How to Get a Divorce in NC Without Waiting a Year

Lawyer holding an hourglass in his hand while standing in an office with other lawyers

In North Carolina, to obtain an absolute no-fault divorce, spouses must be separated for at least 1 year before starting the divorce process, as specified in the North Carolina General Statutes Section 50-6.

If you want to learn more about the required separation period and waiting period in the state, keep reading the article.

The Waiting Period for Divorce in North Carolina

Spouses who want to start the divorce in North Carolina have to be separated for a mandatory 1-year period before filing the petition. During this time, future exes are obliged to live separately and apart and not engage in marital relationships. Spouses are considered separated if they live in different houses, and at least one party wants this separation to be permanent.

NC divorce waiting period
NC divorce waiting period

Besides, when trying to calculate how long a divorce takes in NC, it is necessary to consider the period allocated for the respondent to prepare the answer. Generally, it equals 30 days but may be extended for another 30 days in the following cases:

  • If the defendant needs more time to gather information, secure legal representation, or prepare their response, they can request an extension from the court. If the court finds it reasonable, it will grant this extension.
  • The initial 30-day period may be prolonged due to unforeseen events or emergencies such as serious illness or accidents.

If spouses complete a 1-year separation period and immediately file documents for an uncontested divorce, they can get a relatively quick divorce in NC, and the marriage can be terminated within 1-3 months. In the case of contested divorce with many disputes, the process is likely to require much more time.

Why Does North Carolina Have a Waiting Period?

man waiting for separation from his spouse

The mandatory one-year separation period in North Carolina serves as a cooling-off period and allows couples to demonstrate a genuine intention to end the marriage before obtaining a divorce

A 1-year separation period in North Carolina is required by law to ensure partners have properly evaluated their decision to terminate a marital relationship and want to confirm it in court.

While most divorcing spouses claim this is a needless precaution, there are well-grounded reasons behind such separation requirements.

  • First, spouses will have enough time to reconsider their decision and potentially negotiate their differences before proceeding with the permanent dissolution of marriage. Some couples choose to attend marriage counseling or therapy during the separation period. Thus, they can work on their issues, improve communication, and even explore the possibility of reconciliation.
  • Secondly, this period is needed to ascertain that a couple did not conceive a baby shortly before their separation. This requirement primarily aims to provide legal safeguards and ensure the well-being of children a couple may have who may be affected by the dissolution of marriage.

Keep in mind that the separation period is not intended to prevent or discourage divorce altogether but rather to allow for careful consideration of marriage termination impact on all parties involved.

check eligibility for divorce

Is It Possible to Avoid the Waiting Period in NC?

Couples applying for an absolute no-fault divorce are bound to complete the separation period as determined by law; typically, it cannot be waived.  

There are rare cases when divorce is initiated based on incurable insanity. If the following conditions are met, spouses may not be obliged by the court to be separated for one more year before they can get divorced:

  • one partner has been found mentally ill or has been in a mental health facility for three or more years before the other party started a divorce,
  • spouses lived separately and apart during this period,
  • there is official confirmation from doctors that there is no chance of getting better.

There is one more type of divorce in the state – from bed and board, which can be obtained without a 1-year separation. However, it is, in fact, a legal separation granted based on fault ground:

  • Spouse’s conviction of a felony: If one spouse has been found guilty of a serious crime and has been sent to prison for more than one year, the other spouse may be allowed to get a divorce from bed and board.
  • Spouse’s abusive behavior: In cases where one spouse has subjected the other to domestic violence or acts of cruelty, a legal separation may be ordered by the court if the suffering spouse can provide evidence of abusive behavior.
  • Adultery or abandonment: If any of this occurs, the court may grant a divorce from bed and board.

In any case, after the court orders spouses to legally separate, they will still have to wait 1 year to get an absolute divorce.

To speed up your future divorce process while you are waiting for separation to be over, you can prepare a separation agreement with your spouse. This legal document describes the rights and obligations of both parties concerning property and debt division, child support and custody, and alimony. With a separation agreement, spouses can negotiate the terms of their divorce themselves rather than leave those decisions in the hands of a court. In other words, they have greater autonomy and control over the divorce outcomes.

Besides, you can also expedite the divorce process when it comes to preparing divorce forms. The fastest way to get divorced is to order a set of case-specific documents from a trusted online service. You only need to complete a questionnaire on divorce-related details, choose a suitable deadline, and download completed papers once they are ready. This method is gaining popularity among couples applying for an uncontested divorce due to the possibility of reducing financial and time expenses.