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North Carolina Divorce Process

Divorce is rarely a pleasant experience, so it's best when it can be completed efficiently and fairly. If you've been separated from your spouse for at least a year, one of you has lived in North Carolina for at least six months, and at least one of you is ready to call it quits for good, you may seek a divorce.

North Carolina actually refers to a legal divorce as an absolute divorce, though the word "absolute" has no special meaning. This article details the basics of the divorce process in North Carolina.

North Carolina Divorce Process at a Glance

The basic requirements for an "absolute divorce" in North Carolina, links to court forms, and a step-by-step guide are listed below to help you cut through the legal jargon.

Statute

North Carolina General Statutes: Section 50-2, et seq.

Requirements for a No-Fault Divorce

North Carolina permits no-fault divorce (neither party is claiming the other caused the marriage to fail) if the following conditions have been met:

  1. You or your spouse has lived in North Carolina for at least 6 months prior to the divorce filing;
  2. You have been legally married to the other party; and
  3. You and your spouse have lived separate and apart (separate residences) for at least 1 year before the divorce filing; and at least one of you has no intention of continuing the marriage.

Filing for Divorce With Cause (Fault)

In addition to no-fault divorce, North Carolina allows individuals to file for divorce for the other spouse's marital misconduct or serious medical condition. Reasons for such a claim, which allows a judge to take a spouse's alleged misconduct or mental state into consideration when ruling on the case, include the following:

  • Incurable Insanity - A mental illness/impairment requiring the spouse to seek medical care or confinement outside of the home; or
  • Divorce from Bed and Board - A catch-all term for certain negligent or malicious behaviors, including:
    • Abandonment of the family
    • Forcing the other spouse out of the house
    • Committing "cruel or barbarous" acts that endanger the life of the other spouse
    • Treating the other spouse so cruelly as to cause that person's life to be intolerable
    • Burdens related to excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol
    • Adultery

Note: For a divorce claiming fault, the injured spouse (the plaintiff) must prove the other spouse committed one of the above acts or was incurably insane under the meaning of the law.

North Carolina Divorce: Court Forms & Documents

Note: See the North Carolina Court System's Judicial Forms page to search for additional forms.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

North Carolina Divorce Process: Step-by-Step

Simple, uncontested divorces in North Carolina follow these general steps:

1. Fill Out and File the Necessary Forms

For most divorces in North Carolina, you will file the following forms (links to forms provided in the table above):

  • Complaint
  • Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
  • Civil Summons

Filing fee of $225 will be charged ($235 If the wife would like to resume her maiden name); although you may qualify to have this waived by filling out a Petition to Sue/Appeal as an Indigent.

2. Serve the Complaint on Your Spouse

The Summons and Complaint for Absolute Divorce must be delivered to your spouse by one of the following methods of personal service:  (1) delivered by Sheriff; (2) sent by certified mail with return receipt requested; (3) your spouse completing an Acceptance of Service form; or (4) Publication. You cannot serve your spouse yourself.

3. Request a Court Date & Fill Out a Notice of Hearing Form

Your spouse has 30 days after being served to file an Answer, or a Waiver and Answer if your spouse does not contest the divorce. You will receive a copy. 

You may request a court date from the Clerk's office after 30 days have passed since the day your spouse was served, or after your spouse files an Answer or Waiver and Answer.

After you get your court date, fill out a Notice of Hearing form and make two copies. File the original with the Clerk, keep one for yourself, and send the other to your spouse via first-class mail. It must be delivered at least 10 days before the court date.

4. Divorce Hearing and Testimony

Fill out the Judgment for Absolute Divorce and Certificate of Absolute Divorce forms and bring them with you to your court date. At the hearing, you will provide "testimony" by explaining to the judge that you've met all the requirements and followed the necessary steps. If the judge signs the Judgment form, then you are officially divorced.

Research the Law

North Carolina Divorce Process: Related Resources

Get Professional Legal Help With Your North Carolina Divorce

For an uncontested divorce, without the involvement of children or complicated property matters, the process can be pretty straightforward in North Carolina. But if you have minor children and/or property, you may need help from a lawyer to ensure that your divorce is handled properly. Get started today and contact an experienced North Carolina divorce attorney near you.

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