North Carolina State Divorce Law

Those wishing to file a Complaint for Divorce in North Carolina must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of 6 months prior to filing that complaint in the General Court of Justice in the county in which they reside.

North Carolina Grounds for Divorce

Plaintiffs may file a divorce complaint on no-fault grounds or on fault-based grounds in the state of North Carolina.

Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina

An uncontested divorce in North Carolina may take three routes:

  1. The plaintiff files a complaint of divorce and a notice is issued to inform the defendant. If the defendant signs an Acceptance of Service, the process can proceed quickly from there
  2. The parties prepare a separation agreement and sign it in the presence of a notary public. From that point, only the petitioner needs to attend the divorce hearing.
  3. The plaintiff files a complaint and the defendant does not respond to the petition, allowing the divorce to take place by default.

Contested Divorce in North Carolina

If the parties do not agree on the settlement issues in a divorce, they must proceed to a contested divorce which is very unpredictable. With claims and counterclaims, and possibly a contentious court hearing, it can be crucial to retain a divorce attorney to help in the process of a contested divorce.

Annulment in North Carolina

When a marriage is entered into illegally, one or both of the parties may obtain an annulment to have it made null and void. The grounds for an annulment are difficult to prove, but they cause the marriage to be considered as if it never happened. The grounds for an annulment in North Carolina include:

  • Incest
  • Marriage between double first cousins (the marriage of the offspring of marriages between 2 brothers and 2 sisters)
  • Underage marriage, for those under the age of 16
  • Physical disability that hinders a normal married life
  • Mental illness, either partial or complete

No Fault Divorce in North Carolina

The only grounds for a no-fault divorce in North Carolina are that the parties have been living separate and apart for 1 year or more.

North Carolina Fault Divorce

North Carolina also has fault-based grounds for divorce, which include:

  • Abandonment
  • One party maliciously turns the other party out
  • Cruel endangerment
  • Subjecting the other party to indignities that make life unbearable
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Adultery

North Carolina Divorce and Child Custody

Child Custody Laws

In order to provide for the best interests of the child in divorce actions, the courts will base custody decisions on two considerations, regardless of gender:

  • Any evidence of domestic violence
  • The safety of the child

Child Alimony

The state of North Carolina considers both parents responsible for the support of their child, and either parent may be ordered to make support payments to the other. The courts take a number of factors into consideration when making that determination:

  • The child’s needs
  • The parents’ earnings, assets, and financial condition
  • The standard of living previously enjoyed by parents and child
  • The parents’ childcare and homemaker contributions
  • Parents in North Carolina use the Income Share Model in combination with standard Child Support Worksheets to calculate support estimates.

North Carolina Divorce Spousal Support

There are a number of considerations, which North Carolina courts take into consideration when determining if spousal support should be awarded, to whom, how much, and for how long. Those considerations include:

  • The parties’ marital misconduct
  • The parties’ earning capacity
  • The parties’ age and health
  • The parties’ income, obligations, and assets
  • The length of the marriage
  • The commitment of one spouse to the career, education, and training of the other
  • The effect being a custodial parent has on that party’s earning power, obligations, and expenses
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The time required to educate and equip the dependent spouse to find appropriate employment
  • The property the parties brought to the marriage
  • The homemaking contribution of one party

Lump Sum Alimony

Determined at the discretion of the court.

Permanent Alimony

Determined at the discretion of the court

Temporary Spousal Support

Determined at the discretion of the court

Rehabilitative Alimony

Determined at the discretion of the court

Military Divorce in North Carolina

Spouses in the military are protected by North Carolina law in several ways:

  • Divorce papers must be service to the recipient personally
  • If those papers cannot be served personally, the serviceperson cannot be charged with default for failing to respond to a divorce action
  • Proceedings may be postponed throughout the party’s service and up to 60 days after
  • Direct payment of retirement pay is provided to spouses married 10 years or longer
  • Child support is not to exceed 60% of serviceperson’s pay and allowances

Help From a North Carolina Divorce Lawyer

Property division, child custody, spousal support, and child support are elements that can change the lives of those obtaining a divorce in the state of North Carolina. If there are disputes over these issues, it can be vital to have the counsel of a divorce attorney who has helped resolve these issues for many clients in the past and can help a divorce proceed to a successful conclusion.


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