Any issues in a divorce that are not settled between the parties may be decided in court. There are a number of issues divorcing couples have to decide before a divorce becomes final. This includes:
Many of these issues can be decided by the parties individually, through mediation, or through negotiation by their lawyers. Anything that cannot be decided may be part of a divorce trial in court.
During the divorce hearing, the judge will hear testimony from each spouse to make sure all legal and financial matters have been settled. When those issues have been decided, they will become part of the divorce orders and are legally binding. Changing those orders will require post-judgment modification or filing an appeal with the court. It can be more difficult to change the court's decision after trial so it is important to get things right the first time.
With the help of an experienced North Carolina divorce lawyer on your side, you will have an advocate to make sure your interests are protected. If you have any questions about divorce hearings in North Carolina, contact your family law attorney for help.
Divorce Hearings in North Carolina
Generally, a judge will decide any family law disputes that cannot be settled through dispute resolution or negotiations. Jury trials may be available in criminal cases or civil litigation but are not common in family court disputes. A judge will generally hear cases and decide family law matters. During a trial, the judge will generally hear from each side, review all available evidence, and issue a decision based on the law and the facts.
Property Division Disputes
Property division disputes in North Carolina are based on equitable distribution. The court will generally identify the type of property and then divide the property in a way that the court considers to be “fair.”
Marital property includes possessions and assets that are acquired by spouses during a marriage is considered marital property. Separate property is acquired before a marriage, or during the marriage as a gift or inheritance from an outside party. Divisible property includes the couple's assets that either depreciate or appreciate in value after the date of separation is known as divisible property, including real estate and stock investments.
Factors that go into the courts' equitable distribution determination include:
- The income, property, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective;
- Any obligation for support from a prior marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The physical and mental health of both spouses;
- The needs of a parent with custody of a child or children to occupy a marital residence;
- Reasonable expectations of a pension, retirement or other compensation rights that are not deemed marital property;
- Direct or indirect contributions made by one spouse to help the career potential of another spouse;
- Debt accrued by each party; and, among other factors,
- Any direct or indirect contribution to an increase in value of separate property that occurs during the course of marriage.
Alimony and Post-Separation Support Disputes
Alimony and support payments are intended to assist a spouse in maintaining the standard of living they were accustomed to during the marriage until they become self-sufficient.
In deciding whether to award alimony, the duration, and the amount of support payments, the court may consider a number of factors, including:
- Marital misconduct
- Contributions to the earning power of the other spouse
- Age and mental, physical, and emotional conditions of the spouses
- Relative earnings and other earning capacities of the parties
- Total amount of earned and unearned income of both parties
- Duration of the marriage
- Effect that a divorce will have on a parent with full custody of a child
- Standard of living of parties for the duration of the marriage
- Assets and liabilities of parties
- Property brought to the marriage by both parties
- Contribution of a party as a homemaker
- Relative needs of each party
- Individual and marital debt accrued by the parties
- Previous determination of the distribution of assets
- Education level of each party
- Any other factor that relates to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper
Child Custody Disputes
Child custody is often determined through court-ordered mediation. However, when mediation is not successful, the court may decide physical and legal custody. According to North Carolina statute, (N. C. G. S. § 50-13.2) courts determine child custody by solely evaluating “what will best promote the interest and welfare of the child.”
Some factors that are used when resolving custody issues include (but are not limited to):
- The child's current living arrangement;
- Each parent's physical, emotional and psychological ability to adequately care for the child;
- The child's relationship with each parent;
- The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment for the child;
- The wishes of a child;
- Religious and/or cultural considerations;
- Adjustment to school and community;
- A parent's use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse; and/or
- Any evidence of either parent's relation to drug, alcohol or sex abuse.
Child Support Disputes
Court-ordered child support arrangements typically consist of a non-custodial parent providing monetary support to the other parent who has sole or primary physical custody of a child. Child support may also be ordered by the court in joint custody arrangements, usually when a parent has physical custody of a child most of the time and the other parent is ordered by a judge to make child support payments.
Child support is generally based on North Carolina's child support guidelines. However, a judge can deviate from the guidelines when a parent can give an acceptable reason for a judge to disregard them and heed more suitable criteria for that particular case. The primary factors in child support include:
- The income of each parent,
- A child's individual mental, physical, and emotional condition,
- Expenses required for the adequate raising of a child,
- A child's accustomed standard of living prior to a divorce, split, or separation,
- The amount of time spent with each parent,
- The number of children both parents have, together or apart, and
- The specific needs of a child.
Divorce Hearings in North Carolina
If you have any questions about resolving divorce disputes in court in North Carolina, contact the Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC. Contact us online or by phone at 704-470-2440 today for a consultation.