UNCONTESTED DIVORCE GUIDE by
A. Bowden Houser, Attorney at Law
The Houser Law Firm P.C.
This short guide will tell you all the steps necessary to complete a standard Uncontested Divorce: what to do; when to do it; where to get the things to do it with and what to expect. However, the main purpose of this guide is to show you exactly how difficult doing your own divorce is and that you likely won't save any money! Most people wouldn’t dream of doing surgery on themselves or work on their car if they didn’t know what they were doing - legal work is the same. You can really muck things up - sometimes irreparably if you don't know what you are doing!
If saving money is your main goal - you won’t! In fact, you’ll likely end up spending more. Unless you are indigent (low or no income) and eligible to request that the Court waive your court cost, doing it yourself is simply not cost effective. In other words, unless you can avoid paying the court cost to file your divorce - you generally won't save any money doing it yourself.
The Houser Law Firm, P.C. can handle your Uncontested Divorce anywhere in North Carolina for a flat rate fee of $395 which covers everything needed for a standard Uncontested Divorce. You would not be required to go to Court or travel to our office - everything can be handled from the comfort of your home. However, if you are hell bent on doing it yourself, let’s start with what an Uncontested Divorce is. An Uncontested Divorce is one in which the husband and wife are not fighting over other issues and simply want to have the marriage dissolved by a divorce judgment. In North Carolina there are two simple requirements to be eligible to file: 1) you must have been physically separated (not living together) for a period of one year AND 2) one of you must have resided in NC for at least the 6 months prior to filing. If you meet those two requirements . . .
STEP ONE: is to draft a Divorce Complaint. This can be done by obtaining a NC Divorce Forms packet either online or some NC counties provide them at the Civil Court Clerk's office. You can also use any of the hundreds of online form services such as Divorce Writer. However, our firm provides pre-filled forms for a flat fee of $95 which is much cheaper than Divorce Writer, Legal Zoom or any other form service. If you are not an attorney and do not know what you are doing, the divorce complaint is one of the most common places that mistakes are made. You will need to sign your divorce Complaint in front of a notary public and make two copies. Common things to keep in mind are that women can resume the use of their maiden name and if you have a separation agreement, that may be incorporated if that is in your best interest.
You will then need to fill out one Domestic Action Cover Sheet and a Civil Summons form. You will need to make two copies of the Civil Summons on yellow paper and one copy on white paper. These forms will be in your packet or again you can find them online or get them at the Clerk's office.
Then you will need to take your divorce complaint, domestic action cover sheet and civil summons to the Court House in the county where you reside. Unless you can walk or ride a bike there - you will most likely incur some transportation cost - keep track of this - you will be going back a forth to the Court house - a lot! When you get to the court house, make your way to the Civil District Court Clerks office and file your paper work and pay your filing fee which is currently $225 or $235 depending on if you are resuming your maiden name.
STEP TWO: You now have to serve your spouse a copy of the divorce complaint and summons. You can not simply hand it to them, drop it in the mail, e-mail or fax it. The most common way is to serve them by certified mail with a return receipt card. This currently cost around $11 to $12 bucks. You may also have the Sheriff's Department serve the paperwork - this cost $30 if your spouse lives in North Carolina. By the way, your most likely gonna have to drive to all these different places - so don't forget your transportation costs again. If you have no idea where your spouse is and you have done a diligent search - you may serve them by placing an legal ad in a newspaper. The ad must contain specific wording, run for a specific period of time and the newspaper must be approved. Also, setting that up will cost ya between $75 and $1500 dollars. An important thing to keep in mind here is that you have a limited period of time to complete the service of process. If you find that you are getting close to your Civil Summons expiring you can have an a&P Summons issued for $15 that will extend the period of time to complete Service of Process.
STEP THREE: Is to prepare an Affidavit of Service. If you served your spouse by certified mail you will need to attach the green return receipt card to the back of your Affidavit of Service. If you served your spouse by Sheriff - you will receive a notice that they were served. Thirty days after your spouse has been served you are eligible for your divorce hearing. Sometime before the 30 days is up, you will need to drive to the court house - again - to file your Affidavit and request that the clerk calendar your case for a court date.
If you had to serve your spouse by legal publication you will have to wait forty days after the first date of publication. The newspaper will send you a publishers affidavit to submit to the Court.
At this stage you may or may not have to prepare a Calendar Request and / or a Motion for Summary Judgment.
STEP FOUR: Once again, you will have to drive to Court on the day of your hearing. Bring all your paperwork with you. You will need to have prepared 3 copies of a Judgment of Absolute Divorce and a Certificate of Divorce. Dress appropriately and arrive to Court on time. When your case is called, a Court Bailiff will direct you where to go. The Judge may or may not have some questions for you - they will most likely be simple questions such as when were you separated, etc. At that point, the judge will sign your divorce judgment or kick your paperwork back to you for not doing sometime exactly right or timely. If the Judge signs your judgment - congratulations - you are divorced! The clerk will stamp your judgments as Certified True copies and you will be provided one for yourself and one for your former spouse (that one you can simply hand to them or drop it in the regular mail). If your paperwork gets kicked back, the Judge and court personnel are not allowed to tell you what is wrong - so feel free to call us. We can most likely fix it for you. But you can avoid all of that and just do it the easy affordable way in the first place at www.easyncdivorce.com. Thanks for reading and best of luck!
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