There are two types of Divorce in North Carolina: Absolute Divorce & Divorce from Bed and Board.
In order to obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina some prerequisites must be met: the parties have a valid marriage, spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year (meaning the parties have physically separated and are no longer living as husband and wife), one of the spouse must be a resident of North Carolina for at least six months (one of the spouses must demonstrate his or her intention to remain in North Carolina indefinitely), and the spouses have at no time during the separation resumed the marital relationship.
An absolute divorce is commonly termed a simple divorce. An absolute divorce dissolves the marriage, but it does not address issues such as alimony, child support, child custody, and equitable distribution.
Divorce from Bed and Board
A Divorce from Bed and Board typically comes into play where the spouses are unable to voluntarily separate from each other. It is sometimes referred to as a legal separation because it requires court intervention. Oftentimes, the spouse seeking the Divorce from Bed and Board will ask the Court to order the other spouse to leave the residence. This type of divorce is not absolute and the parties are still legally married to one another.
Issues Related to Divorce
There are multiple issues and options that can arise when looking at dissolving a marriage. They include: pre-marital agreements, post-marital agreement, separation agreements, post-separation support, alimony, and equitable distribution. Some claims must be raised at the time of filing or you lose your rights to those claims. Each situation is different, and it is imperative that you obtain legal advice regarding your specific situation.
Custody in North Carolina is determined by the “best interest of the child(ren)” standard. The court looks at the totality of circumstances to decide who will have Legal and/or Physical Custody of the child(ren). In North Carolina, mediation is required in all cases involving custody issues. The parties remain in mediation as long as they and the mediator feel that mediation is successful. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement then litigation of the custody issue may become necessary.
Legal Custody refers to which parent has the authority to make major decisions concerning the child(ren)’s welfare. Such decisions include, but are not limited to, religion, health and education. Sole legal custody gives legal custody to just one parent. Joint legal custody gives each parent an equal right to participate in making major decisions concerning the child(ren)’s welfare.
There are basically three types of Physical Custody—primary, secondary, and joint. Primary physical custody means that the minor child(ren) physically resides with one parent and visits with the other parent who exercises secondary physical custody. Joint physical custody is an equal sharing of time with the child(ren).
A parent who does not have primary physical custody (non-custodial parent) of the child(ren) will typically be ordered to provide child support to the parent with primary physical custody (custodial parent).
A non-custodial parent’s child support obligation continues until the child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school (whichever occurs later). However, if a child becomes emancipated at some point before his/her 18th birthday or his/her graduation from high school, payments will cease at that time. Parties may, by agreement, obligate themselves to payments beyond these time limits, but North Carolina does not require that a parent support their child while the child attends college.
Custody issues and Child Support can be raised at any time before the child reaches age 18. Either spouse can petition the court to change a prior order relating to custody or support based on a “substantial change in circumstances.”