Is a Court Appearance Necessary for a Divorce Online in North Carolina?

By Victoria McGrath

Man standing on boardwalk at beach, North Carolina

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As long as you live separately from your spouse for a year and are a resident of North Carolina for six months prior to the filing a divorce action, you can obtain an absolute divorce in the state. During your separation period, you generally work out the terms of your divorce, including property division, custody and support with your spouse. If you cannot reach an agreement regarding these terms, you will have to go to trial. However, if you and your spouse do reach an agreement, once the 12-month separation period ends, you can file for your absolute divorce online or use a legal online document provider to prepare and file your paperwork. Whether or not you have to appear in court for a hearing depends on the county in which you file.

Absolute Divorce Hearing

Most North Carolina counties require at least one spouse to make a brief court appearance and present live testimony, but a few counties do not. In the counties that do not require a court appearance, the judge reviews your file and uses the information provided in your divorce papers to confirm that you fulfilled the legal requirements for an absolute divorce. If you meet all the requirements, he can just sign the judgment.

Mecklenburg County

Mecklenburg County is one county in which you do not need to appear in court for an absolute divorce as long as you meet all of the requirements for divorce. You or your spouse must be a resident of this county for the local court to have jurisdiction over your case. The court reviews your completed case documents and verifies that you have been separated for at least a year and that you or your spouse have resided in the state for at least six months before filing your divorce complaint. For the judge to sign a judgment, along with your complaint and other divorce paperwork, the court requires proof of service or a waiver of service -- and your case must not have any unresolved material issues.

Union County

In Union County, the court will set a date for the judge to review your absolute divorce file. However, you are not assigned a specific date or time to appear and present your case to the court. On your scheduled date, the judge reviews all of the documentation that you submitted for your absolute divorce. If you divorce case includes all the required information, the judge signs the judgment for an absolute divorce -- and the court mails you a copy in a self-addressed envelope that you provide. The court will send a copy to your spouse, if you provide a an envelope addressed to your spouse; otherwise, you must mail your spouse a copy of the judgment. If you do not provide all of the mandatory documents, the judge may deny your request for an absolute divorce. After determining the reason for denial, you may need to start your case over again to remedy any errors.

Durham County and Other Counties

In other counties in North Carolina, such as Durham County, you are typically required to show up to court and give live testimony to prove that you qualify for an absolute divorce. Some counties require the sworn testimony of at least one spouse. Rules on court appearances and live testimony vary from county to county. When you testify at the court hearing, you must confirm your date of separation and state that either you or your spouse intended the separation to be permanent at the time that you separated. In all North Carolina counties, if you have a separate, court-approved agreement that pertains to property division, spousal support, child support or child custody, you must attach it to your complaint if you want the judge to incorporate it into your judgment for absolute divorce.