Everything You Need to Know About Divorce Costs in North Carolina
One of the greatest stressors for those seeking a divorce anywhere is how it will affect one’s finances. Here’s everything you need to know about divorce costs in North Carolina.
The most basic, immediate costs are those associated with filing for divorce with the courts. However, such costs are subject to change and are often disregarded next to the more substantial cost of hiring lawyers. Those worried about affording court fees do have certain options.
Is North Carolina the Right State to File for Divorce In?
Before one files for divorce, a spouse must make sure they meet all the criteria laid out by North Carolina law, which includes that:
- The filer or their spouse has lived in North Carolina for at least the last 6 months
- The filer has been separated from their spouse for at least 12 months
- The filer is not interested in ever receiving alimony or spousal support
- The filer is not interested in ever having property or debts from the marriage divided between them and their spouse
Having determined that North Carolina is the correct state in which to begin divorce proceedings, a prospective filer can then begin estimating costs.
Basic Costs of Filing a Complaint for Divorce in North Carolina
Initial filing with the court costs $225.00. Next is either a $30.00 or $7.00 cost for serving the defendant, or the other spouse.
The amount depends on whether the filing spouse chooses to have a sheriff serve the defendant or opts to use certified mail. Finally, a claim for “Resumption of Maiden Name” may incur an additional $10 charge. All of these costs are subject to change.
Average Cost of Legal Advice in North Carolina Divorce Cases
Average hourly rates for North Carolina divorce lawyers fall somewhere between $230.00 and $280.00. This translates to an average total fee ranging from $9,700.00 to $11,700.00.
These figures may seem intimidating, but costs are lower in cases with fewer contested issues between the parties.
Self-representation is also an option, but is one that must be considered very carefully due to complexities in dividing properties and securing spousal support.
The main determinant of overall costs will usually come down to the number of contested issues that a spouse’s representing lawyer has to contend with.
What to Do When Fees are Unaffordable
If a filing spouse cannot afford the fees requested by the court, they have the option to file a “Petition to Proceed as an Indignant.” If the court approves this petition, the filing fee and process of service fee are both waived. The process for filing the petition is as follows:
- Fill in the name of the county where you will be filing the papers. Check the box marked “District” for court division
- Fill in your name as Plaintiff and your spouse’s name as Defendant, in the appropriate places
- Check the box marked “Petition to Assert Claims”
- If the filer is a recipient of public benefits such as Work First, SNAP (food stamps), or SSI, then check the appropriate box or boxes. If you receive none of these, but still wish to request a determination of indigence, check the last box, “Although I am not a recipient….” The Clerk of Court may require you to show a pay stub or other proof to show that you cannot afford the fee, but the Clerk is supposed to waive the fee upon a reasonable showing
- Make sure to sign the petition in the presence of a Notary Public and have the form notarized
The petition must be filed at the same time as the other documents at the beginning of the divorce. It is important to note that any false information included on the form can lead to the filing party being held in contempt of the court.
If at all possible and affordable, consulting with a divorce lawyer prior to filing can help a spouse certify that they are beginning the process correctly.
What if I don’t meet the residency requirements?
It may still be possible to file for divorce in another state depending on residency history. In cases where a spouse matches no state’s requirements, it may be necessary to contact a lawyer.
What if my case involves domestic abuse?
North Carolina recommends that victims of domestic abuse speak with their county’s Domestic Violence Service Provider or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) before initiating a divorce.
How do I know when fees have been increased?
North Carolina’s official guide to divorce is regularly updated with new figures, but the best way to be certain of costs is to contact the county clerk’s office for verification.