Woman taking her wedding ring off

What Does No-Fault Divorce Mean?

Many states, including North Carolina, have adopted laws for no-fault divorces. Instead of requiring a spouse to prove marital misconduct to obtain a divorce, the courts may grant an absolute divorce for no other cause than a spouse wants to end the marriage.

However, marital misconduct may affect the terms of the divorce, even with a no-fault divorce. It also does not mean that there will not be any negative consequences because of the divorce. Therefore, it is generally in a person’s best interest to consult with experienced North Carolina divorce attorneys about their legal rights and obligations regarding a no-fault divorce. 

What Do We Mean by Absolute Divorce?

An absolute divorce is a term used to describe the dissolution of marriage. The parties are legally divorced and free to marry another person. The distinction is made because North Carolina laws provide for another type of divorce action – divorce from bed and board. 

A divorce from bed and board is not a divorce. It is the term used to describe a court-ordered separation. The spouse requesting a divorce from bed and board must prove a fault, such as domestic abuse, adultery, or substance abuse. 

A spouse may seek custody, spousal support, child support, and other relief as part of the divorce from bed and board action. However, if the spouse wishes to remarry, they must seek an absolute divorce. 

Three Important Things to Know About No-Fault Divorces in North Carolina

Before you begin the no-fault divorce process, you need to understand three essential requirements:

1.  Residency Requirement 

At least one spouse must be a resident of North Carolina for at least six months before petitioning the court for a no-fault divorce. It is permissible for one spouse to leave the state because it is not necessary to file a joint petition for a no-fault divorce. Only the petitioning spouse needs to have lived in North Carolina for at least six months. 

2.  Continuous Separation 

There are two requirements for the court to grant an absolute divorce based on no-fault:

  • At least one spouse must want to end the marriage relationship; AND,
  • The spouses must have lived separately and apart for one continuous year.

If you and your spouse reconcile for a short period and then separate again, the timeline for the one-year continuous separation begins again.

3.  Other Divorce Issues May Be Disputed

A no-fault divorce is not the same thing as an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on all terms of the divorce. Terms may include child custody, visitation, alimony, and property division.

You can have an uncontested, no-fault divorce action. However, you can also have a contested, no-fault divorce action.

A spouse may petition the court for an absolute divorce on the grounds of one-year continuous separation. If the spouse meets the requirements for a no-fault divorce, the court could grant the divorce.

However, the other spouse may contest the terms of the divorce. If that is the case, the divorce is litigated, and the judge issues a final order after hearing testimony and considering evidence presented by each party.

Contact Our North Carolina Family Law Attorneys for More Information 

Divorce actions can be complicated. However, working with an experienced North Carolina family law attorney can help you achieve your desired outcome. Our lawyers work to settle divorces through negotiations, but we never hesitate to aggressively fight matters in court to protect our clients’ best interests. 

Call today to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your situation with an attorney.