North Carolina Divorce Laws

As with most states, residency and grounds for divorce are the first consideration in filing.  If jurisdiction is not shown to be valid, the case will not be heard or will eventually be dismissed.

In North Carolina, either the plaintiff, the filing spouse, or the defendant, the non-filing spouse, must show residency in the state for six months prior to filing.  Filing  for divorce in North Carolina should be done in the county of either spouse.  Below are the divorce laws currently in place.

Who Can File for Divorce and On What Grounds

  • No-fault:  A marriage may be dissolved as a no-fault divorce initiated by either party.  The spouses must maintain separate residences for a period of one year prior to filing.
  • Fault:  A marriage can be dissolved if one spouse commits an act such as: abandonment, malicious removal of other spouse form home, cruel or barbarous treatment of the other spouse, this includes cases of mental, and physical abuse.  If the non-filing spouse becomes a drug user or addict to the point of rendering their spouses life intolerable.  Dissolution of marriage can also be filed on the grounds of adultery.

Division of Property

Property distribution in the state of North Carolina is handled in an equitable fashion.  Equitable is defined as fair not necessarily equal.  Spouses are encouraged to discuss their property and debt issues and reach a fair settlement, on their own.   Barring that, the court will declare the division of debt and assets as it sees fit.  The court will declare an equal division based on net value of joint property and debt, unless an equal division is found to not be equitable, several factors are considered to determine an equitable division:

  • Income, individual property and financial liabilities of each party at the effective date of the division.
  • Contributions by one spouse to educate or further the career of the other spouse.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • The retirement expectations of either party, which are not considered marital property.
  • Support obligations from a prior marriage.
  • Any direct contribution to a separate property which occurs during the marriage.
  • Any other factor that the court finds to be relevant to their decision.

Child Custody

Mediation or counseling may be set forth by the court to decide matters such as custody or visitation.  Matters of finance will not be mediated, but will be decided by the courts as necessary.  When minor children are affected by a divorce, every effort is made to minimize the emotional aftereffects.  Custody shall be awarded to the individual(s) who are best able to promote the best interest and welfare of the child.  All relevant factors such as safety, previous acts of domestic violence and safety of the overall situation will be deliberated.


Child support will be determined based on the Income Shares Model.  The determined amount is divided proportionally with regard to each parent’s income.  Payments will consider support of the child insofar as maintenance of funds for health, education, maintenance and the established standard of living.

Spousal support is not an automatic right in any divorce case in North Carolina.  The need for, duration and amount will be determined by the court based on several relevant factors, such as:

  • Impact of caring for a minor child on the earning potential of the custodial spouse.
  • Standard of living to which the requesting spouse has become accustomed.
  • Marital misconduct of either spouse during the marriage, this does not preclude the notion of support but can influence the decision.
  • Contribution by one spouse to the other insofar as education support or career advancement assistance.
  • The age and condition, physical, mental and emotional of both spouses.
  • Any other factors deemed relevant by the presiding court.