A question that comes up from some clients is whether or not someone can divorce without the other party’s knowledge or refusing to “sign for the divorce.” In order to divorce, the initiating party, i.e. the Plaintiff, must serve the other party under Rule 4 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. This generally means that the party initiating the divorce action must serve the other party by certified mail, sheriff (or process server if sheriff is unable to serve), or by publication in limited circumstances. Unless the initiating party is able to serve by publication, the other party will always know about the divorce action because he or she will either have to sign for the certified mail or will be handed the complaint and summons by the sheriff. Once the divorce papers have been served, there is nothing further required to be “signed” by or done by the other party, and since an Absolute Divorce is a no-fault cause of action, after waiting the statutory period of time, the initiating party may proceed with seeking the requested relief of a divorce from the Court.
Once you have been served with a divorce complaint (or prior to filing if you are the initiating party), it is very important to consult with an attorney to ensure you are not giving up any potential marital rights or claims that you may have, since ignoring it will forever waive those rights.