Absolute Divorce

In North Carolina, an absolute divorce is almost always obtained on the basis of a one year separation. Once you and your spouse have lived continuously apart for one year, without resuming the marital relationship, either of you may obtain an absolute divorce. Attempts at reconciliation marked by isolated instances of sexual intercourse will not automatically end the period of continuous separation. However, instances of sexual intercourse and nights spent together may add to the totality of circumstances sufficient to cause a court to find that you have voluntarily renewed the marital relationship. Should a court so find, the twelve-month clock will be reset.

You cannot file for an absolute divorce until the next business day after your one-year separation. For example, if you and your spouse separated on February 12, 2014, you cannot file for your absolute divorce until February 13, 2015. Then your spouse is served with the summons and complaint.

From the date of service, your spouse has 30 days to answer your Complaint and may even be granted a 30-day extension, making it 60 days before you can get a court date. If your spouse does not choose to answer your Complaint, which he/she can do, we can automatically file for a court date after the 30-day answer period has lapsed. It takes at least three weeks to get a court date in Guilford County (each county is different) from the time the 30-day answer period has lapsed or we receive an answer, thus making it at least seven to eight weeks before you actually obtain your absolute divorce.


After your divorce judgment is finalized and entered, you should consider the following:


1. If COBRA medical benefits are an issue, the employer(s) through whom the benefits will be obtained, must be promptly notified that the divorce has been finalized. This should be done within sixty (60) days of the entry of the divorce judgment or the benefits may be lost forever. It is our recommendation that you transmit a copy of the divorce judgment at your earliest convenience to the personnel or human resources department of the relevant employer, so that the benefits are not lost.


2. Now that you are divorced, you should consider revising or making a Last Will and Testament. Provisions about your property, including life insurance proceeds and trusts for your minor children, are issues which should be attended to as soon as possible after the entry of the divorce judgment. We would be happy to refer you to an attorney who specializes in estate planning.


3. If there are no restrictions on the distribution of your life insurance proceeds, you may want to make certain that your former spouse is no longer listed on your policy as a beneficiary. If there are no restrictions on your retirement benefits, you may need to change the beneficiary on your retirement documents at work.

CHILD SUPPORT & ALIMONY PAYMENTS 4. If your child support or alimony is paid through the Office of Centralized Child Support, be aware, there may be some "lag time" between the date the payment is ordered and the date you receive the check from the State. If you are paying support by wage withholding, please keep in mind, there is a maximum percentage of your income that can legally be withheld; if that amount is less than your support obligation, you must pay the difference, directly. UNDERSTAND YOUR OBLIGATIONS

5. Please make sure you understand what your present obligations are to give full force and effect to any agreements you have or will sign in your marital case. If you have any questions, discuss them with your lawyer at Woodruff Family Law Group at your earliest opportunity, so that problems may be avoided.