How to Get Divorced in NC

How to get a divorce in NC

The dissolution of a marriage through divorce is often a complex process involving personal matters and financial considerations. When you want to know how to get divorce in NC, a step by step guide is a good starting point to understand the process.

Like many states, North Carolina offers “no-fault” divorce, which means neither party has to prove the other has caused their marriage to end. North Carolina also enables couples to execute a divorce without legal help.

The outline below explains the steps in a divorce in North Carolina. Call the Raleigh divorce attorneys of Charles R. Ullman & Associates or use our online contact form for more information and assistance. We serve clients throughout Raleigh and Wake County.

Five Steps For Getting Divorced in North Carolina

Divorce is a complex legal process that is different in each case. But, in general, divorce in North Carolina proceeds as follows:

How to get a divorce in NC, step 1: Separation

1. A physical separation of the couple.

A married couple that decides to end their marriage and divorce first becomes separated. This is a physical separation, which requires the couple to not live together, i.e., not cohabitate. However, a couple that is physically separated is not deemed legally separated in North Carolina unless one of the spouses obtains a “divorce from bed and board.”

This is one aspect that makes it hard for some to understand how do you file for a divorce in NC. Different grounds may be cited to obtain a legal separation. If a spouse abandons the other, engages in cruel or barbarous treatment, abuses drugs, commits adultery, or otherwise engages in a pattern of conduct that makes the filing spouse’s “condition intolerable and life burdensome,” the spouse can obtain a divorce from bed and board.

What are the grounds for divorce in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the grounds for divorce are that the couple must have lived separate and apart for one year and that one party must have resided in North Carolina for six months prior to the filing of the action.

A legal separation does not entitle a person to remarry, but a legally separated spouse may obtain orders for:

How to get a divorce in NC, step 2: File a Complaint with the Clerk of Court

2. File a Divorce Complaint with the Clerk of Court in Your County.

The next step in how to get divorce in NC is to obtain an absolute divorce. To reach this final termination of marriage, one spouse must file a divorce complaint with the Clerk of Court in the county of their residence. A divorce attorney may file the notice on behalf of a client. The county Sheriff (or a deputy) will then serve the divorce complaint upon the other spouse. In most cases a divorce notice is delivered by certified mail.After the couple has lived separate and apart for at least 12 consecutive months, either spouse may then file for a legal divorce. This is if at least one of the two, at the time of the separation, intended for the separation to be permanent.

The 12 Month Physical Separation Requirement Will Get Reset if You Move Back in Together

Also, if the couple reconciled during the separation – actually moved back in together, not just having had isolated incidents of marital relations – the calendar on the 12 consecutive months of separation re-sets to when they split again.

Upon filing for a divorce, such factors as child support, spousal support, child custody and asset division come to the fore. Decisions and creation of agreements such as a child custody agreement in each of these areas should be made before a divorce goes to court.

How to get a divorce in NC, step 3: Enter Mediation

3. Enter mediation, if you think it will be an amicable divorce.

If you and your spouse are engaging in an amicable divorce, you may choose to enter into mediation. In some cases, the court will order mediation. Mediation can mean the difference between a lengthy, expensive and public court battle and a timely, cost-efficient and confidential resolution to your divorce or separation. A mediator can help a couple come to an agreement in a less formal and less adversarial setting and can help find creative solutions to unique situations.

How to get a divorce in NC, step 4: Judge hears testimony and issues final order

4. A judge hears testimony and issues the final divorce order.

A judge hears testimony and arguments and then makes the decision for final divorce orders that she or he thinks are best for each individual. A judge will take recommendations from each spouse’s attorney before making a decision, but the judge’s decision is final. This is why it is best, if possible, to have matters resolved before heading to court. A divorce ends one’s rights to alimony and equitable distribution of property, for example, so those rights must be asserted before a divorce and, if possible, the couple should arrive at an agreement before they appear before the judge. Once the judge signs the order, you and your spouse are divorced. Each of you may remarry if you so desire.

How to get a divorce in NC, step 5: Adding a Separation Agreement

5. Consider a Separation Agreement to cover child custody, asset division, and related matters.

During the process of reaching a divorce, you may choose to negotiate and enter into a separation agreement with the other party to settle matters such as alimony, division of assets, child custody and child support. It is often reached during mediation. Once this agreement is signed and notarized, it can be enforced in any court. If you choose to enter into a consent order as part of your divorce, this agreement can be enforced by a court through the use of its contempt powers. Keep in mind: Any terms in the agreement dealing with child custody and child support can be modified by a court if the court finds the terms do not serve the best interest of the child. However, unless it is proven otherwise, North Carolina courts will presume that the agreement’s terms are fair, reasonable and serve the child’s best interest.

For more detailed information on the process of getting a divorce in NC, see How to File for Divorce in North Carolina. We also provide the text of the North Carolina Divorce Statutes for you to be better informed.

An Experienced Raleigh Divorce Attorney Is Here to Help

When you want to know how to get divorce in NC, turn to us for help. We’ll guide you through the process so that you are well protected and can move on with your life. In most cases, either spouse in a divorce will benefit from experienced legal guidance, the Raleigh divorce lawyers of Charles R. Ullman & Associates believe. A skilled divorce attorney can protect your best interests and help you avoid personal and/or property matters that may cost you money down the road. Contact Charles R. Ullman & Associates now.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.