North Carolina Divorce Lawyer


When you meet someone and realize they’re the one you want to spend your life with, you think your love will last forever. However, marriage can be complicated and does not always turn out as expected. Divorce is an unfortunate reality for many couples.

It’s always emotionally challenging when you end a relationship, especially when it was legally formalized as a marriage. The end of a marriage comes with many decisions about dividing your property and bills, how to share custody of your children, and even who will get your pets. When you face these kinds of issues, it’s important to have a North Carolina divorce lawyer on your side.

As an experienced North Carolina family law attorney, Jonathan Breeden provides a blend of compassionate and aggressive advocacy for people going through a divorce in Wake, Johnston, and Harnett counties, including the communities of Clayton, Garner, Lillington, Smithfield, and Angier. He provides personal service that includes direct, straightforward communication, and a commitment to helping you move forward with your life after a divorce. Before hiring a divorce lawyer, you should learn these questions to ask before hiring.

Contact Breeden Law Office today at (919) 661-4970 to schedule a case consultation.

Do I really need a divorce lawyer?

Do I really need a divorce lawyer?

What You Need to Know About Divorce

To be eligible for a divorce in North Carolina, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing the suit. If neither of you has lived in the state long enough, the divorce must be sought where you previously resided. The reason for this is that the court must have jurisdiction over the matter to be able to grant a divorce. If you wish to seek a divorce from bed and board, then you will be required to meet other grounds for separation.

Every state’s laws regarding divorce differ. North Carolina is a no-fault state, which means that either spouse can bring a suit to end the marriage. You do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong, though these issues may arise during the proceedings.

Grounds for Divorce

North Carolina is a no-fault state, which means you don’t have to seek a divorce on the grounds that the other spouse did something wrong. To seek an absolute divorce under state law, you have to prove either incurable insanity or a separation of one year.

Option 1: Incurable Insanity
This reason for divorce is rarely used. You and your spouse must have been living apart for three consecutive years, and still be living apart due to one of the spouse’s incurable insanity.

The law lays out multiple, but very specific, ways to prove the spouse’s incurable insanity for the necessary separation. It’s best to seek an experienced North Carolina divorce attorney in this type of situation. Gaining a divorce on these grounds requires particular evidence and may require a great deal of time and legal process.

Option 2: Separation
The most common way to obtain an absolute divorce in North Carolina is through a separation of at least one year. The spouses must show they’ve lived apart the entire time. This doesn’t mean living in separate bedrooms or mostly in different places. Each person must have an entirely separate residence for the entire one-year period.

In general, a separation requires that the spouses end sexual relations. However, North Carolina law will not deny a divorce based on isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties.

Proving separation in a divorce proceeding is usually simple – the parties testify that they’ve lived apart for at least one year and that at least one of the parties intended for the separation to be permanent. The only issue of proof arises if one spouse denies that claim.

If you’re thinking about divorce, it may not be the best course of action to move out of the family home right away. You want the separation to start as soon as it can, but it’s always a good idea to speak with a North Carolina divorce lawyer before making a decision as to who continues to live in the marital residence. Moving out could affect the division of property and your rights in the future.


To be able to ask for a divorce here, you or your spouse must have resided in North Carolina for at least six months. Residing here doesn’t just mean you own a house. It means you live here and intend to make the state your home indefinitely. Prior to the six-month mark, the state’s courts have no power over your marriage. Any divorce granted in North Carolina too early would be void.

You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to be a resident of North Carolina. You can become a resident as a legal immigrant, student, or military service member.

While you must be considered a resident at the time you file for divorce, you don’t have to remain in the state until your divorce is finalized. You can move during the legal process.

Separation Requirement

To be granted a divorce, you must show a separation of at least one year, or incurable insanity (which is rarely used). A separation involves you and your soon-to-be ex purposefully living apart with the intent that one of you believes the separation be permanent. This does not include different rooms in the same residence. You must both have your own homes and stopped engaging in most sexual activity together. However, under the law, an isolated incident of sexual intercourse does not void the one-year separation period.

Your one-year separation does not have to take place entirely in North Carolina. It’s OK if the separation starts in one state, but then you move here. However, if you and your spouse are living in separate states, you may encounter jurisdictional and common sense issues as to where you file for divorce.

Once the full separation has been obtained, either you or your spouse can file a verified complaint for absolute divorce in the district court of a county where one of you lives.

Related Divorce Answers

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Should I File for Divorce First?

Attorney Breeden understands the ways that a divorce can disrupt your life and your finances, and is committed to helping you get the best possible outcome for your case. However, there is no true legal advantage being the first to file first.

