N.C.G.S. Chapter 50-1 through 50-12
Divorce, Alimony, and Child Support, Generally.
§ 50‑1. Repealed by Session Laws 1971, c. 1185, s. 20.
§ 50‑2. Bond for costs unnecessary.
It shall not be necessary for either party to a proceeding for divorce or alimony to give any undertaking to the other party to secure such costs as such other party may recover. (1871‑2, c. 193, s. 41; Code, s. 1294; Rev., s. 1558; C.S., s. 1656.)
§ 50‑3. Venue; removal of action.
In all proceedings for divorce, the summons shall be returnable to the court of the county in which either the plaintiff or defendant resides.
[In] any action brought under Chapter 50 for alimony or divorce filed in a county where the plaintiff resides but the defendant does not reside, where both parties are residents of the State of North Carolina, and where the plaintiff removes from the State and ceases to be a resident, the action may be removed upon motion of the defendant, for trial or for any motion in the cause, either before or after judgment, to the county in which the defendant resides. The judge, upon such motion, shall order the removal of the action, and the procedures of G.S. 1‑87 shall be followed. (1871‑2, c. 193, s. 40; Code, s. 1289; Rev., s. 1559; 1915, c. 229, s. 1; C.S., s. 1657; 1977, 2nd Sess., c. 1223.)
§ 50‑4. What marriages may be declared void on application of either party.
The district court, during a session of court, on application made as by law provided, by either party to a marriage contracted contrary to the prohibitions contained in the Chapter entitled Marriage, or declared void by said Chapter, may declare such marriage void from the beginning, subject, nevertheless, to G.S. 51‑3. (1871‑2, c. 193, s. 33; Code, s. 1283; Rev., s. 1560; C.S., s. 1658; 1945, c. 635; 1971, c. 1185, s. 21; 1973, c. 1; 1979, c. 525, s. 10.)
§ 50‑5. Repealed by Session Laws 1983, c. 613, s. 1.
§ 50‑5.1. Grounds for absolute divorce in cases of incurable insanity.
In all cases where a husband and wife have lived separate and apart for three consecutive years, without cohabitation, and are still so living separate and apart by reason of the incurable insanity of one of them, the court may grant a decree of absolute divorce upon the petition of the sane spouse: Provided, if the insane spouse has been released on a trial basis to the custody of his or her respective spouse such shall not be considered as terminating the status of living “separate and apart” nor shall it be considered as constituting “cohabitation” for the purpose of this section nor shall it prevent the granting of a divorce as provided by this section. Provided further, the evidence shall show that the insane spouse is suffering from incurable insanity, and has been confined or examined for three consecutive years next preceding the bringing of the action in an institution for the care and treatment of the mentally disordered or, if not so confined, has been examined at least three years preceding the institution of the action for divorce and then found to be incurably insane as hereinafter provided. Provided further, that proof of incurable insanity be supported by the testimony of two reputable physicians, one of whom shall be a staff member or the superintendent of the institution where the insane spouse is confined, and one regularly practicing physician in the community wherein such husband and wife reside, who has no connection with the institution in which said insane spouse is confined; and provided further that a sworn statement signed by said staff member or said superintendent of the institution wherein the insane spouse is confined or was examined shall be admissible as evidence of the facts and opinions therein stated as to the mental status of said insane spouse and as to whether or not said insane spouse is suffering from incurable insanity, or the parties according to the laws governing depositions may take the deposition of said staff member or superintendent of the institution wherein the insane spouse is confined; and provided further that incurable insanity may be proved by the testimony of one or more licensed physicians who are members of the staff of one of this State’s accredited four‑year medical schools or a state‑supported mental institution, supported by the testimony of one or more other physicians licensed by the State of North Carolina, that each of them examined the allegedly incurable insane spouse at least three years preceding the institution of the action for divorce and then determined that said spouse was suffering from incurable insanity and that one or more of them examined the allegedly insane spouse subsequent to the institution of the action and that in his or their opinion the said allegedly insane spouse was continuously incurably insane throughout the full period of three years prior to the institution of the said action.
