contested divorce

Contested Divorce and Timing of Family Law Matters – We get inquires about family law cases every day, and they often start with the following question: “How much do you charge for a divorce?”.  Needless to say, that doesn’t elicit a one size fits all response. We ask whether the divorce is a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce and whether they also have any outstanding issues of child custody, child support, alimony, or equitable distribution.  When the answer to those questions is yes, we have to explain to people that, they really aren’t just looking for information about a divorce.

People think that a divorce covers a lot more than it actually does. People think the child custody, child support, equitable distribution, and alimony are automatically all part of a divorce.  That is not the case in North Carolina.  In fact, those above-mentioned actions are five distinct and separate actions and that don’t all have to be handled at the same time, and are often not handled at the same time.  

Timing of family law actions

Timing with regards to family law matters have important limits and distinctions. Also, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution matters can be independent and separate from each other based on the circumstances of the particular case. Below are just a few examples of rules regarding the filing of these actions:

  • A compliant for divorce cannot be filed until the parties have been separate for at least one year and one day.
  • A claim for equitable distribution must be filed before a divorce is finalized or that claim can never be made.
  • A claim for alimony must be filed before a divorce is finalized or the claim can never be made.
  • Parties don’t have to be separated before they file claims of equitable distribution or alimony.
  • Child custody and child support claims can be filed at any time.
  • It does not relate the timing of the finalization of a divorce.
  • It does not relate to whether the parties are separated or not.

Contested divorce versus uncontested divorce

Generally, what attorneys mean when they refer to a divorce as an “uncontested divorce” is that the parties are not seeking alimony, equitable distribution, etc. The only remedy both parties seek is the absolute divorce. An absolute divorce will be granted no matter what, so long as the court has jurisdiction and the parties have been separated for a year and a day with the intent of at least one party to remain separate and apart. Here, there are no contested issues because one party cannot refuse a divorce (of course if one party disputes the timeframe of the divorce, you may have to litigate that). Conversely, if the parties are seeking to litigate issues such as alimony or equitable distribution, or one party is disputing something, this is a contested divorce.

If you are in need of a family law attorney for a divorce, custody, or another family law matter, contact us.