I Want a Divorce but My Partner Does Not

I Want a Divorce but My Partner Does Not

Protecting Your Interests

Divorce is an emotional and complicated process. The separation of assets and bills can lead to conflict that could have been avoided with agreements made before or after marriage. Learn more about the types of agreements that can benefit you and how to protect yourself:

  • Protecting Your Assets in a Divorce – Learn how a lawyer can help if you have significant assets or business interests to protect in a divorce.
  • Prenuptial Agreements – A prenuptial agreement is one way to protect your assets when you enter a marriage. Learn more about how prenuptial agreements work in North Carolina.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution – Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) can help you remedy legal disputes and issues surrounding your divorce without going to court. Learn about this alternative today.
  • Postnuptial Agreements – Sometimes a spouse may ask for an agreement to protect assets after getting married. Learn more about what a post-nuptial agreement is and the circumstances under which you might seek one.

How long is the divorce process in North Carolina?

How long is the divorce process in North Carolina?

North Carolina Divorce Basics

In North Carolina, you must wait one year after separating from your spouse to file for divorce; however, you can begin the process of resolving many issues related to your divorce immediately with the help of a skilled divorce lawyer such as Jonathan Breeden.

Even before you file your divorce paperwork with the court, you can settle how you and your spouse will handle:

  • Equitable Distribution of Property – Learn about North Carolina legal requirements regarding division of property in a divorce and the benefits of having a lawyer to represent your interests.
  • Dividing Your Bills in a Divorce – How you divide debts can be just as important in a divorce as how you divide property. Learn more about what to expect as you move forward with your divorce when you and your spouse have shared debts such as a mortgage, vehicle, loans (including student loans), and credit cards.
  • Dividing Inheritance The division of an inheritance could affect your divorce proceedings, so it’s important to know what legal issues you may face if this situation arises.
  • Alimony / Spousal Support – Learn more about post-separation support, alimony, and how they are awarded in a North Carolina divorce.
  • Your Will After a Divorce – After a divorce, it’s important to know how your will might be affected. Contact an NC divorce lawyer to learn more.
  • Child Custody – Learn about agreements regarding custody, visitation, and child support while keeping the best interests of your children in mind. How these issues get settled can be complicated, and your best chance at a fair and beneficial outcome is with the help of an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer who can be your advocate through this process.

Filing the Divorce Complaint

To legally and formally ask for an absolute divorce, you or your spouse must file a verified complaint in the county in which one of you resides. The complaint must state that you or your spouse have resided in North Carolina for at least six months and that you’ve lived separately for at least one year. The complaint should contain the names and ages of minor children or state that there are none.

It’s likely the complaint for your divorce will be more complicated and ask for numerous issues to be resolved in court such as equitable distribution of property, alimony, child support, and child custody. Because there are so many factors that arise during a divorce, it’s best to have a knowledgeable North Carolina family lawyer by your side. Many claims can’t be resolved once the divorce is final. In fact, many can be dealt with during the one-year separation period before you file for divorce, which is why it’s beneficial to talk to a skilled lawyer once you’re considering a divorce.

Service of Process

Everyone’s heard of being served and this is when the defendant in the lawsuit is formally notified and given a copy of the summons to court and complaint. Whichever spouse files for divorce must provide proper service of process to the other spouse to move forward with the proceedings.

How to prepare for divorce proceedings in North Carolina

How to prepare for divorce proceedings in North Carolina

Other North Carolina Divorce Issues

Divorce, division of property and debts, alimony, and other issues related to divorce can come with a number of legal complications. How the issues related to your marriage will be resolved depending on factors that are unique to you and your former or soon-to-be former spouse. That’s why it’s beneficial to have an attorney to help you navigate the legal landscape of a North Carolina divorce.

A good North Carolina divorce lawyer can answer questions about your case and a range of marital issues in North Carolina, such as:

