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North Carolina Divorce Information

We understand that you may have many questions regarding divorce in North Carolina. While different factors come into play in every divorce, most divorces follow the same general procedures. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a general overview of North Carolina divorce law and the legal process of what comes next after you file.

There are several ways to categorize divorce in North Carolina, including the following:

  • Absolute divorce. An absolute divorce is a relatively fast way to dissolve a marriage without making any decisions regarding property division, child custody, or alimony.  In order to obtain an absolute divorce, the two spouses must separate for 12 months.
  • Divorce from bed and board. This term refers to a legally enforced separation which is considered neither no-fault nor a divorce.  The petitioner for this type of separation must prove at least one of six grounds for fault, such as adultery or cruelty.  In this situation, the courts can force the at-fault spouse to move out of a shared residence.
  • Uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce means that both spouses have agreed in advance on all of the issues involved in the divorce, such as child custody and division of property.  It is always advisable to consult with qualified Raleigh divorce attorneys before signing divorce papers, even if you remain on friendly terms with your spouse.
  • Contested divorce. In this situation, a divorcing couple cannot reach an agreement on all issues involved in the divorce.  A contested divorce requires presentation of evidence and testimony, as a way to determine a final settlement.  A Raleigh divorce lawyer represents you in litigation, collects evidence, and identifies useful witnesses.

If you need information about property settlement, child support, child custody, or spousal support, please visit those pages within our site.

Requirements for filing for divorce in North Carolina

To file for divorce in North Carolina, you or your spouse must be a resident of the State of North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing a Complaint for Divorce. You or your spouse should also be a resident of the county where you intend to file for divorce.

No fault divorce

North Carolina is what is called a “no fault” divorce state. What does that mean? It means that for a North Carolina court to grant you a divorce all one has to do is two things;

  1. Physically separate from the other spouse
  2. Have the intention that when the physical separation occurs it is for the purpose of being separated from the other spouse from that day forward.

So long as the parties then stay separate and apart for a year and at no time during the year reconcile then either spouse is entitled to divorce after being separated for the full year.

How a North Carolina divorce case begins

A North Carolina divorce case begins with the filing of the Complaint for Divorce (“Complaint”) and a Summons (a form required by the State to start any civil action) also to be, filed with the Court. The party who files the Complaint is called the “Plaintiff” the other party is called the “Defendant”.

How the defendant is served

After the Complaint is filed with the Court, the Defendant must be served. The Defendant can be served by:

  1. Having the Sheriff’s Department serve the Defendant, or
  2. By sending the Complaint and Summons by certified mail/return receipt requested at Defendant’s home address or usual place of abode.

The next step

Once the Defendant has been served, the Defendant has 30 days to file an Answer to the Complaint (“Answer”).

An Answer is a written pleading, filed with the Court and the Plaintiff’s attorney, which responds to each of the allegations made in the Complaint. If the Defendant fails to timely file an Answer with the Court, the Plaintiff can then ask that a “summary judgment” be entered. A default is where the Court allows a Judgment to be entered without the consent of the Defendant because the Defendant has failed to contest any of the Plaintiff’s allegations.

The entry of a judgment of divorce

Once the Judgment of Divorce is entered, it is final as to a property settlement and spousal support unless it is appealed based on a procedural error or an error made by the Court. Therefore, it is essential that if you have unsettled property or spousal support claims that they be filed prior to the entry of divorce. The claims will then be preserved beyond the entry of divorce and reviewed by the court. After a Judgment of Divorce is entered, child support, parenting time and custody can be still be heard by the district court even if not done so previously.

Serving North Carolina clients for more than 50 years

Hatch, Little & Bunn, LLP has provided comprehensive legal services to individuals and businesses in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Research Triangle Park, Wake County and throughout North Carolina from offices by the state capitol for over half a century. Our attorneys are licensed to practice before all North Carolina state and federal courts. Call (919) 899-9827 today, or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys about your concerns.


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