If you’ve already made the difficult decision to divorce, then you’re probably worried about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect your ability to negotiate and finalize agreements about custody and assets. You probably have lots of questions—and might be having trouble getting clear answers right now. Things are shifting quickly, and each region is grappling with how to process divorce cases differently.
The pandemic is creating new sources of stress for families. Some couples who have already decided to separate are still living together and are unable to find new housing. Countless people have lost their jobs, casting doubt on their ability to pay child support, alimony, and other expenses.
No one has all the answers at this point. But the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go to court to settle your divorce. Not sure how to get started? Here are some frequently asked questions from clients seeking help at our Raleigh, NC divorce law firm, plus some tips for getting through this stressful time in your life.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to go to court to settle your divorce!
There are two basic requirements you must meet in order to file for divorce in North Carolina. The first is that one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to the filing. The other party may live out of state. The second, and more challenging requirement, is that the parties must live separately for 12 consecutive months before filing for a divorce.
If you’ve just decided to separate, finding housing could be an issue during the pandemic. To move toward divorce, however, your first priority should be to actually separate and live at different addresses. If you move back in together at any time, the separation period will reset, and you’ll have to wait even longer to get divorced. Having a clear plan for separation will make the divorce process much easier.
The first step in moving your divorce forward is to find a family law lawyer or divorce lawyer to represent you and walk you through the process. An experienced and reputable firm that offers a range of family law services, including mediation and arbitration, is the best choice. Regardless of how your divorce proceeds, this type of firm can help you resolve your case in a favorable way.
Once you’ve chosen a firm to work with, start to gather all of the documents you’ll need to prepare for divorce. Proactively collecting bank statements, tax returns, debts, and other documentation relating to both parties’ assets will help move the process along as quickly as possible.
Standard divorce proceedings in North Carolina, when the parties agree on the terms, will take a couple of months to complete after filing. In addition to the standard separation requirements, there is a mandatory 30-day waiting period (and an additional 30 days on request) from the filing date, giving the other party a chance to respond.
With North Carolina courts currently operating at a limited capacity, it’s very likely that divorce cases will take longer to resolve through the court system for the foreseeable future. The number of cases heard in a day will be smaller, and some proceedings may take place online. In addition, it will take time to work through postponed cases.
With that said, you aren’t helpless to move your divorce forward, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Very few divorce cases are disputed in court, and it’s always preferable to avoid that option whenever possible. Typically, only divorces that are extremely contentious will require litigation.
Divorce is hard on kids; there’s no getting around it. However, there are a few steps you can take to cut down on any stress, fear, and other painful emotions your children may experience. You should:
You don’t have to make final decisions about asset and debt distribution during divorce proceedings in North Carolina while waiting for your divorce in North Carolina, but if you don’t resolve your claims before divorce, you must file for equitable distribution (division of assets and debt) and alimony to protect your claims before the Judgment of Divorce is signed. Working with an attorney specializing in divorce and family law is the best way to ensure that assets are distributed fairly. In Raleigh, Wake County, and other counties in North Carolina, the law presumes that the division is equal, but there are exceptions.
At the moment, many consultations and meetings pertaining to divorce procedures are taking place virtually. Most attorneys will be happy to schedule an initial consultation with you over video chat, and you might even be able to go through mediation or arbitration this way. A number of courts have started conducting virtual proceedings
Can you get through the divorce process without needing an in-person appearance? It will all depend on the circumstances in Raleigh and North Carolina at the moment your divorce is making its way through the system. Your attorney will help you to follow any new guidelines and rules.
Businesses in a huge range of industries have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have major assets to distribute, like retirement accounts and business assets, it’s important to realize that the value of those assets may have changed significantly in recent months. In considering both asset and debt distribution, it’s important to reassess the value of what you have to split up in light of recent economic changes.
The best way to get through a divorce is to work together with your former spouse to find solutions and workable compromises. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. If your ex is uncooperative, abusive, or otherwise unwilling to settle your divorce through mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce, then you and your attorney should discuss your options so you can safely settle your case.
You can only control your own behavior, not anyone else’s. If your ex is not willing to compromise, then you may have to wait until the matter can be sorted out in court.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made shared custody arrangements much more challenging. Every couple’s situation is different, and the logistics of sharing custody might change somewhat due to social distancing protocols, especially if the parents reside in different states. However, it’s very important to continue following your separation and/or custody agreement as closely as possible during this time and to track your custodial days and any incidents worth noting regarding the children’s well-being.
If you’re worried about your child’s safety due to sharing custody during the pandemic, then be sure to seek legal advice right away. A child’s welfare is the most important factor in any custody agreement.
North Carolina has issued a recommendation that parents should continue to follow their custody plan unless directed otherwise and should work together to facilitate safe visitation. If you violate your agreement, it could jeopardize your custody rights in the future.
If the split is amicable, dating during the separation period should not be an issue. But you need to realize that you are not yet divorced and if custody or alimony disputes arise during the negotiations, your ex might use your dating history against you. If this is something you’re concerned about, bring it up with your lawyer.
Getting divorced in Raleigh is much easier if the parties are amicable and willing to work together to distribute their assets. It’s always best to work as a team if possible, as doing so is better for the children, reduces the impact on both parties, and speeds up the divorce process.
Once you’ve decided to divorce, it’s understandable to want to get through the process as quickly as possible. Divorce is painful, stressful, and has the potential to get ugly. Trying to divorce during a global pandemic makes the situation even more challenging.
It’s not easy to be patient and to deal with all the uncertainty in the world right now. But it’s important to realize that these circumstances are only temporary and you will get through your divorce eventually. Having a support network of loved ones and experienced legal counsel is important for helping you to deal with the emotions and practical challenges of resolving your divorce case.
Divorce in Raleigh doesn’t have to be contentious, but it’s still important to seek out legal help from a lawyer with extensive experience in family law. Choosing the right separation attorney can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. A reputable firm can give you peace of mind and help you navigate the steps of filing for divorce. At Gailor Hunt, our experienced family law attorneys offer a range of services for divorce cases in Raleigh, North Carolina. Call 919-367-1512 today to schedule a consultation.