When a couple can’t agree on the terms of their divorce, one spouse may file for a contested divorce. This means that the couple cannot come to an agreement on the issues involved on their own and must rely on the court to settle their differences. There are specific steps to filing for a contested divorce in North Carolina. Let’s look at what you need to know if you’re considering filing for contested divorce in our state.

What is a Contested Divorce in North Carolina?

There are many issues that couples must discuss before one may file for divorce. Before a judge signs a divorce decree, there must be the following:

  • Property division of marital assets
  • Determinations about any needed financial support for a spouse or children
  • Other necessary decisions

When one spouse refuses to “grant” a divorce or a couple can’t agree about critical issues, they must ask the court to make decisions for them. A contested divorce occurs when the court analyzes the contested issues in a marriage and decides how to resolve them.

A contested divorce means both spouses participate in a divorce trial. The divorce court judge looks at all evidence in a discovery process, considers the testimony of each party and any witnesses, and decides the outstanding issues in the divorce case. The judge then decides how to resolve the issues and lays out the divorce settlement.

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

The Contested Divorce Process

Whether the other spouse agrees to a divorce or not, you may file for a contested divorce and eventually receive a divorce based on the grounds that you’ve been separated from your spouse for one full year.

Contested divorce begins when one spouse files a Divorce Complaint for Absolute Divorce. The legal procedures of presenting a case in court often necessitate an experienced divorce attorney. Usually, both spouses hire attorneys to help with the judicial process of a contested divorce.

Thirty days after your spouse receives divorce papers, they must file an Answer or a Motion (request) for an extension of time to file an Answer. After 30 days go by, the clerk’s office will have the date for your first divorce hearing.

At the hearing, the judge generally asks questions about the marriage and separation. After hearing both sides, the court places a final order of Judgment of Absolute Divorce. Your divorce is final on the date the judge signs the judgment.

In North Carolina, it’s typical for a divorce to resolve within ninety days after the responding spouse receives legal documents. However, in cases where spouses cannot agree on particular matters or if the court schedule is full, divorces can take longer than expected to finalize. (1)

Why is An Uncontested Divorce A Better Solution?

In a contested divorce, you and your spouse fail to agree on crucial matters related to the dissolution of your marriage. However, in an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse find ways to agree to all of the major issues, such as:

  • Child custody: Who the children will live with
  • Visitation: When the non-custodial parent can see the children
  • Child support: How much money one parent will pay to support their children
  • Spousal support: Post-separation support and alimony
  • Health insurance issues: How will spouses and children get coverage, and who will pay?
  • Division of pensions, joint savings accounts, retirement plans
  • Equitable distribution of marital property (Dividing debts and dividing assets such as vehicles, houses, bank accounts, insurance policies, home equity, and other personal property

Pros and Cons of Contested Divorces vs. Uncontested Divorces

The contested divorce cost process may incentivize you and your spouse to work through issues together. You can attend mediation sessions, work on negotiations through your attorneys, or use other processes to find agreement for your divorce proceedings.

If you’ve ironed out the issues in your marriage when filing for divorce, the judge decides that spouses agree and generally allows for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce may cost less, take less time, and bring a happier end to your marriage as both parties participate in the negotiations.

The entire process is much easier when you and your spouse can agree upon the terms of the separation and divorce. However, when there are one or more issues that you struggle to negotiate, you may need the court to settle your differences.

We Can Help

At The Plekan Law Firm, our experienced divorce attorneys are committed to helping you and your spouse find a settlement that works for you both. We help reduce your court fees and other costs so that the legal process of divorce is more straightforward for you both.

Working for your best interests, we will do our best to represent you throughout the entire divorce process. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.