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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Plenty of Steps in a Divorce Before Litigation

For most people, the common perception of a divorce involves divorce attorneys and some kind of courtroom. However, a courtroom only comes into play during the last stage of the divorce process. There are many other stages that come before that.

One of the first steps is having the defendant served with divorce papers, more commonly known in North Carolina as the absolute divorce complaint. The defendant has the opportunity to answer the complaint, which could include counterclaims. That defendant’s response could be indicative of how long or short of a process lies ahead.

At that point, the divorce is not even close to litigation. That is when the negotiation process begins with letters and phone calls back and forth, and eventually face to face conferences. This is a time that really starts to determine if family law litigation will be needed.

There can be court orders while a divorce is pending. These are temporary orders such as child support payments, visitation schedules, exclusive use of the couple’s primary residence, and temporary maintenance for one of the parties.

When a divorce cannot be resolved through negotiation, there is a need for judicial intervention, which requires a formal request that basically asks permission for the divorcing couple to go to court.


Once that request is filed, a preliminary conference occurs. There is where all of the issues are put on the table along with reasons why judicial intervention is necessary. Once all that goes through, a trial date is set.

While awaiting that trial date, conversations between attorneys continue in an attempt to arrive at a resolution. Issues that cannot be resolved are referred to as open issues and those are what generally wind up being litigated in a courtroom. Some common types of open issues are child custody, distribution of assets, and alimony.

Open issues are brought into a courtroom where each spouse’s attorney serves as their litigator. It is then when each attorney will present evidence and call witnesses to support their arguments. There is no exact time frame for the litigation process as it varies from one divorce to the next.

If you are planning to file for a divorce, hiring an attorney should be a top priority. A NC divorce litigation attorney at Southpark Family Law will help you through the entire process. Before you have your day in court, make sure to have a trusted Southpark family attorney by your side.