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How Do North Carolina Courts Resolve Matters Across State Lines?

The US Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause[1] requires states to honor certain orders from other states, including divorces, child custody, and spousal support. However, not every family law matter is straightforward, and moving to North Carolina from out-of-state may present some challenges and unexpected changes.

North Carolina and Divorce

Having a general understanding of how North Carolina handles divorce and other family law matters can be helpful as a new resident. Below are a few key points to be aware of:

  • North Carolina only grants no-fault divorces.[2]
  • You must be separated for at least 12 months and have lived in North Carolina for at least six months before filing for divorce.
  • North Carolina law considers a 50/50 split of property to be equitable by default, but an unequal division can sometimes be granted.
  • Equitable distribution must be requested before the divorce is finalized.

If any of these divorce laws differ from your previous state of residence, it is recommended that you contact a Greensboro divorce lawyer for guidance on separation, divorce, and property distribution.

Dividing Property

Deciding how to distribute marital property is already a complex legal issue. When multiple state jurisdictions are involved, it can present significant challenges. Generally, North Carolina courts will use North Carolina laws to value and divide property in a divorce. However, if you are moving from a state that uses community property guidelines rather than equitable distribution, your property could still be subject to division based on another state’s laws. The current community property states are Wisconsin, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Washington, Texas, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico.

A major component of dividing property in a divorce is determining ownership. Traditionally, ownership of real property is based on laws in the state where the property is located. If you move to North Carolina but still own your house in Louisiana, the division of that property in a divorce will likely be decided according to Louisiana’s community property laws.

The rules are slightly different for other types of personal property, and often the laws of the state where the property was first acquired will be followed. If you have moved to North Carolina from another equitable distribution state, the process is likely to be much simpler.

Same-Sex Marriages

As of right now, Obergefell v. Hodges prevents states from barring same-sex marriage. The laws and regulations have changed recently with the passing of the Respect for Marriage Act,[3] There has been much discussion of this topic and how the Supreme Court of the United States may handle future cases regarding same-sex marriage. Staying up to date is crucial to ensure you know in which states your marriage will be recognized, especially because some federal agencies will not recognize a marriage unless the state of residency does.


[1] US Constitution. Article IV, Section 1.

[2] North Carolina Judicial Branch. Separation and Divorce.

[3] Respect for Marriage Act.