When couples can’t agree on the terms of their divorce on their own, they need to rely on the court to settle their differences through a contested divorce. When the couple can’t negotiate a divorce settlement because they cannot agree on one or more issues, including how to divide up their assets and child custody matters, they must proceed to litigation in a North Carolina family court.

In a contested divorce, working with an experienced divorce attorney who can protect your interests and rights is crucial. The attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith have extensive experience representing clients in divorce negotiations to ensure our clients are treated fairly in the division of marital assets and all other divorce-related matters. Contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith about how we can protect your interest in pursuing the best outcome possible and your divorce by scheduling an initial consultation.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that the spouse pursuing a divorce does not need to prove fault-based grounds for divorce. As a result, a contested divorce can move forward even if one spouse objects to the divorce. Contested divorces are generally more complex and take longer to finalize than uncontested divorces, in which both parties agree to all of the significant issues in the divorce settlement.

In a contested divorce, spouses disagree on the terms of the divorce. Some of the most contested divorce issues include the division of property, assets, and debt between spouses, child custody, and spousal support. There may be only one issue that the parties cannot resolve, such as who should be able to remain in the family home. The word contested simply means a disagreement over one of the issues that must be resolved before the divorce is finalized.

The Contested Divorce Process

In a contested divorce, each party can present their demands and evidence to the family law judge presiding over their case. Working with an experienced attorney who can prepare your case effectively and present it to the judge is important. After the judge hears each party’s case, he or she will issue an order with the parties’ divorce decree requirements.

The attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith can help you begin the divorce process by filing a Complaint for Divorce and having your spouse served with divorce papers. Suppose you have already been served with a Complaint for Divorce. In that case, we can help you prepare and file a counterclaim stating your disagreement and your demands for spousal support, child custody, and the distribution of marital assets. We can also file motions to obtain evidence and information from your spouse and others about the matters under discussion. During the discovery process, both parties see cabinets that can support their position when negotiating the settlement or during litigation.

When discovery has been completed, many divorce cases will go to mediation. If you appear in court without a completed separation agreement, the judge can order you to pursue mediation to settle unresolved issues. Arbitration is another alternative dispute resolution process available to divorcing spouses. If you cannot resolve the remaining issues with your spouse, your contested divorce case will need a trial. 

The family law attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith work diligently to help clients resolve issues and pursue an uncontested divorce when possible. When an uncontested divorce is not possible, we will advocate strongly for our clients throughout the litigation process, pursuing the best outcome possible. After hearing both sides’ arguments and evidence, the judge will place a final order called a Judgment of Absolute Divorce, and your divorce will be finalized.

Contested Divorce and Abusive or Absent Spouses

A contested divorce may be necessary when one spouse refuses to cooperate, is abusive, or is absent. If you cannot locate your spouse or have been the victim of domestic violence, you may be able to ask the court again for an order called a divorce from bed and board. This type of separation doesn’t end the marriage but allows you certain rights. You will not need a year of separation before filing for this type of divorce. After a year of living apart under the divorce from bed and board, you can file a petition for a final order of absolute divorce. 

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?

Generally, a contested divorce will take a year or longer from the date that the divorce was filed. The contested divorce process may take longer when the couple has been married a long time, has complex assets, or when the divorce is highly contentious. North Carolina requires a couple to be separated for at least a year and a day before they are eligible to file for divorce. The spouses must have lived in different homes during the separation, and at least one party must have intended the separation to be permanent. 

Additionally, one spouse must be your current North Carolina resident, having lived in North Carolina for six months before filing for the divorce. In addition to meeting these requirements, the couple must negotiate their divorce terms. If they cannot agree on the term, they will need to go to court, which will extend the time it will take to finalize the divorce, especially if the court already has a full calendar. Additionally, one spouse may try to delay the divorce by avoiding being served or by refusing to work toward negotiating a settlement. As a result, contested divorces usually take more time to resolve than uncontested divorces.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Divorce Attorney

Pursuing a divorce can be challenging in many different ways. Whether you are interested in pursuing a contested or uncontested divorce, the attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith are here to help you protect your rights and navigate the divorce process. With the help of one of our skilled divorce attorneys, you can identify the points of disagreement, negotiate from a petition of strength, and potentially avoid costly mistakes. Contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith to learn more about our family law practice.