In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to get an uncontested divorce in North Carolina.
Reaching agreements with your soon-to-be-ex might seem daunting. It requires compromises on both sides. But if you can find a way to check your emotions at the door and focus on resolving your differences, you can save a ton of time and money.
Let’s get started.
- What is an Uncontested Divorce?
- Steps to an Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina
- How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
- How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
- Do I Have to go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce?
- FAQs About Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina
What is an Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina?
An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse agree on all the terms of your divorce before your divorce is finalized.
Many couples choose this method because it is the cheapest and quickest means to ending a marriage.
In North Carolina, an uncontested divorce is known as an absolute divorce. The word “absolute” carries no special meaning. It is simply the way that state laws are written.
To file for an uncontested divorce, one party can file a case on “no-fault” grounds. This means that no specific reason for the divorce needs to be stated or that one spouse or the other needs to prove the reason the marriage no longer works.
Before you can file for an uncontested divorce in North Carolina, you must have lived physically apart from your spouse for at least one year. Also, at least one spouse must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months.
Steps to an Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina
Here’s an overview of the uncontested divorce process in North Carolina.
Assuming one of you meets residency requirements, you’ll need documentation as part of your case. This information will be used to determine child support and alimony, how debts and assets should be divided, and other key elements of your settlement negotiations.
The more thorough you are, the smoother your process should be. Take the time necessary to gather personal information, banking documents, income and expense information, child-related expenses, tax and real estate records, retirement account info, insurance policies, estate planning documents, and more.
For a complete list of the information to gather, check out our Ultimate Divorce Checklist.
Complete the Initial Paperwork
You will need to complete several forms and submit them to the court to begin your divorce. At a minimum, you’ll need to complete the following in North Carolina:
- Complaint For Absolute Divorce
- Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet (Form AOC-CV-750)
- Civil Summons (Form AOC-CV-100)
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Affidavit (Form AOC-G-250)
Additional paperwork may be required if you have children or other special circumstances. The Clerk of Court where you file will be able to help you determine what additional forms you’ll need to complete.
If you are the spouse who files, you are known as the plaintiff. Your spouse becomes the defendant.
As you go through the process, you may also need to complete additional forms, including:
- Notice of Hearing
- Judgment of Absolute Divorce
- Waiver and Answer (optional)
- Affidavit of Service of Process by Registered or Certified Mail (optional)
- Certificate of Absolute Divorce (DHHS 2089/Vital Records). You will get this form from the courtroom clerk on the day you come to court for your divorce hearing.
When you submit your documents, you need to pay filing fees as well.
Here’s some additional information on the forms you may need to use.
Serve the Complaint
In North Carolina, the venue where you file for divorce is the Superior or District Court. Your case should be filed in the county where either party resides.
After you file your paperwork you must arrange for the Summons and Complaint for Absolute Divorce to be served on the defendant. You cannot deliver this paperwork yourself.
Instead, you must use one of the following methods:
- Service by Sheriff
- Service by certified mail, return receipt requested
- Acceptance of service
Filing a Response
The defendant has 30 days to file an Answer to your case. If an Answer is filed, you will be notified. If the Answer raises any issues or counterclaims, you now have a contested divorce and you should consider consulting an attorney.
Exchange Financial Disclosures
As part of your discussions with your spouse, you should both complete and exchange financial affidavits. This is important information the courts will need to see to ensure that the assets have been equitably divided.
Financial disclosures are a complete accounting of your marital finances. This includes detailed information on bank accounts, income, real property, homes, cars, business interests, retirement accounts, and so forth.
Debts, other pending obligations, what you consider to be separate vs marital property, and any encumbrances that will have an impact on how financial issues should be resolved must also be noted.
Read More: A Guide to Divorce Financial Planning
Complete a Settlement Agreement
The court will want to see a fair settlement agreement that one or both of you have completed. You will both need to indicate that you approve of the agreement.
Sometimes, couples do this early in the process. At other times, it is necessary to work through unresolved issues before you can draft a settlement agreement.
The key when putting together a settlement agreement is to think cooperatively instead of approaching it as an adversarial task. Compromise is the key.
More Information – What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in North Carolina?
Two weeks after filing your documents with the Clerk, check back to determine if the defendant has been served. If you served your spouse by certified mail, the date of service will be on the return receipt card.
Normally, a defendant has 30 days to file an Answer with the court or request a motion for an extension of time to file an Answer. There is a 30-day waiting period that begins after the defendant files an Answer or at the end of 30 days when no Answer is filed.
If the divorce is uncontested, the defendant does have the option to waive the 30-day period by submitting a Waiver and Answer form. The defendant would have to complete this form and file it with the Clerk of Court, also serving a copy on the plaintiff.
