Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A.

Can your spouse actually prevent your divorce?

Most people have heard horror stories about spouses that simply refuse to accept that a marriage is over. They refuse to sign the divorce papers and do everything in their power to stop the divorce from happening.

In reality, those days are largely a thing of the past. While your spouse can contest the divorce, that will likely only delay the process somewhat.

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce means that your spouse disagrees with one or more issues in your petition for the divorce. This is common and can often be worked out between the parties through negotiation and mediation long before it has to go to court.

Because North Carolina is a "no-fault" state, you don't have to justify your reason for wanting a divorce.

Legitimate reasons for divorce "for cause" that the court will accept include adultery, cruelty, violence, addiction, alcoholism, abandonment and a host of other reasons. All of those grounds can be contested by your spouse. It's far simpler, however, to simply live apart for the term of a year and ask the court for a "no-fault" divorce -- which cannot be contested.

What happens in a contested divorce?

If your spouse seeks to delay your divorce by refusing to agree on other issues, such as the division of your property, child support or custody and visitation, it will slow down the divorce process. It just won't stop it entirely.

Ultimately, if your spouse refuses to participate in the divorce or even tries to hide from service, there are ways for the court to press ahead with the divorce. If your spouse simply refuses to come to some kind of rational agreement on any other issue, the judge can step in and divide the marital property, assign support and set a custody and visitation schedule. While that's never the preferred option, it is -- eventually -- going to leave you free to move on.

If you're ready to get a divorce, then it's time to talk to an attorney about your goals.

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