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How to File for Divorce in North Carolina

Published by Nanni on Friday, October 05, 2012

Photo credit by DrJohnBullas

The process for filing for divorce in North Carolina is a simple one. Divorce itself may not be such a simple matter. Spouses must consider a number of possible issues when considering divorce such as children and possessions. When you’re ready to file, follow the steps below to obtain your divorce within two years.


North Carolina doesn’t require any paperwork to be filed when a couple separates. You can begin resolving issues with property ownership, custody of children and pets and division of possessions during this period, however. This also includes child support and alimony.

Each party can obtain a lawyer to help discuss and resolve any disputes without the need to appear in court. Once each party agrees to the terms, the required paperwork is signed and filed. Any breach of these terms can result in court appearances and even jail time.


There are two main requirements to consider when filing for divorce in North Carolina. First, at least one spouse must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six months. Second, the divorce cannot be finalized until the couple has lived separately for at least one year.

There are two main grounds for divorce in North Carolina. The first is a mutual divorce, which after living separate for one year, a no-fault divorce is given. The second is incurable insanity. However, a third option exists which takes into account adultery, abandonment and abuse.

Obtain Lawyer

If you haven’t already, you must obtain a lawyer. Without one, you can’t file for divorce in North Carolina. You can appear in court without a lawyer, but one is recommended if fighting any divorce term breaches. Lawyers can be obtained for a flat fee or on an hourly basis.


Fill out the proper forms at your lawyer’s office to file a divorce complaint. Your lawyer will then file the forms with your county’s clerk of court. The paperwork will then be mailed through certified mail to your spouse. Alternately, the county sheriff may deliver the paperwork. These steps ensure your spouse received the divorce papers.


After the paperwork has been signed and delivered back to the clerk of court through either yourself or the couple’s lawyers, a specified waiting period begins. The period is different based on each couple’s circumstances. Either you or your lawyer can then appear in court to have the judge sign the divorce order, which finalizes the divorce.

Filing for divorce in North Carolina takes approximately two years. Lawyers take care of most of the work for you, including filing the appropriate paperwork. North Carolina requires a lawyer to file the divorce complaint. If you’re not certain you’re ready for a divorce, consider waiting until the one year separation is complete before making a final decision. Anytime before the judge signs the divorce order, you can choose not to finalize the divorce.

Some resources exist that allow you to file for divorce online. However, these don’t provide any provisions for possessions, property, alimony or custody issues. Lawyers can and will ensure all disputes are settled and all paperwork is filed properly.

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