Guiding You Through Divorce and Separation in North Carolina

This guide may assist in answering questions you may have regarding Divorce and Separation in North Carolina.  We encourage you to ask other questions, as it is impossible to answer all of your questions in this guide. 


North Carolina law requires a one-year separation before you can file for divorce.  You OR your spouse must also have been a legal resident of North Carolina for at least six (6) months before filing.  If both these criteria have been met, you may file a lawsuit in District Court asking for a divorce.

You may establish the six-month residency requirement through showing the following:  (1) You are registered to vote in North Carolina; (2) The date on which you registered to vote in North Carolina; (3) that you own property in North Carolina, such as your house; (4) That you have North Carolina income taxes withheld and file your tax return in North Carolina; (5) That your vehicles are titled and registered in North Carolina; (6) You have a North Carolina drivers license; or (7) That your bank accounts are located in North Carolina.

If you are currently overseas, you may still file for divorce in North Carolina by demonstrating that you intend to return to North Carolina through a show of other relevant evidence and evidence of the above listed items.  As long as the other spouse, if not a resident, does not object, you may still file for divorce in North Carolina.  If the non-resident spouse does object, you will need to file in the county/state in which the other party resides.

How Does North Carolina Define "Legal Separation?" 

Under North Carolina law, if you and your spouse are living separate and apart, you are legally separated.  "Separate and Apart" is defined as living in separate residences.  No official paperwork or filing is required to become legally separated.

 What Does my Divorce do for Me?

A grant of divorce makes you single again, and a female spouse may, upon request, resume the use of her maiden name.  It does not resolve issues of child support and custody, alimony, property division, and other related issues.  In fact, if claims for property division and alimony are not at least pending prior to the grant of divorce, they will be forever lost. 

A Complaint for Divorce may include demands related to child custody and support, spousal support, and equitable distribution.

If you have been served with a divorce complaint by your spouse, you have 30 days to file a response with the court.  This response should include any counterclaims. 

Once divorce papers are served on your spouse, you will generally receive your decree of divorce within 45-60 days. 

What Legal Issues Should I Resolve During my Separation?

Issues such as financial support (post-separation support, alimony, and child support), children (custody and visitation), and the equitable distribution of property should be addressed during the period of separation. 

These issues can be resolved through a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement or a Lawsuit.  A Separation Agreement and Property Settlement is a written agreement that serves as a private contract between you and your spouse.  If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you may file a lawsuit to settle any unresolved issues.  Always consult an attorney before signing any document presented to you by your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer.

Although North Carolina law requires a one-year legal separation prior to filing for divorce, a lawsuit addressing these important issues may be filed prior to your divorce.

From the Author: North Carolina Divorce and Family Law Firm

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