A Guide For Filing Divorce in North Carolina

How to file for divorce in NC?

The divorce process is often complicated and usually involves personal matters and financial considerations. When thinking about a divorce you will need to consider child visitation, child support, and division of assets. You may be feeling overwhelmed and ready to move on with your life as quickly as possible, but hopefully, this step-by-step guide will help you feel more at ease.

Before filing for divorce in North Carolina, it is essential that you meet the following qualifications:

  • You must live separately from your partner for at least one year
  • You have to be a resident of North Carolina for at least six months


  • A couple that decides they want a divorce first has to become separated. This is a physical separation, which requires that the couple isn’t cohabitating.
  • This is an aspect that is often hard for some to understand. Different grounds may be cited to obtain a legal separation. If particular circumstances make a living with a spouse intolerable (i.e., if a spouse abandons the other, abuses drugs, commits adultery, or engages in barbarous behavior), the spouse can obtain a divorce from bed and board.
  • Legal separation doesn’t allow a spouse to remarry, but a legally separated spouse may obtain orders for:
    • Post-separation support and permanent alimony
    • Asset division
    • Child custody
    • Child support
    • Divorce


Before beginning this process, fill out these documents:

  • Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
  • Civil Summons
  • “Complaint For Absolute Divorce”

All of the forms will have a blank for “Plaintiff” and “Defendant.” The person asking the court for a divorce is the plaintiff, and the spouse responding to the request is the defendant. Keep in mind that some of these forms must be signed in the presence of a Notary Public.

After completing these forms, make at least two copies of everything. The court will keep one copy, one copy will be delivered to your spouse, and you should keep one for your records.

Filing your forms

You will submit your arrangements with the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where you live. You can find the exact costs on the North Carolina Courts website or by calling your Clerk of Court’s office. You may file a Petition to Sue or Appeal as an Indigent if you are unable to pay the fee.

Serving the forms

A copy of your divorce paperwork will be served to your spouse by the Sheriff’s department in your county. You are required to pay a service fee unless your fee is waived.

You must wait a full 30 days after the date your spouse is served before you can go forward with your case. The 30 days allows your spouse an opportunity to respond to your divorce papers. You can contact the Sheriff’s department to find out the exact date the papers were served.

The hearing

After receiving confirmation that the paperwork was delivered to your spouse (and you have the date of service), return to the Clerk of Court’s office in your county with a bank Notice of Hearing. After this, the Clerk’s office will schedule a date and time for your hearing. You must fill in the hearing date and time on the Notice of Hearing and deliver a copy of this form to your spouse at least ten days before the hearing date.

You must bring two copies of a Judgement of Absolute Divorce and a Certificate of Absolute Divorce with you to court on the date of your hearing. The court doesn’t provide these forms, but you may get copies from Legal Aid of North Carolina. During your trial, be prepared to get asked several questions regarding your marriage and separation. At the end of the trial, the judge will sign the divorce documents, and your divorce will be final.

It is possible to go through the divorce process without an attorney, but it is important to point out that you will need to talk to a lawyer if you want these rights:

  • Child Custody
  • Visitation
  • Legal separation
  • Support (Child Support or Alimony)
  • Division of Pensions, Joint Savings Accounts, and Retirement Plans
  • >Equitable Distribution or Division of Marital Property (dividing things which both you and your spouse own together)

*If you get a divorce without settling these matters, you may lose your rights.

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