In lieu of proof of incurable insanity and confinement for three consecutive years next preceding the bringing of the action in an institution for the care and treatment of the mentally disordered prescribed in the preceding paragraph, it shall be sufficient if the evidence shall show that the allegedly insane spouse was adjudicated to be insane more than three years preceding the institution of the action for divorce, that such insanity has continued without interruption since such adjudication and that such person has not been adjudicated to be sane since such adjudication of insanity; provided, further, proof of incurable insanity existing after the institution of the action for divorce shall be furnished by the testimony of two reputable, regularly practicing physicians, one of whom shall be a psychiatrist.
In lieu of proof of incurable insanity and confinement for three consecutive years next preceding the bringing of the action in an institution for the care and treatment of the mentally disordered, or the adjudication of insanity, as prescribed in the preceding paragraphs, it shall be sufficient if the evidence shall show that the insane spouse was examined by two or more members of the staff of one of this State’s accredited four‑year medical schools, both of whom are medical doctors, at least three years preceding the institution of the action for divorce with a determination at that time by said staff members that said spouse is suffering from incurable insanity, that such insanity has continued without interruption since such determination; provided, further, that sworn statements signed by the staff members of the accredited medical school who examined the insane spouse at least three years preceding the commencement of the action shall be admissible as evidence of the facts and opinions therein stated as to the mental status of said insane spouse as to whether or not said insane spouse was suffering from incurable insanity; provided, further, that proof of incurable insanity under this section existing after the institution of the action for divorce shall be furnished by the testimony of two reputable physicians, one of whom shall be a psychiatrist on the staff of one of the State’s accredited four‑year medical schools, and one a physician practicing regularly in the community wherein such insane person resides.
In all decrees granted under this subdivision in actions in which the insane defendant has insufficient income and property to provide for his or her own care and maintenance, the court shall require the plaintiff to provide for the care and maintenance of the insane defendant for the defendant’s lifetime, based upon the standards set out in G.S. 50‑16.5(a). The trial court will retain jurisdiction of the parties and the cause, from term to term, for the purpose of making such orders as equity may require to enforce the provisions of the decree requiring plaintiff to furnish the necessary funds for such care and maintenance.
Service of process shall be held upon the regular guardian for said defendant spouse, if any, and if no regular guardian, upon a duly appointed guardian ad litem and also upon the superintendent or physician in charge of the institution wherein the insane spouse is confined. Such guardian or guardian ad litem shall make an investigation of the circumstances and notify the next of kin of the insane spouse or the superintendent of the institution of the action and whenever practical confer with said next of kin before filing appropriate pleadings in behalf of the defendant.
In all actions brought under this subdivision, if the jury finds as a fact that the plaintiff has been guilty of such conduct as has conduced to the unsoundness of mind of the insane defendant, the relief prayed for shall be denied.
The plaintiff or defendant must have resided in this State for six months next preceding institution of any action under this section. (1945, c. 755; 1949, c. 264, s. 5; 1953, c. 1087; 1955, c. 887, s. 15; 1963, c. 1173; 1971, c. 1173, ss. 1, 2; 1975, c. 771; 1977, c. 501, s. 1; 1983, c. 613, s. 1.)
Marriages may be dissolved and the parties thereto divorced from the bonds of matrimony on the application of either party, 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. A divorce under this section shall not be barred to either party by any defense or plea based upon any provision of G.S. 50‑7, a plea of res judicata, or a plea of recrimination. Notwithstanding the provisions of G.S. 50‑11, or of the common law, a divorce under this section shall not affect the rights of a dependent spouse with respect to alimony which have been asserted in the action or any other pending action.
Whether there has been a resumption of marital relations during the period of separation shall be determined pursuant to G.S. 52‑10.2. Isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties shall not toll the statutory period required for divorce predicated on separation of one year. (1931, c. 72; 1933, c. 163; 1937, c. 100, ss. 1, 2; 1943, c. 448, s. 3; 1949, c. 264, s. 3; 1965, c. 636, s. 2; 1977, c. 817, s. 1; 1977, 2nd Sess., c. 1190, s. 1; 1979, c. 709, s. 1; 1981, c. 182; 1983, c. 613, s. 2; c. 923, s. 217; 1987, c. 664, s. 2.)
§ 50‑7. Grounds for divorce from bed and board.
The court may grant divorces from bed and board on application of the party injured, made as by law provided, in the following cases if either party:
(1) Abandons his or her family.
