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North Carolina Court Records

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North Carolina Divorce Records

North Carolina divorce records are documents, files, and other papers that contain information relating to divorces and are generated, maintained, or issued by public bodies under the state of North Carolina. According to the United States Census Bureau, North Carolina has a divorce rate of 8.6 divorces per every 1,000 women over 15 years of age.

There are three major types of divorce or legal separation of spouses in North Carolina

  • Absolute divorce: The dissolution or termination of marriage that is mainly no-fault
  • Annulment: Like a cancellation of marriage, as if the wedding never happened, under term as defined in state laws. Grounds for annulment are very unique.
  • Divorce from bed and board: Both parties are legally separated but not allowed to remarry unless they get an absolute divorce. This can only be fault-based.

The legal reasons or grounds to obtain each type of divorce are:

  • Absolute divorce: The only two grounds are incurable insanity of a spouse (with 3 years uninterrupted separation), or both parties lived separately (i.e. not under one roof and without sexual relation) for an uninterrupted year.
  • Annulment: Bigamy, incest (nearer than first cousins), incompetence, parties were underage (below 16 years) without parental consent, impotence, marriage due to false belief that the female was pregnant (with separation and no child born within 10 months).
  • Divorce from bed and board: Abandonment or desertion, adultery, cruel or barbarous treatment, indignities, intolerable humiliation, and substance abuse.

Before an individual can file a divorce complaint in North Carolina, at least one party must have lived in the state for a minimum of 6 months, as specified under NC. Stat. § 50–8. Responses must be made to complaints by the other party within 30 days of receiving the service of summons. The individual may also move for an additional 30-days extension. On the other hand, publication notices must be responded to within 40 days but may often be unanswered.

Ways to get a divorce in North Carolina are:

  • At-fault and no-fault divorce
  • Collaborative divorce
  • Contested and uncontested divorce
  • Divorce with young children
  • Doctor’s divorce
  • High-asset and business divorce
  • Mediated divorce
  • Military divorce

A North Carolina divorce is not final until the judge signs the judgment of divorce and the divorce decree. Uncontested divorces, whose divorce conditions or grounds have been met, may not exceed 6 months while it is not unusual for contested divorces to last for years. Individuals can also change their names at the time of divorce at a stated fee.

How are Divorce Records Generated in North Carolina?

Divorce records in North Carolina are generated throughout the divorce process i.e. from filing a complaint to finalizing the divorce. As such, the information contained may include details gathered throughout court proceedings and data contained within documents submitted to the court.

Records may cover information like names, dates, location, marital history, and sensitive information like social security number, financial details, information concerning minors or mental health of parties, etcetera.

Divorce records in North Carolina are mainly generated and filed by clerks in the court where divorces occur but are also maintained by the Public Health Division, Vital Records, depending on the day the divorce was finalized.

Are Divorce Records Public in North Carolina?

Yes, divorce records are also court or vital records and, therefore, open to the public. In accordance with the North Carolina public records law, members of the public can access, view, inspect, or obtain copies of most divorce records. However, information that is deemed to be sensitive, like social security number or financial details, will be removed or edited out of the copies given to an individual.

Information that may be disclosed usually includes:

  • Full names of both parties
  • Full names of children
  • Location of marriage and divorce
  • Date of marriage and divorce
  • Residential information
  • Date of birth or age of all parties involved
  • Grounds for divorce
  • Terms of settlement

It is to be noted that while uncertified copies of divorce records are open to the public, access to certified copies may be limited to eligible individuals. This is done to prevent the misuse of personal information. Therefore, requesters may be required to provide sufficient identification, proof of eligibility, as well as legitimate reasons for requesting a record.

What are the types of Divorce Records available in North Carolina?

There are three major types of divorce records in North Carolina: divorce certificates, divorce decree, and divorce case files. These documents may be required when divorced individuals want to change their names, challenge court decisions, or change bank or insurance details. Others may need these records for information purposes.

Each type of divorce record has certain information contained and different custodians. They are:

Divorce certificates: These are the most common type of divorce records. They contain the least amount of general information concerning a divorce like the names of the parties, date of marriage, date of divorce, location, and other basic details surrounding the event. A divorce certificate can be obtained in two major ways: from the county court where the divorce took place, or from North Carolina Vital Records (for divorces from 1958).

Divorce decrees: These are more detailed than divorce records. A divorce decree is a legal document containing the court’s order which grants the termination of a marriage as well as a summary of the rights and responsibilities of parties, and other signed agreements between both parties. This includes specific terms about the separation, parental rights, custody agreements, child support, spousal support or alimony, insurance, division of property, and so on. Certified or uncertified copies of a divorce decree can only be obtained at the court where the divorce happened or was finalized.

Divorce case files: Also known as full records, these are the most comprehensive type of divorce records because they contain information gathered throughout the separation process, from the initial petition to the finalization. Like decrees, they can also be obtained from the court where the divorce took place.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in North Carolina?

The process of getting certified or uncertified copies of divorce records may differ between counties and custodians. However, interested persons can follow the following steps to easily obtain public records.

Step 1: Determine the type of divorce record required

Inquirers must first determine if they want divorce certificates, decrees, or case files as well as if they should get certified or uncertified copies of the specific records depending on what they want to do with the record. Most likely, official purposes will require certified copies while informational reasons can be either.

Step 2: Determine the custodian of the divorce records

There are two major custodians of divorce records: the county court and the North Carolina Vital Records. It will be easier for inquirers to determine which public body holds specific records. This can be done by knowing certain details like full names, residence, date of divorce, case number, and certain information that can help streamline the search and also the cost of research done by the custodian.

Step 3: Determine record accessibility and availability:

Accessibility has to do with finding out if the record is available to the public while availability has to do with where to get the records i.e. online or otherwise. Determining these two things will save the requesters from undue stress. Also, they must determine the fastest and easier means of getting the records.

Step 4: Contact the Court Clerk

Requesting the divorce record from its custodian may involve:

Filing application forms, writing formal requests or making an in-person request for divorce records

Providing identification, authorization, or necessary proof when required

Paying research, duplication, or administration fees

Waiting for the custodian’s response. If it is an approval, obtain records. If not, the reasons for denial will be stated. The individual can either fix issues or try another avenue.

Note: The average turnaround time for North Carolina Vital Records is 5 to 10 business days from the day the request was received while courts may take a little longer.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in North Carolina?

In accordance with the North Carolina public records law, any person has the right to obtain uncertified copies of divorce records. However, certified copies can only be obtained on self or close relations. Legal representatives of these people and personnel of certain public agencies can also obtain these records.

Are North Carolina Divorce Records Available Online?

Yes, online searches can be made on the websites or databases of courts, North Carolina Vital Records, and third-party organizations. The request process and fees may differ and information obtained through third-party sites is not guaranteed to be complete or up-to-date.

How Do I Seal My Divorce Records in North Carolina?

Like court records, sealing divorce records in North Carolina is neither automatic nor guaranteed. The court has the power to seal records that they deem to be in good cause i.e. when the need for privacy outweighs the public right to access the information.

Individuals who seek to seal a portion or all parts of divorce records must, therefore, petition the court and provide proof to the court that sealing the records will be in good cause. There are also other ways to ensure that certain information is kept private while the divorce is ongoing.

Certain conditions that may be considered for sealing include:

  • Details that are deemed to be an in violation of personal privacy e.g. social security number and financial information
  • Protecting the privacy of the children
  • Victims of domestic violence
  • Sensitive information that may harm large corporations
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