In North Carolina, “absolute divorce” signifies nothing more than the termination of the marriage bond that was created by your wedding ceremony and marriage certificate. An absolute divorce can be obtained in North Carolina, by either party, once you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least twelve consecutive months.
During those twelve months, you cannot have resumed your marital relationship. You don’t need any written document to show you separated on a given date; you merely need to remember the date on which you did actually separate. You also need to be certain that at least one of you, at the time of the separation, intended for the separation to be permanent.
Some people want to get divorced as soon as possible, for symbolic or personal reasons. One symbolic value served by initiating a divorce is to show your spouse (especially if the spouse left you) that you are in control of your life, and you are taking steps toward greater independence.
One personal ground for going forward with the divorce is to become eligible for remarriage. If, on the other hand, neither husband nor wife wants to go through the formal steps of obtaining an absolute divorce, there is no requirement that either party does so. This is true no matter whether the parties have been separated just over a year or for many years.
One potential disadvantage to getting a divorce is that a spouse will no longer be continued indefinitely as a dependent on an employed spouse’s group health insurance policy. Under present federal law, the continued coverage is only guaranteed for another thirty-six months at most following divorce.
North Carolina is a “No-Fault” Divorce Jurisdiction
As such, neither party has to prove marital fault in order to obtain the divorce based on a one-year separation. As long as you have been separated at least a year and your paperwork is correctly processed through the judicial system, you can get your divorce. And you get the divorce whether or not you and your spouse have resolved any of the other issues arising from your separation, such as custody, spousal and child support, or distribution of property.
You can also get the divorce whether or not your spouse wants to be divorced, provided that you have been separated for one continuous year and the paperwork has been correctly processed. Although North Carolina also has an alternative, three-year separation period for divorces based on one spouse’s incurable insanity, almost all modern divorces granted in this state involve couples who separated for reasons other than one spouse’s insanity.
The Bigger Picture
Divorce is only one aspect of separation. Before you move forward legally ending your marriage, consider researching the below topics. Once a divorce is finalized, you may not be able to revisit issues related to property division, child custody, alimony, or child support.