Five Steps You Should Take Before Filing for a Divorce in North Carolina

If you are considering getting a divorce, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 850,000 American couples obtain divorces each year. Here are some tips if you are considering filing for divorce in N.C.

Going through a divorce is never easy. It can put tremendous psychological and financial stress on a family. At times, the process can be overwhelming.

To help you to get through and understand the process, here are five steps you should take before you file for equitable distribution, alimony, child custody, child support, or divorce in North Carolina as well as additional information about the divorce process.

  1. Get your financial records organized.
    1. You will find that untangling your finances and dividing your property is one of the most challenging aspects of any separation and divorce.
    2. If you organize yourself before you begin litigation for equitable distribution, alimony, child custody, and child support you can make the process go more smoothly and ensure that your rights are fully protected.
  2. Make living arrangements.
    1. North Carolina law requires that a couple live apart for at least 12 months before they can file for a divorce. So, before you separate, you must consider the future living arrangements for your family, especially if you have minor children.
  3. Consider changes to your legal documents.
    1. You may wish to make changes to your will, your power of attorney, your bank accounts, your retirement accounts, your life insurance, and other important legal documents.
  4. Prepare your children.
    1. If you have children, you should be ready to discuss your separation and divorce with them in an age-appropriate manner. You should consider your children’s emotional well-being throughout the entirety of the process. However, be careful not to speak negatively of the other parent or talk about any ongoing or possible litigation between you and your spouse.
  5. Schedule a meeting with a divorce lawyer/family law attorney.
    1. Finally, before filing, you should meet with an experienced divorce lawyer (Famly Law Attorney). If you obtain professional legal guidance and representation, it can make the process much easier for you and your family.

What Else Should You Know About Getting a Divorce in North Carolina?

You should know many other things about getting a divorce in North Carolina.

Residency Requirement

Many people incorrectly believe that they must return to the state where they were married to file for their divorce. This is wrong.

In reality, you can file for equitable distribution, alimony, or divorce in North Carolina if you have established valid residency. You meet the residency requirement in North Carolina law if at least one person in the couple has resided within the state for at least six consecutive months prior to filing. If the children have been living here for at least six consecutive months prior to filing, you can file for child custody and child support in North Carolina.

Grounds for Divorce

Additionally, you should know that North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. This means that either spouse may pursue an uncontested divorce.

North Carolina recognizes two grounds for divorce:

  • Living separate and apart for one year
  • Incurable insanity.

Most divorces are brought on the ground that the couple has been living physically separately and apart for more than one year.

You should note: One spouse simply sleeping on the couch will not cut it. If at any time the couple resumes “normal marital relations,” the clock will restart. You must live separately and apart in different residences.

How to File for Divorce in N.C.

When filing for equitable distribution, alimony, child custody, child support, or divorce, you must properly complete and file all required documents, forms, and pleadings. If you make a careless mistake on a form or miss a deadline, it will create major problems for you and your family.

While it may not sound romantic, marriage is essentially a type of contract. So, when you file for a divorce, you basically file a lawsuit to get out of a contract.

You must file a divorce complaint in the appropriate court. You must also serve the complaint on your spouse. A court will then enter a final divorce decree.

You should let your attorney deal with this aspect of your divorce case. If you do so, it will allow you to focus on yourself and your family. See our divorce page for more information on the N.C. divorce process, or contact our N.C. divorce lawyer today.


Most family law cases are not as straightforward as following all of the procedural requirements. Case-specific issues often must be resolved.

The biggest issues involve child custody and property division. When possible, it is best for couples to resolve these issues in a  manner through mediation.

Divorce mediation is a voluntary, non-binding process. It emphasizes working together to come to an agreement without a judge or jury making a final determination.

Separation Agreements

In many cases, going through mediation, or a similar process will lead to a separation agreement that you will enter to resolve the financial issues related to your divorce. This type of agreement is a legally binding contract between spouses that can be used to officially resolve issues without going through an expensive and time-consuming trial.

Your separation agreement can address a wide variety of issues related to your marriage, including property division, debt division, and alimony.

You can also enter an agreement called a consent order in which you make an agreement about child support, child custody, and visitation and then request that the Court enter it as an order.

An attorney should represent you when you negotiate and draft a separation agreement and negotiate then enter into a consent order governing child custody, child visitation, and child support.

Changing Your Last Name

For many women, a divorce is not truly finalized without a name change. The state of North Carolina makes the process of changing one’s last name relatively easy after a divorce.

A divorcee can use the AOC-SP-600 form to revert to her former last name. If you have any questions related to this step in the process, your divorce lawyer will be able to help.

Our Goldsboro Divorce Lawyers Can Help You

You should not go through the complex divorce process alone. The compassionate Goldsboro Family Law Attorneys at Strickland Agner Pittman is here to help.

To set up your fully confidential initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact our team today. We serve families throughout Goldsboro and surrounding areas in North Carolina.