How to Get a Divorce Without a Lawyer

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Once you obtain an absolute divorce you forever waive your right to have a court divide your right to have a court divide your property or award you alimony. These rights are permanently and irrevocably forfeited when you obtain a divorce without having previously filed claims for property distribution and alimony. How do you even begin to navigate through all of these parts of divorce without a lawyer?

If you have not yet completed all action related to your alimony claim or property distribution claim you should not do your own absolute divorce. The Do-It-Yourself divorce does not resolve your alimony and property distribution claims. It is used only to obtain a divorce, not to resolve financial issues.

The Do-It-Yourself divorce does not resolve child custody or child support issues. Have an attorney help you. You should NOT complete a Do-It-Yourself divorce unless you fully understand the impact of the divorce on your alimony and property distribution claims.

Remember, the forms and procedures outlined on this site may not necessarily apply to your situation. Be sure you understand the rights you may lose if you complete a Do-It-Yourself divorce. Please contact an attorney if you do not understand the Do-It-Yourself divorce, or if you have any questions about of the issues involved in divorce.

Rosen Law Firm is providing this Do-It-Yourself Divorce kit for your convenience. Check with your local Clerk of Court to determine whether these forms will be applicable in your county. We will walk you through the process step by step and provide example forms for you to look at, as well as downloadable forms for you to use.

There are two requirements for filing for divorce in North Carolina:

1. You must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six months, and

2. You must have been living separately from your spouse for at least one year and one day on the day that you file.

Many counties may have procedures that differ slightly from those presented here. Our information is based on the process in Wake County. You should check with the local Clerk of Court to determine any procedural variations in the county where you intend to file. If at any point you have questions, please contact an attorney in your area for assistance.

Follow the steps outlined below and check the Frequently Asked Questions section for the answers to questions which you may have about divorce without a lawyer.

TO FILE FOR DIVORCE IN THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, YOU MUST HAVE BEEN A RESIDENT OF NORTH CAROLINA FOR AT LEAST SIX MONTHS AND LIVING SEPARATELY FROM YOUR SPOUSE FOR ONE YEAR AND ONE DAY ON THE DAY THAT YOU FILE FOR THE DIVORCE.

Clerk of Superior Court

Many counties have procedures that differ slightly from those presented here. Our information is based on the process in Wake County. You should check with the local Clerk of Court to determine any procedural variations in the county where you intend to file.

To find the phone number for the Clerk of Court in your county, use the link on this site or look in the Blue (Government) Pages of the phone book under North Carolina State Government, Judicial Branch of State Government, County Courts, (your county) County Courts, Clerk of Superior Court, and finally the number should be listed by Clerk/Info.

You may also visit the Administrative Office of the Courts directory to find the address and phone number of your county’s Clerk of Superior Court. You need to consult the Clerk of Court in the county where you will file for divorce in order to determine the procedure for that county. Some clerks provide a Do-It-Yourself (self-help) divorce kit with information specific to their county.

Specific Do-It-Yourself (self-help) Divorce instructions for Wake County are available on this site.

The Clerk of Court’s office CANNOT and WILL NOT direct you as to how to fill out these forms. If you have ANY QUESTIONS, that the information provided here does not answer, please contact an attorney.

When filling out the forms in the Do-It-Yourself Divorce Kit, DO NOT FALSIFY ANY INFORMATION ON ANY OF THE DOCUMENTS.

If you are the person getting the forms and filling them out, you must live in North Carolina and you will be referred to as the PLAINTIFF. Your spouse will be referred to as the DEFENDANT.

The forms provided here are formatted to be used with Microsoft Word. When using the forms in Microsoft Word, click on the gray box with the directions in them, and type your information. This process will delete the gray boxes and replace them with your information. If you do not have Microsoft Word, you can download the forms using Adobe Acrobat Reader. Some of these forms will need to be retyped. Throughout the remainder of this page, the forms will be presented first in the Microsoft Word format followed by the Adobe Acrobat Reader format.

Complaint

The first form you will fill out is the COMPLAINT. (When opening some of these forms a box may pop up asking for a name and password, simply click on the X in the top right corner to close the box and the form will open).

When you are finished with the COMPLAINT you must have (1) one original copy that is signed, and (2) two copies of the signed original copy.

Verification

The next form you will fill out is the VERIFICATION. Directions for filling out the VERIFICATION. Adobe Acrobat form of the VERIFICATION including directions
and an example.

The VERIFICATION must be signed before a Notary Public. Notaries can be found at banks and other financial institutions. Notary Publics are also listed in the Yellow Pages of the phone book under Notaries Public. The Clerk of Court cannot and will not notarize this form for you. The VERIFICATION must be notarized before taking the forms to file at the courthouse.

When you are finished with the VERIFICATION, you must have (1) one original copy that was signed in front of a Notary Public, and (2) two copies of the signed VERIFICATION. The VERIFICATION should then be stapled to the back of the COMPLAINT.

Civil Summons

Next you will fill out the CIVIL SUMMONS. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the CIVIL SUMMONS. Directions for filling out the CIVIL SUMMONS. When printing the CIVIL SUMMONS, print on the front and back of one page. You will need (3) three copies of the CIVIL SUMMONS. The original copy will be on white paper, and the (2) two copies will be on yellow paper.

When you are finished with the CIVIL SUMMONS, you will have (1) one original on white paper, and (2) two copies on yellow paper. Remember, each CIVIL SUMMONS has a front and a back, and you will only be writing in the sections, mentioned in the directions, on the front of the summons.

