North Carolina Divorce Laws
The state of North Carolina has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.
We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce. This information (and much more) is available inside your personal 3StepDivorce account area in order to help you understand how North Carolina addresses the most important issues in the divorce process and certain elements throughout your divorce forms.
The following overview of North Carolina divorce laws will help you understand the filing procedure and other primary issues concerning your divorce. Please keep in mind that our North Carolina online divorce service and support staff will make the process easy for you from start to finish. We take the difficulty out of doing your own divorce.
Residency Requirements: In order to file for a divorce in North Carolina, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:
The plaintiff or defendant in the suit for divorce must have resided in the State for a period of six months prior to filing. The divorce may be filed in the either county in which the parties reside. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-8)
No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested divorce cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of North Carolina the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:
(A) Marriages may be dissolved and the parties thereto divorced from the bonds of matrimony on the application of either party, if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart for one year. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-5.1 and 50-6)
Filing Party Name: The Plaintiff. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the divorce and is the one who actually files the Complaint for Divorce with the county court.
Non-Filing Party Name: The Defendant. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested divorce versus a contested divorce. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.
Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: In the General Court of Justice, __________ Division, North Carolina, __________ County. All divorce cases in the state of North Carolina are facilitated through this court for that particular county.
Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a North Carolina clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: District Clerk's Office.
Property and Debt Division: North Carolina is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.
If the court determines that an equal division is not equitable, the court shall divide the marital property and divisible property equitably. The court shall consider all of the following factors under this subsection: (A) The income, property, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective. (B) Any obligation for support arising out of a prior marriage. (C) The duration of the marriage and the age and physical and mental health of both parties. (D) The need of a parent with custody of a child or children of the marriage to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects. (E) The expectation of pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property. (F) Any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of such marital property by the party not having title (G) Any direct or indirect contribution made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse. (H) Any direct contribution to an increase in value of separate property which occurs during the course of the marriage. (I) The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property and divisible property. (J) The difficulty of evaluating any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation or profession. (K) The tax consequences to each party. (L) Any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-20)
Changing Name: Any woman whose marriage is dissolved by a decree of absolute divorce may, upon application to the clerk of court of the county in which she resides setting forth her intention to do so, change her name to any of the following: (1) Her maiden name; or (2) The surname of a prior deceased husband; or (3) The surname of a prior living husband if she has children who have that husband's surname. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-12)
Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.
In determining the amount, duration, and manner of payment of alimony, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including: (A) The marital misconduct of either of the spouses. (B) The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses; (C) The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses; (D) The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others; (E) The duration of the marriage; (F) The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse; (G) The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child; (H) The standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage; (I) The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment (J) The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support; (K) The property brought to the marriage by either spouse; (L) The contribution of a spouse as homemaker; (M) The relative needs of the spouses; (N) The federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award; (O) Any other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper. (P) The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties' marital or divisible property. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-16)
Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the North Carolina courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.
An order for custody of a minor child entered shall award the custody of such child to such person, agency, organization or institution as will best promote the interest and welfare of the child. In making the determination, the court shall consider all relevant factors including acts of domestic violence between the parties, the safety of the child, and the safety of either party from domestic violence by the other party and shall make findings accordingly.
An order for custody must include findings of fact which support the determination of what is in the best interest of the child. Between the mother and father, whether natural or adoptive, no presumption shall apply as to who will better promote the interest and welfare of the child. Joint custody to the parents shall be considered upon the request of either parent. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-13.2)
Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the North Carolina child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.
Payments ordered for the support of a minor child shall be in such amount as to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, having due regard to the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of the particular case.
The court shall determine the amount of child support payments by applying the presumptive guidelines. However, upon request of any party, the Court shall hear evidence, and from the evidence, find the facts relating to the reasonable needs of the child for support and the relative ability of each parent to provide support. If, after considering the evidence, the Court finds by the greater weight of the evidence that the application of the guidelines would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support or would be otherwise unjust or inappropriate the Court may vary from the guidelines. If the court orders an amount other than the amount determined by application of the presumptive guidelines, the court shall make findings of fact as to the criteria that justify varying from the guidelines and the basis for the amount ordered. (North Carolina Statutes - Chapter 50 - Sections: 50-13.4)
Copyright Notice: These North Carolina divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.
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