North Carolina Divorce Basics

Getting divorced in North Carolina? Here are the first things you'll need to learn about.

This article explains how to get divorced in North Carolina.

Grounds for Divorce

In North Carolina you may file for divorce if you have lived apart from your spouse for more than one year. You may also file on fault grounds, meaning you allege that the actions of your spouse have caused the breakdown of your marriage. Fault grounds include abandonment, cruel treatment, excessive drug or alcohol use, adultery, or incurable insanity.  

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

At least one spouse must be a North Carolina resident for six months or more before you can file for divorce. You must file the complaint in the county where one of the spouse lives. The court may grant your divorce no sooner than 30 days after your spouse is served with the complaint.

Property Division in North Carolina

North Carolina uses a system of equitable distribution to divide marital property and debts between spouses. This means that the court may award all or any part of the marital estate to either spouse based on what is fair and equitable. The judge may consider each spouse's income, property, and debts, the length of the marriage, the custodial parent's need to stay in the family home, and potential tax consequences to either spouse. Separate property acquired by either spouse before marriage, by gift or inheritance will remain the property of the spouse who acquired it.  


North Carolina courts may order one spouse to pay alimony for a limited or indefinite period of time. The judge will review several factors to determine the amount of the order, such as how long the parties were married and each spouse's occupation, income, education, and ability to become self supporting. You can find a complete list of factors here. You or your spouse may ask the court to modify an alimony order if either of your financial circumstances change significantly, unless the final judgment says that the order is non-modifiable.

Child Support

Both parents must financially support their children according to their respective abilities. Child support obligations continue until a child turns 18 or completes high school. In deciding the child support amount, the court will use the state guidelines as a starting point and will consider various factors including both parents' income and earning capacity, and the needs of the children. To persuade a court to modify a child support order, a parent must show a substantial change in circumstances or demonstrate that the support order deviates from the established child support guidelines. In North Carolina, child support orders are enforced by the North Carolina Division of Social Services.

Child Custody

North Carolina courts are guided by the best interests of the child when making a child custody order. This means the court will award custody to one parent solely or to both parents jointly after considering the child's safety and any history of domestic violence between the parents. The court's goal is to ensure that the child is in a stable and supportive environment. Parents may submit a joint parenting plan to the court setting forth how they plan to share responsibilities of caring for the child. If the plan is satisfactory, the court will adopt the plan as its order. Either parent may request to modify custody if circumstances change and it is in the child's best interest.

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