How to File for Divorce in North Carolina

File for a divorce in North Carolina

Back the 1800s, North Carolina was known for producing tar, pitch, and turpentine, and it was painfully mocked as the “tar-heel” state. If your marriage has become painful, you should pay attention to the laws for filing a divorce in North Carolina.

1. Residency

Anyone petitioning for divorce in North Carolina must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before filing, or else their spouse must have been a resident.  

There is an exception to this rule if the couple has been separated for at least one year.

2. No fault grounds (mostly)

In the old days, getting divorced required proving valid reasons such as your spouse had committed some sort of “fault,” like adultery.

Today, most divorces are granted on a “no-fault” basis, meaning that each spouse simply wants to go their separate way.  North Carolina has mostly eliminated fault divorces. There is one exception and that is, you can still get a divorce in North Carolina on the ground of “incurable insanity”  

Surely there is some disagreement about whether that is truly a “fault.”  

Virtually, every divorce in North Carolina is granted on a “no-fault” basis, which in North Carolina means the couple has been living separate and apart for at least one year. This generally requires each spouse to get their own home. It can be a very long year, as the spouses are still tied together financially, but they cannot be living as a couple by doing things like sleeping and eating together.  

Getting back together, even for a short while, will restart the one-year countdown before a divorce can be granted. That said, there is usually no way for a court to find out if a couple did get back together briefly.

3. Equitable division of property

Equitable division of property

If one spouse asks, then the court, granting a will, also split up the couple’s property.  Most couples will be able to come to an agreement on the property split. They may not have much to split up at all, or else they may negotiate between themselves.  

In more complicated situations, each side might have a lawyer negotiate on their behalf or the couple can hire a mediator to work with each side to come to an agreement.  

If the couple cannot reach an agreement, then the court must split the property.  The court must determine what is “marital” property. This includes basically everything the couple owns, except for things that one spouse brought into the marriage or inherited during the marriage.

Income earned on investments and the like during the separation is called the divisible property that will be divided between the divorcing spouses as well.  The court will then divide all that property equally unless the court finds there is a reason one spouse should get more than half.

Things like the age, income, and earning capacity of each spouse can be considered when making the division.

4. Caring for children

Getting child custody after divorce

A court must determine how custody will be divided up between the parents, and child support is often awarded as well.  

Again, custody is usually figured out by agreement with the court that involves simply approving the agreement after determining that it is in the best interest of the child.  


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