Can same-sex couples in North Carolina cite grounds for divorce?

As you may or may not know, there are two types of grounds for divorce here in North Carolina: fault and no-fault. Depending on which type you have, divorce proceedings go differently. For couples who cite fault, divorce proceedings start right away. But for couples in no-fault situations, spouses must live separately for at least one year before filing for divorce.

In cases of fault, a spouse may cite any of the seven grounds for divorce mentioned in § 50-5.1 and § 50-7 of our state’s family law statutes. Grounds for divorce can include things like insanity, abandonment, cruel or abusive treatment or adultery, just to name a few. Though it’s always been known that heterosexual couples could cite grounds for divorce, the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage begs the question:

Can same-sex couples in North Carolina cite grounds for divorce?

Though the obvious answer to this question may seem like a resounding yes, it’s important to note that the wording of our laws still specify husband and wife, meaning a nitpicky judge might not allow a same-sex couple to site grounds for divorce because they don’t meet the definition for the law. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that a same-sex couple would encounter no issues, and would be able to proceed through the divorce process as any married couple would.

The problem with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriages is the fact that many people here in North Carolina and across the nation heard about the decision almost immediately. Many assumed that updating existing laws would be just as quick. Unfortunately though, restructuring and rewording existing laws takes time, leaving legal gray areas that can create problems for some people.

It’s because of this very fact that our Raleigh readers should always remember that they have the right to a lawyer during family law disputes and encouraged to obtain one, especially if the legal situation is particularly thorny.

Source: The North Carolina General Assembly, “Chapter 50. Divorce and Alimony. Article 1,” Accessed Aug. 17, 2015