Requirements for Divorce in North Carolina

There are two types of divorce in North Carolina. Absolute divorce is a final dissolution of all of the ties of marriage between the spouses. Absolute divorce is what you generally think of as a divorce. Divorce from Bed and Board is not a true divorce, but rather a judicial proceeding in which the parties become legally separated.

In North Carolina, the only ground for absolute divorce is separation of the spouses for at least one year and a day. Historical fault-based grounds like adultery are still factors for alimony and divorce from bed and board, but they play no role in dissolving the marriage.

Effects of Divorce

The effect of an absolute divorce is to release the parties wholly from the rights and obligations associated with marriage. Either party may marry again immediately.

The right to equitable distribution of property is destroyed by a decree of absolute divorce unless the right was asserted prior to the decree. If the defendant was served process by publication only, he or she is allowed six months from the date of the divorce decree to claim the right to equitable distribution. This means that any rights to property that one spouse may have acquired by virtue of the marriage will be lost if they are not claimed in a timely manner.

The right to alimony is likewise destroyed unless the claim has been decided or is pending before the court at the time the divorce decree is entered.

Resumption of Former or Maiden Name

After a divorce decree has been entered, a woman may apply to the Clerk of Court for the county in which she resides to change her name. She may resume her maiden name, the last name of a former husband who is now deceased, or the last name of a living former husband if she has children who share that husband’s last name.

A man may apply to the Clerk of Court of the county in which he lives to change the last name he took upon marriage to his pre-marriage last name.
A name change can also be made part of a divorce decree if the party petitions the court in the complaint or counterclaim.

Effects on Estate and Inheritance

Unless a will specifically provides otherwise, a divorce decree revokes any provisions in the will that relate to the former spouse, including any power of appointment or appointment as executor of the will. If the couple remarries, the will provisions are reinstated if they have not been explicitly revoked by the spouse who made the will.

Additionally, the spouses lose their rights to inherit by intestate succession. Intestate succession is the state’s system for determining inheritance when there is no will or when there is property that is not covered by the will.