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How to get a divorce in North Carolina

There are various ways to get a divorce, but not all of them need to be difficult.

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North Carolina quick facts about divorce

  • Equitable distribution state
  • Divorce files are public record
  • No mandatory waiting period to get a divorce if your spouse responds
  • 30-day waiting period if your spouse does not respond

Navigating a divorce is a potentially complicated and expensive process. But if you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce, you may be able to complete the process online.

Here’s what you need to know to get started in North Carolina: the requirements, the costs and paths you can take to complete your divorce.

Can I get a divorce in North Carolina?

To get a divorce in North Carolina, you and your spouse must have:

  • Lived in North Carolina for at least six months.
  • Have lived apart for one year.

If you meet these requirements, you or your spouse can initiate the divorce process by filing a divorce petition.

In North Carolina, you don’t need to prove any wrongdoing on your spouse’s part to get a divorce — in other words, you can pursue a no-fault divorce. But you can also initiate a fault divorce for such reasons as abandonment or adultery.

Can I get a divorce in North Carolina without going to court?

Whether you need to go to court depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Before you and your spouse can be divorced, you both need to reach an agreement on the divorce terms.

Contested divorce

If you do not agree on the terms, your divorce is contested. In this case, the issues you and your spouse disagree on may need to be settled by a court.

Even if you and your spouse disagree on some issues, you do not necessarily need to go to court. Here are a few alternative paths:

  • Mediation: Someone impartial helps you and your spouse come to an agreement.
  • Collaborative divorce: You and your spouse negotiate an agreement through lawyers trained in collaborative law.

You can find more information about mediation and collaborative divorce at the North Carolina Courts website.

Uncontested divorce

If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce — meaning your divorce is uncontested — you do not have to appear in court. It is possible to complete your divorce by drafting an agreement and filling out the appropriate forms, then sending them to the court.

There are various ways to complete an uncontested divorce, including:

  • Doing it yourself. Handling the divorce process yourself can be complicated, but it is possible. Learn more about the process at the North Carolina Courts website.
  • Using an online divorce service. Online services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers offer self-guided divorce preparation. They can cost more than preparing your divorce entirely on your own, but they streamline the process by giving you structure and guidance.
  • Hiring lawyers. Family law lawyers can prepare your divorce and provide personalized guidance throughout the process. As we’ll discuss in the next section, this will likely be your most expensive option.

Compare online divorce services

Online divorce services are best for couples who can agree on the terms of the divorce, including division of assets, alimony and parental responsibilities if you have children.

Name Product Cost Includes filing papers with court? File without spouse Divorce papers reviewed?
3StepDivorce
$299 - $336
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
Yes
File within one business day of your start date with 3StepDivorce and qualify for a $50 cash rebate. Payment plans available.
LegalZoom online divorce
$150 – $1,500
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
Yes
File for an uncontested divorce online or find legal resources to help guide you through the divorce process.
OnlineDivorce.com
$139
No - you must file and pay court fees
Yes
Yes
Ready-to-file divorce forms for one flat fee. Step-by-step directions to help simplify uncontested divorces.
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How much will it cost?

It’ll cost you $225 to file your divorce petition with the court. You may pay additional court fees, depending on your county.

Additional costs for your divorce will vary depending on which route you take to resolve it. Here are approximate costs for various paths.

Doing it yourself

Preparing your divorce yourself will cost little to nothing besides additional court fees you may need to pay. But because you’ll need to conduct your own research and ensure you have filled out the divorce forms correctly, the process takes longer.

Using online divorce services

Depending on the online divorce service you use and how much assistance you need, you could expect to pay anywhere between $150 to $1,500. However, some high-end services can run you upwards of $3,000.

Costs vary depending on the benefits offered. For example, some services only help you prepare the right forms; others provide tutorials, professional review of your documents and spousal-support plans.

Hiring lawyers

According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average cost for a divorce in North Carolina is $13,100 when hiring divorce attorneys.

If your divorce is relatively simple, the cost will be around a few thousand dollars at a minimum. The cost for complicated divorces — like those involving child custody — could be as high as $30,000.

Typically, lawyers will bill you hourly — $250 per hour on average. If you choose to hire divorce lawyers, consider negotiating a flat fee for your divorce.

How long will it take?

To get a divorce in North Carolina, the grounds for divorce must have taken place at least six months before you file, and you and your spouse must have been separated for one year. If you pursue a no-fault divorce, you don’t need to show grounds for the divorce — only that you’ve been living apart for one year.

There is no mandatory waiting period to get a divorce in North Carolina if your spouse responds. If you fulfill the one-year separation and residency requirements, you can file for divorce. Your spouse has 30 days to answer. If your spouse does not contest the divorce, the 30-day period can be waived.
If you and your spouse don’t agree on the terms of the divorce, the process could take over a year. Issues that could lengthen the divorce process include:

  • Division of property
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Visitation rights
  • Alimony

According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average divorce takes 12 months to complete with divorce attorneys. Whether you have children with your spouse affects this timing: about 11 months if no children and about 15 months if children are involved.

If you and your spouse agree on most issues, the details of your divorce could be settled relatively quickly. For example, an online service for uncontested divorces can help a couple come to a resolution in as little as a month.

How do I prepare to file online?

Online divorce services are for couples who can work together on divorce terms and who agree on most issues. To use one, you need to:

  • Know where your spouse is.
  • Agree with your spouse on division of the assets and property, as well as child-related matters.

Once you purchase a plan with your online divorce service, you will be given the relevant divorce forms for your county.

How to get a divorce online

Online divorce services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers make it easy to quickly get the divorce process rolling.

While the signup process may vary by service, in general you’ll:

  1. Go to the online divorce service website.
  2. Enter your name and contact information.
  3. Specify where you’re filing and whether you have children.
  4. Indicate your spouse’s information and whether you know their whereabouts.
  5. Enter a payment method and confirm to start the process.

Getting a divorce online — now what?

If you’ve signed up for an online divorce service, you will be presented with the divorce forms you need to complete. You will also be given instructions on how to file the documents with your local court.

Rest assured that your online service will guide you from the beginning to the end of the divorce process, when you can move on to healing.

Compare legal services

Professional legal guidance can help alleviate some of the stress when navigating the divorce process.

Name Product Pros Cons
Rocket Lawyer
  • Instant access to a library of user friendly legal documents
  • Fast access to a network of certified lawyers
  • Free 30-minute consultations
  • Reduced rates in select services
  • Services can get expensive
Rocket Lawyer gives you access to legal documents, legal advice and representation seamlessly — plus, they offer a seven-day free trial.
LegalShield
  • Coverage for you, your spouse, partner and dependent children
  • Legal advice and representation
  • Letters and phone calls on your behalf
  • Legal document review
  • Add ons can get expensive
LegalShield aims to make comprehensive legal coverage simple.
Nolo
  • Legal information all in one place
  • Free searches for attorneys
  • Software and documents to streamline legal operations
  • Advice for do-it-yourself legal work
  • It may be difficult to know where to start
Legal forms and online documents, books, & software.
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