Service by Certified Mail

The most commonly used form of service these days is certified mail so unless you know your spouse is going to refuse to sign for certified mail, try that method first. Service by certified mail costs whatever the post office charges you for that service and using certified mail should be cheaper and will probably be faster than using the sheriff. It is also less hassle for you, since you don’t have to contact the sheriff’s department about attempting service and then checking on whether the sheriff got service.

When service is by certified mail, the post office sends a green card back to you once defendant has signed for the piece of mail. Once you receive the green card, you need to check that the card has been signed and then you need to create an Affidavit of Service by Certified Mail to file in the court file. You attach the green card to your notarized affidavit when you file the affidavit.

Service by Sheriff

IF THE DEFENDANT (YOUR SPOUSE, THE PERSON YOU ARE TRYING TO SERVE) DOES NOT LIVE IN THE COUNTY YOU ARE FILING IN, YOU MUST CONTACT THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT IN THE COUNTY WHERE YOUR SPOUSE LIVES (WHETHER OR NOT IT IS IN NORTH CAROLINA) TO SERVE THE CIVIL SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT. There is a $5.00 fee for the Sheriff to serve the summons in North Carolina. You will need to contact the Sheriff’s office in the county your spouse is living in if they are living out of North Carolina to determine the fee for service of a summons.

Listing of contact information for Sheriffs in North Carolina Counties.

Service by Publication

A final, alternative method for service can be used if one of these other methods has been tried and failed. That method is service by publication, in which a notice regarding the action is placed in the newspaper in the county where defendant last resided. This alternative method for service is technically more complicated than the other methods, so that it may be difficult to effectuate without the assistance of an attorney.

Service by publication also increases the standard waiting period from thirty to forty days (measured from the date of the first such newspaper notice). We have a sample Notice of Service by Process of Publication and sample Affidavit on this website that are both used when using service by publication. Consider hiring and attorney to help you with this process.

Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet

The next form you will fill out is the DOMESTIC CIVIL ACTION COVER SHEET. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the DOMESTIC CIVIL ACTION COVER SHEET. You will only need (1) one copy of the COVER SHEET printed on the front and back of one sheet of paper.

Notice of Divorce Hearing

The next form you will fill out is the NOTICE OF DIVORCE HEARING. Wake County residents, click HERE. All other counties, click HERE. Directions for filling out the Wake County notice. Adobe Acrobat form of the Wake County Notice of Divorce Hearing including an example. Adobe Acrobat form of Notice of Divorce Hearing for all other NC counties including an example.

Judgment

The next form you will fill out is the JUDGMENT. Adobe Acrobat form of the JUDGMENT including directions and an example.

When you are finished with the JUDGMENT, you will have (1) one original copy and (2) two copies.

Filing Procedure

After all of the above mentioned forms are filled out and put together in the correct order, take them to your county’s civil courthouse and file them with the Clerk of Superior Court. (Wake County filing procedure) The clerk will finish walking you through the filing process. In Wake County, you will need to ask the clerk for a NOTICE OF ASSIGNMENT CARD. Check with your local Clerk of Court to determine whether or not you need to fill out this form.

The cost of filing a divorce in North Carolina is $245.00 ($225 filing fee plus $25 motion fee). This is regardless of whether your divorce is without a lawyer or not. The courts DO NOT accept personal checks. You may pay the filing fee in the form of cash, a money order, or a certified check made out to the Clerk of Court’s office in the county you are filing in.

When you file your forms at the Clerk of Court’s office, the Clerk will assign a case number to your case. The Clerk will stamp this number on the COVER SHEET, the COMPLAINT, the SUMMONS, the JUDGMENT, and the copies of these documents. The file number will include the year you are filing in, 00 if you are filing in 2000; the type of case it is, CVD for civil docket; and the number assigned to your case. Example: 00-CVD-567. This process may vary slightly depending on the county you are filing in, but the case numbers will be assigned in the same way.

At the time you file your papers with the Clerk of Court, you will receive a NOTICE OF DIVORCE HEARING, which will have directions printed on it for the process you need to follow to finish your divorce. Follow those directions exactly and you will not have any difficulties in completing your divorce. The Wake County Notice of Hearing instructions will vary from the instructions in other counties.

Completing the Process

To complete the divorce process, go to your county’s civil courthouse on the date that you are assigned to appear according to your county’s procedure.

Remember, you are filing a non-jury divorce without attorneys, which will help determine the courtroom you are to appear in. When you appear in court for your divorce, bring with you the documents required by your county.

The documents required for your court appearance in Wake County are (3) three copies of the JUDGMENT, and (1) one copy of the CERTIFICATE OF ABSOLUTE DIVORCE. You will need to get the CERTIFICATE OF ABSOLUTE DIVORCE from your Clerk of Court’s office. The CERTIFICATE OF ABSOLUTE DIVORCE is a form that is filled out for the State of North Carolina. It is used to keep statistics. In Wake County you do not need a copy of the CERTIFICATE OF ABSOLUTE DIVORCE for yourself, but you may want one for your own records.

You will complete your Do-It-Yourself (self-help) divorce process in your county’s civil courthouse by following the procedure outlined by your county’s court. The procedure will be similar to Wake County’s procedure.

At the end of the Do-It-Yourself divorce process, you will have a copy of the COMPLAINT, the VERIFICATION, the CIVIL SUMMONS, and the JUDGMENT.

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