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Raleigh Divorce Blog

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in North Carolina?

Going through a divorce is an experience that can often be painful and stressful. Unfortunately, many marriages in America end in divorce, causing uncertainty and anxiety while the divorce is ongoing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there were at least 630,505 divorces and annulments in the U.S. in 2020.

You might wonder how long a contested divorce will take in North Carolina. Each case is unique and depends on various factors. No set amount timetable is available for all contested divorces, but some general factors apply to most situations.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce is one in which the spouses disagree on the terms of the divorce. These often include property distribution, child custody, and alimony. Other contested issues may include child support and debt distribution.

One general guideline is that the longer a couple has been married, the longer a contested divorce will usually take. There are likely more contested issues because there was more time for them to develop during the marriage.

Is There a Typical Amount of Time a Contested Divorce Takes?

A contested divorce often takes a year or longer to finalize from the date the divorce is filed. In North Carolina, a couple must be separated for at least a year and a day before they are eligible to file for divorce.

Additionally, the spouses must have been living in different homes during this time, and at least one partner must have intended the separation to be permanent. One spouse must be a current North Carolina resident and must have lived in the state for six months prior to filing the divorce case.

Factors That Can Impact the Timeline

When a divorce is contested, the couple will attend mediation to move toward resolution. If there are still contested issues after mediation, then the case proceeds to court. Going to court extends the amount of time required to finalize the divorce. It may be that the court already has a full calendar. This can further increase the amount of time it takes to reach a resolution.

When a marriage involves children, a contested divorce might take more time to finalize because issues around child custody and child support are often contentious. It can take a significant amount of time to reach a resolution for these important elements when either spouse is non-cooperative.

Alimony, also called spousal support, is another issue the spouses may disagree about in a contested divorce. This disagreement can extend the timeline, as well.

How Does Property Distribution Affect the Divorce Timeline?

The more property that a married couple owns, the more time a divorce can potentially take. The distribution of property can be divisive, particularly for property that cannot be divided equally. This includes the family home and any other real estate.

In addition, it may be that one spouse is attempting to conceal property. An example of this may be not disclosing assets like bank accounts. When this happens, it can take more time to determine the total marital property that is to be divided. An experienced divorce lawyer will know to look for these types of issues.

What Happens If a Spouse Avoids Being Served Papers?

In some situations, one spouse may try to delay the divorce. One way they may do this is by avoiding being served divorce papers. Service of divorce papers is typically performed by a sheriff in North Carolina.

If a spouse intentionally makes themselves difficult to locate, this does not mean that the divorce is delayed indefinitely. You also have the option to serve papers via a delivery service or certified mail. If these are unsuccessful, the court may authorize service by publication. In such a situation, the documents would be published in a newspaper.

Contact Marshall & Taylor PLLC Today

If you are getting divorced, this can be an emotional and challenging time. An experienced divorce attorney can help guide you through this process so you can focus on moving on with your life. Call (919) 833-1040 to speak with a compassionate Raleigh divorce attorney from Marshall & Taylor PLLC. You can also submit our contact form, and we will be in touch right away to set up your confidential consultation.

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