Filing a Contested Divorce in North Carolina

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Filing an uncontested divorce in North Carolina can sometimes be handled successfully by the divorcing couple themselves, but filing a contested divorce in North Carolina requires an attorney. A divorce is considered to be "contested" when either one spouse does not agree with the grounds for the divorce, does not want the divorce or when the couple divorcing cannot agree on one or more terms of the divorce.

Divorce in North Carolina

In order to file for divorce in North Carolina, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six months prior to the filing. Keeping in mind you should plan on speaking with a local family law attorney regarding your pending divorce plans, these are the two basic grounds for divorce in North Carolina:

  • living separate and apart for at least one year with the intention of dissolving the marriage
  • incurable insanity which has caused the husband and wife to live separate and apart for three years

Discuss with your attorney the implications of any marital misconduct that may have occurred, as these could be relevant in a contested divorce:

  • adultery
  • abandonment
  • maliciously compelled to leave your home by your spouse
  • indignities causing your life to be burdensome and intolerable (includes domestic violence)
  • excessive drug or alcohol use
  • willfully failing to financially provide for spouse or family

Contested Divorce

The spouse that files the Complaint for Divorce is called the Plaintiff. The other spouse becomes the Defendant. Paperwork that is filed by your attorney with the courts for a contested divorce includes the same forms as an uncontested divorce, with some additional forms and steps required. Both spouses will have to complete an Financial Affidavit, which will summarize for the courts all property owned, income earned, assets and debts that need to be dealt with as part of the divorce.

Completely uncooperative spouses can be compelled to provide information via a subpoena process.  In the case of a divorce involving a spouse who cannot be, or does not want to be found your attorney can begin a "diligent search" process to locate your spouse.

  • if the attorney's diligent search turns up no results, the Plaintiff can serve the Defendant with something called Notice of Service by Publication
  • Plaintiff publishes the Summons in a newspaper in an area where it is possible the missing spouse is living
  • This notice is published once each week for three consecutive weeks
  • If still no results, Plaintiff files an Affidavit stating they completed this public notice process

The Defendant has 40 days in North Carolina to respond, if there is none then your attorney can continue with your divorce proceedings as though it were an uncontested divorce.

Contested Divorce Terms

During the negotiation process of a divorce, initially contested terms such as alimony, child support, child custody and property division can become uncontested if the spouses come to an agreement prior to a Judge making decisions for them.

Get Legal Advice Early

Whether you are planning to be the Plaintiff or are a Defendant in a contested divorce in North Carolina it is important to protect your rights and interests by hiring an experienced family law attorney to represent you. Your attorney can speak for you, negotiate on your behalf and help you achieve the most equitable post divorce arrangements that are possible.

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