What are the requirements to file for a divorce in North Carolina?

To file for a divorce in North Carolina, either spouse must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six (6) months prior to filing. Additionally, the spouses must have been separated (meaning living under different roofs) for at least one (1) year prior to filing.

How long does the divorce process take?

There is really no way of calculating how long a divorce case will take. The time a divorce takes varies case by case and depends on several factors, including the nature of the divorce, the parties to the divorce, the county that the divorce papers are filed in, the judge, the state, etc.

In the State of North Carolina, you must meet the following requirements in order to file for divorce: (a) you have been separated from your spouse for one year (b) you have lived in North Carolina for at least six months.

Complicated divorce cases can take longer, particularly if the parties are fighting over custody and finances. If you want the court to make decisions about child custody, alimony, spousal support or division of property, you must file for those before a judgement of divorce. If you or your spouse file for divorce before resolving these issues, you could lose your rights. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about these matters right away.

In order to get a divorce in North Carolina, Do I need to be legally separated from my spouse?

No, you do not need to be legally separated to obtain a North Carolina divorce. Still, you need to make sure that you meet the legal definition of “separation.”

State law mandates that you and your spouse must actually live separate and apart for at least one year before you are eligible to file for divorce.

If my spouse cheated on me do I need proof to get an absolute divorce in North Carolina?

No, you don’t have to prove adultery to obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina. We are considered a “no-fault” state.

By “no-fault” state, you do not have to show marital fault to obtain the divorce in North Carolina. As long as you have apart for one year, one of you has resided in the state for at least six months and you have completed all required paperwork, once this is completed you can get a divorce. This type of divorce is called an absolute divorce. Although you will not be entitled to remarry until you obtain an absolute divorce.

To obtain an absolute divorce – you do need to prove fault.

There are actually two types of divorce in North Carolina: “absolute divorce” and “divorce from bed and board.”

What is defined as “domestic violence” in North Carolina?

Generally, domestic violence can be defined as one person in a relationship using verbal, sexual, physical or even financial abuse to control the other. It can occur in many forms. Domestic violence may involve spouses, partners, parents and children

Are child support payments tax deductible?


How do I determine the amount of child support I should pay or receive?

Child support is typically determined by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines include three separate worksheets to help determine a party’s child support obligation. These worksheets vary depending on custodial schedules:

  • Worksheet A is used when the custodial parent has more than 243 overnights per year with the child/children.
  • Worksheet B is used when the non-custodial parent has more than 123 overnights with the child/children.
  • Worksheet C is used for split custody, or when each parent has one or more children with him or her primarily.

The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines calculate the monthly obligation by using each parent’s gross income. Extra expenses such as work-related child care costs, health insurance and extraordinary expenses (e.g., expenses related to private school that meet a child’s particular needs) are also added into the equation. The guidelines are presumptive, and, in certain instances, the guideline amount may be less or more than the amount a party should be paying.

How do I demand child support? How do I pay child support?

Child support may be paid through an agreement between the parties or through order of the court. To obtain a court order, a complaint for child support must be filed.  You should always keep receipts of all payments made to the other parent.

How long do I have to pay child support?

Child support payments are typically paid until a child graduates from high school or reaches age 18, whichever occurs later. Child support payments may be extended until age 20 if a child is making successful progress toward the completion of a high school degree.

If there is already an order in place for custody of my children, can it be changed?

North Carolina law allows for the change or modification of a previously entered custody order, depending upon the facts of your case. A custody order can be modified by agreement between you and the other party to your case, or by filing a proper motion before the court and showing a significant change of circumstance since your last order was entered.

