Divorce in North Carolina

Divorce in North Carolina | How to Get a Divorce & Process (Guide) 2024

Nobody anticipates that their marriage will end in divorce, but regrettably, it happens. It goes without saying that this is unpleasant on a personal level, but it also creates a host of economic and accounting problems that you’ll need to address.

Divorce is a procedure that dissolves a marriage and frequently involves both legal and economic issues. A step-by-step manual is a fantastic place to start if you want to learn how to divorce in North Carolina.

Like many other states, North Carolina allows for “no-fault” divorce, which means neither party must demonstrate that the other is to blame for the breakdown of their marriage. In North Carolina, a divorce can also be finalized by a couple without an attorney.

How to File for Divorce in North Carolina

Separation and Residency Requirements for Divorce in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a married couple cannot obtain a divorce unless they have been apart and apart for at least a year. In order to decide whether there is any doubt as to whether the couple was actually apart for the entire year, the court will consider the “facts and circumstances.” It won’t always mean that a couple has violated the necessary separation period if they have one or two isolated instances of sexual contact while they are apart.

Before submitting a divorce petition to the state’s courts, you must also satisfy the residency criteria of the state. Any spouse in North Carolina who has been separated for the required year and has been a resident for at least six months may file for divorce.

Parents Name
Wages & Income
Non-Custodial Parent
Custodial Parent

Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina

As a “no-fault” divorce state, North Carolina does not need one spouse to show that the others bad behavior was the reason for the divorce. Because there is no need for contention over or proof of blame in no-fault divorces, they are resolved more quickly than fault-based divorces. Additionally, you can dissolve your marriage without your spouse’s approval if you choose a no-fault divorce.

The fault does, however, occasionally matter. These situations are referred to as “divorces from bed and board,” which permit a court-ordered separation prior to the completion of the ultimate divorce. Additionally, the at-fault party could lose some rights, such as estate rights. The court will take into account a divorce from board and lodging in the following six situations:

  • Abandonment
  • Forced removal from your home
  • Embarrassment to the point where existence is intolerable
  • cruelty and danger in the treatment
  • concerns with substance abuse
  • Adultery

Process to Divorce

In the state of North Carolina, you can apply for divorce once you and your partner have been living apart for a full year. The filing of a divorce complaint with the county clerk by one of the parties is the initial step in the procedure. This can also be done on behalf of a person by their attorney. The other spouse will then be served with the divorce complaint by the sheriff’s office, typically through certified mail.

From here, you can engage in mediation if you think that the divorce you and your partner are getting will be rather amicable. Mediation can also be mandated by the court. Instead of going through the pricey and time-consuming process of a trial in open court, you and your soon-to-be ex can settle all the issues in your divorce through mediation.

You will need to appear in court if you and your partner are unable to resolve this. Discovery will be the first step in this procedure, during which both sides will seek out as much information as they can about the other party’s case, including any financial data.

Depositions could be a part of this. The trial is the next step, where both sides present their arguments. After consideration, the judge will then give a decision for final separation proceedings.

Divorce Filing Fees in North Carolina

You must pay court document fees and submit the appropriate documentation in order to start your divorce. The filing costs for an absolute divorce in North Carolina are $225 as of 2022. It costs an additional $30 to have a sheriff serve your husband with divorce papers, and an additional $10 is required to change your name back to what it was after the divorce.

You can request the judge to waive the filing fees if you are unable to pay them. Fill out a Petition to Continue as an Indigent in order to receive a fee waiver. You won’t be required to pay any court filing costs or a sheriff’s service fee if the court approves the petition. File your Complaint along with your Application to Continue as an Impoverished.

Serving Your Spouse in North Carolina

You must inform your partner of the divorce after filing the necessary paperwork. You cannot personally serve the documents on your partner; a third party who is over 18 and not involved in the investigation must do so. One of the following professional options is available to you:

Service by sheriff

In North Carolina, this is the simplest way to get services, and it costs $30. When you file your complaint, you can pay the filing fee to the court clerk in some jurisdictions, and the clerk will give the sheriff the necessary documents to serve your spouse. In some courts, you could be required to personally deliver the fee and documentation to the sheriff.

Service by certified mail

By mailing the documents to your spouse by registered letter with a return confirmation sought, you can serve your partner. You’ll get a receipt after the paperwork is delivered by the post office showing that your spouse was served. With the receipt, submit an Affidavit of Service to the court.

Waiver of service

If your partner is on board, you can mail the documents and a form of Acceptance of Service. The Acceptance of Service must be completed by your partner in the presence of a notary public, and the certified copy must be submitted to the judge.

