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What Types of Divorces Are There in North Carolina?

What Types of Divorces Are There in North Carolina?

There are only two types of divorce in North Carolina: Absolute Divorce and Divorce from Bed and Board

However, there are other terms that include the word “divorce” that people sometimes use to describe the issues surrounding the cessation of marriage, and resolving those issues is often lumped together by non-lawyers as a “divorce.” These issues include custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution of property and debt. 

Read on to learn what divorce really means. 


Absolute Divorce

Absolute divorce which gets one unmarried is available to North Carolina residents in two situations:

  • The two spouses have been separated for one year with the intent by at least one of them to remain separated permanently, or
  • One spouse has been diagnosed with incurable insanity and the couple has been legally separated for three years or more.

Under either of these circumstances, the trial court may issue an order permanently dissolving the marriage. Lawyers who use the general term “divorce” are generally referring to an absolute divorce.

Divorce from Bed and Board 

A divorce from bed and board is not an absolute divorce. Instead, it’s a separation authorized by the Court available to a spouse who can show that they’ve suffered at their partner’s hands. Divorce from Bed and Board is available in cases of abandonment, oppression, adultery, or drug or alcohol abuse. After a years’ separation, one of the parties must still file for absolute divorce to terminate the marriage.

Military Divorce

This is not a divorce as described above, rather, the military has some unique rules surrounding the resolution of its members’ marriages. These rules are designed to protect the servicemember’s rights (for example, not expecting them to respond to a divorce petition while they’re on active duty) and to protect the non-military spouse.

A military “divorce” seeking custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution or any combination of these that apply can be filed in North Carolina even if one member of the married couple resides in another state. Federal law allows a military divorce petitioner and/or their spouse to file these actions in the state where they’re stationed, the state the non-military spouse lives in, or the state the military spouse legally resides in. Additionally, the non-military spouse can file without the military spouse’s consent if they’ve been a North Carolina resident for at least six months.

No-Fault Divorce

Those who have come of age in the last few decades may not remember a time before no-fault divorce. For decades, divorces were tough to obtain unless both parties agreed to the divorce or the person petitioning for divorce could show one or more of a few key factors: abandonment, addiction or chronic intoxication, fraud, adultery, or abuse. 

For many years now, North Carolina residents have been able pursue a no-fault divorce without having to pin the blame for the marriage breakup on one spouse. The divorcing couple can end their marriage without articulating any particular reason for the split. A no-fault divorce is an absolute divorce and vise-versa. 

Contested Divorce

As the name implies, a contested “divorce” is where the spouses disagree on key issues—how to divide assets (including the marital home), who should have custody, who should get visitation rights (and how frequently these rights should be exercised), and whether alimony or spousal support is warranted. If you disagree on these matters and cannot resolve them on your own or through settlement negotiations or mediation, one or both of the parties must file a lawsuit seeking judicial assistance.

A contested divorce might not necessarily involve a disagreement on the issues, but whether or not the parties have been separated for at least one year, an in this case this really is a contested divorce, using the term divorce correctly.

Uncontested Divorce

Using the divorce term correctly, an uncontested “divorce” is an absolute divorce and as we have seen above, a no-fault divorce. This term is also used to describe the situation in which both spouses agree on all issues and resolve the issues by a separation agreement or a consent order.

Collaborative Divorce

The collaborative approach to resolving marital issues can be especially valuable if there are minor children of the marriage. Collaborative “divorce” aims to end the marriage amicably, coming to an agreement on all key matters without requiring the parties to spend any time in a courtroom. In fact, the attorneys who represent each spouse during this process can’t later represent their client in court if the collaborative “divorce” is unsuccessful.

Mediated Divorce

Similar to a collaborative “divorce,” a mediated “divorce” is one where the parties attempt to sort out their differences outside the courtroom. Under North Carolina law, mediation is required if you’re disputing child custody issues or arguing with your estranged spouse over the division of marital assets prior to having a trial. Though mediation won’t always be successful, it’s a prerequisite to going to court (but not filing your claims) when certain issues are being litigated.

In Summary

These various types of “divorce” all have one thing in common—they’ll proceed more smoothly with the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Even in an uncontested, mediated, or collaborative “divorce,” emotions can run high, and an attorney can ensure that any agreement you negotiate with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse is in your best interest. At Weaver Bennett and Bland, our attorneys have decades of experience in helping clients pursue their goals and rights, and we’ll fight for you throughout this process. Contact us to learn how our firm can help you.

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