Divorce in North Carolina

Divorce is simply the end of a marriage. However, depending on your circumstances, there may be financial issues to agree upon or child custody issues.

There are two grounds for filing for divorce in NC.  The first way is to be legally separated from your spouse for one year.  To be legally separated in NC means that husband and wife are not living together in the same household and they are no longer having sexual relations.  “Isolated” incidents of sexual relations will not interrupt the separation period.  It is also important to note that it is not sufficient to live in the same house but sleep in separate bedrooms, even if the spouses are not having sexual relations.  They must live in two different places to be classified as “separated.”  Generally, testimony from the filing spouse that they have been separated for one year is sufficient to serve as proof of the issue.

The other, and much less common way of getting divorced, is to prove incurable insanity.  In a nutshell, you must prove that your spouse is insane and that you have been separated for at least 3 years.

Also, to file for divorce in NC, either you or your spouse must have also been a resident of NC for 6 months before filing.  The divorce complaint may be filed in district court in the county where you or your spouse reside.

Separation documents may be filed with the court in order to document the separation date and to have an agreement in writing about certain issues like child custody or property ownership that may be in issue.  Filing separation documents are not required to get a divorce.  As long as you and your spouse agree on the separation date and it has been a year since the separation, either one of you may file for divorce with the court.

Information packets on self-help divorce, or in other words, doing a divorce yourself, are available for a small fee at county courthouses.

After filing for divorce, a decree of absolute divorce is usually granted in 60 days.  Court costs are around $250.

A woman may change her married name back to her maiden name when the divorce is finalized.

Property Division

Once you have obtained an absolute divorce, you have waived your right to receive property from the marriage.  Therefore, if you have questions about this issue, you should consult an attorney BEFORE filing for divorce.

In North Carolina, all real and personal prop acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the course of the marriage and before the date of the separation of the parties and presently owned is divided equally upon divorce.  The court may sometimes look at the details of the situation and find that a 50/50 division of the property is not equitable and will instead divide the property as it sees fit.

Alimony (Spousal Support)

Once you have obtained an absolute divorce, you have waived your right to alimony.  Therefore, if you have questions about this issue, you should consult an attorney BEFORE filing for divorce.
Alimony is a court order that one spouse pay for the support and maintenance of the other spouse after divorce.  Either party may ask the court to receive alimony.  The court will award alimony to a dependent spouse if it finds that it would be equitable.  A dependent spouse is a spouse who is “actually substantially dependent and is in need of the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support.”  The court considers factors such as whether one spouse was dependent financially on the other spouse during the marriage, how much the spouses earned during the marriage, how long the marriage lasted, the standard of living that was established during the marriage, and any other factor that the court wants to consider. 

Alimony will not be ordered if the dependent spouse had a sexual affair during the marriage.

The court may also order one spouse to pay post separation support to the other spouse.  A spouse is entitled to postseparation support if the ct finds that the resources of the dependent spouse are not adequate to meet his or her reasonable needs and the supporting spouse has the ability to pay.

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