(2) Maliciously turns the other out of doors.
(3) By cruel or barbarous treatment endangers the life of the other. In addition, the court may grant the victim of such treatment the remedies available under G.S. 50B‑1, et seq.
(4) Offers such indignities to the person of the other as to render his or her condition intolerable and life burdensome.
(5) Becomes an excessive user of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and the life of that spouse burdensome.
(6) Commits adultery. (1871‑2, c. 193, s. 36; Code, s. 1286; Rev., s. 1562; C.S., s. 1660; 1967, c. 1152, s. 7; 1971, c. 1185, s. 22; 1979, c. 561, s. 5; 1985, c. 574, ss. 1, 2.)
§ 50‑8. Contents of complaint; verification; venue and service in action by nonresident; certain divorces validated.
In all actions for divorce the complaint shall be verified in accordance with the provisions of Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure and G.S. 1‑148. The plaintiff shall set forth in his or her complaint that the complainant or defendant has been a resident of the State of North Carolina for at least six months next preceding the filing of the complaint, and that the facts set forth therein as grounds for divorce, except in actions for divorce from bed and board, have existed to his or her knowledge for at least six months prior to the filing of the complaint: Provided, however, that if the cause for divorce is one‑year separation, then it shall not be necessary to allege in the complaint that the grounds for divorce have existed for at least six months prior to the filing of the complaint; it being the purpose of this proviso to permit a divorce after such separation of one year without awaiting an additional six months for filing the complaint: Provided, further, that if the complainant is a nonresident of the State action shall be brought in the county of the defendant’s residence, and summons served upon the defendant personally or service of summons accepted by the defendant personally in the manner provided in G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 4(j)(1). Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, any suit or action for divorce heretofore instituted by a nonresident of this State in which the defendant was personally served with summons or in which the defendant personally accepted service of the summons and the case was tried and final judgment entered in a court of this State in a county other than the county of the defendant’s residence, is hereby validated and declared to be legal and proper, the same as if the suit or action for divorce had been brought in the county of the defendant’s residence.
In all divorce actions the complaint shall set forth the name and age of any minor child or children of the marriage, and in the event there are no minor children of the marriage, the complaint shall so state. In addition, when there are minor children of the marriage, the complaint shall state the social security number of the plaintiff and, if known, the social security number of the defendant.
In all prior suits and actions for divorce heretofore instituted and tried in the courts of this State where the averments of fact required to be contained in the affidavit heretofore required by this section are or have been alleged and set forth in the complaint in said suits or actions and said complaints have been duly verified as required by Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, said allegations so contained in said complaints shall be deemed to be, and are hereby made, a substantial compliance as to the allegations heretofore required by this section to be set forth in any affidavit; and all such suits or actions for divorce, as well as the judgments or decrees issued and entered as a result thereof, are hereby validated and declared to be legal and proper judgments and decrees of divorce.
In all suits and actions for divorce heretofore instituted and tried in this State on and subsequent to the 5th day of April, 1951, wherein the statements, averments, or allegations in the verification to the complaint in said suits or actions are not in accordance with the provisions of Rule 11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure and G.S. 1‑148 or the requirements of this section as to verification of complaint or the allegations, statements or averments in the verification contain the language that the facts set forth in the complaint are true “to the best of affiant’s knowledge and belief” instead of the language “that the same is true to his (or her) own knowledge” or similar variation in language, said allegations, statements and averments in said verifications as contained in or attached to said complaint shall be deemed to be, and are hereby made, a substantial compliance as to the allegations, averments or statements required by this section to be set forth in any such verifications; and all such suits or actions for divorce, as well as the judgments or decrees issued and entered as a result thereof, are hereby validated and declared to be legal and proper judgments and decrees of divorce. The judgment of divorce shall include, where there are minor children of the parties, the social security numbers of the parties. (1868‑9, c. 93, s. 46; 1869‑70, c. 184; Code, s. 1287; Rev., s. 1563; 1907, c. 1008, s. 1; C.S., s. 1661; 1925, c. 93; 1933, c. 71, ss. 2, 3; 1943, c. 448, s. 1; 1947, c. 165; 1949, c. 264, s. 4; 1951, c. 590; 1955, c. 103; 1965, c. 636, s. 3; c. 751, s. 1; 1967, c. 50; c. 954, s. 3; 1969, c. 803; 1971, c. 415; 1973, c. 39; 1981, c. 599, s. 15; 1997‑433, s. 4.3; 1998‑17, s. 1.)
