“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” — Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home

The only way to divorce one’s spouse in North Carolina is upon a year of separation. After you and your spouse have lived apart—in two separate households—for at least one (1) year, and without resuming your marital relationship, either you or your spouse may obtain an absolute divorce. This year of separation is a jurisdictional prerequisite for seeking divorce in North Carolina.

The Specifics of Absolute Divorce

A divorce judgment entered with less than one year of separation is void. Similarly, you and your spouse cannot simply “agree” to divorce in a separation and property settlement agreement. You may settle the issue in your case by agreement, but a lawsuit is required to secure an absolute divorce, and only a judge can dissolve your marriage.

From the perspective of preserving your legal right to seek a divorce, the question becomes whether your actions constitute the “resumption of the marital relationship” during the year apart. Just as the conclusion of a year’s separation is a question of fact for the court, so too is the conclusion that you and your spouse may have resumed your marital relationship at any time during that year. This does not mean you must avoid your spouse entirely during your year of separation. The end of a marriage is a tough, emotional journey, and you cannot expect to never see your spouse again upon separation. If you find that you spend more and more time together after separating-if you vacation together or attend marriage counseling-then we strongly urge you to speak with your attorney first.

After the Lawsuit Is Filed

Once either you or your spouse files a lawsuit for absolute divorce, the other party will be served with the summons and complaint. If your spouse does not file an answer, we can typically secure your divorce within six (6) weeks of filing the complaint. The amount of time it will take for you to obtain an absolute divorce and the exact court procedures vary from county to county.

Contact Us

Throughout the separation process, your lawyer can advise you of the legal consequences of your decisions and help you plan the future of your case accordingly. Our veteran team of attorneys will take the time to explain the procedures and specifics of your case to you. For more information on this process, contact a member of our team or visit our Wilmington location.