When a marriage ends in North Carolina, the easiest part of the legal process is getting divorced. North Carolina is a “no fault” divorce state, meaning either spouse is entitled to a divorce so long as certain statutory requirements are met.The most common way to obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina is to be separated for one year. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-6, a judge or clerk may grant a divorce judgment if husband and wife have lived separate and apart for one year, with the intent of at least one spouse not to resume the marital relationship; that is, that the separation be permanent.
The term “separate and apart” is relatively straightforward, meaning husband and wife must reside in separate locations. Simply put, one of the spouses has to move out. Less straightforward is the question of whether one or both spouses intended to end the marital relationship. Our courts have decided that isolated social interactions between separated spouses do not restart the one-year countdown. Likewise, isolated or casual intimate interactions between separated spouses also do not count against the one-year separation. If the court finds that the spouses have been separated for at least one year with the intent of at least one spouse that the separation be permanent, and at least one of the spouses resided in North Carolina for at least six (6) months immediately prior to filing of the lawsuit for divorce, a North Carolina court will grant the divorce.The other, and far less common, way to obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina is to show that your spouse suffers from incurable insanity. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. §50-5.1, a divorce may be granted if husband and wife have lived separate and apart for at least three years because one of the spouses is confined or being treated for incurable insanity.