What Are North Carolina Divorce Laws

The dissolution of a marriage is a challenging process. It can be emotionally taxing and legally complex. In the state of North Carolina, individuals who are seeking to end their marriage must adhere to specific divorce laws. This article will provide an overview of the North Carolina divorce laws, helping readers understand their rights and obligations if they seek a legal separation from their partner.

Divorce is a difficult decision for any married couple. Still, it’s important to remember that legal steps must be taken when filing for a divorce in North Carolina. The state requires couples going through a divorce to meet specific criteria before they can legally end their marriage. To ensure that all parties fully understand the laws governing divorce in North Carolina, here’s an overview of some of the most critical aspects of these laws.

In this article, we’ll discuss topics such as residency requirements, grounds for divorce, filing procedures, child custody and support arrangements, alimony payments, and more. With this information, readers will better understand what they need to do if they’re considering filing for divorce in North Carolina. So let’s get started!

Overview Of Legal Separation In North Carolina

In North Carolina, legal separation is a way to end a marriage without getting a divorce. Understanding the differences between legal separation and divorce and the North Carolina laws governing both is essential.

In North Carolina, couples can choose to enter into either a voluntary or involuntary legal separation. A voluntary legal separation is when both parties agree to end their marriage and enter into a contract that outlines how property will be divided and other terms related to the separation. The court grants involuntary legal separations if one party files for it and meets specific criteria outlined by state law. This type of legal separation does not need the consent of both spouses.

Legal separations can be very beneficial in some cases, such as if one spouse needs health insurance but cannot get it without being married or wants to keep their place in line for certain government benefits like Social Security. In addition, spouses that have separated can still live together while they work on reconciliation efforts or wait until they meet the eligibility requirements for a divorce. However, it’s important to note that any assets acquired during the period of legal separation are still considered joint property unless otherwise specified in the agreement between the two parties.

Residency Requirements

In North Carolina, one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months before they can file for divorce. Proof of residency must be provided when filing. The person who files is known as the plaintiff, while the other spouse is referred to as the defendant. If both parties are North Carolina residents, then either may file for divorce.

The grounds for divorce in North Carolina include fault-based and no-fault grounds. Fault-based grounds include adultery, cruel or barbarous treatment, and abandonment or neglect. No-fault grounds include separation for a period of at least one year before filing. Additionally, if a couple has been living separately for at least three years due to incurable insanity, then this can also serve as the basis for a no-fault divorce.

For those who have children from their marriage, it is important to note that North Carolina requires parents to attend an educational seminar on parenting prior to entering into a settlement agreement or finalizing their divorce proceedings. This seminar covers topics such as co-parenting and dealing with post-divorce conflict between parents and children. All costs related to this seminar are divided equally between both parties unless otherwise agreed upon by them in writing beforehand.

Complying with these requirements is necessary to complete the divorce process successfully. Therefore, all parties involved must understand North Carolina’s laws and regulations before beginning any legal proceedings.

Grounds For Divorce

In North Carolina, spouses may file for divorce when certain conditions are met. To qualify for a divorce, either the husband or wife must meet the legal residency requirements in the state. Grounds for divorce are established by law and include fault-based grounds such as adultery, abandonment, cruel and inhuman treatment, and no-fault grounds such as separation or irreconcilable differences between spouses.

Fault-based divorces are those that involve a specific act of wrongdoing on the part of one spouse. For example, if one spouse has committed adultery or has been physically or mentally abusive to their partner, the other spouse can seek a fault-based divorce. In order for it to be successful, proof must be provided that demonstrates this misconduct occurred.

No-fault divorces do not require evidence of wrongdoing on either side. These divorces typically involve couples who have been separated for at least twelve months, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. The parties must also have lived separate lives during this period and not cohabitated during this time in order to qualify for a no-fault divorce.

North Carolina allows both types of divorces so long as the residency requirement is met, regardless of which type is sought. However, when seeking a fault-based divorce, it is important to provide appropriate evidence to prove that misconduct did occur and resulted in an irreparable breakdown in marriage relations.

Property Division

In North Carolina, the court considers all of the assets and debts of both parties when it comes to property division. All assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered marital property, which means they are to be divided in a fair and equitable manner regardless of who holds title or ownership. The court has the discretion to divide marital property as it sees fit, taking into account several factors such as each spouse’s income and earning potential; their age, health, mental condition, and physical condition; any alimony payments that may be ordered; any marital misconduct on either spouse’s part; as well as other factors.

