North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, which means you can file a petition for divorce without accusing your spouse of marital misconduct, as long as you have been living separately and apart for at least one year. However, filing no-fault is not the same as getting an uncontested divorce. You may still have several disagreements that you must settle before a court can grant your divorce. Your divorce is uncontested only if you settle these issues by agreement rather than trial. This is where divorce mediation comes in. At the Eatmon Law Firm, PC in Wake Forest, I emphasize mediation as a quick, cost-effective and less stressful method for achieving a divorce settlement. Whether you choose to mediate your divorce before filing or are referred for mediation by the court, I can help you resolve all your ancillary issues so you can avoid litigation and get on with your life.
The courts in North Carolina will not issue a final divorce decree until you have settled the following issues:
The surest way to achieve an uncontested divorce is to attempt to reach a settlement through mediation before you even file for divorce. Rather than blindside your spouse with divorce papers, express your desire to dissolve the marriage in the most positive manner possible. Consult with a divorce attorney who is also a certified family law mediator to find out more about the process and whether you and your spouse are good candidates.
Mediation is a process of negotiation, where a neutral third party — the mediator — guides discussions on the issues to help the parties reach a compromise that works for both of them. Generally, we choose a topic, such as spousal support, for the first session, and the parties come prepared to discuss that issue. Some parties like to confer with an attorney before the session, but it’s rare that parties have their attorneys attend the mediation.
Each party makes an opening statement of their position, and then the mediator moderates a discussion. The parties separate, and the mediator shuttles back and forth between the two, nudging the parties closer to a workable compromise. When the parties reach an agreement on one issue, the discussion moves to the next. When the parties reach agreement on all issues, the mediator prepares a draft settlement agreement for the parties, which their attorneys review. If both parties sign the agreement, they present the document to the court for approval, and it becomes the basis for the divorce decree. If the agreement is complete, the couple will get an uncontested divorce. If the agreement is incomplete, unresolved issues are held over for trial and the divorce will be contested.
If you have already filed for divorce, it is not too late to opt for mediation. I am happy to explain its benefits in an initial consultation.
An uncontested divorce saves time, expense and heartache, but achieving a settlement is not always easy. To learn how you can mediate your uncontested divorce in Wake, Durham, Franklin and Granville counties, call the Eatmon Law Firm, PC at 919-670-5566 or contact my office online to schedule a consultation. My Wake Forest office is located at 1788 Heritage Center Drive, and Saturday and evening appointments are available.