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For those who are going through the pain of a divorce and don’t really have the money to spend on an legal representation, the state court system may have the answer.

The North Carolina Judicial Branch has launched its first statewide “self-help packet” to provide an easier method for those who want to conduct business with the courts but are unable to afford or do not want to hire an attorney. The divorce packet is accessible online and provides guidance to an unrepresented party wanting to file for a simple divorce without claims for equitable distribution or custody, according to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.

The packet was prepared by the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission and is being announced by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. It includes information, steps and forms for getting an absolute divorce. While the packet is accessible online, the paperwork must be submitted in hard copy to the office of the clerk of superior court in the county where the divorce needs to be filed.

“While retaining an attorney is, for most people, the preferred way to accomplish the goal of dissolving a marriage, we know that some people will be unable to afford that access,” said McKinley Wooten, interim director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. “For that reason, this packet aims to allow potential litigants to assess whether their circumstances are appropriate for a simple divorce, or whether their case has complicating factors necessitating consultation with counsel prior to filing.”

This divorce packet is intended to supplement the practices and processes that many clerks of superior court have in place to assist the public across the state. Clerks of superior court may choose to make copies of this packet available for public distribution, subject to appropriate charges for the cost of copies.

The divorce packet aims at providing greater access to the courts through one single, statewide process.

A packet at the Burke County Clerk of Court doesn’t cost anything but to file them, the cost is $225, according to county clerk of court officials. The new divorce packet materials also can be found at www.NCcourts.gov/divorce-packet.

The North Carolina Judicial Branch is committed to access to justice and providing a fair and accessible forum for the resolution of disputes. The packet provides helpful information for divorce but judicial employees are not permitted to provide legal advice or help fill out these forms for the public.

For legal advice or questions about legal rights and remedies, the public may consult an attorney licensed to practice law in the state.

More than 36,000 divorces were filed in North Carolina in fiscal year 2018-19. Divorce is the top search term on NCcourts.gov, and a Help Topic on divorce and separation was added when the site launched last year.

The North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission was established in November 2005 by order of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and is chaired by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. The mission of the commission is to expand access to the civil justice system for people of low income and modest means in North Carolina.

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Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at smcbrayer@morganton.com or at 828-432-8946.

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