How to File for Divorce on Your Own in North Carolina

North Carolina is a no-fault state, which means neither party must prove fault to obtain a divorce. Completing a North Carolina Pro Se divorce requires extensive research and careful preparation because there are no attorneys involved in the process. The Mecklenburg County Bar suggests obtaining the advice of a private attorney or seeking advice from a self-help center in the county of jurisdiction for divorce information. Understanding North Carolina's divorce laws and procedures helps eliminate an unwanted dismissal.

Meet North Carolina residency requirements. One or both spouses must reside in North Carolina for at least six months immediately preceding the divorce petition. In addition to residing in North Carolina, the couple must live apart for at least one year. These requirements are absolute. Couples who do not meet the residency requirements must wait to file the divorce petition.

Determine the grounds for divorce. North Carolina allows two grounds for divorce. Separation requires the couple to live apart for at least one year with at least one spouse living in North Carolina for six months. Incurable insanity requires mental incapacity, which prevents cohabitation for three years prior to the filing of the divorce petition. A majority of North Carolina marriages end due to separation of one year.

Complete the divorce complaint, “Domestic Civil Action” cover sheet and “Civil Summons.” Plaintiffs can obtain the documents from the Clerk of the Court’s office in their county. The forms also are available online. Access the Legal Aid of North Carolina website and choose “Self-Help Resources at LawHelp/NC.” Select the “Family and Juvenile” link and choose “Divorce, Separation, Marriage, Annulment.” Sign the complaint in the presence of a notary.

File the petition at the clerk’s office and pay the filing fee. As of April 2011, divorce filing fees are $90 plus an additional $10 fee for the restoration of a maiden name. A “Petition to Sue/Appeal as an Indigent” form is available for those who cannot afford the fee. Sign the indigent form in the presence of a notary.

Inform your spouse of the divorce through a service process initiated by the county sheriff. As of April 2011, the service process fee is $15 for each item the sheriff serves to the defendant. Service fees are waived if the plaintiff’s indigent form is approved.

Wait 30 days from the date your spouse is served and request a hearing date. Complete a “Notice of Hearing” form once the hearing date is set and mail it to your spouse via first class mail. You must complete an affidavit of service if sending by certified mail.

Complete a “Judgment for Absolute Divorce,” “Certificate of Absolute Divorce” and “Testimony” form. Attend the hearing and indicate all divorce requirements have been met. Wait for the final decree.


About the Author

Residing in Clarksville, Tenn., Patrice D. Wimbush has been writing since 2002, with her work appearing on various websites. Her areas of writing expertise are contract and criminal law. She holds a Master of Public Administration from Murray State University and a Master of Arts in communication from Austin Peay State University.