North Carolina - How We Compare to Other States' Separation Period Before Divorce

Many are surprised to learn that in North Carolina you cannot immediately file for divorce once a decision is made to end a marriage. Although North Carolina does not require any finding of fault in order to grant a divorce, there is a required separation period before either party can seek a divorce.

Under North Carolina General Statute 50-6, a party may seek a dissolution of marriage “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”. There is no exception to the requirement that parties live “separate and apart” for at least one year, even if they agree to get divorced.

In over half of the States in the U.S., you can seek a no-fault divorce without any required separation period. Those without a waiting period include our southeastern neighbors Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia.

Of the States that do require a separation period for no-fault divorce, only Arkansas (18 months), Illinois (2 years), Maryland (2 years), New Jersey (18 months), and Pennsylvania (2 years) have a longer required separation period than the 1 year requirement in North Carolina and all but one of these States offer an exception that drastically reduces the required separation period if the parties consent to divorce.

The North Carolina General Assembly recently suggested extending the required separation period to up to 2 years, without any possible reduction in time if the parties consented to divorce. To date, this discussion has not led to a change in the law, but if passed, it could place North Carolina as the State with the longest required separation period in the country in order to seek a no-fault divorce.

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