When a couple decides to get divorced, they may have difficulty agreeing on the terms. If they can’t come to an agreement on their own, one spouse may file for a contested divorce. This means the couple cannot agree on issues and must rely on the court to settle their differences. However, in an uncontested divorce, a couple works out the details of their divorce agreement so that the judicial process is much easier and less costly. Let’s look at the differences in contested vs uncontested divorce in North Carolina.

What is Contested Divorce in North Carolina?

When couples decide to part ways, several matters must be discussed and determined before the court can issue an official divorce decree. These include: dividing their marital property according to what is fair, evaluating whether any financial support from either spouse is required to provide for children or a former partner, and other decisions.

When a couple can’t agree about critical issues, they must ask the court to make decisions for them. When a divorce is contested, the court reviews and weighs all disputed issues between spouses to reach an equitable resolution.

Engaging in a contested divorce entails both spouses participating in a trial. The judge presiding over the case meticulously evaluates all evidence, hears out each partner and any witnesses present, then renders their judgment on the issues at hand. Consequently, they will decide the divorce settlement for everyone involved.

According to Forbes, “Contested divorce is the most expensive, most contentious and longest type of divorce process available.”

Instead of a contested divorce, couples often work with attorneys to settle complex issues, so they don’t have to fight a lengthy court battle over separation or divorce issues.

The Contested Divorce Process

You can file for a contested divorce and eventually receive a divorce based on the grounds that you separated from your spouse for one full year.

Contested divorce begins when one spouse files a Divorce Complaint for Absolute Divorce. No matter how amicable the divorce proceedings may seem, experienced legal counsel is always essential to ensure a favorable outcome in court. It’s standard practice for both individuals involved in a contested divorce to retain representatives to provide indispensable guidance and support throughout their hearing.

After 30 days have elapsed from the day your spouse receives divorce papers, they must file an Answer or Motion for more time to produce one. Following this period of time has transpired, the clerk’s office will notify you of a date and location for your first divorce hearing.

During the hearing, the judge will likely inquire questions regarding your marriage and separation. After listening to each individual side of the story, they’ll reach a definitive conclusion known as the Judgment of Absolute Divorce. Your divorce is legally binding when the court signs off the judgment.

In North Carolina, a divorce is typically final within 90 days of the responding spouse receiving legal documents. Nonetheless, disagreements between spouses or crowded court dockets can lead to longer wait times and delays in resolving divorces. (1)

What is Uncontested Divorce in North Carolina?

You must work through negotiated settlements with your spouse before filing the divorce paperwork.

You can ensure your best interests by consulting with an attorney specializing in uncontested divorce. Your attorney can also be a vital part of mediation or arbitration alternatives to a court process. 

Issues you must settle with your spouse include:

  • Child custody: Will you share care and living arrangements equally with your children? How much time with each parent will each child spend? 
  • Visitation: When and how will you see your children? Are there any rules or special needs you would like to include in the paperwork for you both to abide by? 
  • Legal separation: If you choose to write up a legal separation agreement, you can include child custody and visitation issues, financial matters, property issues, etc.
  • Child support: Will one parent pay child support to the other?
  • Alimony: Will one spouse pay alimony to the other?
  • Division of pensions, joint savings accounts, and retirement plans: You must work through the financial assets with your spouse before the divorce, or you can lose your ownership or beneficiary status for financial accounts. In the divorce proceeding, your agreements must be in writing for them to apply legally. A verbal agreement from a spouse is not enough to ensure your retirement savings. Also, look at insurance policies and who the beneficiaries are on each account.
  • Debt: Any debts you or your spouse owe to a creditor must also go through a negotiation process. After the divorce, whoever’s name is on the account is on the hook. 
  • Equitable distribution of marital property: A large part of divorce is negotiating property ownership with your spouse. It is wise to work with someone impartial to help you come to a fair agreement on items such as cars, houses, boats, furniture or other items in your home.

When both parties agree about the divorce terms, they can file for a divorce order and avoid a court trial. Instead, they simply file their divorce petition. The fault grounds must include a one-year separation (or proof of incurable insanity).

However, when spouses agree on complicated issues and resolve their differences, they can proceed without a long battle in divorce court.

Contested and Uncontested Divorce: What’s the Difference?

The difference between contested and uncontested divorce is in the level of agreement, or lack thereof, between spouses.

In contested divorce cases, both parties cannot agree on one or more aspects of the divorce. These issues could include child custody, visitation rights, spousal support, and other matters that need resolution during a divorce. You must take these issues before a judge if you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement.

Uncontested Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree to all the related issues before filing for divorce. Whether you hire legal help or not, uncontested divorces are often quicker and cost less. If you and your spouse agree on significant issues, there are fewer legal fees, court hearings, legal procedures, and time in family court if you have children.

Contested Divorce

However, the circumstances of a contested divorce mean that your spouse disagrees with you on issues. These issues prevent you from developing a divorce agreement.

A contested divorce is inevitable when you and the other spouse can’t find common agreements about child support, child custody issues, or equitable distribution (such as whether to let a spouse keep the house).

Contested divorces happen when clients and attorneys can’t resolve divorce cases, and the entire mess goes before a judge for judicial interpretation and judgment.

How to Achieve Uncontested Divorces

It is often challenging to consider every perspective in a conversation within marriage. Working with a divorce attorney lets you get an objective viewpoint on your situation and see how other couples navigate the same issues. Furthermore, attorneys can give guidance regarding how a court might perceive your marital disagreements and respond.

A knowledgeable attorney can aid you in preventing a costly and drawn-out legal battle for your rights. Without legal assistance during these crucial spousal conversations, your amicable resolution could fall apart. 

Divorce attorneys are experienced in navigating the intricate negotiations of an arbitration agreement, allowing you to avoid a destructive and contentious court battle.

Experienced Divorce Attorneys Working For Your Best Interests

At Plekan Law, we protect your marital rights. Whether you feel unsure if you and your spouse have found a fair agreement or need help discussing matters with a spouse, we can help.

Our experienced divorce lawyers offer legal representation to help you understand the law, encourage compromise, and find an acceptable agreement. We understand the complexities of divorce and the emotional toll it takes on everyone involved. We are here to make sure you get the resolution you deserve.

As you navigate through a divorce, our team will provide advice and guidance every step of the way. We ensure that you remain informed and that the agreement is fair and equitable for you and any children.

Don’t risk going through a divorce without protection – contact us today to learn more about how a divorce lawyer from Plekan can assist you. Reach out to learn more about how we can help make your separation and divorce process as smooth as possible so that you can move forward.