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North Carolina

Grounds for Divorce Under North Carolina Divorce Laws

North Carolina divorce laws allow for married couples to divorce for the following reasons:

  1. The incurable insanity or mental illness of one of the spouses, or
  2. The parties living separate and apart for a period of one year

Residency Requirements

In order to file for divorce in North Carolina (the first state to have miniature golf, Pepsi, and also the state where Babe Ruth hit his first ever home run), it is necessary for at least one of you to be a resident of the State for at least six months immediately prior to the institution of the action for divorce.

Name of Court, Venue and Title of Action/Parties

In North Carolina, you may file for divorce in either the county where you live or that in which your spouse lives.  A Complaint for Divorce is filed in either the Superior or District Court.  The title of the action initiating the divorce proceeding is the Complaint for Divorce, while the title of the action granting the divorce is the Decree of Divorce. The person filing for divorce is the Plaintiff, while the other person is the Defendant.

Simplified Divorce Procedure

If the parties are seeking a divorce on the grounds of having lived apart from each other for a period of at least one year, and both of you have agreed to all terms of the divorce, leaving no issues to be decided by the court, the court may grant the divorce, based upon affidavits and pleadings filed by the parties. It won’t be necessary to assert in the complaint that the grounds for divorce have existed for at least six months prior to the filing of the complaint.

Legal Separation

North Carolina divorce laws allow a judgment of separation from bed and board (legal separation)  to be granted on the following grounds:

  • Abandonment of spouse or family
  • Maliciously turning the other spouse out of doors
  • Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other
  • Personal indignities making the life of the other spouse intolerable and burdensome
  • Excessive abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Adultery

Alimony

In the State of North Carolina, either party may be awarded alimony depending on which one of you is dependent on the other for financial support.

North Carolina divorce laws take adultery during the marriage into account when awarding alimony. Other factors the court will consider in determining the amount and duration of an award of alimony include:

  • Marital Misconduct
  • Relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties
  • The ages, physical, mental and emotional health of the parties
  • The amount and sources of income of both spouses
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The contribution of one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • The extent that serving as a child’s custodian will affect a party’s earning power, etc.
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The relative education of the parties and the time necessary for a party to acquire sufficient education or training to meet his or her reasonable needs
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
  • Any other relevant factor as deemed by the courts

Property Division

The following factors will be considered by the court when dividing the marital property between you and your spouse:

  • The income, property, and liabilities of the parties
  • Any obligation for support from a previous marriage
  • The duration of the marriage and the age, physical and mental health of the parties
  • The needs of the custodial parent
  • The expectation of pension, retirement or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property
  • The contribution to the education or earning potential of the other spouse
  • Any other factor the court deems just and proper.

Mediation

Whenever the court determines that custody is a contested issue in a divorce proceeding, the court shall order the parties to participate in a mediation program, if one is available. The purpose of mediation is to:

  • Reduce any hostility that exists between the parties
  • The development of custody and visitation agreements that are in the child’s best interests
  • To give you both the proper amount of information so that you may make informed decision regarding custody, visitation, and other important issues relating to your child/children
  • To provide a safe space where you can attempt to come to some sort of agreement or resolution of any disputes
  • To avoid re-litigation of custody and visitation matters. Or, in simple terms, to prevent having to return to court a second (or third) time to settle the matter of custody and visitation disputes. If you can settle these disputes the first time, you save yourself a lot of money, time, and headache.

Child Custody

Child custody will be determined according to the best interests of the child.  There is no presumption that one parent is better suited at that. The court will also consider the following in determining the child’s best interests:

  • Acts of domestic violence between the parties
  • The safety of the child
  • The safety of either parent from acts of domestic violence of the other parent

An order of child custody may also contain provisions for visitation rights for any grandparent of the child.

Child Support

According to North Carolina divorce laws, the court may order either parent to pay child support in such amounts reasonable for the health, education, and maintenance of the child. The decision will be made after consideration of the following factors:

  • Estates
  • Earnings
  • Conditions
  • Accustomed standard of living of child and parents
  • Child care
  • Any other issues related to the well-being of the child

North Carolina has enacted guidelines, which establish the amount of support presumed to be correct.  The court may deviate from the guidelines however, upon a finding that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate under the particular facts of the case.  If the court does deviate from the guidelines, it shall state its reasons for doing so in its order.

The court shall also order a party to provide health insurance for the child if such insurance is reasonably available.

Name Change

If one or both partners changed their name as a result of the marriage, they may request to have the name changed back to their previously held name such as maiden name or former spouse’s name.

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