How Long Does a Divorce Take In North Carolina?

A man in a suit holds an hourglass in his hands

The duration of a divorce in North Carolina can vary based on factors such as the complexity of the case, court availability, and the ability of the parties to reach agreements. According to the North Carolina Bar Association, an uncontested divorce typically takes around three to six months to finalize, while a contested divorce can take significantly longer, potentially lasting several months or even years, depending on the complexity of the issues involved.

Spouses who plan to terminate their marriage usually wonder how long this process takes. Determining an exact divorce timeline may be challenging since every case is unique. Nevertheless, some factors affecting how long a divorce takes in North Carolina and information on average divorce duration are presented below.

Factors Affecting Length of Divorce in NC

Several aspects can influence the timelines of the divorce process, and understanding them is necessary to manage your time properly and navigate legal proceedings more efficiently.

Consent divorce as one of the types of divorce in NC
When both spouses are in agreement on key aspects of the divorce it can often speed up the divorce process

Factor 1: Type of Divorce

In North Carolina, there are two types of divorce – absolute and divorce from bed and board.

An absolute divorce is a permanent termination of the marriage, while a divorce from bed and board is a court-ordered legal separation that doesn’t dissolve the marital bond.

type of divorce factor

The duration of an absolute divorce process greatly depends on whether the case is contested or not. If spouses have lived separately for 1 year, they can file the documents with the court and get their divorce decree shortly after the mandatory waiting period of 30 days is over.

If, during separation, they managed to prepare a separation agreement that focuses on all divorce-related matters, the divorce process will likely be faster since the court may include the terms described in this document into a final decree.

If spouses disagree on any divorce issues, the case is contested. It will take longer due to the need for mediation or lengthy court litigation, with several hearings required for a judge to decide on the case.

Factor 2: Child Custody and Support

child support factor

Settling child custody matters, visitation schedules, and child support arrangements can take time. The process is longer and more complicated if parties have differing opinions on these topics and need the involvement of third-party experts to come to a mutually beneficial agreement in the child’s best interests.

Factor 3: Division of Assets and Debts

division of property prolongs divorce

North Carolina follows an equitable distribution principle; the court may divide marital property 50/50 or otherwise if they consider that equal division does not mean equitable in the particular divorce case.

The complexity of your financial situation, the number of assets and debts involved, and any disputes that arise during the division process can all contribute to the prolonged divorce proceedings.

Factor 4: Court Fees

court fees prolongs divorce

When initiating a divorce, a petitioner should pay some fees, including fees for filing papers with the court and service fees for delivering documents to the other party.

If a petitioner does not have the financial opportunity to cover the fees, they may apply for a fee waiver. However, note that this may delay the divorce process since you will need to collect documents such as income and wage statements to prove your financial status to the court.

Factor 5: Duration of the Process

The complexity of the divorce case greatly impacts its duration. Some divorces can be resolved amicably and quickly through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. These alternative dispute resolution methods can help couples reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, potentially expediting the divorce.

However, if your case requires litigation and goes to trial, it can take significantly longer to finalize. Busy court schedules, the availability of judges, and the complexity of legal issues can lead to a prolonged divorce process.

check eligibility for divorce

The Separation Period in North Carolina

In North Carolina, one of the legal divorce requirements is that spouses have to be separated before divorce for a continuous period of at least 1 year and 1 day. This is a mandatory condition to get an absolute divorce. Living apart is considered a separation if spouses reside in different houses, and at least one of them wants this separation to be permanent. There are no other actions required of spouses to begin the separation.

After the divorce documents are filed, there is a 30-day divorce waiting period in North Carolina before the divorce process can be finalized. It is intended to give spouses time to decide on contested issues and come to an agreement. In uncontested cases, a waiting period waiver is possible if the respondent files the Waiver and Answer form. In such a case, a hearing can take place in less than 30 days.

Average Length of Divorce Process in NC

It usually takes spouses two to six months to get an uncontested divorce. This is considered a quick divorce in North Carolina, and timelines depend mainly on the court caseload.

On the other hand, contested divorces, which involve disputes over child custody, asset division, or other matters, can take significantly longer, from half a year to a year or more. The duration of the process depends on the complexity of the issues to resolve and the court’s schedule.

Time frame in the process of divorce of spouses with children in NC
Average uncontested divorce usually takes around six months to complete

Those seeking a quick online divorce in North Carolina and applying for an uncontested no-fault divorce can consider online services, which greatly help with document preparation. At a moderate fee, you can get a complete set of divorce forms prepared for your specific case and detailed instructions on how to file them. The paperwork will be ready in just a few days, significantly speeding up the overall divorce process.