Is North Carolina a No-Fault Divorce State?

By Matthew Derrringer

North Carolina, like every other state, has an option of filing for no-fault divorce. However, certain requirements must first be met. When you know what is required before filing for no-fault divorce in North Carolina, it can save you time and money.

Residency and Jurisdiction

When you file for any type of divorce in North Carolina, either fault-based or no-fault, the first issue is that one of the spouses must have resided in the state for a minimum of six months. If this first step is not cleared, a divorce petition may not proceed. The second step to file for no-fault divorce in North Carolina is that the couple must have lived separate from each other for one year. The separation has to be more than simply sleeping in different sections of the same house. If the one-year separation threshold has been met, then the divorce may proceed; this is true even if there have been occasional, isolated instances of sexual relations between the two parties. There is also a provision which allows a divorce filing when one spouse suffers from mental insanity and the couple has lived apart for at least three years. However, most divorces in North Carolina occur under the one-year separation standard.

Solving the Issues: Children, Property, Money

Every type of divorce is bound to include disputes, such as dividing marital property, determining child custody and deciding a child support arrangement. Alimony may also be awarded, especially when one spouse has a higher earning capacity or one spouse was a homemaker. When a couple is seeking a no-fault divorce, the best way to streamline the process is to come to a fair agreement on as many of these issues as possible outside of court.

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Conflict, Custody, and Mediation

When a court sees conflict, especially over child custody, it can order the parties to attend mediation. Child custody in North Carolina is determined on a “best interests of the child” standard, which means that custody will be decided based on what the court views as the best financial and living arrangements for the child. The court, however, will not order the parties to attend mediation over issues of support payments, either spousal or child support. Also, the court has the option to waive mediation altogether.

Coming to an Agreement

When the parties meet the residency and separation requirements for filing for no-fault divorce in North Carolina, the divorce process can proceed rather quickly. However, when a dispute does arise during divorce proceedings, the court will become the decision-maker. The courts in North Carolina abide by the “equitable distribution” standard when it comes to divorce – ensuring that while the division of assets may not be 50/50, the division is fair under the circumstances. If a no-fault divorce is uncontested, and the parties come to their own agreement beforehand, the divorce will usually move quickly through the courts.

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