Index of Legal Terms

  • Abandonment: Abandonment is the act where one spouse leaves the marital home without justification, without the consent of the other spouse and without the intent of returning.
  • Absolute Divorce: Dissolving the marriage tie and releasing the parties wholly from their matrimonial obligations. Also more commonly referred to as “divorce.”
  • Adoption Petition: A petition filed in an adoption proceeding requesting the courts to grant an adoption to a prospective adoptive parent.
  • Affidavit of Financial Standing A court form used in family law cases to explain a party’s needs and expenses. This form helps to determine child support, post-separation support, and alimony awards based on the parties’ respective incomes, expenses, and debt payments.
  • Alienation of Affections: A civil action brought against a third party paramour, or lover, by one spouse for depriving that spouse of the love and affection that previously existed between married spouses.
  • Alimony: Payments for the support and maintenance of a spouse, either by lump sum or on a continuing basis. Alimony is paid by the “supporting spouse” to the “dependent spouse.”
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution: A procedure for settling a dispute by means other than litigation before a judge, such as mediation, arbitration, or the Collaborative Law process.
  • Cohabitation: Living together in the same residence, generally either as husband and wife or for an extended period of time as if the parties were married.
  • Collaborative Law: A formal process designed to minimize conflict while working toward the resolution of legal matters. Parties, their attorneys and any other professionals involved agree to make a good faith attempt to settle their claims without going to court.
  • Child Support Guidelines: For parties whose combined monthly gross income is less than $25,000, North Carolina typically requires that child support be calculated by application of the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines act as a rebuttable presumption a parent’s child support obligation.
  • Complaint: The pleading filed by a party (plaintiff) initiating a civil lawsuit. It is a request for relief from the court, and sets out the issues that the plaintiff wants the court to help resolve.
  • Consent Order: An agreement made between parties that has been formalized as a court order and signed by a judge. A consent order is enforceable through the court’s power of contempt.
  • Contempt: The refusal of a party to comply with the terms of a court order.
  • Criminal Conversation: A civil action whereby a spouse sues a third party for having sexual relations with his or her spouse during their marriage and prior to separation. A spouse may initiate the lawsuit whether or not the third party knew that the person was married when he or she engaged in the adulterous behavior.
  • Dependent Spouse: A spouse who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.
  • Discovery: A tool afforded to parties after a lawsuit has been initiated giving the parties the ability to request certain documents, answer a multitude of questions, and admit or deny various statements.
  • Divisible Property: The passive appreciation or diminution in marital property created after the parties’ date of separation and before the date of distribution. Divisible property includes property or property rights which are received after the date of separation but before the date of distribution as a result of efforts prior to the date of separation. Finally, increases in marital debt, financing charges and interest related to marital debt, is a form of divisible property, and thus subject to equitable distribution.
  • Divorce from Bed and Board: A court authorized separation. Essentially, a divorce from bed and board acts to establish a legal separation but does not actually dissolve the marital relationship.
  • Ex Parte: Appearing before a judge without notice to, or the presence of, the other party. In family law, ex parte matters usually involve issues related to emergency child custody or domestic violence.
  • Marital Misconduct: Negative behavior by a spouse during a marriage that may impact awards for spousal support. It could include conduct such as abandonment, abuse, cruel treatment of the other spouse, adultery, wasting of the marital assets, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, and/or any other conduct that could potentially be deemed wrong by the court.
  • Marital Property: In North Carolina, marital property is defined as all property incurred, obtained, earned, and received during the course of the marriage. Marital property is subject to equitable distribution.
  • Order: A court mandate instructing a person to perform or refrain from certain actions.
  • Property Distribution: A process also referred to as equitable distribution in North Carolina by which marital assets, property and debts are distributed between spouses.
  • Rebuttal: Evidence introduced to counter, disprove or contradict the opposition’s evidence or a presumption, or responsive legal argument.
  • Self Help Center  A public service center which helps pro se litigants draft, file, and/or respond to certain court documents a party wishes to file and/or needs to defend.
  • Separate Property: All property acquired by a spouse before marriage, after the date of separation, or as a gift or inheritance from a third party at any time. Separate property is not subject to division through the equitable distribution process.
  • Settlement: The resolution of a lawsuit (or of a legal dispute prior to filing a complaint or petition) without going forward to a final court judgment.
  • Supporting Spouse: A spouse upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent for maintenance and support or from whom such spouse is substantially in need of maintenance and support. In essence, the spouse who has the financial wherewithal to help the other spouse live a similar lifestyle he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Temporary Parenting Agreement: An agreement setting forth a temporary custody arrangement until a final custody determination is made.
  • Termination of Parental Rights: A legal procedure which terminates the legal relationship between a child and the child’s biological or legal parent when the parent has demonstrated that he or she will not provide the degree of care which promotes the healthy and orderly physical and emotional well-being of the child.