North Carolina Divorce & Separation

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Each state has its own laws and rules governing the divorce process. North Carolina is no exception. What are the laws that govern a North Carolina divorce? What are the requirements for getting divorced in North Carolina? Will you have to go through mediation before you can get a divorce in North Carolina? What is the law on North Carolina annulments? Find the answers to your North Carolina divorce questions here.

North Carolina Legal Separation:

There is no formal legal procedure for legal separation in North Carolina, but because the divorce itself will not resolve any practical issues brought by the marriage (such as child custody, property division, alimony and other forms of support), parties can enter into a binding written separation agreement that will.

In North Carolina, ‘legal separation’ can also refer to the mandatory one-year period that a married couple must live separately before a divorce may be granted. This requirement holds even for very short marriages. For more information about the differences between divorce, separation and annulment, see Ending a Marriage or Taking a Break.

Grounds for Divorce/Fault ‘ No Fault:

North Carolina has both fault and no-fault divorce. For more information about what that means, see The Divorce Process: From Separation to Final Judgment. Your grounds (or reasons) for wanting a divorce are set out in a document called a Complaint for Divorce that you file with your local General Court of Justice. Once the judgment for divorce is granted (i.e. the judge approves your divorce), you will become an unmarried person again. Appropriate grounds for divorce in North Carolina are: 1) no fault; 2) abandonment; 3) malicious turning out of doors; 4) cruelty; 5) intolerable indignities; 6) intolerable use of alcohol or drugs; and 7) adultery.

Residency/Where to File for Divorce

One of the parties to the marriage must have been a resident of the state for 6 months preceding the filing. You will file your paperwork in the General Court of Justice in the county of residence. The District Clerk’s Office will be managing your paperwork with the court.

Availability of Simplified or Special Divorce Procedures:

There are no special procedures available for a simplified divorce in North Carolina. As discussed above and below, there are different procedures for processes like annulment, and separation, but divorces are absolute and consistent. Of course if the parties have reached agreement on all the relevant issues in the divorce, including finances, debt, and child custody issues, then the divorce will end faster and with lower legal fees (which can become very substantial over time, as attorneys charge by the hour).

North Carolina Online Divorce Services:

LegalZoom.com – An online documentation service that helps users file for divorce.
CompleteCase.com– Offers an affordable way to file for uncontested divorces online.

Divorce Mediation in North Carolina:

Mediation is an option that many divorcing couples choose when working out the specific terms of their settlement agreement. It’s less expensive than hiring two lawyers, and perhaps more importantly for the long run, it can keep the parties from becoming adversaries. In counties in North Carolina where a program has been set up, parents who can’t agree about child custody or visitation may be sent to mediation before the hearing itself. There is usually a procedure for a party to ask to opt out of mandatory mediation.

North Carolina Annulment:

An annulment is when a court declares your marriage legally invalid. In other words, rather than ending a marriage via divorce, an annulment is a declaration that the marriage was never valid to begin with. A marriage can be annulled if there was some reason why it couldn’t be legally entered into, such as bigamy, force, or one party was underage. Annulments are not that common.

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