Service by publication

Request the judge or clerk if you can serve your spouse “by publication” if you don’t know where they are. The majority of the time, this entails publishing a newspaper notice about the impending divorce.

Final Divorce Proceeding

The final divorce orders are decided by the judge after hearing testimony and arguments and considering what is best for each participant. Before reaching a decision, the judge will consider the counsel for each spouse, but the judge’s choice is final. Because of this, it is preferable to settle disputes out of court whenever possible.

Divorce, for instance, ends one’s eligibility for alimony and equitable property division. These rights must therefore be stated in advance.  If at all possible, the couple should come to an agreement prior to their court appearance. You and your husband will be legally separated after the judge issues the decree. If you so choose, each of you may get remarried.

How to Split Up Assets During a Divorce in North Carolina

Any property acquired during the marriage by either spouse is regarded as marital property in North Carolina, giving both spouses an equal claim to it upon divorce. Any debts accrued throughout the marriage are also considered marital assets.

However, anything either spouse purchased before the marriage is considered separate property, and only the spouse who made the acquisition is allowed to keep it.  Any assets inherited or received as a gift during the marriage are also regarded as distinct property. But gifts given between spouses are considered marital property.

How to Divide Property in North Carolina After Divorce

The majority of divorces in North Carolina split marital property equally between the parties. To guarantee the equitable allocation of property, the following aspects could be made:

  • Both parties’ income
  • Property
  • Debts
  • Older couples’ duties for a child support or spousal support
  • How long the marriage has lasted
  • Who will occupy the family house?
  • How much each spouse contributes to the property’s acquisition
  • contributions from one spouse toward the education of the other
  • Property liquidity

When dividing property, the court does not take into account any behaviors that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage, such as infidelity. These activities are only taken into consideration if one spouse’s wrongdoing resulted in a decrease in the worth of the estate.

5 Things To Do Before You Divorce

You must complete these five tasks before acting on any divorce-related ideas you may have. Although applicable to divorce in other states, these processes are particular to the divorce laws of North Carolina. It’s critical to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to feel confident in your choices. Following are the top five actions to take before divorcing your spouse:

Talk to a Marriage Counselor or other professional who may be able to help you save your marriage.

Even if you don’t believe there is hope for the marriage, divorce counseling can help you understand what went wrong, how to deal with it, and how to pick up the pieces and move on.  Don’t wait for your partner to join in.

Talk to an attorney before you do anything.

Before ever bringing up a divorce with your husband, you would be wise to gather as much information as you can, even if you decide not to hire a professional to handle your separation or divorce.

There is a lot to learn about divorce in North Carolina. Even the simplest issue can be quite perplexing for families who are already in trouble because of how complicated our rules are. You need to be aware of your alternatives now rather than later when it could be too late to change the outcome since the decisions you make now might very well affect the outcome of your divorce.

Do not move out of the marital home without talking to an attorney first.

If you leave the house without a valid reason, you can be required to pay alimony, or you might lose your right to receive alimony when the divorce is finalized. If you leave the house, you might not be allowed to come back until the court has divided the assets in accordance with N.C.’s regular divorce regulations.

More than a year will pass during this process. Unless your husband is aggressive, it is better to stay home until you have spoken with a lawyer. You must take all necessary precautions to safeguard both yourself and your kids if your partner is violent.

If you have been involved in any extramarital affairs, talk to a lawyer before you discuss this with your spouse or anyone else.

Being honest here might not be the best course of action. The admission of an affair can have serious repercussions in a North Carolina divorce, coupled with the fact that adultery is unlawful in the state. Any illicit sexual activity on your side could result in you having to pay thousands more in alimony if your partner qualifies for it.

The alimony statute addresses the idea of the marital fault and allows a judge to take evidence of fault into account when determining the amount of alimony to be awarded if any, even though an alimony claimant is not asked to show the other partner is at fault in order to be eligible to post-separation support or alimony.

1. Illicit sexual behavior (defined as “acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts outlined in G.S. 14-27.1(4), willingly engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse”) is listed as a marital fault in North Carolina’s statute.

Take concrete steps to safeguard your assets before you, and your spouse begin discussing divorce.

One of these procedures is to take control of certain assets while you are still married, particularly those that you intend to use, such as furniture and automobiles, as well as those that your spouse might try to sell, including valuable gems and stones, other collections, cash, and bearer bonds.

