Current North Carolina divorce laws state that a couple must have lived apart for one year before the divorce becomes final. The proposed new law will not require a couple to live apart during the pendency of a divorce, and the divorce waiting period will be increased to two years if the law is passed.
The two years will begin when the filing spouse serves the other spouse with a Notice of Intent to File for Divorce.
Buying More Time
The proposed new law buys more time for a divorcing couple to sell their home and move on with their lives. It may even keep the couple from foreclosing on their home, since – under the state’s current divorce laws – one of them would have to reside in another residence for a year. Adding rent for the spouse who leaves – on top of a house payment – can amount to financial disaster.
Another rule in the proposed new law is that couples will be required to take classes in communication and conflict resolution prior to filing for a North Carolina divorce.
They are not required, however, to take the classes as a couple. If there are minor children in the mix, the couple may also be required to take a four-hour class on the impact of divorce on children.
Striking the Marital Relations Language
The last change in the law is the elimination of language on marital relations during the period of living apart. Under the present law, marital relations during the North Carolina waiting period may toll the one-year statutory period.
Understandably, this often becomes rather complicated because, under the law as it stands, the court must determine exactly how marital relations during the one-year waiting period impact the waiting period.
If marital relations have “resumed” under the North Carolina General Statutes, Section 52-10.2 doctrine, the waiting period is tolled. In this scenario, the one-year period of separation would be extended. If the marital relations were “isolated incidents,” then the “totality of circumstances” would have to be considered.
Since the proposed new law would allow Husband and Wife to reside in the same marital home during the North Carolina divorce waiting period, this close proximity could foster an atmosphere of reconciliation – in theory anyway.
The proposed new law, interestingly, is called the “Healthy Marriage Act,” and this, in fact, might describe it perfectly. North Carolina’s divorce rate ranks the 19th highest in the nation.
If the parties in a North Carolina divorce could live together for – at least – some of the two-year waiting period and took classes on conflict resolution, communication and the impact of divorce on children, it may cause them to have second thoughts. Any time that a couple resolves to work together on their marriage, especially when children are involved, divorce may be prevented or postponed until the children are out of the home.
Senate Bill 518 may be a step for giving couples some of the skills they need to help repair their broken marriages.
North Carolina Divorce Lawyer
Divorce is a serious thing. To the extent you can save your marriage, you should. Of course, in some circumstances divorce is unavoidable. In either case, if you’re a man facing a crisis in your marriage, contact the domestic litigation firm of Cordell & Cordell for help.