There are lots of misconceptions about divorce in North Carolina, and how the process works. The point of this article is to help you understand the basics so that you can move through the process with a baseline level of knowledge that will assist you along the way.
There are two ways to get a divorce in North Carolina. The first requires a physical separation from your spouse (meaning that you have each resided in different residences) for at least one year. If you obtain a divorce this way, it is called an “Absolute Divorce.” The second, more seldom method used, is in cases of incurable insanity. For purposes of this article and the materials in this website, we will focus on how you can obtain an Absolute Divorce only.
When someone decides to get a divorce in North Carolina, there are a number of issues that need to be resolved from a purely practical matter. You will need to divide up your property. You or your spouse may require financial assistance after the separation (called post separation support or alimony). If you have children, you will need to decide on a custody schedule and an amount of child support. These are all very complex issues that may or may not require the help of a divorce lawyer. However, none of them have any bearing on your absolute divorce.
When you apply for and receive your absolute divorce, all you are receiving is a piece of paper signed by a judge that says you are no longer married. This is only a small part of the overall process. You must still resolve all the other issues mentioned above either through negotiating with your spouse or their lawyer (what we call Plan A) or by filing a lawsuit and having a hearing on these issues (what we call Plan B).
The materials in this website will help you to not only obtain your absolute divorce, but will also help you to resolve all of the other issues that may arise during your period of separation from your spouse – before you are eligible for an absolute divorce.
Remember that to be eligible for an absolute divorce in North Carolina, you must have been physically separated from your spouse for at least 1 year prior to both signing and filing the divorce complaint with the clerk of court in your county. In addition, you must have been a resident of North Carolina for the past 6 months and intend to remain a resident thereafter.
Here is the direct language from N.C.G.S. § 50-6:
Marriages may be dissolved and the parties thereto divorced from the bonds of matrimony on the application of either party, if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart for one year, and the plaintiff or defendant in the suit for divorce has resided in the State for a period of six months.
When you attend the hearing to obtain an absolute divorce, the court will not ask you about custody of your kids, alimony, property distribution or whether you or your spouse was or was not at fault for ending the marriage. The court will only ask about your residency and whether you have been separated for one year.
Assuming you meet the legal requirements to obtain an Absolute Divorce, the court will grant your request for a divorce.