How Long Does the Divorce Process Typically Take, and What Factors Can Influence the Timeline?

A divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage. Each state sets the laws governing divorces within the state, including grounds for divorce, filing deadlines, and residency requirements. North Carolina refers to divorce as “absolute divorce.” Our North Carolina family law attorneys discuss the typical timeline for a North Carolina divorce and the factors that influence the timeline to help you understand what you can expect when you file for divorce. 

Typical Timeline of a Divorce in North Carolina

Divorce cases might have some similarities, but no two divorces are alike. Therefore, there is no set timeline for a divorce in North Carolina. However, couples cannot get a divorce unless they have been living separately and apart for at least one year, except in the case of incurable insanity. The parties must live separately and apart for at least three consecutive years to obtain an absolute divorce on the grounds of incurable insanity.

Unlike other states, North Carolina does not have fault grounds for a divorce. State law only allows for a no-fault divorce based on a one-year continuous separation. Therefore, the timeline for a divorce in North Carolina begins with one year and one day after the parties separate.

The remaining timeline depends on the facts and circumstances of the individual case. A divorce action can have several states, including:

  • Filing a complaint seeking an absolute divorce
  • Serving the petition on the other spouse
  • Waiting for your spouse’s response to your lawsuit 
  • Negotiation of a divorce settlement 
  • Discovery phase, if the parties cannot reach a settlement
  • Trial and final divorce order

Many divorce cases settle through negotiations or mediation. However, if the parties cannot agree on all divorce terms, it results in a contested divorce. Contested divorce cases generally take much longer to finalize than an uncontested divorce. 

Factors That Can Influence the Divorce Timeline

Many factors impact the timeline for a North Carolina divorce case. For example, uncontested divorces might be resolved in 45 to 90 days after filing the divorce complaint with the court. However, when spouses disagree, the divorce process takes much longer.

Factors that can increase how long it takes to get divorced include, but are not limited to:

  • Disputes regarding property division
  • Demands for alimony or spousal support
  • Disputes regarding child custody, parenting plans, and timesharing schedules 
  • High-net-worth cases and cases involving complex assets to divide, such as business interests 
  • The need to hire experts
  • Participating in mediation to resolve issues

The court’s docket can also impact how long it takes to get divorced in North Carolina. For example, if the court has a heavy caseload, it could take longer for the court to finalize your divorce. 

How to Expedite the Divorce Process in North Carolina

There is nothing you can do to shorten the waiting period for a divorce. However, you and your spouse can cooperate during the separation to negotiate a divorce settlement. When you work with your lawyers to negotiate the terms of your divorce, your attorney can submit a proposed settlement agreement. A proposed settlement agreement before you file for divorce can speed up the timeline to finalize your divorce. 

Hiring an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer can also expedite the divorce process. An experienced divorce attorney can navigate the divorce process efficiently. Your lawyer also helps you view the issues in your divorce objectively to negotiate a fair divorce settlement during your separation or after you file for divorce. 

Contact Our North Carolina Family Law Attorneys for More Information 

With the help of our experienced North Carolina family law attorneys, you can get through the divorce process as quickly as possible while protecting your best interests. If you have questions about divorce or other family law matters, contact our law firm to schedule a consultation with an attorney.