Separate property includes any property owned prior to marriage or received through gift or inheritance during the marriage. This type of property is not subject to division by the court unless it was commingled with marital assets or converted into marital assets. Additionally, any increase in value for separate properties during the marriage may be considered a marital asset by the court if certain criteria are met.

The court will consider all of these considerations when deciding how to divide the marital estate between spouses during a divorce in North Carolina. Depending on what is deemed fair and equitable, one spouse could receive more than half of the total amount, while both parties must sign off on an agreement before the court can approve it. Couples must understand their rights under North Carolina law so they can work out an agreement that is beneficial for both parties involved.


In North Carolina, alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis. The judge may consider the length of the marriage, the income and educational levels of each party, as well as other factors when deciding whether to award alimony and in what amount. Generally speaking, if one spouse is financially dependent on the other, then alimony may be awarded.

Alimony can be paid in either a lump sum payment or periodic payments, depending on the circumstances. Different types of alimony can be awarded, including rehabilitative alimony, transitional alimony, permanent periodic alimony, and lump sum alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to help an economically disadvantaged spouse adjust to their new economic situation by assisting them in acquiring job training or education; transition alimony helps support a spouse during the transition from being married to single life; permanent periodic alimony provides ongoing support for a financially disadvantaged spouse; and lump sum alimony is intended to compensate one spouse for contributions made during the marriage such as raising children or providing services that benefit the other spouse’s career.

The duration of an award of alimony depends on several factors, including but not limited to the length of the marriage and whether there was fault involved in ending it. Courts generally cannot order indefinite periods of spousal support, although exceptions exist when one party has particularly severe disabilities or long-term illnesses that prevent them from becoming self-supporting after divorce.

Child Custody And Support

In North Carolina, the courts decide child custody and support based on what they believe is in the best interest of the child. The court considers several factors, such as the parent’s ability to care for the child, their financial stability, and their relationship with the child. The court may also consider the preferences of an older child or any special needs of a younger child.

When deciding who gets primary custody, both parents have an equal chance for legal and physical custody rights. If both parents agree on a parenting plan, then it is likely that the court will adopt the plan. However, if one parent does not agree, then they can request a hearing to present evidence to support their case.

In determining how much money should be paid in support, North Carolina has guidelines that use both parents’ incomes and other factors to calculate a fair amount. The courts may also order visitation rights so that each parent can spend time with their children. If either parent fails to pay support or abide by visitation rights, they could face penalties, including fines or even jail time.

Filing A Complaint For Divorce

In North Carolina, filing a Complaint for Divorce is the first step in the divorce process. To file a Complaint for Divorce, an individual must submit the correct paperwork to their county’s Clerk of Court. This paperwork must include a summons and complaint form, which must be signed by both parties. Additionally, the Complaint for Divorce must state why the couple is seeking to end their marriage and specify how they plan on dividing any shared property or assets.

Individuals may choose to either represent themselves in court or hire an attorney to do so on their behalf. Representing oneself can save money but can also be difficult if one does not have experience in this type of legal proceeding. Suppose an individual chooses to hire an attorney. In that case, it is important that they research various attorneys in order to find one who specializes in family law and with whom they feel comfortable discussing their case.

Once all forms are properly completed, they must be filed at the appropriate county Clerk of Court office. The clerk will then issue a summons that requires each party to attend court proceedings and respond within 30 days after being served with the documents. It should be noted that failure to respond could result in judgment being entered against them by default. After both parties have responded, the court will set a hearing date for further proceedings related to their divorce case.

Serving The Spouse With Divorce Papers

In North Carolina, the spouse filing for divorce must serve the other spouse with divorce papers. This can be done by delivering a copy of the complaint for absolute divorce and the summons to appear in court. The spouse must be served either personally or through a third party. The person serving papers must be 18 years or older and not involved in the case.

If it’s not possible to serve the other spouse in person, then there are other alternatives for service. These include serving papers through certified mail, publication in a newspaper, or leaving them at their home or place of business. If service is made via certified mail, two copies of the complaint and summons must be sent to the other spouse’s address with a return receipt requested.

If all else fails, then service may be completed through an affidavit and order of publication. For this method, an advertisement containing notice of proceedings must be published every week for four consecutive weeks in a newspaper where it is likely they will see it. After that time has passed, an affidavit of publication must be filed with the court clerk’s office stating that service was made via publication in accordance with state law.

