North Carolina’s divorce waiting period: what to expect

One benefit of North Carolina’s no-fault divorce law is that you no longer have to put your personal life into the public record. In the old days, you had no choice but to provide evidence that your spouse has been neglectful or malicious, or is suffering from “incurable insanity” to be granted a divorce.

The tradeoff is, if you want to file for no-fault divorce in North Carolina, you will have to wait a while. Before you or your spouse can file, you must be separated and living in different residences for at least one year.

Why a separation period before divorce?

While most states have some form of a waiting period, North Carolina’s is one of the longest and most restrictive. For example, Georgia does not have a separation period requirement. Virginia has a one-year requirement, but that can be reduced to six months by mutual consent of the spouses if the couple has no children.

The reasons for this forced delay are not clear. It could have been a type of compromise when lawmakers introduced no-fault divorce to North Carolina. No-fault divorce tends to make it easier to get divorced; a long waiting period makes it more difficult. Another motivation could have been to give couples time to work out their differences if one spouse is not sure they want a divorce.

The implications of having to wait

If you are ready for divorce, the delay could be more than an inconvenience. It could affect how your division of property is handled. You may not be able to make large purchases during this time. If you have children, you will need to arrange for temporary child custody and visitation.

Just because your divorce might not take place for a year does not mean you can’t start preparing today. An experienced divorce attorney will know how to use this time to its fullest benefit, so you will be ready to file as soon as you are eligible.