North Carolina Lawmakers Consider Making it Harder to Get a Divorce - John T. Orcutt - Bankruptcy Options Affected by Proposed Law Skip to main content

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North Carolina Lawmakers Consider Making it Harder to Get a Divorce: How Could this Law Affect Your Bankruptcy Choices?



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Whether you have personally been touched by divorce, or have just witnessed the process as a supportive friend, it’s never a pretty picture. One of the most common reasons that couples file for divorce is due to finances. As marital troubles begin to pop up, money troubles seem to make everything else so much more stressful. Eventually, some couples can no longer take it and decide to call it quits. This is especially true in North Carolina, as the state has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, and state lawmakers now want to make divorces harder to get in North Carolina. So, how could this new proposed law affect your North Carolina bankruptcy filing process?

Is the “Healthy Marriage Act” Really that Healthy?

With a current waiting period of one year, North Carolina residents are already forced to wait much longer than most other states to obtain a divorce. For example, Alabama has no waiting period at all, while Tennessee and Georgia only make people wait for around 30 days. The proposed Senate Bill 518 would essentially increase the one year waiting period to a length of two years…that’s right, two years…and force couples to receive conflict resolution counseling. Oh, and if you have children, you have to get additional counseling for that as well.

Reaction to the “Healthy Marriage Act” has not been very favorable among North Carolina residents or divorce experts. Pauline Gaines, of, writes: “I'm against the two-year waiting period. For people trying to escape from marriages involving any kind of abuse -- physical, emotional, financial, sexual -- being forced to wait two years for a dissolution could be dangerous. For those in lower-conflict situations, I'm not sure what waiting two years accomplishes, other than keeping people from moving on with their lives. The idea behind the two-year waiting period -- that some couples will take the time to figure out how to save their marriages and keep their families in tact -- is a noble one, but what mechanisms would exist to help couples solve their problems? Court-ordered therapy? Conflict-resolution classes? Generally, people have exhausted therapy and self-help books by the time they decide to divorce, so the idea of prolonging the process would seem to fuel frustration and animosity rather than lead to reconciliation. If the two-year waiting period doesn't decrease divorce, then the possibilities for legal and financial problems multiply. More time to spend down or hide money, more time for legal fees to accrue, more tension that ultimately spills over onto kids."

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What about the Financial Impact?

Unfortunately, this proposed law could have disastrous results for the finances of many couples seeking a divorce. For example, let’s say you want to consult with a North Carolina bankruptcy attorney and look into filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy after obtaining your divorce. Under this law, you would be forced to wait another two years before filing bankruptcy, unless you can convince your partner to file as a married couple. And all the while, your bills keep piling up around you. That’s not to mention the money it will cost you to pay for the counseling services required under this law.

Judith Tutin, of, writes: "My clinical experience would fall strongly against longer waiting periods. I have many examples in my practice and among my friends, relatives and acquaintances, of people who have been hurt emotionally and financially by these waiting periods. For example:

  • Often people continue to reside together for financial and/or legal reasons. It also places people or the spouse without financial means at a greater disadvantage.
  • There is more of an opportunity for the anger, typical in many divorce situations, to fester and increase.
  • There is more of an opportunity for people to hide assets.

It’s hard for me to envision how longer waiting periods would facilitate a more amicable divorce. I’m also not aware of evidence to suggest that they result in a decreased divorce rate."

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The Bottom Line

The implications of the “Healthy Marriage Act” are almost mind-boggling. If you are already in financial distress, on the verge of a divorce and constantly stressed out, the last thing you need is to be building two years of additional debt as a married couple. Bankruptcy laws are very clear and, while married couples can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection separately, some things are simply easier to do after the divorce is final. If you are experiencing trouble managing your debt, reach out and speak to a trusted North Carolina bankruptcy attorney today.

Dedicated to helping residents of North Carolina find the best solutions to their debt problems. Don’t waste another day worrying about your debt. Call +1-919-646-2654 today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your bankruptcy options.

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