North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. This means that one party does not need to show that the other party is at fault in causing the breakdown in the marital relationship in order to file for an absolute divorce. Even if there are issues of abuse, adultery, or abandonment, you will not need to prove them before a judge in order to end the legal marriage. Often, divorces are granted without either party’s testimony or presence in court.
A spouse seeking an absolute divorce in North Carolina must only show that the parties have lived separate and apart from each other for an uninterrupted period of at least one year with the intention of ending the marriage. The spouses should live separate and apart and in separate residences to avoid any doubt as to the intention of at least one party to separate. If separated spouses spend multiple nights together, a court may find that they have reconciled, and they will have to re-start the one-year period of separation prior to filing, although the issue of whether there has been a reconciliation is determined by the total circumstances.
There is no need for spouses to draw up formal documents for a “legal separation,” although it may be beneficial to resolve issues of child custody, property distribution, postseparation support, and alimony in a written and binding Separation and Property Settlement Agreement before the end of the one-year period of separation when a divorce can be filed. If the issues of spousal support and property division have not been resolved before the filing of a complaint for absolute divorce, a lawsuit for these claims must be filed before the divorce judgment is entered; if these claims have not been filed, resolved or still pending at the time of divorce, the divorce judgment extinguishes rights to these claims.
At least one of the spouses must have lived in North Carolina for a period of at least six months prior to filing the divorce action. Even if one spouse moves out-of-state during a separation, a divorce can still be granted in North Carolina as long as the other spouse remains a resident of North Carolina. Generally, the process for obtaining an absolute divorce is straightforward and relatively quick, with most absolute divorces being granted in less than three months.
If you have been served with a divorce complaint, it is important for you to consult with an attorney and file a timely answer in order to preserve your legal rights. As mentioned above, several causes of actions may be barred following the entry of an absolute divorce, and it is vitally important that they be raised before a judgment of divorce is granted.