizing divorce.

Once One Party Files For A Divorce In North Carolina, What Is The Timeline Or The Steps That Happen Next Up To Point Where The Decree Is Finalized?

There are some special rules when it comes to proceeding with a divorce in North Carolina. A person cannot file for what North Carolina calls an “absolute divorce” until they’ve been legally separated for a year and a day. Once the year-and-a-day separation has passed, the timeline until the divorce is final depends on various factors. If there was legal work done during the year-and-a-day separation, the process to finalize the divorce is shorter as a result. The types of pre-divorce legal work that can be done are stipulations for child custody arrangement and child support, a property division plan, alimony, and other similar arrangements. These things are classified as stipulations because the parties have already agreed to these certain terms, and they would take this information to the court so they can grant a decree that incorporates this settlement agreement as final absolute divorce. In other words, most matters can be stipulated in a separation agreement prior to the divorce.

If the lawyers representing both parties have worked on the case diligently prior to the final decree, it is likely that there won’t be much legal work left to do.  Contrarily, if there is little to no legal work done during the year-and-a-day separation, and the parties are actively disputing important issues, there can be an added level of complexity and time necessary to get a divorce decree finalized. This can involve steps like “discovery”, where each party’s lawyer presents evidence in support of their client and sometimes litigation may ensue. This is known as a contested divorce, which can take 45-90 days at the least.

A heightened level of controversy combined with a bogged-down legal system are all factors that play into the timeline of a contested divorce. If the jurisdiction in which the parties file their case is particularly busy, the contested hearing for divorce may take longer to be scheduled on the court’s calendar.

Keeping factors like this in mind, it is usually best to figure things out during that year-and-a-day separation so you can go into court with a pretty good idea of what you want.  There may be minor legal matters to settle, which is normal, but it is not recommended that you wait until the last minute to figure out the matters discussed above.

How Is Custody Determined In North Carolina When A Couple Is Divorcing Or Not Raising The Child Together?  Is There Ever An Age Where The Child’s Input Is Considered?

There is no particular age for children to have active input on their parent’s divorce case in North Carolina. The judge may or may not want to hear from the child based on their maturity and what’s purported to be the situation according to both parties.  There may be a reason for the judge to take the child’s input into account depending on the circumstance. For instance, perhaps a child prefers to live with their mother, but then evidence comes to light that their mother is permissive and this child is suffering because of this. In this case, the court would not necessarily consider the child living with their mother to be in the child’s best interest, so the court may have to reassess the child’s living conditions based on this evidence.

Again, the focus in North Carolina is going to be on the best interest of the child (or children) and that is what the law calls “the totality of the circumstances”. There are many factors the court will consider in its decision regarding child custody. An inexhaustive list includes, the age of the child, specific needs of the child, the ability of each parent to provide for the child, each parent’s home environment, the caretaking abilities of each parent, and each parent’s time available to spend with the child.  There are situations in which it is clearly not in the best interest of the child to reside with one parent or the other. However, in most cases, the judge will look at the case as a whole and make a balanced decision based on all the information and evidence available.

Parental behavior, such as abuse, drug use, or criminal activity certainly plays a large role when determining what is best for the child. When the court is shown that the parent is making decisions prioritizing the wellbeing of their child and not themselves, the court will be much more likely to entrust the child’s security to this particular parent. In addition, professional legal counsel will be able to accurately present their client’s case to the court, increasing the likelihood of an agreeable outcome. Importantly, the parent’s interest in custody is a secondary consideration to the consideration of the best interest of the child.

For more information on Family Law in North Carolina, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling Dugger Law Firm at (828) 882-2295 today.

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