2024 How to Get a Divorce in NC Without Waiting a Year?

2024 How to Get a Divorce in NC Without Waiting a Year?

When you and your spouse have made the decision that you would like to separate and divorce, you may be eager to resolve all the issues and finalize the process as quickly as possible. Questions may come up, like, how long does it take, or how can I get a divorce in North Carolina without waiting a year? At Kenny & Lowry, P.L.L.C., our experienced family law attorneys can help you better understand the divorce timeline.

Mandatory One-Year Separation Requirement

In North Carolina, there is a mandatory one-year separation requirement for all couples, even when the divorce is “uncontested”. This means that the spouses are required to live physically separate and apart, with the intent of at least one spouse to end the marriage, for one year, before they are eligible to file for divorce. There is no way to avoid the one-year waiting period.

This one-year separation period is a kind of “cooling-off” period when spouses can assess their feelings and take the time to ensure they want to divorce. During this separation period, couples are encouraged to create a separation agreement and reach a settlement on property division, alimony, child custody, and child support, before any divorce complaint is filed, so that if the parties decide to move forward with divorce, it will be a more amicable process.

Keep in mind that living together but in separate bedrooms within the same house does not meet the legal definition of separation, and if the couple moves back in together during the year of separation, the clock resets.

No-Fault Divorce State

North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning a couple can get a divorce without having to prove that one of them did something wrong. It just simply means that the couple considers the marriage is broken and can no longer be fixed.

North Carolina only allows for no-fault divorce or divorce based on incurable insanity, although the second is not very common. Divorce based on incurable insanity requires you and your spouse to have lived separately for at least three years due to their mental health, and either they have been institutionalized, or a judge found them “insane”. Additionally, you need the testimony of two specialty doctors to prove that your spouse is “incurably insane”.

What Rights are Impacted by a Divorce?

Equitable Distribution (division of assets and debts) and Postseparation Support and Alimony are forever extinguished with the entry of a Divorce Order, if these types of claims have not been properly resolved (through the signing of an agreement) or asserted (through the filing of a lawsuit) before the Divorce Order is signed by a Judge. Our experienced family law attorneys can explain these issues to you and help to preserve and protect your rights.

Child custody and child support are not impacted by the entry of a Divorce Order.

Divorce Timeline in North Carolina

To file for divorce after you live physically separate and apart for one year, you and your attorney will file a Complaint with the clerk of court in the county where you or your spouse live. The divorce papers will then be served to your spouse, and 30 days later, a court date can be requested.

If it is an uncontested divorce, the couple is in agreement on divorce-related issues before going to court, especially equitable distribution and alimony issues, then the court will most likely finalize the dissolution of the marriage during the court date.

If there are things you can’t decide upon, there may be a mediation period needed to decide on an agreement, and if you don’t reach an agreement, the court will have to decide, and the divorce becomes a “contested” divorce. Contested divorces lengthen the process and can take months or longer for it to be settled. Many issues couples can’t decide on are property distribution, spousal support, child custody, and child support. We strongly encourage couples to try and work through these issues during the one (1) year separation period, as you can begin to address all “divorce-related” issues during the separation period either by agreement or the filing of a lawsuit.

The way to get divorced quickly is for both spouses to be cooperative, to come to an agreement on key issues together, and to meet the legal requirements efficiently. It is recommended that you consult with an experienced divorce attorney in Gastonia, NC, to help you work through the legal process quickly, be aware of all your options, explain the process, and protect your family and your rights.


Q: How Do I Get an Immediate Divorce in North Carolina?

A: In North Carolina, getting a divorce involves several steps, so there is not a process for an “immediate” divorce. The state has a requirement that couples must live separately for one year before they can file for their no-fault divorce. The purpose of this is to make sure the couple is truly invested in getting a divorce.

Q: Can You Get a Divorce in North Carolina Without Being Separated for a Year?

A: No, since North Carolina only allows for no-fault divorce, the state requires at least one year of separation. The state requires this year-long separation to make sure that the couple is thoroughly invested in continuing with the divorce. Choosing to live separately shows the intent of ending the marriage.

Q: Is There a Way to Speed Up the Divorce in North Carolina?

A: When one spouse has been served with the divorce Complaint, they have 30 days to respond. If the Defendant Spouse files an Answer, which is a document where they agree or disagree with the statements asserted in the Complaint, then it can speed up the process. When an Answer is filed the Plaintiff Spouse (who filed the action) no longer has to wait for the full 30 days to expire, because the Defendant Spouse has responded already, and they can proceed with scheduling a court date.

Q: Can I Get a Divorce Without Going to Court in North Carolina?

A: Most uncontested divorces may be resolved without either spouse testifying, through a summary judgment process, which means that the spouses are not fighting about the date of separation or the divorce itself. A Motion for Summary Judgment is filed and a court date is scheduled for the divorce order to be signed by a Judge. When moving forward with the summary judgment process, neither party is required to appear in court, only the attorney who is presenting the Order to the Judge.

This summary judgment process can be used, even if you are going through a “contested divorce” where there are pending issues of property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. When you have issues still pending, it is important that you rely on the advice and experience of our family law attorneys, to guide you through this process and to confirm whether or not the summary judgment process is appropriate for your situation.

Q: What Is a Divorce from Bed and Board?

A: A bed and board divorce is actually not a divorce but a court-ordered separation. Divorce from Bed and Board is available when the petitioning spouse can prove the other is at serious fault, such as abandonment, abuse, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, or adultery. Couples in this situation will still need to wait a year to file for an absolute divorce to legally dissolve their marriage, after the “court-ordered separation date”.

Q: Is Marital Misconduct Not Considered At All?

A: Even though North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, the state still considers “fault” based factors such as “marital misconduct” for alimony determination, which can include adultery, abandonment, abuse, or excessive use of alcohol or drugs. Other factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contributions, and economic circumstances may also be considered when determining alimony.

Choose an Experienced Lawyer to Help You in the Divorce Process

Divorce and separation can be a confusing process, and you don’t need to face it alone. At Kenny & Lowry, P.L.L.C., we are entirely devoted to family law, and our knowledge and experience can be used to support you through a difficult part of life. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Kenny & Lowry, P.L.L.C

117 East Main Avenue
Gastonia, NC 28052