Divorce Process in North Carolina

If you are considering filing for a divorce in North Carolina, it can be helpful to understand the process beforehand so that you know what to expect. A divorce can be relatively straightforward or complex, depending on the circumstances. Most divorces require the couple to sort out a number of issues, including: 

If the couple can agree on these issues in a divorce, the process can go forward relatively quickly. However, if there are disputes, the divorce could take much longer to be finalized. Talk to your experienced North Carolina family law attorney about the process for filing for a divorce,  your options, and how to make the divorce as painless as possible for you and your children. 

Overview of Divorce Process in North Carolina

A simple overview of the divorce process in North Carolina is as follows: 

  1. You or your spouse must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six months before filing for divorce. 
  2. You and your spouse must have lived separate and apart for at least one year before filing for divorce. 
  3. File a complaint for absolute divorce. 
  4. Divorce papers are served on the spouse. 
  5. After 30 days from service, request a court date. 
  6. Court hearing for divorce.
  7. Court enters a judgment for absolute divorce. 

Residency Requirement

To file for any divorce in North Carolina, at least one of the spouses has to be a resident of North Carolina for at least six months before filing for divorce.  

Separation Requirement

Absolute divorce in North Carolina requires the couple to be separated for a year. One spouse generally has to live separately in a different residence than the other spouse. If a couple separated for less than a year and moved back in for a few months, they may have to restart the 12-month separation to file for divorce.

Filing a Complaint and Service

The formal process of a divorce begins with filing a “Complaint for Absolute Divorce” with the court. The spouse who files the complaint is known as the Plaintiff and the responding spouse would be the Defendant. After filing the complaint and paying any filing fees, a copy of the complaint is served on the other spouse by the sheriff or other approved forms of service. 

Setting a Court Date

After 30 days from the date of service, the Plaintiff can get a court date from the Clerk of the Court's office. A notice of hearing must also be sent to the Defendant ten days before the hearing.  

Divorce Hearing

During the divorce hearing, the judge will hear testimony from each spouse to make sure the requirements have been met, there was proper service and notification, and that all legal and financial matters (child custody and visitation, property division, etc.) have been settled. 

The court does not need to hear about why the divorce is justified or why one spouse is seeking a divorce. North Carolina is a “no-fault” state for divorce. No-fault divorce means that a spouse does not have to prove the fault of any party to justify divorce.

Judgment for Absolute Divorce

When the judge enters the judgment for absolute divorce, the couple is officially and legally divorced.  

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, the couple is not disputing property, child custody, or other issues. The couple can come to an agreement on any divorce-related issues before going to court and the court will generally grant the divorce during the court date. 

If the couple cannot agree on all the terms of a divorce, they may be able to go through mediation to come to an agreement instead of having the court decide the issues. If the couple still cannot agree on the divorce, then the divorce is not considered “uncontested” and the court may have to conduct hearings to settle any disputes. 

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce can take much longer than an uncontested divorce. Depending on the complexity of the divorce issues, it can take months or longer for a highly contested divorce to be settled. Contested divorces may involve high-asset divorces, child custody battles, or disputes over alimony. If you suspect your divorce may be contested, talk to your North Carolina divorce attorney as soon as possible so that you can take steps to prepare for a divorce and protect your family and your property. 

Family Law Attorneys in Shelby, North Carolina

One of the best resources you can have in a family law issue in Cleveland County is an experienced family law attorney on your side to advocate for your rights, explain the process, and let you know all your options in family court. If you have any questions about a family law issue or dispute in North Carolina, contact the Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC in Shelby. Contact us online or by phone at 704-470-2440 today for a consultation.