Once these steps have been completed and proof of service is provided to the court clerk’s office, then only then can proceedings continue on with your case.

Mediation Process

North Carolina divorce laws provide various options for couples who are looking to end their marriage. One of these options is mediation, which involves a neutral third party helping the two parties come to an agreement outside of court. This process can help the couple come to a mutually beneficial resolution without having to go through a long and expensive court battle.

The mediator will work with the couple and help them understand the issues at hand in order to reach an agreement. They will be able to create a customized plan that meets both parties needs. During mediation, both parties must remain open and honest about their needs and wants in order for it to be successful. The mediator will not make any decisions for the couple but instead, facilitate conversations between them.

The agreements made during mediation can then be presented to the judge to be approved by the court. This helps ensure that both parties are aware of the terms and conditions they have agreed upon so that there are no surprises down the line when it comes time for the finalization of their divorce decree. Mediation is an excellent way for couples to come together and peacefully resolve their differences while saving time, money, and stress in comparison with going through litigation in court.

Finalizing The Divorce

Once the court has granted a divorce, the divorce is finalized. Generally, to finalize a divorce in North Carolina, both parties must sign and submit a written marital settlement agreement to the court. If a marital settlement agreement is not signed and submitted, the court will enter an order granting the divorce. The order must include all of the necessary information about the division of property, debt division, division of assets, alimony payments (if any), and child support payments (if any).

Once the court enters the order, each party is legally obligated to comply with its terms. If either party fails to do so, they may be subject to penalties imposed by the court. Additionally, suppose either party wishes to modify or terminate an existing order that was entered by the court prior to their divorce being finalized. In that case, they must file a motion with the court requesting such changes or termination.

The process for finalizing a North Carolina divorce can vary depending on several factors, including whether there are children involved and how complex the issues are that need to be resolved. It’s vital for anyone considering filing for divorce in North Carolina to understand all of their options so that they can take the steps necessary to ensure that their rights are protected throughout this process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Process Of Obtaining A Legal Separation In North Carolina?

When couples in North Carolina decide to legally separate, there are certain steps they must follow. One of the first things those considering a legal separation should do is consult an attorney who specializes in family law. This can help the couple to understand their rights and obligations under North Carolina law and help them decide whether a legal separation is the best route for them.

The process of obtaining a legal separation in North Carolina requires filing a complaint with the court. The complaint should contain all pertinent information about the parties involved, including their financial status and any agreements concerning custody and support of children, if applicable. Both parties must be served with the complaint, so they are aware of the action being taken against them.

Once the complaint has been filed, both parties have thirty days to file an answer or motion to dismiss with the court. If either party fails to respond within this time frame, they risk having a default judgment entered against them by the court granting whatever relief was requested in the initial complaint. After both parties have filed their answers or motions, they may proceed with negotiations or mediation to reach an agreement on any issues remaining unresolved before appearing before a judge for a final ruling.

When it comes to legally separating in North Carolina, consulting an attorney is essential for ensuring that all necessary steps are taken correctly and that each party’s rights are protected throughout the process. Understanding one’s rights and obligations under state law can also make it easier for couples facing this difficult decision to make informed decisions regarding their future together.

How Is Alimony Determined In A North Carolina Divorce?

When a couple in North Carolina decides to divorce, one of the most important issues they must consider is alimony. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is the amount of money that one partner pays to the other for financial support after the divorce. Determining how much alimony should be paid and for how long is a complex matter that can have a significant impact on both parties’ financial futures.

In North Carolina, alimony is determined by evaluating a variety of factors, including each spouse’s income level, lifestyle prior to divorce, length of the marriage, and any economic contributions made while married. The court will also look at factors such as health insurance coverage and childcare costs when determining an appropriate alimony award.

The state of North Carolina does not have specific guidelines or formulas for calculating alimony payments. Instead, courts consider all relevant factors in order to come up with an equitable arrangement that meets the needs of both spouses. Alimony payments can be modified or terminated if there are changes in either party’s income or circumstances over time.

Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide whether alimony should be paid and how much should be paid based on all available information about the divorcing couple’s situation. It is important for those seeking a divorce in North Carolina to understand how alimony determinations are made so they can adequately prepare for their case and ensure that their rights are protected throughout the process.

What Is The Time Frame For Filing A Complaint For Divorce In North Carolina?

