What is a divorce?
Some people think that divorce means everything… custody, child support, alimony, etc. It doesn’t. It is a status change from being married to being single again. Marriage is a status change from being single to being married.
The statute in our state is short. So I will just quote it:
North Carolina General Statute § 50‑6. Divorce after separation of one year on application of either party.
Marriages may be dissolved and the parties thereto divorced from the bonds of matrimony on the application of either party, if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart for one year, and the plaintiff or defendant in the suit for divorce has resided in the State for a period of six months. A divorce under this section shall not be barred to either party by any defense or plea based upon any provision of G.S. 50‑7, a plea of res judicata, or a plea of recrimination. Notwithstanding the provisions of G.S. 50‑11, or of the common law, a divorce under this section shall not affect the rights of a dependent spouse with respect to alimony which have been asserted in the action or any other pending action.
Whether there has been a resumption of marital relations during the period of separation shall be determined pursuant to G.S. 52‑10.2. Isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties shall not toll the statutory period required for divorce predicated on separation of one year.
What? Separated for a year? Sorry, but that’s what it is and there is no legal way to make it shorter.
The one-year period is actually there to discourage easy divorces and give spouses a chance to reconcile before the court can grant their divorce. Sometimes couples reconcile in that year; I have seen it happen many times. Sometimes the year can’t pass fast enough.
Let me take this opportunity to give you a warning. If you do not make claims for alimony and property distribution prior to the divorce being entered you will lose your right to ask the court for those things.
You might wonder how do you prove that there was a separation? In most divorce cases the judge will just take your word for it in your sworn complaint, especially if your spouse answered the complaint and admitted that you are right about the date of separation.
In a small percentage of cases, there is a huge disagreement on when the date of separation was. This could be for personal reasons or it could be for strategic reasons related to the valuation of property on a certain date. In these cases, the judge will hear evidence.
Typical evidence in a contested absolute divorce is, for example, a new lease for a party, an updated driver’s license, forwarding mail, the testimony of witnesses, and so on. I can’t give you a complete list because there are so many possible ways to prove when someone separated.
What is not relevant in an absolute divorce are the fault grounds for divorce from bed and board. Therefore the North Carolina absolute divorce is called a “no fault” divorce statute.