Family Law

Adoption: Adoption is the process of establishing a legally recognized parental relationship between adoptive parents and adoptees. An adoption permanently severs the parent-child relationship between biological parents and their children. There are independent adoptions, relative adoptions, stepparent adoptions and adult adoptions.

Post Separation Support & Alimony: Post separation support (PSS) is a court-ordered payment of money to a dependent spouse from a supporting spouse prior to divorce. After the parties are divorced, money payments are called alimony. North Carolina does not use a calculator to determine PSS or alimony. Instead, PSS and alimony is determined by multiple factors such as the income of the spouses, length of marriage, ages of the parties, etc.

Child Custody: Child custody refers to the rights and obligations between parents regarding their children. There are many factors that are considered when determining custody but judges make their decisions on what is in the best interest of the minor child.

Child Support: Child support is a legal obligation in the form of regular payment made by a parent to the other parent for the benefit of their child. In North Carolina, child support is determined by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines are applied unless the parents have a combined gross monthly income exceeding $30,000 per month or a request is made to deviate from the guidelines.

Divorce Proceedings: A North Carolina court will grant a divorce between legally married parties if they have been continuously separated for at least one year and if one of the spouses has been a resident of NC 6 months prior to filing for divorce.

Equitable Distribution/Property Division: Equitable Distribution is the process of identifying, valuing and classifying marital assets and debts accumulated during the marriage. Property owned prior to marriage, that remains unchanged, is the separate property of the spouse/owner.

Domestic Violence Protective Orders: A domestic violence protective order (DVPO) requires a perpetrator of domestic violence to stay away from the victim. In order to obtain a DVPO, there must be a personal relationship between the parties such as being spouses or former spouses, someone with whom you have a child in common, a current or former household member, a person with whom you live or used to live with or someone whom you are dating or have dated.

Separation Agreements: A separation agreement is a private, legally binding contract between divorcing spouses. Separation agreements can resolve all issues stemming from the breakdown of a marriage. Many people favor separation agreements because they do not involve going to court and give spouses more control over what happens to their children, money and property.

Contempt: Contempt only comes into play after a court has issued an order. Contempt is used to either enforce an order or punish a party for not following an order.

Enforcement of Separation Agreements: When a party does not follow a valid separation agreement, the appropriate remedy is to file a lawsuit for breach of contract and/or specific performance. This type of lawsuit asks the court to enter an order requiring a party to abide by the separation agreement. A party may be awarded attorney fees in a successful breach of contract and/or specific performance lawsuit if the separation agreement contains a valid clause regarding attorney fees if the nonbreaching party prevails in court.

Termination of Parental Rights: Termination of parental rights (TPR) is the process of involuntarily severing the legal relationship between a parent and child. A TPR may only be granted if certain grounds are proven by clear and convincing evidence AND if the court finds that it is in the best interest of a child to terminate parental rights.

Prenuptial Agreements: Prenuptial agreements are entered into between parties prior to their marriage. The agreement may dictate terms of alimony and/or equitable distribution in the event of separation and divorce. Prenuptial agreements sometimes come with negative connotations, but they are a way for parties to prevent an expensive, time-consuming divorce in the event that the marriage does not last. Prenuptial agreements cannot include provisions regarding child custody or child support.

Grandparent custody/visitation: In North Carolina, grandparents have limited rights to seek visitation or custody of their grandchildren. Grandparent custody cases are usually difficult and complex. The procedure and standard of applicable law depends on whether the grandparent is seeking visitation or custody.

Mediation: Mediation is a way to resolve issues related to divorce and/or children without stepping into a courtroom. Prior to a lawsuit being filed, mediation is completely voluntary and usually works best when both parties genuinely want to reach a resolution outside of court. Mediation occurs on a designated day where the parties and their respective attorneys meet with a neutral third party, the mediator, with the hopes of reaching an agreement.

Annulment: A marriage may either end in divorce or by annulment. Although both allow a person to remarry, there is a fundamental difference: divorce ends a marriage while an annulment states that the marriage was never valid to begin with. The grounds for annulment are as follows: (1) Bigamy, (2) Incest—the spouses are nearer of kin than first cousins or are double first cousins, (3) The spouses are under the age of 16, (4) Physical impotency (must have existed when the parties were married), (5) One of the spouses, at the time of the marriage, was incapable of contracting from want of will or understanding, (6) The marriage was entered into under the representation and belief that the female is pregnant, the parties separated less than 45 days after the marriage, and a child was not born within ten lunar months of the date of separation, and (7) The marriage was not properly solemnized.