  • Annulment – Find out if annulment is an option in your marriage and the process that you must navigate if that is your choice.
  • Separation – Prior to a divorce, couples generally separate. Find out how issues that come up during separation can affect your divorce.
  • Military Separation When you or your spouse serve in the military and are considering separation and divorce, it’s important to know every aspect of the process as it applies to your service. For help in this situation, call Breeden Law Office.
  • Uncontested Divorce – If both parties can reach an agreement regarding legal issues during a divorce, proceedings can be expedited. Learn how an uncontested divorce can benefit you.
  • Interstate Divorce – Learn more about how to handle getting a divorce in North Carolina when you or your spouse lives in another state.
  • Post-Divorce Modifications – Learn which terms can be changed after your divorce is finalized and the process for making a modification, as well as which terms cannot be changed once your divorce is final.
  • Talking to Your Kids About Divorce – It can be challenging to talk to your children about your marriage ending. Learn more about how to prepare them for this difficult familial time.
  • Fraud & Hidden Assets – When your spouse is hiding assets during divorce proceedings, it’s important to reach out to a North Carolina divorce lawyer for help and to learn about your options moving forward.
  • LGBTQ Legal Issues – Same-sex marriage has only been legal in North Carolina for a short time. Learn more about the emerging issues related to same-sex marriage and divorce.
  • Mental Health Issues & Divorce – If you are concerned with how mental health issues may impact your divorce, contact Breeden Law Office for help right away.
  • Marital Misconduct – Marital misconduct covers a wide range of actions, all of which could affect your divorce and court proceedings. Learn more about how an attorney can help you further understand this issue.
  • Alienation of Affection – North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, but when a spouse has an affair, the law allows the wronged spouse to sue the “other man” or “other woman” who participated in the infidelity. Learn more about the civil cause of action for alienation of affection and when it might be an option.

Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer

The process of a North Carolina divorce isn’t as simple as some online sources make it seem, and it isn’t the same in every county. You have to know where to go, what forms to fill out, what information must be provided, and much more. If you and your spouse own a significant amount of property or have minor children, your divorce will likely coincide with other actions, which means you have more to add to your complaint.

While you’re worried and stressed about the decision to separate or divorce, you shouldn’t have to put yourself through a divorce law tutorial. There’s no need to stay up late Googling “North Carolina divorce” because there are lawyers like Jonathan Breeden who have this knowledge and are ready to help you.

Jonathan has practiced law in North Carolina for more than 20 years and handles family law issues across Johnston, Wake and Harnett Counties. He understands how difficult it can be – no one comes to the decision to divorce lightly – which is why he treats every client with compassion and offers tailored representation. He knows the ins and outs of the county court systems, which is why he’s confident he can help his clients create a better future.

What Will a Divorce Lawyer Need or Ask from Me?

What Will a Divorce Lawyer Need or Ask from Me?

Reason #1: Risk of Unfair Results

When a divorce goes smoothly without attorneys, it’s often because there are no significant assets or minor children involved. The only property to potentially divide consists of cars, home furnishings, and debts. These are often quickly allocated by the couple or the judge.

However, most people aren’t involved in such a simple situation. Couples generally own a home together and may have assets such as stocks or financial investments, cars, boats, or vacation properties to divide. Most couples also have children who require a consistent and beneficial custody arrangement. Additionally, retirement accounts and savings are at stake, which matters greatly when one of the spouses financially relied on the other during the marriage.

Recommended reading: Child custody law in Smithfield

Unfair results often arise from divorces in which one spouse is not aware of what he or she is entitled to from the marriage, and is not represented by an experienced divorce lawyer. The role of an attorney in a divorce proceeding is to make sure the end result is fair to his or her client – a necessity when one party is less educated or not as financially well off compared to the other.

Reason #2: Multiple Causes of Action

A divorce is one legal proceeding, but requests for equitable distribution of property, spousal support, custody, and child support are all separate legal actions that will need to be addressed at the same time. Many people assume these things are all taken care of during a divorce, but they aren’t automatic.

If you don’t settle the matter directly with your spouse, you have to formally ask the court to become involved. In most cases, it’s best to ask for everything you need in your complaint so that it can all be addressed moving forward, and a North Carolina divorce lawyer can best advise you on how to structure your complaint so that all of the important issues are addressed.

Reason #3: Fear of Violence

Sometimes, one spouse fears abuse or misconduct from the other when the issue of separation or divorce comes to light, or he or she might worry about the children. In these situations, it’s common for physical or severe emotional abuse to have occurred in the past.

When one individual fears violence from another, a lawyer can help devise a safe and fast action plan for keeping that person and his or her children safe, as well as begin the divorce proceeding. The lawyer may file a restraining order and seek a temporary custody order for the children. An attorney will also be able to advise an individual on how to handle the issue of money, such as if he or she can remove money from a joint account, and, if so, how much.

Reason #4: Moving Past Anger

No matter the size of the family or marital estate, it’s common for spouses to feel hostile toward one another or upset over the end of their marriage. These feelings can cloud an individual’s judgment and make it harder for the parties to agree on matters themselves.

If extramarital affairs or other issues occurred during the marriage, feelings of anger and resentment can make it difficult for an individual to handle the objective portions of the divorce on his or her own. Instead, an attorney can maintain a clear head, fight to uphold your rights, and help you stay on a path that’s best for your future.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden