How to File for Divorce in North Carolina – Step by Step Process

Because every state has different requirements when filing for divorce, it is important to know how the process works in North Carolina. This will allow a person to know what to expect when going through a divorce, including the necessary documents and the timeframes involved. North Carolina is a “no-fault” state for divorce, meaning no partner has to take the “blame” or give justification when they decide to file.

The Divorce Process in North Carolina

Every divorce will be slightly different depending on what kind of divorce it is, if there are disputes, and other details. Divorce in North Carolina generally follows a specific procedure.

Ensuring You Are Eligible

Before filing for divorce, there are a few requirements that a couple must meet to be eligible. One of the most important is the mandatory separation period. In North Carolina, a married couple is not legally allowed to divorce until they have been living separately for one full year. In addition to the separation requirements, one or both spouses must have been living in North Carolina for at least six months. This is necessary to fulfill the residency requirement.

Fill Out and File the Correct Paperwork

After being separated for one year and making sure that you meet the state’s residency requirements, you can then begin the process of filing for divorce in North Carolina. You will need to fill out multiple documents, including an official complaint for divorce and a civil summons. These documents will detail your basic information and give the court a better understanding of your situation. After you have filled out all the required paperwork correctly, you can file with your local court. You will have to pay a fee of $225 to file your official complaint for divorce.

Serve Spouse

Once you file your official complaint, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the divorce papers. You are not legally allowed to serve the papers yourself and must do so through one of the methods approved by the state. These methods include going through your county sheriff, sending the papers through a certified mail service, or having an adult over the age of 18 who is not involved with the case deliver the papers. In the rare case that you are unaware of your spouse’s current location, you can alert them through a publication such as a newspaper.


After properly notifying your spouse, they will have 30 days to respond to the papers you sent. They can either agree with the terms you set out or contest them if they do not. If your spouse agrees, you may be able to have what is known as a “simplified divorce,” which is a much quicker, more simplified version of a divorce. This can only be granted to couples without children, though. Otherwise, spouses who reach an agreement quickly have an “uncontested divorce.”

If your spouse disagrees with the terms that you laid out in your divorce complaint, they can contest them. If they decide to contest, this means that decisions on matters such as child custody, alimony, and property division will be left up to the court. You both will have to go through litigation, state how you believe each matter should be handled, and then wait for the court to make an ultimate decision on each matter. This is known as a “contested divorce.”

Final Judgement

After hearing each spouse’s final arguments from their attorneys, the judge will make a final decision on all matters pertaining to the divorce. From there, they will go over all the terms of the divorce and ensure that everything was done legally and correctly. Once the judge has approved everything, they will sign your divorce order, which is then finalized.


Q: How Long Does It Take to File for Divorce in North Carolina?

A: The divorce process itself is not always exceedingly long in North Carolina, but a couple does have to live separately for one full year before they divorce. From there, the actual legal process of a divorce can take anywhere from a few months to a year or longer, depending on disputes and court dates.

Q: Do I Need an Attorney to Get Divorced in North Carolina?

A: While you do not legally need an attorney to get divorced in North Carolina, it is in your best interest to have an experienced family law attorney on your side—especially if your divorce is contested. An attorney can not only help you file correctly, but they can also represent you in court to ensure that you receive a fair deal.

Q: What Happens If My Spouse Doesn’t Respond to the Papers They Were Served?

A: Your spouse has 30 days to make a decision and respond to the divorce complaint they were served. You may not serve the spouse yourself but must go through state-approved channels. If they do not respond in the allotted time, you can file for “divorce by default,” where the court will take over making the decisions.

Q: Can I Change My Name at the Time of My Divorce?

A: Yes. If you wish to change your last name, you can do so when filing your complaint for divorce. It costs an additional $10 when filing. A family law attorney can advise you on the process. When changing your last name, you must be sure that you do so on all legal documents and financial accounts.

Parsons Law, PA: Divorce Attorneys That You Can Depend On

At Parsons Law, PA, we understand how complex getting a divorce in North Carolina can be. That is why we offer a variety of legal services to help you through difficult times. From property division to child custody, there are a wide range of important aspects you need to take care of when getting divorced. With the help of our expert family law attorneys, you can trust that your case will be in the right hands. Contact us today for more information on Parsons Law, PA, and our services.