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The Costs of Divorce: What North Carolina Residents Should Know

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The average cost of a divorce in North Carolina, which is $23,000, is very deceptive. High-asset millionaire divorces drive up the average cost figure. These complex cases often take years to resolve. On the other end of the scale, a no-asset and no-child divorce in North Carolina might be a tenth of that average cost.

However, any way you slice it, divorce is expensive. That’s especially true since indirect costs are involved. Many people miss work to attend court hearings and related events. Furthermore, divorce has an emotional cost. Many people are too busy worrying about divorce to enjoy spending time with friends and family.

Regardless of the direct and indirect costs, a divorce lawyer works hard to find long-lasting and cost-effective solutions throughout the entire divorce process. The final divorce order should equitably divide property, set the stage for successful co-parenting, and otherwise enable all divorce participants to move forward with their lives.

Reducing the Cost

Premarital agreements, collaborative divorce, and pre-divorce mediation are a few ways to reduce the cost of marriage dissolution in North Carolina.

A prenup is basically the stitch in time that saves nine. Premarital agreements resolve many common financial issues, like spousal support and asset division, in advance. So, a well-drafted prenup avoids protracted divorce litigation that no one really wants. 

Enforcement was once hit and miss. Enforceable provisions in one state or county were often unenforceable in other jurisdictions. Today, most judges uphold most prenups unless they are blatantly one-sided or only one spouse had an independent divorce lawyer during the premarital agreement process.

Collaborative law is a non-litigation marriage dissolution alternative. The parties meet once a month to discuss and resolve divorce issues. If the matter requires a realtor, economist, psychologist, or another outside professional, the two sides proportionally divide the cost. 

Each collaborative divorce is different, but in many cases, these matters can be resolved in as little as five or six meetings.

Obviously, collaborative divorce only works in limited situations. Pre-filing mediation only works in limited situations as well. Suppose the two sides are reasonably close together on most issues, and there’s no evidence of financial misconduct or other shenanigans. In that case, a mediator can help the parties reach a full agreement before the case begins. Then, a divorce is largely a matter of filing paperwork.

Issues in a Divorce

If these shortcuts are unavailable for whatever reason, and they usually are, a divorce lawyer must use the litigation process to resolve critical issues in a divorce, such as:

  • Parenting Time: Like most other jurisdictions, North Carolina has a co-parenting law that presumes that children benefit from frequent and consistent contact with both parents. The co-parenting presumption and the best interest of the child presumption guide most parenting time decisions.
  • Property Division: North Carolina is also an equitable property division. In most marriage dissolution matters, equitable and equal are the same thing. However, that’s not always the case. Some factors to consider include the length of the marriage, the future earning ability of each spouse, and the custody of minor children.
  • Family Support Obligations: A statutory formula usually determines the amount of support and the duration of child support payments. Alimony is much more subjective. Judges consider various factors, such as the ones mentioned above, to determine payment amount and duration.

Divorce issues are complex, and so is the divorce process. Generally, a judge sets ground rules at a temporary hearing. These ground rules include temporary parenting time, property division, and FSO orders. Most North Carolina divorces settle out of court. However, the road to a favorable settlement is often long, winding, and bumpy.

The Resolution Process

We mentioned pre-filing mediation above. Post-filing mediation resolves most divorce cases in North Carolina.

This process is about 90 percent successful, partially because both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. “Take it or leave it” is not a good faith offer or counteroffer. By the time a case reaches the mediation phase, the time for posturing is over. Instead, both spouses must earnestly want to settle the case and be willing to make some compromises to achieve that goal.

Additionally, since a professional mediator gets involved late in the process, the trial date is approaching. Since no one really wants to go to trial, at least in most cases, the parties are highly motivated to iron out their differences and reach an agreement.

Mediation has positive implications for future disputes as well. When disagreements arise, and they will, the parties often believe that since they talked out their problems before, they can do so again.

Talk to a Hard-Working Durham County Lawyer

To protect your legal and financial rights during a divorce or other proceeding, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Triangle Divorce Lawyers for a confidential consultation today.


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