Family Law

  • Child Custody and Child Support
  • Separation Agreements
  • Absolute Divorces
  • Spousal Support and Alimony
  • Property Division
  • Adoption
  • Name Changes
  • Guardianships
  • Termination of Parental Rights
  • Domestic Violence
  • Prenuptial Agreements

Custody cases, alimony, contested separations, divorce… these can be frightening terms that represent an anxious time for you and your family. An attorney can help you navigate the separation process by advising you in a consultation or representing you in a court action or settlement.

Call us today at (704) 829-8195.

Custody

Custody of a minor child can be a challenge to plan even when parents do agree. In some cases, parents only need a written custody agreement, either in the form of a Separation Agreement or a court order, so that all parties have a structured schedule and clear expectations. In other cases, parents don’t agree. It’s important to talk to an attorney who can advise you about your rights before you even file a custody action. If a case already exists, an attorney can discuss with you your options to change the schedule or prevent modifications or violations of a court order.

When a custody action has been filed, if the parties cannot agree to a permanent schedule, the court can address custody on a temporary basis. If parents file a custody action in Gaston County and meet certain qualifications, the court will require the parents to attend court-ordered mediation. Custody mediations are scheduled at the courthouse with a predetermined mediator. Both parents will meet with a mediator without attorneys present, so that the parents have the opportunity to settle the case. Many cases do settle, and the judges encourage parents to consider mediation as a way to maintain control over the custody schedule. If the parties do not settle the case in mediation, then disputed custody issues can be settled in a trial for permanent custody. There are many factors for parents or other custodians to consider, including but not limited to the best interests of the child, costs of litigation, the emotional toll on all parties, availability of sound witnesses, past custodial arrangements, and the timetable to achieve desired results.

Child Support

Child support issues can range from establishment to enforcement to modification. Child support can be established by consent of the parties or by filing a court action. Custodial parents often seek the assistance of the Department of Health and Human Services to get financial support from the noncustodial parent. However, some parents do not qualify since neither parent receives financial aid from the government. These parents can either file pro se (meaning without representation by an attorney), or can hire an attorney to file the action. North Carolina uses a specific formula to calculate child support, following the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. The handbook for determining child support in North Carolina can be found here. The most important variables for calculating child support are income, number of custodial overnights, amount of child care expenses, and amount of health insurance expenses.

If you are interested in enforcing or modifying a court order for child support, then an attorney can advise you on the appropriate steps to file a motion for contempt or a motion to modify, if applicable. The North Carolina General Statutes outline several requirements for a parent to modify child support, so it’s important to find out if your situation qualifies before you move forward.

Premarital Agreements

Parties contemplating marriage may enter into a written contract before marriage with respect to a variety of matters – responsibility for children from previous marriages, potential plans to dispose of assets in a certain manner, wishes to limit future obligations of spousal support, etc.  This can be done as long as the agreement meets the requirements of NC law concerning contracts.  These contracts cannot be used to eliminate child support obligations or to take away the court’s power to decide child custody.  If you find yourself in this situation, you should consult an attorney to assist you in the drafting of such agreement as these can be drafted well in advance of the marriage date to handle these complex issues.

Adoption

There are several types of adoptions in North Carolina, including agency, independent, relative, stepparent. These adoptions cover a wide array of custodial situations, depending on degree of relationship, time spent as the custodial party, and involvement of DSS. Often before an adoption can be filed, the parental rights of the biological parents must be terminated. In other cases, a parent might consent to the adoption so that the child might have a more stable home life. The reasons a party is seeking an adoption are broad and nuanced.

Adoptions require detailed paperwork that is timely filed. An experienced attorney can assist an adopting party with filing the appropriate petitions and motions so that the adoption goes through smoothly. No two cases are alike. Just like custody cases, adoptions can be emotionally charged and difficult to navigate. Even having a consultation with an attorney can help you decide if adoption is the right route, or if establishing a custodial arrangement will suffice either temporarily or permanently.

Name Change

People can seek name changes for a variety of reasons. Whether a child wants to have the name of a custodial parent with a different last name, or an adult desires to use a name he or she has always gone by, the law might permit a name change. The statutes are specific and only certain types of name changes are allowed. Often an individual has to submit to a state and federal background check to ensure that person is not evading prosecution or judgments. If a person qualifies and all documentation is processed correctly, then Vital Records issues a new birth certificate acknowledging the name change.

Adoptions require detailed paperwork that is timely filed. An experienced attorney can assist an adopting party with filing the appropriate petitions and motions so that the adoption goes through smoothly. No two cases are alike. Just like custody cases, adoptions can be emotionally charged and difficult to navigate. Even having a consultation with an attorney can help you decide if adoption is the right route, or if establishing a custodial arrangement will suffice either temporarily or permanently.

Guardianship

You may have a loved one who has diminished capacity and needs someone to manage their finances or just needs someone to make the day to day decisions for them.  The person with diminished capacity is referred to as the “ward.”

There are three types of guardians: Guardian of the Estate, Guardian of the Person and General Guardian.  Each type has specific duties relating to the ward from managing the money and property of the ward to duties relating to the care, custody and control of the ward.

Guardianship is sometimes a much needed process, however one should enter into being a guardian with caution.  A guardian has a fiduciary duty to account for every penny that is spent on behalf of the ward.  If the guardian fails to account as required, the guardian may be issued a show cause order by the Clerk of Superior Court to explain why he/she failed to file the proper papers for the ward’s estate. Violations are a serious matter and can result in the guardian placed in the county jail and/or removal as guardian.

Qualification for guardianship is a tedious and time consuming ordeal and may even require the guardian to be bonded to provide protection for the ward.

Guardians of the Estate and General Guardians must complete a detailed inventory of the finances at various times and an attorney may be needed in order to navigate through this process.

Termination of Parental Rights

In North Carolina, it is possible to terminate a parent’s parental rights to a minor child. The laws that allow for termination of parental rights are highly specific, and both the NC Court of Appeals and NC Supreme Court have made rulings that affect termination cases. Terminating a person’s parental rights means that the legal relationship is completely severed. In most situations, the termination of parental rights petition is filed so that the minor child can be adopted. This civil action is a serious matter with many consequences. Whether you are seeking to terminate a parent’s parental rights, or are interested in adoption, or are worried someone will file one against you, you should seek the advice of experienced counsel.

Separation and Divorce

Getting a divorce or going through a separation can be a confusing time. You might have everything figured out and you need some assistance with drafting a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement, or you could be feeling completely lost and unsure about your next step. Either way, you might want to consult with an attorney to find out more information about your legal rights and responsibilities.

In North Carolina, you can get an Absolute Divorce after separation of one year in typical cases. However, many couples need to divide personal property, decide possession of a house, calculate any alimony or post-separation support, and work out who pays which bills. These details are important, and an attorney can advise you on your rights and responsibilities after the separation. An attorney can also help you prepare so that you maximize your legal protections.

Have questions?

Contact us today!

Contact Us Today!

100 Glenway Street, Suite A,
Belmont, NC 28012
P: (704) 829-8195
F: (704) 970-7730

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