Divorce, a life-altering event that can lead to emotional upheaval and significant legal battles, is an unfortunate reality for many couples. As you face the dissolution of your union, it’s essential to be aware of what can be used against you in a divorce.
Amidst the emotional turmoil, many individuals find themselves vulnerable to inadvertently sharing information or engaging in actions that could be used against them in a court of law.
Learn the key factors that can be used as ammunition in the hands of an opposing spouse’s counsel. Understanding what can be used against you in a divorce can help you use greater caution and strategic foresight to protect your interests.
How Divorce Proceedings Work in North Carolina
Divorce proceedings in North Carolina follow a “no-fault” divorce process, wherein couples can seek an absolute divorce based on the grounds of separation. Unlike other states, North Carolina does not require fault-based reasons, such as adultery or cruelty, to file for divorce. (1)
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how divorce proceedings typically work in North Carolina:
Divorce Process Involves One-Year Separation
To obtain a divorce in North Carolina, the couple must first live separately and apart for at least one year continuously. This period of separation is a legal requirement, and it starts from the date the spouses physically separate with the intention of ending the marriage.
Filing the Complaint
Once the one-year separation period is fulfilled, either spouse can initiate the divorce process by filing a Complaint for Absolute Divorce in the county where they reside. The Complaint should include essential details, such as names of both parties, date of separation, and any requests for child custody, support, alimony, and property division.
Serving the Complaint
The filed Complaint must be served on the other spouse (the defendant) through a proper legal process. This can be done by personal service or certified mail with a return receipt.
Response and Counterclaim
After being served with the Complaint, the defendant has 30 days to respond. In a “no-fault” divorce, the defendant typically doesn’t need to contest the grounds for divorce since the one-year separation is a sufficient basis. However, they can respond to other aspects of the Complaint, such as child custody or property division. The defendant may also file a Counterclaim if they have additional claims to present.
Discovery and Negotiation
Both parties may engage in a discovery process to exchange relevant information related to finances, assets, and other matters. This information is crucial for reaching a fair settlement. The couple can negotiate the divorce terms, including child custody arrangements, child support, alimony, and property distribution if possible.
If the couple agrees on all issues, they can submit a consent order to the court, and the judge will review and sign it, finalizing the divorce. However, if unresolved matters arise, the court may schedule hearings to decide on those issues.
Once all issues are resolved, and the judge reviews and approves the settlement or makes necessary decisions, the court will issue a Final Decree of Divorce, officially terminating the marriage.
Navigating divorce proceedings can be emotionally challenging, so it’s advisable to seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to ensure your rights and interests are protected throughout the process.
Before Receiving Final Divorce Papers
Understanding the requirements and steps involved in a North Carolina divorce can give you a clearer picture of what to expect during this life-changing event. There are many issues that married couples must work through before the court will award a divorce.
If you work through these issues before filing for divorce, the court may agree with your decisions and award the divorce. An uncontested divorce is one in which you and your spouse work out your issues before filing for divorce.
Often, attorney-led mediation can help couples negotiate through everything to find solutions that work for them both. Other times, their respective attorneys may negotiate on their behalf until an agreement is reached.
If the couple can’t find an agreement before filing for divorce, the court will go through a trial-like process to make crucial decisions for the couple. This is called a contested divorce.
Below are some issues a couple must work out for an uncontested divorce process.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets
During divorce proceedings, the court will intervene if a couple can’t divide their assets in agreement. The judge will equitably distribute marital property and debts. Equitable distribution means that property will be divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, based on various factors.
Child Custody, Visitation Rights, Support
If the couple has children, they will need to reach an agreement about child custody arrangements and child support. If they can’t decide how to handle child issues, the court will settle what is best based on the child’s best interests and the state’s child support guidelines.
Spousal Support: Post-Separation Support and Alimony
The court may award alimony to one spouse based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, the financial needs of both parties and each spouse’s contributions during the marriage. Or a couple may work out how to handle this before filing for a divorce.
What Can Be Used Against You In a Divorce
During divorce proceedings in North Carolina, several issues can work against you, potentially impacting the outcome of the divorce settlement. Understanding these factors is crucial for protecting your interests and ensuring a fair resolution. Here are some key issues to be aware of:
While North Carolina does not require fault-based grounds for divorce, extramarital affairs can still play a role in certain aspects of the divorce, particularly when it comes to alimony. If one spouse can prove that the other committed adultery during the marriage, it may affect their eligibility to receive alimony.
Although North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state, evidence of marital misconduct, such as cruelty, excessive drug or alcohol use, or domestic violence, may influence child custody decisions and property division, especially if it can be shown that the misconduct had a detrimental impact on the family.
North Carolina follows the principle of equitable distribution when dividing marital property. However, if you have significantly contributed to the depreciation of marital assets, such as wasteful spending or hiding assets, the court may consider that during property division.
In child custody matters, the court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child. Any behavior or actions that raise concerns about your ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the children may work against you in custody decisions. This includes issues like substance abuse, neglect, or a history of violence.
Attempting to turn the children against the other parent during divorce proceedings can be detrimental. Courts frown upon parental alienation, and it may impact custody decisions negatively.
Making social media posts talking bad about your spouse, where the kids can see, is an example that a spouse’s lawyer may use against you in a court of law.
Any attempt to hide income, assets, or other financial information during proceedings can work against you. Transferring money to hide it is easy for a spouse to find out about.
Full financial transparency is essential. Attempts to deceive the court or your spouse can lead to severe consequences.
In addition, marital waste of assets in extraordinary spending can look bad to the court. Spending marital assets to get back at your spouse in a divorce case is never a good idea.
Lack of Cooperation
Being uncooperative during the divorce process can prolong the proceedings and increase costs. Refusing to participate in mediation or failing to comply with court orders can reflect negatively on your willingness to work toward a fair resolution.
The other side may use inconsistency in your statements or actions against you during divorce proceedings. It’s essential to present a consistent and credible narrative to the court.
A history of substance abuse or addiction may raise concerns about your ability to care for the children and affect custody and visitation arrangements.
The court may evaluate your ability to provide children with a stable and nurturing environment. Being consistently late for visitation or failing to fulfill parental responsibilities can impact custody decisions.
Navigating a divorce in North Carolina requires careful consideration of these potential pitfalls. Seeking legal advice from an experienced family law attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations and ensure you approach the divorce process with the best possible strategy.
We Can Help
At Plekan Law, our family law and divorce attorneys provide compassionate and experienced legal representation to clients facing divorce in North Carolina. We understand the emotional and financial challenges that come with the end of a marriage. We help you navigate this difficult time with confidence and peace of mind.
Our team of skilled attorneys has a deep understanding of the complexities of North Carolina family law. We work closely with you to assess your unique situation, listen to your concerns, and develop a tailored legal strategy that aligns with your goals. Whether your divorce is amicable and uncontested or contentious with courtroom litigation, we advocate for your rights and protect your best interests at every step of the process.
With a focus on open communication and personalized attention, we guide you through the intricacies of property division, child custody, child support, alimony, and any other relevant issues that arise during your divorce. We are strong negotiators and skilled mediators, always striving to reach favorable settlements outside court whenever possible. However, if litigation becomes necessary, we will vigorously represent you to achieve the best outcome.
At Plekan Law, we believe everyone deserves compassionate and competent legal representation. We fight for your rights and advocate for your best interests, ensuring you receive the support and guidance you need to move forward with confidence and hope.
If you are contemplating or facing a divorce in North Carolina, don’t navigate this challenging process alone. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. Let our dedicated team be your trusted ally in securing a brighter future for you and your family.