How to Obtain a Divorce in North Carolina
By A.K. Jayne
If you wish to obtain a divorce in North Carolina, you can hire an attorney to handle the process for you or you can file on your own. If you opt to represent yourself in divorce proceedings, you will be known as a "pro se" litigant. You file divorce papers in the North Carolina county where you reside. Because specific rules for filing can vary from county to county, North Carolina State University suggests that you contact your county's clerk of court before you proceed with a divorce action.
Review residency requirements for your North Carolina county. You need to meet a six-month residency requirement. In addition, you and your spouse have to live apart in separate homes for one year and one day before an uncontested divorce can be filed.
Prepare a complaint for filing in North Carolina. Typically, North Carolina county courts will have this document and other papers needed for a divorce filing available for download. You will include information such as your marriage and separation dates, a listing of marital assets and debts, and the names and birth dates of your minor children.
Complete additional paperwork as required by the North Carolina county where you reside. For example, in Wake County, you need to fill out a civil action cover sheet and a civil summons. In Durham County, you complete an affidavit of judicial assignment, which is where you verify whether or not any other legal matters are pending in court for you or your spouse, along with a certificate of judgment.
File the divorce papers with the county court clerk. Take the packet of papers to the clerk for a date stamp. The clerk will keep a copy for the court's file and return the others to you so you can have them served. When you file, you will also pay a filing fee.
Serve the summons and complaint on your spouse. You can take them to the Sheriff's Department for service or serve them yourself by sending them to your spouse via certified mail. If you mail them, keep your white post office receipt and green return receipt card that is signed by your spouse as proof of delivery.
Request a date for your divorce hearing. In North Carolina, this is done once you have received the summons back from the sheriff or the green return receipt card in the mail. For example, in Wake County, the earliest hearing date you can get is 30 days after the service date. The service date is not the date you filed your divorce papers, but the date when your spouse received them. You will be assigned your court date by mailing in a request form to the court. In some North Carolina counties, such as Durham County, you first call a family court employee to be given an available date before filling out the request form.
Attend your divorce hearing. The process entails testifying to the information in the divorce complaint after being sworn in by a clerk. If there are minor children involved, the status of their custody and support will be discussed. Should the judge grant your divorce, she will sign the certificate of judgment. You should provide the court with three copies of the judgment.
Serve a signed copy of the divorce judgment on your spouse. This can be done via mail or by the Sheriff, just as with the summons and complaint. Keep one copy of the judgment in a safe place. One copy remains with the court.
If you want to use your maiden name after your divorce is granted, you need to request it in your complaint. You can use your certificate of judgment to get a new driver's license or credit cards once your divorce is final.
A.K. Jayne has written and edited print and online content since 2006. In addition, she has legal assistant/paralegal experience in areas including wills and trusts and family law. Her articles have appeared in the "Philadelphia Inquirer," "New Jersey Record" and "Burlington County Times." Jayne completed an Associated Press internship and is an alumna of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.