There are only two grounds for a claim for Absolute Divorce in North Carolina: separation for one year, and incurable insanity. The great majority of people filing for divorce will file based on separation for one year. Let’s first address the requirements for separation in North Carolina.
Contrary to what many believe, you do not have to file for separation in North Carolina. In order to begin the period of separation, the spouses must begin living separate and apart (which usually means establishing separate residences), and at least one spouse must intend for the separation to be permanent. In order to establish a date of separation, it can be helpful to keep records indicating the date one spouse established a separate residence (e.g. lease, new mortgage, utility bills, etc.).
Once the parties have been separated for one year, one party may file for divorce. Since Absolute Divorce in North Carolina is not fault based, a divorce can only be contested if specific facts are stated incorrectly in the Complaint for Divorce, such as the date of marriage, date of separation, or residency of the parties (at least one party must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing for divorce). Additionally, the party filing for divorce must have a Civil Summons issued, and must complete a Service Member Relief Act Affidavit.
Once a divorce complaint and other required paperwork has been filed, it must be served on the other party by one of the means prescribed by the North Carolina Rules of Evidence. Upon service of process, the other party has thirty days to respond, and may ask for an additional thirty days by filing a Motion for Extension of Time. Once an Answer is filed, or the time to answer expires, a Motion for Summary Judgment can be filed asking the Court to grant the divorce, as long as none of the facts in the Complaint were disputed by the other party’s Answer. If the filings and process were done correctly, the divorce will be granted on the Motion for Summary Judgment, and a Judgment of Absolute Divorce will be entered.
There are several claims that may accompany a divorce, and it is important to speak with an attorney regarding what claims you may need to file prior to your divorce being granted.