Divorce should not strike you as a bolt out of the blue, at least not in North Carolina. Our state requires that a couple have lived separately for at least one year before they can be divorced, so you should be aware that things are rocky in your relationship and could end up in divorce court.
However, many people are still confused about what steps to take next after receiving divorce papers. In this article, a Wilmington divorce attorney will break down the process.
What Do I Do Once I Receive a Petition for Divorce?
You need to respond to the allegations in the divorce. You might also file a cross-petition. Talk with your divorce attorney about the timing requirements. You don’t want to fail to respond, which could lead to a default divorce.
In your response, you can also request custody of your children and spousal support, if necessary. Couples can certainly divorce without an attorney, but a lawyer will help you better understand your rights.
What Is Mediation and is It Required?
Mediation involves each spouse meeting with a mediator, who is a third party neutral. The biggest misconception about mediation is that the mediator is a judge. Not so: the mediator’s role is to listen to each side describe their dispute and to help the couple find common ground.
A judge might order you to attend mediation or you might agree to go voluntarily. Either way, the mediator cannot force you to come to an agreement. But if you do find common ground with your spouse, you can draft an agreement and submit it to the judge. Mediation can resolve all disputes in a divorce or just some. Either way, you will narrow down the issues in dispute and likely speed up your divorce.
What Is Discovery?
Divorce disputes revolve around evidence. For example, you might disagree about what property is marital or whether your spouse is entitled to support after divorce. To convince a judge to agree with you, you will need facts and evidence. The fact-finding stage in any lawsuit (including divorce) is called discovery.
Of course, you should begin building your case as soon as possible, before any divorce papers are filed. But discovery is a chance to obtain records from your spouse and other third parties. If you think your spouse is hiding assets, for example, you can request financial records using a subpoena.
What Happens in Court?
Any issue you cannot resolve with your spouse must be decided by a judge. You will have a chance at a hearing to present witnesses and other evidence to the judge to help him or her make a decision. At the end of the hearing, the judge will issue a divorce decree which should include information about the division of marital property, child custody, child support, and spousal support. A contested divorce can take a year or more from start to finish.
Contact Speaks Law Firm for Help with Your Divorce
Divorce can be very complicated, and you would be better off with a seasoned Wilmington divorce attorney by your side. Contact Speaks Law Firm today. We offer a free consultation to those who contact us.