When this period expires, the Clerk’s office will set a hearing date. The exact length of time will vary depending on the judge’s availability, backlogs, and so forth.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
When you file your forms, you will also pay a filing fee of $225. If you want to resume using your maiden name, there will be an additional $10 you’ll have to pay. You will also need to pay $30 to have the Sheriff serve the defendant or $7 to serve the defendant by certified mail.
If you can’t afford to pay the fees, you can request a fee waiver by filing a Petition to Proceed as an Indigent (AOC-G106) and submit your request to the court.
The Clerk of Court may require you to show proof that you cannot afford the fee, but the Clerk is supposed to waive the fee upon a reasonable showing. Make sure you sign the petition in the presence of a Notary Public and have the form notarized. Also, be aware that you could be in contempt of court if you give false information on this form.
Do I Have to go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, you are required to go to court and attend a final divorce hearing.
After the Clerk’s office gives the plaintiff a court date, the plaintiff must complete a Notice of Hearing form to send the defendant the date of the divorce hearing. The Notice of Hearing form must be delivered to the defendant at least ten days before the court date
At the hearing, when the judge calls your name, you should stand up and tell the judge you are present. The Judge will ask if the defendant is present. If the defendant does not appear, the judge will proceed without him/her.
The judge will briefly ask questions about the marriage of both parties. If the judge is satisfied with the testimony, he/she will sign the Judgment of Absolute Divorce, ending the marriage.
North Carolina Uncontested Divorce FAQ
What are the grounds for divorce in North Carolina?
North Carolina allows both no-fault and fault-based divorces.
No-fault divorces are preferred because no specific reason or grounds must be given to get a divorce. You simply state you can no longer get along with your spouse, and you’ll be able to get a divorce. This is the route that people seeking uncontested divorce use.
Some couples prefer to state a specific reason for divorce. The state allows marital misconduct or incurable insanity as valid reasons for divorce.
North Carolina is also somewhat unique in that it also allows for a divorce from bed and board. This form of fault-based divorce centers around several possible forms of abandonment, cruel treatment, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, or adultery. This is considered a partial divorce. The spouses remain in the marital relationship, and they can’t marry someone else. Also, the court decides some, but not all, of the marital issues.
Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce in North Carolina?
No. Retaining an attorney is not mandatory to get divorced in North Carolina. In uncontested divorces where both parties agree to work together, they can often resolve any disagreements by themselves.
This saves time, expenses, and anxiety versus adding a lawyer to the mix.
Many people start the process by using an online service to ensure that forms are completed properly and that any glaring questions are answered during the process.
However, if you run into legal problems, or you and your spouse start to bicker, don’t hesitate to call an attorney. Above all else, you need to make sure your legal rights in a divorce are fully protected at all times.
Should I use an online divorce service to file for divorce in North Carolina?
Figuring out how to complete all the paperwork can be tricky and time-consuming. If you’re willing to invest the time to figure out how to do it yourself, then by all means go for it.
But if you’re like most people, using an online divorce service to simplify the process is money well spent. Think of it like doing your taxes. Sure you can try to do it yourself, but you’re much better off using a service like Turbo Tax.
So which online divorce service should you choose?
You can read our full review and comparison of the 10 best online divorce services here.
Can I get divorced in North Carolina even if I was married in another state?
All you have to do is meet the separation and residency requirements and you can get divorced in North Carolina no matter where you were married.
What if I reconcile with my spouse?
If you work things out with your spouse and your divorce isn’t final yet, you can petition the court to dismiss your case by filing a Voluntary Dismissal (court form AOC-CV-405).
Filing a Voluntary Dismissal stops the case and can be filed at any time before the Judge enters a decision.
However, if you voluntarily dismiss your case and later decide you want to move forward with divorce again, you must start the process over.
What if my spouse does not want a divorce but I do?
It only takes one of you to want a divorce in North Carolina. You can’t be forced to stay married if you don’t want to.
What are the laws regarding dating and getting married again?
You can start dating again once you’re separated but be careful because this could be used to claim adultery against you. You can’t get married again until your divorce is final.
What are the factors used to determine the amount and whether or not alimony should be awarded in a North Carolina divorce?
1. Marital misconduct including adultery
2. Relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties
3. The ages, physical, mental and emotional health of the parties
4. The amount and sources of income of both spouses
5. The duration of the marriage
6. The contribution of one spouse to the education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse
7. The extent that serving as a child’s custodian will affect a party’s earning power
8. The standard of living established during the marriage
9. The relative education of the parties and the time necessary for a party to acquire sufficient education or training to meet his or her reasonable needs
10. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties
11. Any other relevant factor