If you’re getting ready to file for divorce, you may have already read a lot of conflicting or confusing information about the process. That’s because the process of divorcing varies by state, county, and depending on your situation. There’s also more than one way to complete service of process or ask the court to grant a divorce.
This step-by-step guide is focused on divorces in Wake County, North Carolina that are done by clerk. To get divorced by a Wake County court, at least one spouse needs to have been living in Wake County for the last six months. To get divorced by clerk, neither spouse can ask the court to do anything other than grant a divorce. In most cases, that entails negotiating a separation agreement with your spouse before filing for divorce, so there are no disputes for the court to resolve.
You should consider talking to a lawyer before filing for divorce. Many legal claims are irrevocably waived once a divorce is granted and filing for divorce without a separation agreement may prompt litigation with your spouse. The process of getting divorced may be more complicated and frustrating than you anticipated, probably because filing for divorce is more complicating and frustrating than it should be.
Step 1: Complete FilingsThe first step is to put together a packet of documents you will file with the court. This packet will include:
- A Cover Sheet: This tells the court you are filing a complaint for divorce.
- A Complaint: This states why you believe you are entitled to a divorce judgment.
- A Verification: This is a signed and notarized document where you promise everything in the Complaint is true.
- A Summons: This form notifies your spouse they are being sued for divorce.
- A Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Affidavit: This form promises your spouse is not in the military.
- SCRA evidence: A report created on this website proves your spouse is not in the military as stated in the SCRA Affidavit.
Once all of the forms are complete, print three copies, sign them in front of a notary, and get a cashier’s check for $225 made out to “Clerk of District Court of Wake County.” You can bring all of this to the court in-person and file it with the clerk, or you can mail them to 316 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, NC 27601.
If you mail the documents, make sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope, so the court can mail the completed documents back to you. The court will stamp the documents, sign the summons, process payment, file one copy, and return two copies to you.
Step 2: Service of Process
Once the court processes your documents, you need to “serve” one copy on your spouse. This is the part you often see depicted in movies where a process server dramatically states “you’ve been served!” However, if you are doing a divorce by clerk and already signed a separation agreement, you’ll probably just ask your spouse to sign/notarize a waiver, like the one on page 51 here. In the waiver, your spouse will waive any right to be formally served and state that they do not contest what you said in your Complaint. Once your spouse files the waiver with the court, you can ask the court to grant a divorce.
Step 3: Request a Divorce Judgment
To ask the court to grant a divorce, prepare the following documents:
- A Motion Cover Sheet: This form tells the court what you’re filing.
- A Motion: This formally asks the court to grant a divorce judgment by clerk, explaining that you meet the criteria for it.
- A Judgement: This is the divorce judgment you’re asking the court to sign. You’ll need three copies.
- A Divorce Certificate: This is used to update public records.
Mail these documents to the court or hand them to a clerk at the courthouse in-person. If everything goes well, your divorce will be finalized soon after.
In most cases, it is not a good idea to file for divorce without first negotiating a separation agreement or hiring a lawyer to litigate your case. Additionally, for simple, uncontested divorces, it usually costs about $400 more to hire an attorney than to do it yourself. If you can afford it, it’s money well-spent.