Prior to filing a divorce in North Carolina, you should also file a Lis Pendens with the Deeds Office of any county where you or your spouse owns real estate. This is not simply confined to North Carolina; it may be utilized in any U.S. state. The lis pendens notifies third parties of your claim to possess an interest in the real estate being used as the subject of the lis pendens.

The lis pendens simply serves as a notice of pending litigation that could have an impact on real estate. A properly filed and served lis pendens clouds the title to the property, making it impossible to sell it without your knowledge. Section 1-116 and the accompanying portions of the North Carolina General Statutes provide a detailed explanation of the rules governing a lis pendens.

Getting an injunction prohibiting your spouse from selling or otherwise disposing of any asset protected by the protection order is a third action you could take to protect the assets of your marriage before filing for divorce in North Carolina. If your separate property is in the ownership of your husband and they won’t release it to you, your attorney may also use an injunction to force them to surrender it to you.

In the meantime, until the property issue is settled definitively, you can get an interim distribution of matrimonial property under North Carolina’s equal distribution of wealth statute. For example, such an interim allocation could provide you with much-needed financial support. In your divorce planning, you might also take the following additional precautions:

  • restricting your spouse’s access to other shared credit, such as a home equity loan, and freezing or canceling joint cards to preserve your personal credit rating;
  • establishing individual bank accounts in your name and canceling joint accounts;
  • the responsible party’s name be changed on utility and other invoices;
  • Spend, whenever possible, marital property first, then your own separate property, and last, your spouse’s separate property.

Also, explore Grandparent’s rights in NC.

What happens if my husband breaks the separation agreement’s rules?

A court order may be used to enforce a separation agreement. The spouse wishing to enforce the agreement must file a lawsuit against the other spouse and request that the court rule that the other spouse violated the agreement and issue an order directing him or her to expressly carry out his or her obligations under the contract.

To obtain a remedy through the legal system, you would have to file a case in the District Court of the county where you or your spouse reside.  Your separation agreement will no longer be a contract and will be enforced by the court’s contempt powers if it is included in your divorce decree.


What is a wife entitled to in divorce in North Carolina?

A spouse is typically entitled to some amount of alimony or spousal maintenance depending on how the N.C. divorce courts rule.  If the courts so rule, a spouse may also be entitled to a 50/50 part of the marital estate.

How long do divorces take in N.C.?

Normally, uncontested divorces take between 30 and 60 days to complete. Divorces that are contested generally take a year or longer to be finalized. Keep in mind that this excludes the year you spent apart before filing for and concluding your divorce.

Do you have to be separated for a year to get a divorce in N.C.?

Only after being apart for at least a year and a day may you petition for divorce, often known as an “absolute divorce.” This indicates that at least one of you must have wanted the separation to last during the time that you were residing in separate residences.

How much does it cost to file a divorce in N.C.?

The current divorce filing fee in North Carolina is $225 (with an extra $10.00 for a Resumption of Maiden Name). Through a Petition to Proceed as a Destitute, this cost can, however, be waived for indigent filers.

Is it better to be the first to file for divorce in N.C.?

In a divorce case, filing first usually has no advantages. Being a no-fault state, North Carolina merely requires that a couple live separately for a year with the intention of remaining apart in order to obtain a divorce.

What is a separation agreement?

A husband and wife sign a written contract known as a separation agreement. A legal separation agreement may include issues like child custody and support, property distribution, spousal maintenance, and possession of the marital home. Always hire a lawyer to draft the separation agreement and oversee the signing (or to approve one created by the lawyer for the other spouse). Never sign a contract before fully comprehending its terms and the implications they may have under the law.

Do we need to sign any documents to formally end our relationship?

No. When one or both of you leave the former marital home and start living separately with the idea that the separation will last forever, you are considered to be legally separated. Although the law does not compel a couple to sign documents when they separate, if you wish to live apart, you might think about having a lawyer create a separation agreement.

What happens if my partner declines to sign the separation contract?

A separation agreement is not required by law for a marriage to enter into. You might think about using a certified family law mediator, if your spouse is willing to take part, to assist you in negotiating a settlement that both you and your spouse would be prepared to sign. You will need to ask a judge for help if you are still unable to come to an understanding. To obtain a remedy through the legal system, you would have to file a case in the District Court of the county where you or your spouse reside.

Does the court take infidelity into account when deciding how to divide the property?

No, unless adultery can be linked to financial misbehavior, neither spouse’s adultery is typically relevant to the question of property division.

Is it possible to escape the property division that the court has ordered?

Yes. The property can be divided anyway the husband and wife see fit if they can reach an agreement. A properly drafted separation agreement that is signed by both parties and duly notarized must contain their decision about the division of property.

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