Can You Help Your Attorney Get Ready for Your Child Custody Trial?

Yes! Having a well-respected family law attorney represent you in a custody case is an important step but your children are the most important people in your life so hiring an attorney should not be your last step.  First, discuss all of your goals and concerns with your attorney.  Second, provide your attorney with as many facts regarding your history with the children as possible. Third, provide your attorney with a list of witnesses who can testify about your positive relationship with your children.  Good witnesses are teachers, coaches, neighbors and friends you spend a lot of time with, and … Continue reading

What Does it Mean to “Serve” Divorce Papers?

To get divorced in North Carolina a lawsuit has to be filed with the courts and served (meaning formally delivered) to your spouse.  There are three (3) primary ways to serve someone with divorce papers:  by sheriff, certified mail or acceptance of service.  If you do not know where your spouse is staying or working or you have tried all possible leads and you have been unable to get them served, you will need to publish a notice in the local newspaper where your spouse was last known to be living.  This process is called Notice by Publication.  Once you … Continue reading

I Want a Divorce…Does My Spouse Have to Agree?

You do not have to have your spouse’s consent to obtain a divorce; however, there are several facts that must exist in order to get divorced.  In North Carolina, a husband or wife can file for divorce so long as the parties have been physically separated for more than a year with at least one of the parties intending to remain separate and apart, at least one of you has been a citizen and resident of the State of North Carolina for at least 6 months prior to filing the action and the other spouse is not an active member … Continue reading

Can a Parent Withhold Custody Because of the Coronavirus?

I have been asked by several clients if they or the other parent can keep their child or children from visiting with the other parent if they are concerned about the Coronavirus. Since the impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented, there are no hard and fast rules but first and foremost, if your custody terms are in a court order, you should follow the terms of the order. Neither party is allowed to unilaterally change or violate the terms of the court’s order. If the child has been exposed to the coronavirus, then the parents should discuss whether the exchange can … Continue reading

Are Child Custody Exchanges Permitted While Stay at Home/Shelter in Place Orders Are in Effect?

In most if not all counties in North Carolina, including Guilford, Mecklenburg, New Hanover and Wake County, travel for purposes of exchanging children pursuant to a custody agreement or court order is permitted. You should check your particular county’s Shelter in Place policy, but most likely exchanges for purposes of exercising custodial agreements are permitted. If Shelter in Place rules prevent you from exchanging at the location designated in your agreement such as inside a restaurant or at a local park that is closed, you may need to move the designated meeting place to another spot. Be sure to communicate … Continue reading

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

If you are separated or you’re considering separating from your husband or wife in North Carolina, one of the first questions you’ll get from an attorney is “what was your date of separation?”  One of the reasons is that spouses are presumptively entitled to one-half of all “marital property.”  Marital property includes real estate, bank accounts, vehicles and even lottery tickets that are acquired with marital funds or by marital efforts from the date of marriage to the date of separation. You may have read recently that a Michigan man who bought a Mega Million lottery ticket prior to separating … Continue reading

You’ve Been Separated from Your Spouse for One Year in North Carolina. Should You File for Divorce?

In North Carolina, you and your spouse have to be separated from one another with the intent of at least one of you to remain permanently separate and apart.  Once you reach the one year’s separation, filing for divorce is fairly straightforward. But SHOULD you file just because the year has passed?  Things you should consider before filing are:  (1) will you lose health insurance coverage under your spouse’s plan?(2) do you have property you want distributed to you or debt you want distributed to your husband or wife?(3) do you need financial support in the form of alimony from … Continue reading

What Happens to Your Retirement Benefits When You Divorce?

