Divorce 101

While every divorce is different for every couple, every divorce also involves a couple that has differing beliefs, perspectives, and attitudes. Challenges occurred that caused the couple to seek a divorce, and therefore there will inherently be some form of disagreement on certain issues. While every divorce will unfold differently for every couple, there are certain processes that can be expected inherent to every divorce. It is a good idea to learn as much as you can about the process of divorce in order to ensure your legal rights are protected.

What Divorce Accomplishes

A legal divorce will officially and legally terminate a marriage. An official legal order will be issued from the court at the end of the divorce process that will include determinations regarding applicable matters such as child support calculations, child custody visitation schedules, the equitable division of marital property, and possible spousal support (alimony) payments. Some may be surprised to learn that one spouse can request a divorce without the other spouse’s agreement or consent.

Contested v. Uncontested Divorce

North Carolina is a “no fault” divorce state. However, other states draw a distinction between uncontested and contested divorces. Uncontested divorces occur when every major area of the divorce is agreed upon by both spouses. This would include child support calculations, child visitation schedules, spousal support calculations, and the equitable division of marital property. These types of divorces are not as common as contested divorces in the United States. Additionally, even if you believe you have an uncontested divorce, it is still wise to seek legal representation because the attitudes and demands from your soon to be ex-spouse could change at any time, and you should always protect your legal rights.

Where to File for Divorce

The state of North Carolina requires that one spouse fill out a “Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet,” a “Civil Summons” sheet, and a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The North Carolina Judicial Branch actually provides a divorce packet for those spouses interested in filing for divorce themselves. The Legal Aid of North Carolina also provides a divorce packet for those interested in representing themselves in the divorce process. You will keep one copy, and the other copy will be served (delivered) to your spouse through either a sheriff, a licensed process serve, or non-party to the divorce over the age of 18. After your spouse receives the divorce paperwork, you will move forward with the divorce process. Again, while you have a legal right to represent yourself in a divorce, you will not have the legal counsel and expertise to ensure that all of your legal rights are protected as you would if you had legal representation from an experienced divorce attorney.

Temporary Orders of the Court

There are some circumstances in which a spouse will need to ask the court to make a decision prior to the end of the divorce. In these cases, it typically relates to child support matters, child visitation matters, or even temporary restraining orders if there is evidence of violence toward the other spouse or children. In some cases, a court may issue a temporary order that one spouse has exclusive use to property, such as the marital home.


As the divorce process continues, both sides must gather all information, documentation and other evidence related to all of the issues in the case. This may include a complete financial disclosure and other documentation. Both sides have a legal right to see everything provided to the court from the other side.

Divorce Hearing

After all the paperwork for your divorce is filed with the court, you will return a “Notice of Hearing” to the court and the clerk of the court will schedule a date for your divorce hearing. You will need to prepare a “Judgment of Absolute Divorce” and a “Certificate of Absolute Divorce” to your hearing that describes everything you want in the divorce. Again, if you have legal counsel, your experienced divorce attorney will help you create all of this paperwork that will help you in the best possible way both financially and legally.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

The process to file divorce paperwork, and ensure that all legalities surrounding your divorce are done both correctly and in a timely manner can feel overwhelming as the process is challenging and legally complex. Consider visiting with an experienced divorce attorney to understand all of your legal rights, and ensure that your rights to your children as well as all of your financial rights remain protected. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer at Arnold & Smith, PLLC with offices in Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe North Carolina at 704.370.2828 or online today to schedule your consultation.