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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Divorce

What are grounds for divorce in North Carolina?

North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. The only grounds for divorce are that you and your spouse have lived apart for one year and that one of you has resided in North Carolina for six months prior to the filing of the divorce petition to the court.

Do I have to be separated before I can file for divorce in North Carolina?

Yes. You can file for divorce in North Carolina after you and your spouse have lived apart for one year. One of you must also have lived in North Carolina for at least six months before the date on your divorce petition to the court.

What forms do I need to file for a divorce in North Carolina?

To start a case for Absolute Divorce, you need to complete the following forms: 

  1. Complaint for Absolute Divorce
  2. Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
  3. Civil Summons

You may also need a Service member Civil Relief Act Affidavit or if you cannot afford the court fees, a Petition to Proceed as an Indigent. Your attorney can help you with all of these forms. 

How and where do I file a divorce complaint in North Carolina?

As the plaintiff, you file a divorce complaint with the Clerk of Court in the county where you live. The local county Sheriff must have jurisdiction to serve notice of divorce on the defendant, your spouse. 

The complaint you file must contain a statement of fact to provide notice of the basis for the lawsuit, including a statement of where the party resides currently and in the past. The Sheriff will deliver the papers to the defendant and provide proof of service to the court.

After I file for divorce in North Carolina, do I have to continue to live in NC?

There is no requirement for either spouse to stay in North Carolina during the divorce proceedings, which can take weeks to months to reach completion. However, to file for divorce in North Carolina, one of you must have lived in NC for at least six months before filing.

Are there different divorce laws and considerations for military personnel?

To file for divorce in North Carolina, one of the spouses must have resided in NC for at least six months. If a spouse is a service member, he or she must still have residency in the state to file for divorce in the state. Being registered to vote in NC, having a NC driver’s license and/or paying state taxes help demonstrate permanent residency.

If the out-of-state service member is the defendant in a divorce proceeding and is overseas, there may be special considerations that waive the requirement to serve the defendant notice.

Also, under the Solider’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), active-duty members of the U.S. military who are defendants in a divorce can request a stay of the proceedings while he or she is on duty for a period of time after returning home.

How long does it take to be granted a divorce by the court?

There is no set time. Each divorce is different and has factors that affect the length of time for the divorce to be official. There are contested, uncontested, simple, and collaborative divorces. And military divorces can have complications that take longer to settle, such as overseas service.

An uncontested divorce may be completed 45 to 90 days after a divorce complaint is initially filed. On the other hand, a divorce may take six months or longer if disputes need to be resolved or a spouse is uncooperative.

After one spouse files for divorce, the other spouse has 30 to 60 days to respond. If the spouse does not respond in time or does not dispute what you request in the divorce settlement, then you are free to move forward with setting a date for your divorce hearing. You may file a Notice of Divorce Hearing at least ten days before a date for the hearing and mail notice to your estranged spouse.

If there is a dispute between you, you can still schedule a hearing, but you will need to demonstrate that you have been separated for at least one year.

The factors that typically delay a divorce are: child custody and visitation, payments for child support and/or alimony, and agreeing on distribution of marital assets.

Will I receive alimony from my spouse, or might I need to provide alimony?

To obtain alimony (spousal support), one spouse must demonstrate that he or she has been dependent upon the other spouse for financial support. Alimony may be negotiated as recurrent payment or a lump sum as part of a divorce settlement.

If a spouse’s request for alimony goes before a judge, the judge will typically consider many factors, including:

  1. The length of the marriage
  2. Marital misconduct by either spouse
  3. Relative earnings and the earning potential of each spouse
  4. Accustomed standard of living
  5. The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of each spouse
  6. The contribution of one spouse to the other spouse’s earning power
  7. Assets and liabilities of each spouse
  8. Physical, mental, and emotional age and condition of each spouse

Can I change my name when my divorce is granted?

You can make your request for a name change part of your divorce petition to the judge. Changing your name as part of your divorce requires completing the section of a special proceeding form (Application/Notice of Resumption of Former Name) and filing with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where you live. The fee varies from county to county but typically runs about $100. 

Can I get an annulment in North Carolina?

An annulment is a court decree that voids a marriage as if it never happened. Yes, it is available in North Carolina, but it is a complicated legal process with particular requirements that must be met. An attorney can help support you through the process.

How much will a divorce cost me?

As of September 2020, the charge for filing a divorce case with a court in North Carolina is $225. It typically costs $30 to have a Sheriff serve the defendant with a divorce notice or $7 to serve the notice by certified mail.

The greatest expense will be your attorney’s fees which are charged at an hourly rate. Average fees in NC in 2020 ranged from $230 to $280, which are close to the national average rate for family lawyers. The number of hours it takes to handle your divorce will depend on the complexity of your case and whether or not it is contested.

Can my spouse and I use the same attorney?

No. One attorney cannot ethically represent both spouses in a divorce case. An attorney cannot be loyal to one spouse without doing a disservice to the other because each party has different interests. It is possible, however, for one attorney to represent one spouse and the other to go unrepresented. However, this is usually always a bad idea as one spouse has an advantage over the other.

If a couple is interested in saving money, the spouses may choose mediation which may still involve the services of an attorney but with less time involved.

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