How do North Carolina courts handle same-sex divorce?

If you live in North Carolina and your same-sex marriage is ending, you may wonder whether the state’s courts handle the dissolution of gay marriages differently than heterosexual unions.

North Carolina recognizes both same-sex marriage and couples’ rights to divorce; however, there are a few laws in place that could define your union, whether any laws protect you from domestic violence and how courts might divide your property as your marriage ends.

Domestic violence laws may not protect you

If you are ending your marriage because of your partner’s violence toward you, North Carolina courts may not offer you protection. The Guardian reported that the state only recognizes domestic violence when the offender is of the opposite sex. As such, you might not be able to gain a protective order against your spouse.

Courts only recognize legal unions

North Carolina courts do not consider cohabitation as a legal union, so in order to move ahead with divorce proceedings, you and your spouse must have entered into a legal union at some point in your relationship. Courts in the state may allow divorce if you were in a common-law marriage, but only if you both claimed residency in another state before seeking a divorce in North Carolina.

Traditional shared property rules often apply

The state courts treat property in a same-sex divorce much in the same way as they do heterosexual splits. Under the Equitable Distribution law, the judge uses his or her own discretion to divide the property you and your ex-spouse gained during the marriage. Property you owned before the marriage will likely not be part of the distribution.

Some jurisdictions may have their own rules regarding same-sex divorce, so it is wise to review them before you proceed with ending your marriage.