Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina: Everything You Need to Know

Man and woman arguing sitting at a table with a judge's gavel

According to North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-5.1, the grounds for getting a divorce in North Carolina include: (1) living separate and apart continuously for one year with the intention of ending the marriage, and (2) fault-based grounds such as abandonment, adultery, cruelty, drug or alcohol abuse, incarceration, sexual offense, and incurable insanity.

If your marital relationship has deteriorated, and you do not wish to continue the marriage, you can file for divorce in NC on no-fault or fault-based reasons. There are seven legal grounds for divorce in NC, which allow you to get an absolute divorce or divorce from bed and board.

Grounds for No-fault Divorce in NC

grounds for divorce in north carolina
List of grounds for divorce in North Carolina

Since NC is a no-fault divorce state, couples can start the dissolution of marriage without proof that one party caused the breakup of marital relations. No-fault divorce is absolute, which means spouses will be officially divorced and able to register a new marriage. There are two no-fault reasons for divorce in the state

1. One Year Separation

To file for absolute divorce, spouses should live separately for no less than 1 year. This means they reside in different houses, and at least one intends to be permanently separated. If, within a year, you renew the relationship and then again decide to dissolve the marriage, absolute divorce on statutory grounds will become possible only after the next 12 months of separate residence.

Preparing a separation agreement to get a legal separation in NC is not compulsory. However, if spouses manage to negotiate all aspects of their future divorce and include their decisions in an agreement, the court will consider it during the marriage termination process.

Spouses may prove their separation by documents such as separation agreement or by witness testimony that they indeed lived separate and apart. Also, your honest testimony under oath may be enough evidence for court. To get a divorce based on this reason, you must reside in the state for at least half a year before filing.

2. Incurable Insanity

Insanity as a ground for divorce in NC
Insanity as a ground for divorce in North Carolina

Divorce on this ground is possible when one party has been found mentally ill by the judge at least 36 months ago or has been placed in a mental hospital for at least 3 years due to their condition. Spouses should also live apart during this period. How to prove incurable insanity in NC to file for divorce? The filing spouse should be able to provide sufficient medical evidence, including the testimony of two physicians who will confirm the mental illness.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce

In North Carolina, a fault divorce is known as divorce from bed and board, which is a legal separation ordered by a court. There are several grounds for divorce from bed and board that presuppose misconduct by one spouse that led to the breakdown of marriage. Unlike an absolute divorce, after DBB, the couple remains married. This type of dissolution is used when there is a need for physical separation due to potentially harmful behavior of the other party. To get an absolute divorce, a petitioner will still need to wait at least 12 months before the court can grant it.

1. Adultery

How adultery affects divorce process in NC
Adultery as a ground for divorce in North Carolina

Based on adultery laws in NC, infidelity is one of the grounds for divorce from bed and board. Adultery grounds for divorce in NC mean sexual relations of a married spouse with persons other than their spouse in cases when a couple has not agreed on open relationships. The fact of infidelity can impact court decisions on such important matters as child custody, alimony payments, etc.

2. Indignities

It is difficult to give a precise definition of indignities in NC since these can include repeated verbal abuse, false accusations of adultery, constant criticism, passion for pornography, etc. Indignities may also mean any actions of a spouse that make the life of the other party unbearable.

3. Drug Abuse

Alcohol or drug use by one spouse that is repeated constantly and negatively influences the other party can also be a ground for divorce in North Carolina.

4. Cruel or Barbarous Treatment

If one of the spouses suffers from cruelty, it is a valid reason for DBB. Cruelty presupposes either physical violence that threatens the health or even life of a spouse or psychological abuse.

5. Desertion or Abandonment in NC

According to abandonment laws in NC, desertion is a ground for divorce in cases where one spouse has abandoned the other without reason or when the other spouse’s actions, such as abusive behavior, have forced the other party to leave home.

To file on this ground, a petitioner should prove that the accused party has no intention to return and resume the relationship and that the filing spouse has not caused abandonment.

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