Divorce is a significant and challenging life event that can have huge emotional, financial, and legal implications for both parties as well as their family members. If you are facing (or considering) a divorce in North Carolina, it is important to examine the potential costs involved as part of your initial research.
Every divorce is different, just like every marriage is different. For this reason, the specific costs associated with a divorce may vary massively depending on all sorts of factors, including:
However, it is possible to outline the general expenses that you can expect to encounter during the divorce process, rather than put an exact dollar amount on them, so that you can begin to craft a more accurate estimate for your own personal circumstances.
An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses agree on all key issues, such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support, or when one spouse totally fails to engage with the divorce process. This type of divorce is typically less expensive, as it requires less time and legal intervention.
A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one that involves any level of dispute between spouses regarding the division of assets, custody, spousal support, etc. Generally speaking, the more contentious a case is, the more time and legal assistance it will require, and the more expensive it will therefore become.
This is not simply a matter of deciding whether to hire an attorney. There is a wide range of legal services available in North Carolina, and they are usually priced in proportion to their quality. While some budget attorneys may offer standardized divorce packages at a low flat rate, most reputable attorneys are going to bill an hourly rate for divorce cases. That way, they can devote the time and individual attention necessary to pursue optimal outcomes for their clients.
Typically, the cost of hiring a divorce attorney in North Carolina will largely be a factor of your attorney’s experience and reputation combined with the market conditions for legal services in your local area. Some individuals choose to represent themselves in a divorce, known as proceeding pro se. While this option can indeed help save on legal fees, it is important to consider all the potential risks and complexities involved in navigating such an important and life-changing legal process without professional guidance.
Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, can save a lot of money, so long as you and your ex are in a place, emotionally, to negotiate effectively. This is more cost-effective compared to traditional litigation because it keeps your divorce out of the courtroom to the greatest extent possible. It also allows you and your ex to share expenses by hiring a single, qualified attorney to act as a mediator and guide you both to a fair and equitable outcome, rather than each going into the negotiation process with separate attorneys.
It is generally more expensive when parties approach divorce as a contest to be won rather than an issue to be resolved collaboratively because it simply takes more time to “meet in the middle” when you start on opposite sides. For this reason, working with a neutral third party to negotiate and resolve issues can lead to great savings.
If the divorcing couple has significant assets or complex financial arrangements, such as multiple properties, business interests, or shared investments, the cost of the divorce may increase. Valuing and dividing these assets to untangle a sticky financial situation can require professional financial advice and may therefore involve additional fees beyond your attorney’s costs.
Disputes related to child custody and support are taken very seriously by the courts and can therefore add to the overall cost of a divorce in the form of additional courtroom time. Resolving these matters can require the involvement of child custody evaluators, parenting coordinators, or other expert witnesses, which can result in additional expenses. The fees for experts, such as forensic accountants or child psychologists, will add to the overall cost and can sometimes be comparable to high-end attorney fees of hundreds of dollars per hour.
The filing fee alone for a divorce in North Carolina is currently $225, with another $30 fee going towards serving the other party (i.e., your ex) with their copy of the divorce. Depending on how the divorce proceeds, you may see additional costs related to various motions, hearings, or trials. These will vary depending on the complexity and duration of the divorce process.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a completely free divorce in North Carolina. If you meet certain income eligibility requirements, you may qualify for filing fee waivers or assistance from legal aid organizations that offer reduced-cost services. You should consult with your local court system to ask about the existence of such programs and their requirements.
The cheapest way to get a divorce in North Carolina is through an uncontested divorce. In this scenario, both parties agree on all major issues, including property division, child custody, and support, and enter into the process collaboratively and without the need for legal representation. By working together amicably, couples can avoid lengthy court battles and reduce legal fees to the greatest extent possible.
In North Carolina, there is no distinction made between husbands and wives when dividing marital property after a divorce. North Carolina divorce works on the principle that marital property should be divided equitably (rather than equally) between the spouses, which means a “fair” division rather than one that is arbitrarily based on the gender of the parties. The court considers myriad factors in making this calculation, including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and earning potential, and their actual contributions to the marriage, but not whether the spouse was a wife or a husband. There is no fixed percentage or formula determining what a wife (or husband) is entitled to in a divorce, as North Carolina law is more complex and thoughtful than that, and each case must be evaluated on its individual merits.
In North Carolina, divorces are issued under a no-fault principle, and as part of this process, a one-year separation period is generally required before filing for divorce. (Once filed, however, a North Carolina divorce can sometimes be completed in a matter of months or even weeks.) There are some limited exceptions that may allow spouses to obtain a divorce before being separated for a full year. These exceptions include cases involving domestic violence, abandonment, or marital misconduct such as adultery. Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney can help you understand if you qualify for any of these exceptions.
Divorce can naturally be a complex and emotionally charged process, but it can also be a time of rebirth and positivity. Our high-quality legal services can help you through the unpleasant parts so that you can focus on rebuilding your life. If you are considering a divorce, or need assistance with any other family law matter, we encourage you to reach out to our experienced divorce attorneys at Lassiter & Lassiter. Contact us today to schedule a no-pressure consultation and take the first step towards this bright new chapter in your life.
Call our office at 704-873-2295 or email us today.
Attorney Mike Lassiter grew up in Statesville, makes his living serving the people of Statesville and published a book capturing the changing landscape of small town life across North Carolina and Iredell County. His keen sense of history, dedication to the area and 30 years of legal experience make him an ideal attorney for your legal needs.
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