Frequently Asked Questions

Separation Questions:

How do I become legally separated?

  • In order to be legally separated, one spouse has to move out of the house, and the spouses must live separate and apart with at least one spouse intending that the separation be permanent.

How much does a Separation and Property Settlement Agreement cost?

  • It depends. If there are not a lot of marital assets and debts to be divided and depending if there are minor children born of the marriage, a Separation Agreement can be basic and not break the bank. Typically, a $1,500-$2,500 retainer would be expected for a rather straight forward Agreement. If there are many marital assets and debts to be divided and an intensive financial analysis needs to be completed and custody, child support, and/or alimony need to be considered, then the Agreement will take more time to complete and thus, and a $2,500-$5,000 retainer would be appropriate for a more complex Agreement. The final cost is heavily dependent on how well the parties are communicating and negotiating.

What are my rights?

  • You have many rights and laws to protect you. You need to have a consultation with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you and answer any questions you have.

How do we figure out custody right now?

  • You can agree to a temporary parenting agreement. For many parents who want to share custody with one another, they exercise a 2-2-3 schedule or a week on, week off schedule. However, it depends on what kind of schedule will work best for you and your spouse. If one parent is denying another parent visitation, you will need to file a Custody Complaint, schedule the mandatory mediation and obtain a date for a temporary custody hearing.

How is child support determined?

  • In many cases, child support is determined pursuant to the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. There are child support worksheets in which you can input income information and child related expenses, and these worksheets will provide you with the amount of child support you or the other parent should pay pursuant to the guidelines.

How is alimony determined?

  • In the most basic sense, alimony is determined based on the needs of the dependent spouse, the ability to pay of the supporting spouse, the length of the marriage, the age and education of both parties, and the standard of living the spouses were accustomed to during their marriage. There are many other factors that are considered.  An attorney can help provide you with specifics regarding your circumstances.

How do I protect my money?

  • You should monitor your joint bank accounts if you are separated or if you believe a separation is imminent.

Should I do anything with our joint accounts now?

  • Monitor them closely. If you have a joint account with your spouse, and you are concerned that your spouse is going to take all the money in the account, or the bulk of it, you may withdraw half of what is in the account.

How do I prevent my spouse from coming back to the house uninvited?

  • If you and your spouse have separated, and your spouse moves out of the house, and you do not want your spouse to come back to the house uninvited, you may tell your spouse so (preferably in writing via text or email). If your spouse comes back uninvited, you may call the police as your spouse has committed what is referred to as domestic criminal trespass.

What happens if we reconcile?

  • If you reconcile, then the date of separation that you established is no longer your date of separation. If you and your spouse executed a Separation Agreement, then you must look to the terms of your Separation Agreement to see what it says about reconciling.

Divorce Questions:

How much do you charge for a divorce?

  • $1,275, which includes the $225.00 filing fee, motion and service fees.

Can I do the divorce myself?

  • The Wake County Clerk’s Office does have a pro se divorce packet, which you may fill out. We often have people come to us after trying to go through the divorce process himself/herself because they find the pro se packet too difficult to complete on his/her own. If you make a mistake, often you must start over.

When can I get divorced in NC?

  • After you and your spouse have been physically separated for at least one year with at least one of you intending for the separation to be permanent.

Is there anything I should be aware of before I file for divorce?

  • If you do not have an executed Separation and Property Settlement Agreement or you do not have pending or resolved claims for post-separation support, alimony, and/or equitable distribution, and those matters still need to be resolved between you and your spouse, then you should try to reach an agreement on those matters or file those claims simultaneous with filing for divorce. If you obtain a divorce judgment and those matters have not been resolved or are not pending, then you are forever barred from filing any of those claims post-divorce.

Do we need to have a Separation Agreement before we get divorced?

  • It depends on your situation. We recommend coming in to speak with a lawyer to see if you should have an executed Separation and Property Settlement Agreement prior to obtaining a divorce.

Do I have to get divorced in the county or state where my spouse lives?

  • No, you do not. You may obtain a divorce in any county in North Carolina as long as either you live in North Carolina or your spouse lives in North Carolina, and one of you has lived in North Carolina for at least 6 months.

Does my spouse have to sign anything for the divorce?

  • It depends on how your spouse is served with the Divorce Complaint. If your spouse is served via certified mail, then he or she will need to sign the green certified mail card confirming that he or she received the documents in the mail. If your spouse is served by sheriff, then there is nothing that must be signed. Once your spouse is legally served, we can obtain your divorce.

How long does it take to get divorced?

  • Typically, 45 days from the date your spouse is served.

Is there a divorce hearing?

  • It depends. In Wake County, we may be able to obtain a divorce by clerk rather than by the judge. However, the clerk is only authorized to grant divorces in limited circumstances.

Can I resume my maiden name?

  • You can, but do not have to, request it in your Divorce Complaint. Regardless of whether it states that you may resume the use of your maiden name in your Divorce Judgment, to legally resume your maiden name and update your driver’s license and social security card, you must complete a Resumption of Former Name form after you are divorce, and file that form at the courthouse. Then, you may take that form to the DMV or Social Security Administration to legally change your name.


This information is not to be construed as legal advice for your situation. You should not take any action based solely on the information contained herein. You are strongly encouraged to speak with an attorney about your facts before taking any action. Do NOT use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Be prudent; call a lawyer.

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