One refrain that family lawyers frequently hear is that “My friend got divorced in (fill in your favorite State) and they got divorced in a week!” Or, “I got divorced in (last State of residence) and I got sole custody of the kids/all of the property/all of the alimony I could have hoped for.”
There is a serious danger in thinking that anything that happened in a family law or divorce case in one state will have any similarity to what happens in North Carolina. Whether it happened to you or a friend, you cannot base your expectations of what will happen in your North Carolina case on what happened in another State.
The reason for this is simple: Each State has different rules and laws for divorce, custody, child support, alimony and property distribution. The game is not the same in every state.
For instance, a very quick review of this chart gives you an idea of how different the rules for getting a divorce are in each State. Frustrated that you have to be separated for 12 months before you can be divorced in North Carolina? It could be worse, you could wait 5 years in Idaho. Then again, you can be divorced tomorrow if you live in Florida.
Were you frustrated when your attorney informed you that what happened in your friend’s alimony case in New Jersey is irrelevant to your case? This chart helps explain that. North Carolina and New Jersey consider different factors when making an alimony decision.
The same is true for child custody, child support, property division, third-party visitation in custody cases, and adoption. As you can see, the rules are different in every state. So, comparing a case from another state to your case in North Carolina is unproductive and only leads to frustration.
There are some laws and rules that apply across states. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) are followed in most, if not all states. (As of September 1, 2009 only Massachusetts and Vermont had not adopted the UCCJEA; all 50 states have adopted UIFSA). However, for the most part, your case is going to be unique to where you live.
As another level of complication, the specific county in which you live may play a large role in the outcome of your case. Even though the law is the same in each county in North Carolina, local court rules and the views, opinions and practices of specific judges in each county can lead to different results from county to county, and even within the same county!
The bottom line (literally in this article) is that comparing your case to someone else’s is counter-productive. The law, location, judge and facts are simply too different between cases to make such comparisons useful in any way.