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   ... / ... / Courts / Family Court / Pro Se Divorce / FAQ's  Print  Court Picture
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Pro Se Absolute Divorce Frequently Asked Questions
 
  1. What is a complaint?
  2. How do I file a complaint?
  3. Can I use fill-in-the-blank forms?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. What do I do next?
  6. How do I serve someone?
  7. I have filed my complaint and served the defendant. What happens now?
  8. What is an answer?
  9. Where can I find information on the law & how to represent myself?
  10. Why won't the Family Court staff tell me what I should do or tell me if my paperwork is right?
  11. What is the difference between Legal Information v. Legal Advice?
  12. What will happen in court?
Q. What is a complaint?
A. A complaint is the first pleading in a civil action that sets out the facts of your case (known as claims) and starts a lawsuit.
 
Q. How do I file a complaint?
A. Once you draft your pleadings or complete your forms, you must file your complaint (1 original and 2 copies), along with a Domestic Civil Action Coversheet (AOC-CV-750) in the Civil Division of the Clerk of Superior Court's Office. The Clerk's office can provide you with copies of the coversheet when you file your complaint.
 
Q. Can I use fill-in-the-blank forms?
A. Yes, you may use fill in the blank forms; however, keep in mind that many companies sell generic forms that may not contain the correct legal language that needs to be in your complaint. Using forms specific to North Carolina can reduce the risk of filing inaccurate or incorrect pleadings. Family Court does not provide these types of forms.
 
Q. How much does it cost?
A. There is a filing fee of $150 to file a civil case in District Court. The filing fee for an Absolute Divorce is $225.00. Fees must be paid at the time of filing in order for your case to be processed. (Filing fees are subject to legislative increases.)
 
Q. What do I do next?
A. You must now serve the defendant(s) with your complaint. This means the defendant must receive a copy of the lawsuit against him or her so that they may appear before the court and be heard. Service must be accomplished or you cannot go forward with your case.
 
Q. How do I serve someone?
A. North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) requires you must serve the defendant(s)in one of the following ways:
  1. Service by Sheriff. Complete one original (white) and two copies (yellow) of the Civil Summons (AOC-CV-100). These forms are located in the Clerk's Office. Pay $5.00 service fee to the civil office of the Sheriff in the county where the defendant resides.
  2. Service by Certified Mail
    • Mail to the defendant by certified mail-restricted delivery, return receipt requested, one copy each of the filed complaint, coversheet and summons.
    • Obtain the "green card" receipt, returned from the post office with the defendant's signature and attach to an Affidavit of Service form, which can be obtained from the Family Court staff.
    • Complete the Affidavit of Service form, sign it before a notary public and file it in the civil division of the Clerk's Office.
  3. Service by Personal Delivery. The defendant may accept service by personal delivery. If you choose to serve the defendant in this way, the defendant must complete the personal delivery section on the Affidavit of Service form. The defendant must also sign the form before a notary public. You must then file the form with the Clerk's Office.
  4. Service by Publication. Service by publication is a complicated and expensive procedure. For information on how to serve someone in this or any other manner, please refer to Chapter 1, Rule 4 of the North Carolina General Statutes.
 
Q. I have filed my complaint and served the defendant. What happens now?
A. The defendant has thirty days in which to file an answer. What happens next depends on what claims for relief you are asking for. If you are seeking child custody, both parties will be required to participate in the Custody Mediation and Parenting Programs. If you have financial claims such as equitable distribution or alimony, you and your spouse may be required to participate in the Financial Mediation Program. You should contact your assigned Family Court Case Manager to find out what the status of your case is and what will take place next.
 
Q. What is an answer?
A. An answer is the defendant's response to the plaintiff's complaint. The answer denies or affirms the plaintiff's allegations. Answers may also contain counterclaims. Counterclaims are opposing demands made by the defendant against the plaintiff. If the defendant files an answer or counterclaim, your case will more than likely become a contested matter and may take longer to complete.
 
Q. Where can I find information on the law & how to represent myself?
A. Most of the laws that you would need to research regarding family issues can be found in Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes. The General Rules of Court and Civil Procedure can be found in Chapters 1 and 1A of the North Carolina General Statutes.

Information on Family Law issues or representing yourself in court can be found at county libraries, in bookstores or on the Internet.
 
Q. Why won't the Family Court staff tell me what I should do or tell me if my paperwork is right?
A. The Family Court staff or other court personnel did not attend law school, nor are they licensed to practice law. They cannot suggest what course of action you should take, tell you what types of pleadings you need to file or assist you in presenting your case. They can only provide you with legal information on court processes, procedures and the status of your case as it relates to scheduling. Court staff cannot review your pleadings for completeness or accuracy. If you have concerns about whether you have prepared your pleadings correctly, we suggest you find examples of legal pleadings similar to what you are trying to file or contact a legal professional.
 
Q. What is the difference between Legal Information vs. Legal Advice?
A. Legal Advice explains what your legal rights are or may be, suggests what course of action you should take, and what the consequences of the lawsuit filed against you may be.

Legal information is information on court procedures, due dates, deadlines for filing certain documents, when hearings are scheduled and information that is contained in public records.
 
Q. What will happen in court?
A. On your court date, the judge will review the filed pleadings to see if they are legally sufficient. If they are not properly written, the judge cannot explain what is wrong or how to correct it. In some instances your lawsuit may even be dismissed. If the judge finds that the pleadings are in order, the parties will then be called to present evidence on the disputed issues. The plaintiff has the responsibility of proving the facts of the case. After all the evidence is presented the judge will rule (make a decision) on the facts presented.
 
 
 
   
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