Can One Mate Refuse a Divorce in North Carolina?

By Heather Frances J.D.

In North Carolina, a spouse who doesn’t want a divorce can make the process take longer and cost more, but he cannot prevent it from happening if the other spouse is determined to divorce. You cannot actually refuse to get a divorce since North Carolina does not require that both spouses agree on divorce in order for the court to grant it.


North Carolina courts can grant divorces for only two reasons: separation for at least one year -- the most common reason -- or incurable insanity and separation for three years. It is not necessary for either spouse to prove fault. Instead, spouses must simply live “separate and apart” for at least a year. The spouses must live in separate residences to qualify; it is not enough to live in separate parts of the same house.


Once a couple has been living separately for at least a year, either spouse can begin the divorce process by filing a complaint for divorce, addressing key issues like property division and custody. She must serve a copy of this complaint, along with a summons and other appropriate paperwork, on her spouse. The responding spouse has 30 days to file a response; if he does not want the divorce, he can respond to the complaint with counterclaims, such as demands for support or property division. This may delay the divorce process by injecting conflict. Either spouse can also claim the other spouse committed marital misconduct, such as adultery, but this will not impact the court’s ability to issue the divorce. However, it may affect some terms of the divorce, like alimony.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Divorce Terms

Spouses can reach agreement about terms of the divorce and the court will adopt their agreement into the divorce decree. However, if one spouse refuses to agree, the court could order mediation for issues like custody and visitation. If the couple still cannot come to an agreement on any or all terms, the case will proceed to trial where the judge will determine the terms of the divorce.

Default Divorce

If a spouse simply chooses not to respond to a divorce complaint because he doesn’t want the divorce, the divorce process can proceed without his input. The spouse who filed for divorce can ask the court to enter a default divorce by filing a Motion for Entry of Default. A default divorce has the same legal effect as a divorce where both spouses make an appearance with the court, but the spouse who does not respond does not get to have the court hear his side.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Is a Unilateral Divorce?


Related articles

What If Only One Person Wants a Divorce?

Because all 50 states recognize no-fault divorce, it's pretty much impossible for a spouse who does not want a divorce to prevent one from happening. You can slow the process down by contesting it, but it will eventually go through anyway.

What Prolongs a Divorce?

When a couple mutually agrees to divorce and can reach a joint settlement outside of court, divorce can be a quick process. On the other hand, if a couple has unresolved disputes, anger or property disagreements, these issues can prolong the divorce. Although the time frames for divorce and the process of handling legal disputes varies among states, in many cases, complex joint holdings and unresolved disagreements will prolong the divorce process.

How to Stop a Divorce From Happening

Stopping a divorce isn't so much a legal question as it is one of saving your marriage. Legally, if your spouse is intent on getting a divorce, there's usually nothing you can do to prevent it. The best you can do is buy yourself some time to try to change his mind.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Contest an Uncontested Divorce in Mississippi

When spouses not only agree to be divorced, but also on the reason for the divorce and terms of the divorce, they can ...

Can You Refuse to Give Your Spouse a Divorce in Georgia?

Your spouse may file for divorce, believing the marriage is over, but even if you aren’t ready to divorce just yet, ...

Do You Have to Give Your Husband a Divorce After a 7-Year Separation in the State of Mississippi?

Divorce is governed by each state’s laws, so Mississippi law determines when Mississippi spouses can divorce. ...

Can a Person Be Forced Into a Divorce in Ohio?

Divorce can be simpler when both spouses agree to the divorce and its terms, but Ohio law does not allow one spouse to ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED