How Do I Divorce a Spouse Who Lives in Another State?

3How Do I Divorce a Spouse Who Lives in Another State?

The decision to divorce often comes after a long period of discord or discontent. In North Carolina, couples can file for a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Couples are required to live apart for a period of at least one year before they can seek an absolute divorce in North Carolina. In some cases, one or both parties may move out of the area where they originally resided. When this happens, it can complicate the divorce process. If you are seeking a divorce from a partner who lives out of state, it is helpful to seek guidance from an experienced North Carolina divorce attorney.


Residency and Jurisdiction

First and foremost, you must meet the jurisdiction and residency requirements for filing for divorce. Only the location in which you reside has jurisdiction in the case. Jurisdiction is simply the legal authority to oversee a case. The jurisdiction where you live has the authority to make legal decisions regarding your case. In North Carolina, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for six months immediately before filing for divorce. The first divorce filing is the one that will take jurisdiction in the matter.

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What are my custody rights if the other parent moves?”


Filing for Divorce

The person to file for divorce is called the petitioner, and the other person is the respondent. It is a requirement of the petitioner to notify the respondent of the divorce legally. Generally, the best way to notify them is by serving the party with documentation of the divorce proceeding. When the other spouse is out of state, it can be more difficult to coordinate serving divorce papers. The sheriff or other law enforcement may be able to serve the other person with divorce notification. Another option for serving papers is through certified mail.



It is important to note that when you file for divorce in North Carolina, state divorce laws govern the process. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that marital property must be divided in a fair and equitable manner in divorce. Parties should try to resolve any disputes and agree to settlement terms whenever possible. When a party lives out of state, they are responsible for their own transportation costs and arrangements if they have to travel back to North Carolina for matters regarding divorce proceedings.


What if I Cannot Locate My Spouse?

A divorce cannot proceed until the respondent is properly served with a notification. The most common ways to notify are by personal service and by certified mail. However, there are instances in which you do not know the exact location of your spouse. There are several options to proceed in this case. You may be able to locate the person with help from relatives or an investigator. If a person cannot be located, you can file a notification in the newspaper in the last known location of the respondent. You must meet specific criteria for publishing notifications.


Divorcing a spouse who lives out of state does not have to be difficult. Get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here. Now taking cases in North and South Carolina!







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.



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