Getting a divorce is an emotionally, physically, and financially draining experience all on its own. But the process of divorce can become much more complicated and time-consuming when spouses engage in a contested divorce. Bitter disputes can arise over dividing assets, paying alimony, and settling child custody and support obligations.
If you are considering filing a contested divorce or find yourself in the middle of one, reach out to the Pittsboro divorce attorneys of Marshall & Taylor PLLC today for an initial case review. In our review, you can discuss your rights and options with our experienced divorce attorneys. Call us at (919) 833-1040 to discuss how we can help you seek the best possible outcome in your divorce.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce is a divorce proceeding in which the spouses cannot come to an agreement on one or more issues, such as dividing marital assets and liabilities, alimony, or child custody and support. In a contested divorce, the court can decide these outstanding issues for the parties. Spouses may reach an agreement on some of the issues arising from their separation and turn to the court to resolve those remaining issues that they cannot agree on.
A contested divorce may also be a divorce where one spouse denies the grounds for an at-fault divorce that were alleged by the other spouse. Grounds for an at-fault divorce include adultery, abuse, abandonment, or incarceration. Of course, North Carolina also permits “no-fault” divorces.
Do I Need an Attorney for a Contested Divorce?
Although you are not required to hire an attorney to represent you in a contested divorce, a divorce attorney will almost always prove critical to protecting your rights and interests. North Carolina has complex laws that govern the common issues in contested divorces, including division of property and debts, alimony or spousal support, and determination of child custody and calculation of child support. A divorce attorney can help you to understand your legal rights and options in your divorce. An attorney can also advocate on your behalf in court or at the negotiating table to fight for a fair outcome for you.
Why Choose Marshall & Taylor PLLC to Help with My Contested Divorce?
Contested divorces often become difficult processes for families. You are not only dealing with the trauma of the dissolution of your marriage and the breakup of your family, but you also must deal with protecting your rights and interests with respect to the unresolved issues in your contested divorce. For that reason, you need an experienced, knowledgeable, compassionate divorce attorney from Marshall & Taylor PLLC to help you navigate this process and the changes that you and your family are experiencing.
Our legal team has the expertise and resources needed to help clients even through the most complex contested divorce cases. One of our partners, Jeffrey Marshall, has received a board certification from the North Carolina State Bar as a specialist in family law, a distinction held by only a few hundred lawyers in the state. Our firm can help make your contested divorce as smooth as possible under the circumstances, handling all the complex paperwork in your case. We can negotiate a settlement of your contested divorce issues that provides a fair outcome for you, and we can represent you and advocate on your behalf in court.
The Contested Divorce Process in North Carolina
The contested divorce process in North Carolina involves several steps. These steps include:
- The spouses must remain separated (living in different residences) for at least one year.
- One spouse files a complaint for absolute divorce with the trial court.
- The filing spouse (known as the plaintiff) must then serve a copy of the complaint and a summons on their other spouse (known as the defendant).
- The other spouse may file an answer to the complaint, identifying any other contested issues not raised in the original complaint.
- Thirty days after serving the complaint and summons on the defendant spouse, the plaintiff spouse can request a hearing date.
- At the hearing, the court will hear evidence and testimony to ensure that the parties are eligible to seek divorce in North Carolina, that they have met the one-year separation requirement, and that service and notification were made on the defendant spouse. The court will also inquire as to whether any legal or financial matters between the spouses remain outstanding. If the spouses have outstanding matters, the case becomes a contested divorce. The court will establish a schedule for the case, including deadlines for completing discovery or filing any motions in the case and scheduling a tentative trial date.
- The parties will engage in discovery relating to the matters in the contested divorce. This usually involves exchanging financial information needed to resolve issues like division of assets, alimony, or child support.
- If the parties do not settle the outstanding issues, the court will eventually hold a trial. At the end of the trial, the court will issue a judgment divorcing the parties and ruling on all the contested issues in the case.
Frequently Asked Questions about Contested Divorce
No doubt you have questions about contested divorce. We’ve answered some of our clients’ most popular questions for you here.
How much does a contested divorce cost?
Unfortunately, we typically cannot estimate how much your contested divorce case will cost, aside from quoting the filing fees and other court costs to start the divorce suit. How much your case may cost will depend on the individual circumstances of your family. Contested divorces typically cost much more than divorce cases where the spouses have no disagreements. Our attorneys can talk to you about legal fees and other expenses that may be required in pursuing your case.
How long does a contested divorce take?
As with the issue of cost, determining the length of a contested divorce case can often prove difficult, if not impossible. How long it may take to reach a resolution to a contested divorce will depend on various factors, such as what issues need to be resolved, the complexities of the spouses’ assets, the spouses’ willingness to try to reach a settlement, and the scheduling and availability of the court. But under North Carolina law, spouses must be separated for at least a year before the court can finalize the divorce.
Can I bring up additional issues to contest during the divorce trial?
In a contested divorce, the emotional and personal conflict between the spouses can lead to the desire to raise more and more issues as a means of escalating the conflict. However, in most cases, the issues that will be decided in a contested divorce must be set forth in the parties’ initial pleadings. For that reason, you need to speak to a knowledgeable divorce attorney when filing for or answering a complaint for a contested divorce to ensure that all the issues you want to be resolved in your divorce are put before the court.
Contact Us Today
If you are facing a contested divorce, you need seasoned legal representation to protect your rights and interests. Call Marshall & Taylor PLLC today at (919) 833-1040 for a confidential initial consultation to learn more about how our divorce lawyers can help you to pursue the best possible outcome to your contested divorce.