How the Contested Divorce Process Works in North Carolina

contested divorce in north carolina

Even the most amicable divorces can be legally and emotionally challenging. Contested divorces, however, turn things up a notch or two. A contested divorce in North Carolina means you and your divorcing spouse cannot resolve one or more of issues and need the court’s decision on the matter. If you’re facing a contested divorce, you shouldn’t proceed without the professional legal counsel of an experienced North Carolina divorce attorney backing you up. Triangle Smart Divorce is here for you.

The Terms of Your Contested Divorce in North Carolina

From the simplest divorce to the most complicated, the basic terms that must be resolved do not vary. Any one of these terms can become a sticking point in your negotiations, leading to a contested divorce if you are unable to resolve the matter.

The Division of Marital Property in North Carolina

The division of marital property in a divorce has the potential to become a very contentious term of any divorce. North Carolina uses the equitable distribution method, which means all marital and divisible assets must be divided fairly between the two spouses. It is important to note that “fair” does not necessarily mean “equal.” Spouses might receive an “unequal” split depending on multiple factors, including, but not limited to, age, health, children, and the actions of spouses during the marriage. If you end up in Court, it is all up to the Judge’s interpretation of a “equitable” division between the couple.

North Carolina divides assets into three distinct categories, including:

  • Your marital assets, which are all those assets you acquired while you were married (regardless of who made the purchases), except for gifts from third parties
  • Your separate assets, which are those assets that either of you brought with you into the marriage (and kept separate throughout) or you inherited or were given to you by a third party during the marriage
  • Divisible property, which refers to the amount that a specific asset passively increased or decreased in value from the time you separated to the time your divorce was finalized, passive income from your marital assets, or bonuses earned before separation, but paid afterwards

Because the division of marital and divisible assets directly affects your financial health, it is a top concern of many separated couples.

Child Custody Arrangements

In North Carolina, the issue of child custody is often linked to contested divorces. Child custody is divided into both legal and physical custody. Legal custody determines who will be making those important parenting decisions that address primary concerns, such as:

  • Your child’s schooling
  • Your child’s extracurricular activities
  • Your child’s healthcare needs
  • Your child’s religious education

Decision-making authority can be shared, can be taken on by only one of you, or can be shared between parents according to the kind of decision that is being made.

Physical custody determines how you and your children’s other parent will exercise your custodial time. The two primary options are:

  • One of you becomes the primary custodial parent with whom your children spend the majority of their time while the other parent has a visitation schedule.
  • You and your children’s other parent hammer out a schedule whereby you divide your parenting time more evenly.

If you need the court’s intervention on your child custody arrangements, you can expect to receive one of its standardized custody and visitation schedules.

Child Support

Child support in North Carolina is determined according to the state’s Child Support Guidelines, which factor in a wide range of variables. In the end, however, the parent who is the higher earner is likely to have the child support obligation – even when parenting time is divided equally between both. In a few limited cases, such as high-income cases, the Guidelines will not apply, and child support will be determined based on the parents’ financial positions and the children’s reasonable needs.


Alimony is only ordered in North Carolina in those instances in which divorce leaves one spouse financially disadvantaged and leaves the other with the financial ability to help. Generally, alimony is intended to buy recipients the time they need to become more financially independent by pursuing higher education or job training or to maintain the spouse in the former marital standard of living.

Negotiating Your Divorce Terms

It is rare for you You and your divorcing spouse are not expected to happily agree to every divorce term. Instead, you will have many opportunities to negotiate terms that you can both agree to, including:

  • Negotiating one on one (with the guidance of your respective divorce attorneys)
  • Allowing each of your divorce attorneys to negotiate on your behalves
  • Turning to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) option, such as mediation – in which a neutral third party, who is also a professional mediator, helps you explore your best options

If you have exhausted each of these approaches, you are likely looking at a contested divorce.

An Experienced Divorce Attorney Can Help With Your Contested Divorce in North Carolina

Our very capable divorce attorneys at Triangle Smart Divorce – proudly serving the Triangle area and surrounding North Carolina counties – are committed to skillfully advocating for your parental and financial rights. While the goal with all our clients is to reach an agreement, we understand that isn’t always feasible, and if a contested divorce is necessary, we’ll be ready to fight for you and your family. To learn more, don’t put off contacting or calling us today.