“No Fault Divorces” in North Carolina
In North Carolina, a divorce involving no real or personal property is very simple. If you hire an attorney, you may not even have to appear in court. North Carolina is unique in that North Carolina law allow for both no fault divorce and fault based divorces. Contrary to popular belief, and the hit song by R & B singer Usher, there are no “papers” to sign, and no need to present any evidence of fault. (This article will only address no fault divorces in NC). There are a few requirements to be granted a “no fault” divorce in North Carolina. First, at least one party to the divorce must have resided in the state for at least six months. Second, the parties must live separate and apart for one year, with the intention to be separated permanently, (i.e. one party can’t be in Iraq serving in the military and the wife file for divorce if there is no intention to live separate permanently.)
However, there are a few important points to remember. If the parties reconcile, the one year period of separation will begin over again. But if there are a few isolated incidents of sex between the spouses, (i.e. you had a few drinks and were intimate with your spouse) this will generally not affect the one year separation period because the parties still intended to separate permanently.
Finally, I’ve had clients come to me and say the other spouse told them they filed for divorce online or some other out of the ordinary way. While you can get the divorce papers online through various different websites, you cannot divorce someone without serving notice (typically by sheriff) of the divorce action and filing the divorce at the courthouse. Proof must also be provided to the judge that the other spouse was in fact properly served. If a spouse has moved, and the spouse filing for divorce has no idea where the other spouse is, as a last resort, the filing spouse may serve by publication, which basically means that notice must be published in a local newspaper (you may want to consult an attorney for the specifics regarding service by publication)
After the non-filing spouse has been served, the non-filing spouse has 30 days to answer the complaint, but under certain circumstances, the non-filer may request additional time. If no answer is received, North Carolina law allows for a default judgment to be entered, meaning a judge will grant your divorce if they are provided proof, among other things that the other spouse was served properly and the one year separation requirement is met.