No one goes into a marriage thinking that it will end. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out the way we plan. If you find yourself in a situation where you and your spouse have decided to separate, you’ll want to know the different ways to make your divorce final. So let’s look at how divorce works in North Carolina and see why default divorce is not something you plan.

Divorce in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there is one way to end your marriage -the absolute divorce. However, many roads lead to the destination of a final divorce proceeding.

Some couples plan for an uncontested divorce, also called an “easy” or “simple” divorce. In North Carolina, you can file for this type of divorce if both spouses agree on all terms, including:

  • Equitable division of property
  • Alimony
  • Child custody
  • Child support

If you and your spouse agree, you can file for a divorce without the judge deciding divorce issues for you.

However, if you have trouble finding an agreement, contact an experienced divorce attorney to help you and your spouse work out an agreement on all the major issues so that both parties agree. The judge determines the final divorce decree agreement when attorneys or spouses can’t settle issues before filing the divorce papers.

What is Default Divorce?

Default divorces happen when a petitioning spouse files for divorce and the other spouse does not respond to the paperwork within the 30-day waiting period.

When the other spouse fails to make reasonable efforts to respond, this can result in starting the default divorce process. The defaulting spouse essentially surrenders their right to contest the divorce terms by not responding. 

However, if you file the divorce petition and your spouse fails to respond, you can still get divorced.

The judge will review your paperwork and enter a default judgment if everything is in order. If the spouse contests the terms of the default divorce after the final judgment, they have no grounds.

What Can Happen In a Default Judgment?

If You are the Spouse Who Submitted the Divorce Petition:

If you are the spouse filing for divorce and your ex won’t respond to any divorce paperwork you send, the Clerk of Superior Court (the judge) may grant a divorce if they find evidence that your spouse:

  • Failed to appear
  • Failed to answer the complaint
  • Filed a waiver of the right to answer
  • Is not legally incompetent (unable to make decisions for themselves) (1)

The judge may also decide not to grant a default divorce if there is insufficient evidence to show the above is true. If you are the filing spouse and don’t attend your hearing, it can also result in dismissal.

Even if your spouse fails to respond, you must attend the hearing or have your attorney do so.

Reasons a judge might dismiss your filing for default divorce include:

  • If there is a problem with the paperwork you submitted 
  • Pertinent issues remain unresolved 
  • You and your spouse did not include crucial issues in your pleading
  • Evidence shows that you and your spouse financially support each other
  • If you decide to dismiss the filing

The judge can refuse to grant your divorce if your paperwork does not meet the proper legal conditions. In this case, you may need to start the entire process over.

If You’re the Spouse Who Failed to Respond to Divorce Papers

If you are the defaulting spouse (you didn’t respond to any paperwork your spouse sent) and don’t show up to your hearing, the judge may still grant the divorce to your spouse.

With contested issues in your divorce, such as property division or spousal support, the judge may rule on these matters without hearing from you.

We Can Help

Working with an experienced divorce attorney ensures your divorce file paperwork is in order and everything goes smoothly. Protecting your marital rights during a default divorce process is crucial.

At Plekan Law, we understand how complex and emotional the divorce and separation process can be. That’s why we are here to help you through every step. We ensure your paperwork is in order and advise you of your options if facing a default divorce situation.

Speak with one of our experienced divorce attorneys today to discuss your case and find out what options are available. We look forward to protecting your rights and interests throughout the divorce process.