§ 50‑9. Effect of answer of summons by defendant.
In all cases upon an action for a divorce absolute, where judgment of divorce has heretofore been granted and where the plaintiff has caused to be served upon the defendant in person a legal summons, whether by verified complaint or unverified complaint, and such defendant answered such summons, and where the trial of said action was duly and legally had in all other respects and judgments rendered by a judge of the superior court upon issues answered by a judge and jury, in accordance with law, such judgments are hereby declared to have the same force and effect as any judgment upon an action for divorce otherwise had legally and regularly. (1929, c. 290, s. 1; 1947, c. 393.)
§ 50‑10. Material facts found by judge or jury in divorce or annulment proceedings; when notice of trial not required; procedure same as ordinary civil actions.
(a) Except as provided for in subsection (e) of this section, the material facts in every complaint asking for a divorce or for an annulment shall be deemed to be denied by the defendant, whether the same shall be actually denied by pleading or not, and no judgment shall be given in favor of the plaintiff in any such complaint until such facts have been found by a judge or jury.
(b) Nothing herein shall require notice of trial to be given to a defendant who has not made an appearance in the action.
(c) The determination of whether there is to be a jury trial or a trial before the judge without a jury shall be made in accordance with G.S. 1A‑1, Rules 38 and 39.
(d) The provisions of G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 56, shall be applicable to actions for absolute divorce pursuant to G.S. 50‑6, for the purpose of determining whether any genuine issue of material fact remains for trial by jury, but in the event the court determines that no genuine issue of material fact remains for trial by jury, the court must find the facts as provided herein. The court may enter a judgment of absolute divorce pursuant to the procedures set forth in G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 56, finding all requisite facts from nontestimonial evidence presented by affidavit, verified motion or other verified pleading.
(e) The clerk of superior court, upon request of the plaintiff, may enter judgment in cases in which the plaintiff’s only claim against the defendant is for absolute divorce, or absolute divorce and the resumption of a former name, and the defendant has been defaulted for failure to appear, the defendant has answered admitting the allegations of the complaint, or the defendant has filed a waiver of the right to answer, and the defendant is not an infant or incompetent person. (1868‑9, c. 93, s. 47; Code, s. 1288; Rev., s. 1564; C.S., s. 1662; 1963, c. 540, ss. 1, 2; 1965, c. 105; c. 636, s. 4; 1971, c. 17; 1973, cc. 2, 460; 1981, c. 12; 1983 (Reg. Sess., 1984), c. 1037, s. 4; 1985, c. 140; 1991, c. 568, s. 1; 2004‑128, s. 6.)
§ 50‑11. Effects of absolute divorce.
(a) After a judgment of divorce from the bonds of matrimony, all rights arising out of the marriage shall cease and determine except as hereinafter set out, and either party may marry again without restriction arising from the dissolved marriage.
(b) No judgment of divorce shall render illegitimate any child in esse, or begotten of the body of the wife during coverture.
(c) A divorce obtained pursuant to G.S. 50‑5.1 or G.S. 50‑6 shall not affect the rights of either spouse with respect to any action for alimony or postseparation support pending at the time the judgment for divorce is granted. Furthermore, a judgment of absolute divorce shall not impair or destroy the right of a spouse to receive alimony or postseparation support or affect any other rights provided for such spouse under any judgment or decree of a court rendered before or at the time of the judgment of absolute divorce.
(d) A divorce obtained outside the State in an action in which jurisdiction over the person of the dependent spouse was not obtained shall not impair or destroy the right of the dependent spouse to alimony as provided by the laws of this State.
(e) An absolute divorce obtained within this State shall destroy the right of a spouse to equitable distribution under G.S. 50‑20 unless the right is asserted prior to judgment of absolute divorce; except, the defendant may bring an action or file a motion in the cause for equitable distribution within six months from the date of the judgment in such a case if service of process upon the defendant was by publication pursuant to G.S. 1A‑1, Rule 4 and the defendant failed to appear in the action for divorce.
