North Carolina Family Law Basics (7 part series) Part 1 Divorce Venue and Residency Requirements

This is part one of a seven part series regarding the basics of North Carolina Family Law. My name is Nicholas "Nick" Dowgul and I will be guiding you through differing areas of family law in North Carolina.  Today we're starting off by discussing North Carolina's Venue and Residency Requirements.

In North Carolina, divorces are heard in what is known as District Court.  Each county in North Carolina has its own District Court and the county(ies) where a divorce action may be properly heard is known as the location of venue.  A divorce action can be brought in either the county in which the Plaintiff or Defendant Resides.  

Divorces in North Carolina are not fault based and a NC divorce has essentially two elements necessary to be proven by a Plaintiff in a divorce action in order for a divorce to be finalized:

  • One party must be a North Carolina resident for at least 6 months or more 
  • At least one party must purposefully intend to be separated from the other and have actually done so for at least a year prior to filing a complaint for divorce
  • Keep in mind that the NC appellate court has determined in Mallard v. Mallard that "[t]he words 'separate and apart', as used in G.S. 50-6, mean that there must be both a physical separation and an intention on the part of at least one of the parties to cease the matrimonial cohabitation."  This means that the parties cannot co-habitate with each other and be considered separated under NC law.  Co-habitate does mean living under the same roof.

NOTE: If a custody action is filed it must be in the county in which the child has resided for the last 6 months or more.  Also, if a child moves from out of state to NC then the prior state will have jurisdiction if they lived there 6 months or more.  Once the child resides in NC for 6 months, then jurisdiction will lie in this state.