Who can get a divorce in North Carolina?
You can obtain a divorce (an “absolute divorce”) in North Carolina if you meet three requirements. First, you must have lived apart for at least one year. Second, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months. Third, you cannot have resumed marital relations during the period of separation.
Steps involved in getting a divorce
The process for obtaining a divorce involves several steps.
- Prepare and file the complaint and obtain the summons
The spouse initiating the divorce action, the “plaintiff,” files a complaint with the clerk of court and has the clerk issue a summons.
- Serve the complaint and summons
The complaint and summons must be served upon the other spouse, the “defendant,” in compliance with the rules of civil procedure. Typically, service is accomplished by certified mail or by sheriff. Proof of service must be filed with the clerk of court.
- Wait 30 days
The defendant has 30 days to answer or otherwise respond to the complaint.
- Schedule the case for an evidentiary hearing
After 30 days if the defendant did not answer, or sooner if the defendant answered by admitting the allegations in the complaint, the plaintiff may schedule the case for a hearing. The plaintiff must give notice of that hearing to the defendant and prepare a divorce judgment.
At an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must testify regarding the allegations in the complaint. The defendant, if he or she shows up, can question the plaintiff and testify. If the judge finds the criteria for divorce satisfied, she or he will sign the judgment finalizing the divorce.
- Alternatively, file a motion
If the defendant did not file an answer after being properly served, the plaintiff may file a motion asking the clerk of court to enter a default judgment. No hearing is needed. If the motion is granted, the clerk will issue the divorce judgment.
The plaintiff may also file a motion for summary judgment. If the plaintiff seeks a summary judgment, the plaintiff must prepare and serve a motion before scheduling the case for a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will review the file and, if all documents have been filed correctly, enter the divorce judgment
How long does the process take? Will I have to go to court?
If your case is resolved by default or summary judgment, you won’t have to go to court. The summary judgment process typically takes around 60 days from the date of filing. The default judgment process typically takes a little less time — usually 45 days from the date of filing.
Consult a competent attorney
Our firm handles divorces for a reasonable flat fee. Contact us for more details.
It is important that you and your spouse resolve all financial and parenting issues before filing for divorce. If either of you makes claims for equitable distribution, spousal support, child custody, or child support, the steps involved in litigating those claims are different, time-consuming, and costly. Seek the advice of a competent attorney, and if possible, use mediation or the collaborative process to resolve any disputes.