Either spouse must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce. Divorce may be filed for in the county of residence of either spouse.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina
- No Fault Divorce: Living separate and apart without cohabitation for 1 year.
[General Statutes of North Carolina; Chapter 50, Section 50-6]
- General Divorce:
- Confinement for incurable insanity for 3 years
- Incurable mental illness based on examinations for 3 years
Legal Separation in North Carolina
The grounds for legal separation (divorce from bed and board) are as follows:
- Alcoholism or drug addiction
- Cruel and inhuman treatment endangering the life of the spouse
- Personal indignities rendering life burdensome and intolerable
- Turning a spouse out-of-doors
Either spouse must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce from bed and board.
Simplified/Special Divorce Procedures
There are no legal provisions in North Carolina for simplified divorce procedures. However, premarital and marital property settlement agreements are specifically recognized as valid. The payment or non-payment of alimony may be the subject of a marital settlement agreement.
Divorce Mediation or Counseling Requirements
If child custody is a contested issue, the court may order the parents to submit to mandatory mediation of that issue.
Divorce Property Distribution
North Carolina is an “equitable distribution” state. Separate property, including:
- Any property acquired before the marriage
- Any gifts and inheritances acquired during the marriage
- Any property acquired in exchange for separate property
- Any increase in the value of separate property, will be retained by the spouse who owns it
Marital property (property acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage and before the separation, including any pension or retirement fund benefits) will be divided equally unless the court finds that an equal division is not fair. The division is based on the following factors:
- Any direct or indirect contributions to the career or education of the other spouse
- Any depletion or waste of property
- The net value of the property
- The liquid or non-liquid character of the property
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker
- The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective
- Any increase or decrease in the value of the separate property of the spouse during the marriage or the depletion of the separate property for marital purposes
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of the spouses
- The federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of the property
- Liabilities of the spouses
- Any retirement benefits, including social security, civil service, military and railroad retirement benefits
- Any prior alimony or child support obligations of each spouse
- The desirability of the spouse with custody of any children occupying the marital residence
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the spouses
Alimony and Spousal Support
Either spouse may be awarded alimony. The factors for consideration are:
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market and their incomes
- The mental, physical, and emotional conditions of the spouses
- The marital misconduct of the spouses
- The ages of the spouses
- The contribution of 1 spouse to the education, training, or earning power of the other spouse
- The effect of a spouse having primary custody of a child
- The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary for a spouse to acquire sufficient education or training to become self-sufficient
- The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker
- The tax consequences
- Any other factor the court deems just and equitable
The court may require bond for security for the alimony payments. Alimony may not be paid to the spouse committing adultery.
Upon request, the court may allow a woman to resume the use of her former or maiden name. A woman may also make application to the clerk of the court for resumption of the use of her maiden or former name.
Joint or sole child custody is determined according to the interests and welfare of the child. There is no presumption that either parent is better suited to have custody. No other factors for consideration are specified in the statute.
Both parents are primarily responsible for the support of a minor child and either parent may be ordered to pay child support. The factors to be considered are:
- The needs of the child
- The earnings, estate, conditions, and accustomed standard of living of the child and the parents
- The childcare and homemaker contributions of each parent
- Any other relevant factors. There are official child support guidelines which are presumed to be correct, unless there is a showing that the amount of support would be unjust or inappropriate
Child support worksheets are also provided. Child support payments may be required to be paid through the clerk of the court. Income withholding may be used if child support payments become delinquent. Child support obligations may be required to be secured by a bond or mortgage. The court may require a parent to provide health insurance coverage for a child.