(f) An absolute divorce by a court that lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the property shall not destroy the right of a spouse to equitable distribution under G.S. 50‑20 if an action or motion in the cause is filed within six months after the judgment of divorce is entered. The validity of such divorce may be attacked in the action for equitable distribution. (1871‑2, c. 193, s. 43; Code, s. 1295; Rev., s. 1569; 1919, c. 204; C.S., s. 1663; 1953, c. 1313; 1955, c. 872, s. 1; 1967, c. 1152, s. 3; 1981, c. 190; c. 815, s. 2; 1987, c. 844, s. 3; 1991, c. 569, s. 2; 1995, c. 319, s. 8; 1998‑217, s. 7(a), (b).)
§ 50‑11.1. Children born of voidable marriage legitimate.
A child born of voidable marriage or a bigamous marriage is legitimate notwithstanding the annulment of the marriage. (1951, c. 893, s. 2.)
§ 50‑11.2. Judgment provisions pertaining to care, custody, tuition and maintenance of minor children.
Where the court has the requisite jurisdiction and upon proper pleadings and proper and due notice to all interested parties the judgment in a divorce action may contain such provisions respecting care, custody, tuition and maintenance of the minor children of the marriage as the court may adjudge; and from time to time such provisions may be modified upon due notice and hearing and a showing of a substantial change in condition; and if there be no minor children, the judgment may so state. The jurisdictional requirements of G.S. 50A‑201, 50A‑203, or 50A‑204 shall apply in regard to a custody decree. (1973, c. 927, s. 1; 1979, c. 110, s. 11; 1999‑223, s. 10.)
§ 50‑11.3. Certain judgments entered prior to January 1, 1981, validated.
Any judgment of divorce which has been entered prior to January 1, 1981, by a court of competent jurisdiction within the State of North Carolina without a conclusion of law that the plaintiff was entitled to an absolute divorce, but which is proper in all other respects, is hereby rendered valid and of full force and effect. (1977, c. 320; 1981, c. 473.)
§ 50‑11.4. Certain judgments of divorce validated.
Any judgment of divorce entered as a result of an action instituted prior to October 1, 1983, upon any grounds abolished by Chapter 613 of the 1983 Session Laws as amended by Section 217(O) of Chapter 923 of the 1983 Session Laws, which is proper in all other respects, is hereby rendered valid and of full force and effect. (1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 952.)
§ 50‑12. Resumption of maiden or premarriage surname.
(a) Any woman whose marriage is dissolved by a decree of absolute divorce may, upon application to the clerk of court of the county in which she resides or where the divorce was granted setting forth her intention to do so, change her name to any of the following:
(1) Her maiden name; or
(2) The surname of a prior deceased husband; or
(3) The surname of a prior living husband if she has children who have that husband’s surname.
(a1) A man whose marriage is dissolved by decree of absolute divorce may, upon application to the clerk of court of the county in which he resides or where the divorce was granted setting forth his intention to do so, change the surname he took upon marriage to his premarriage surname.
(b) The application and fee required by subsection (e) of this section shall be presented to the clerk of the court of the county in which such divorced person resides or where the divorce was granted, and shall set forth the full name of the former spouse of the applicant, the name of the county and state in which the divorce was granted, and the term or session of court at which such divorce was granted, and shall be signed by the woman in her full maiden name, or by the man in his full premarriage surname. The clerks of court of the several counties of the State shall record and index such applications in such manner as shall be required by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
(c) If an applicant, since the divorce, has adopted one of the surnames listed in subsection (a) or (a1) of this section, the applicant’s use and adoption of that name is validated.
(d) In the complaint, or counterclaim for divorce filed by any person in this State, the person may petition the court to adopt any surname as provided by this section, and the court is authorized to incorporate in the divorce decree an order authorizing the person to adopt that surname.
(e) For support of the General Court of Justice, a fee in the amount of ten dollars ($10.00) shall be assessed against each person requesting the resumption of maiden or premarriage surname in accordance with this section. Sums collected under this section shall be remitted to the State Treasurer. (1937, c. 53; 1941, c. 9; 1951, c. 780; 1957, c. 394; 1971, c. 1185, s. 23; 1981, c. 494, ss. 1‑4; 1985, c. 488; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 565, s. 1; 2005‑38, s. 1; 2010‑31, s. 15.9(a).)
Written By: John McNeil