Filing a complaint for divorce in North Carolina is a process that comes with time restrictions. Depending on the type of divorce being sought, the time frame for filing such a complaint can vary greatly. It’s important to understand these time frames when considering filing for divorce in this state.

In North Carolina, there are two types of divorces: no-fault and fault-based. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither party has to prove that the other was at fault for the marriage breaking down. A fault-based divorce is one in which one party must prove that the other was at fault for the marriage breaking down. The type of divorce being sought will determine how long a person has to file a complaint for it.

For a no-fault divorce, either spouse must have been living separately from the other for at least one year before filing the complaint. That means that both spouses must have been living apart from each other, either under separate roofs or in separate residences, for 12 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce. For a fault-based divorce, there is no time requirement; however, it’s best to file as soon as possible after learning of any evidence of fault by either spouse.

Suppose you’re considering filing a complaint for divorce in North Carolina. In that case, it’s important to know and understand these time frames so you can plan accordingly and make sure your case is filed within the appropriate period of time. Consulting an attorney who specializes in family law can help provide additional guidance on all aspects of North Carolina’s divorce laws and regulations.

Are There Any Options For Alternative Dispute Resolution During A North Carolina Divorce?

When facing a divorce in North Carolina, couples may wish to consider all of their options for alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR is a voluntary process that allows couples to resolve their issues without going through the traditional court system. This can save time and money, as well as provide an opportunity for both parties to express themselves in a more collaborative and peaceful manner.

The two most common types of ADR used during a divorce in North Carolina are mediation and collaborative law. Mediation is when both parties come together with a neutral third-party mediator to work through any disagreements. During the mediation process, each party has an opportunity to speak their mind, while the mediator helps guide the discussion towards mutually beneficial solutions. The goal is to reach an agreement that both sides are happy with rather than having a judge decide how to divide assets and determine custody arrangements.

Collaborative law differs from mediation in that each party hires their own attorney who works together with them on reaching an agreement out-of-court. This process also involves using neutral third-party professionals such as financial advisors or child custody experts who can help guide the discussion towards favorable outcomes for both sides. The advantage of this approach is that it allows couples to craft custom solutions that fit their particular needs while still maintaining some control over the outcome of their divorce proceedings.

Couples considering divorce should understand all of the available options for resolving disputes before opting for formal court proceedings. ADR offers an effective way to reach an agreement without having a judge decide these important matters on one’s behalf. It may be wise for divorcing couples in North Carolina to explore these alternatives first before taking further steps down the legal path.

What Are The Criteria For Child Custody In North Carolina?

Child custody is a critical aspect of divorce proceedings in North Carolina. When couples decide to dissolve their marriage, they must come to an agreement regarding who will be the custodial parent and what type of visitation the non-custodial parent will have with their child or children. In order to determine the best course of action for child custody, there are certain criteria that must be met.

The primary consideration when determining child custody in North Carolina is the best interests of the child or children involved. This looks at factors such as the mental and physical health of both parents, any evidence of abuse or neglect, the ability of each parent to provide for the needs of the children financially, emotionally, and physically, and other considerations such as age and gender. Additionally, courts consider which parent has been more involved in raising the children prior to divorce proceedings.

When awarding custody, North Carolina courts may award either sole physical or legal custody or joint physical and legal custody, depending on what is best for the children. In addition to awarding physical and legal custody, courts also establish a visitation schedule for non-custodial parents. Visitation schedules vary based on individual circumstances but typically include a set amount of time each week during which non-custodial parents can spend with their children.

It is important that parents understand all aspects of child custody before entering into negotiations or going before a court. Parents should seek professional advice from an experienced family law attorney if they have any questions about how these laws apply in their specific situation.


In conclusion, the process of obtaining a legal separation in North Carolina can vary depending on the circumstances. It’s important to understand how alimony is determined and what the time frame is for filing a complaint for divorce. Additionally, there are options available for alternative dispute resolution during a North Carolina divorce. Lastly, it’s essential to be aware of the criteria for child custody in North Carolina. Although the process of divorce can be complicated and overwhelming, it’s possible to navigate it with patience and knowledge of North Carolina divorce laws. With an understanding of these laws, you’ll be more prepared when entering this difficult situation. I hope that this article has provided some helpful insight into North Carolina divorce laws so you can make informed decisions throughout your divorce journey.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking appropriate legal advice from a licensed attorney in the relevant jurisdiction. Divorce Lawyer Charlotte expressly disclaims all liability in respect of actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this blog.