Separation and Divorce
North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, which means you do not have to allege or prove any wrongdoing on the part of your spouse in order to be able to get divorced. The only requirements North Carolina imposes in order to be eligible for divorce are: at least one spouse must have resided within North Carolina for at least six months before the divorce complaint is filed, and the spouses must have been separated from one another for at least one year before filing for divorce.
Separation, for purposes of divorce in North Carolina, means that spouses are living separate and apart from one another (i.e., not under the same roof) and at least one spouse intends for the separation to be permanent. There is no requirement in North Carolina that spouses execute a separation agreement to formalize their separation; nor must anyone file for separation.
There is not often a dispute among spouses about when separation occurred; typically, it is the day that one spouse moved out of the marital residence and began living elsewhere. However, when spouses live apart from one another for reasons other than separating, it can be difficult to determine when separation occurred (for example, when a spouse moves to begin a new job and the spouses are living apart from one another for some period of time).
The process of divorce in North Carolina varies somewhat from one county to the next (for example, some counties require in-person hearings for divorces, while others process divorces via summary judgment, where the process is entirety paperwork-driven and no hearing is required).
Important Implications of Divorce
In North Carolina, claims for equitable distribution and alimony are barred once a judgment of divorce is entered. As a result, if claims for equitable distribution and alimony have not been formally resolved by the time a spouse files for divorce, then those claims can be preserved by filing a complaint asserting the claims. So long as the claims are pending before the Court prior to entry of a judgment of divorce, they will be preserved.