Filing Divorce Papers in North Carolina Without Paying Court Costs

By Elizabeth Stock

Filing for divorce can be expensive, forcing you to stay in an unhappy marriage if money is tight. However, if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee associated with filing for divorce in North Carolina, you can ask the court to waive the fees based upon your financial situation. Unfortunately, obtaining a waiver of the filing fee does not relieve you of the cost of any legal assistance you may require.

Filing for Divorce

To file for divorce in North Carolina, you or your spouse must live in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing and you and your spouse must live separately for a minimum of one year. You must select a ground, or reason, for your divorce. In North Carolina, there are only two grounds for divorce: (1) separation for one year, or (2) incurable insanity and separation for three years.

Waiving Filing Fee

If you meet financial requirements, they court can waive the filing fee. To apply for the fee waiver, you must complete a Petition to Sue as an Indigent, have it notarized, and present it to the court clerk when filing your divorce complaint. The form will ask you to provide information about your income to help the court clerk determine if you are eligible for a fee waiver. If your petition is approved, you can file for divorce without paying the filing fee.

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Divorce Forms

Your divorce filing in North Carolina must include a complaint, a summons, and a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet along with the fee-waiver petition if applicable. The divorce complaint includes your request for a divorce, the grounds for the request, and information about you and your spouse. The summons must accompany the complaint and include information for your spouse about how to file an answer to your complaint. Some claims must be raised in the complaint or they will be waived. For example, while child support, custody, alimony and the distribution of property do not need to be decided prior to the finalization of the divorce in North Carolina, claims to alimony and equitable distribution must be raised prior to the finalization of the divorce to retain the right to discuss those issues later.

Service of Process

After you file all documents with the court, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the paperwork. You can ask the sheriff in your spouse’s county to personally hand-deliver the documents to your spouse. After your spouse receives the paperwork, he has 30 days to file an answer. If your spouse does not respond to the divorce complaint, you may be able to obtain a divorce by default. In some North Carolina counties, it may not be necessary for you to attend a hearing in order for the court to finalize the divorce. However, you should contact the court clerk to determine the steps necessary for you to obtain a divorce in your county.

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If you would like a divorce but have very limited financial means, you may be able to file the necessary papers without paying the court fees. Most civil courts have provisions that allow the indigent to carry out some basic legal procedures. Every jurisdiction has its own guidelines for waiving fees. Carefully follow the instructions provided by your local court clerk for this process.

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