Although every retirement plan has its own rules, generally all of your assets and debts are added up and divided. North Carolina is a “no fault” property state so in most cases, all marital assets and debts will be divided equally. If you or your husband or wife has retirement benefits but one has more or is receiving more assets from other sources such as real property or bank accounts, a rollover from one spouse to the other can be used to equalize the spouses’ assets. The rollover is a non-taxable transfer and practically the non-participant spouse gets an account … Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know to Win Your Custody Case

Most of the rules you learned in kindergarten apply in child custody cases: for example: 1) be kind to others; 2) if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all; 3) be respectful and 4) share your toys. Child custody cases are emotionally charged and it is normal to want to show the court you are a great parent and your spouse is a terrible parent if you are trying to win primary physical custody of your children. But, judges are looking for the parent who puts his or her children first and who is not fighting for … Continue reading

Do You Have to Share Your Pension When You Divorce?

If you are fortunate enough to have a pension through a present or previous employer, some or all of it may be marital property subject to division upon separation and divorce from your spouse if you worked for the company offering the pension during your marriage. A pension plan is a type of annuity that will pay the employee a monthly benefit upon retirement. If the employee separates from his or her spouse prior to retiring, the non-employee spouse may want to be compensated for half the value of the pension because it is subject to a division pursuant to … Continue reading

Who gets children’s 529 accounts in divorce?

Most couples decide to designate 529 college savings as the children’s funds to be used for college expenses. If there is no such agreement, the court will include any 529 college savings plan in the marital assets, to be divided or distributed to one party. Most likely, the court will assign savings to one parent or the other to manage the funds for the children and not reduce their share of the marital assets.  Although, the Court could choose either parent to manage the funds, it is likely that the court would choose the party most interested in the child … Continue reading

Should you move out?

Are you considering separating from your husband or wife and not sure whether you should move out of the house? There are several things to consider in deciding on whether you should move out of the house prior to a written agreement with your spouse. Do you have children? Are you financially able to afford another place to live? Might you have alimony obligation to your spouse? Did you get a house prior to your marriage? These are just a few of the questions you want answer before your move. Call one of the attorneys at Law Firm Carolinas in our … Continue reading

Facebook Is Not Your Friend in Family Law Cases

If you are involved in any matter which may potentially be litigated, including divorce, it is the best practice not to post anything on social media.  If you are separating from your spouse, keep in mind that nearly everything you post, tweet, Instagram, email and text is public and fair game in litigation.  Your communications, location, relationships, purchases, and more can be easily uncovered through use of your computer or cell phone and it is highly unlikely that any information gained through social media will be protected from discovery in litigation.  Further, just because you “delete” a post, text, etc., … Continue reading

Attorney’s Fees: Hourly Rate, Flat Fee, or Contingency Fee in Family Law Cases

There are primarily three ways attorneys charge clients for legal services: hourly rates, contingency fees and flat fees. So what should you expect regarding attorneys fees if you have a family law issue? With most family law issues, attorneys bill by the hour.  This is because it is difficult to estimate how long each case will take.  Hourly rates vary depending upon the experience of the attorney, the average hourly rate in the area in which you live and the complexity of the case and our attorneys endeavor to ensure that clients are charged a fair fee.   Generally, most attorneys … Continue reading

I Want a Divorce in North Carolina

Checklist for obtaining an simple absolute divorce North Carolina: 1.  Husband and/or wife must have been a resident of North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. 2.  Husband and wife must be legally married and the date of marriage and place of marriage must be stated in the divorce complaint. 3.  Husband and wife must have been physically separated from one another for more than one year prior to filing the divorce complaint.  Physical separation requires living in separate residences. Living in separate parts of the same house or on separate parts of the same … Continue reading

How Is Child Support Calculated in North Carolina?

  In North Carolina, there are presumptive guidelines, i.e. a formula, for calculating child support in the majority of child support cases.   So what information do you need to calculate how much child support you may receive from the other parent or pay to the other parent in the event of separation or divorce? Here is the required information: Both parents’ average monthly gross income; Any work-related child care expenses; The cost of the child(ren)’s health insurance premium; and Any “extraordinary” expenses such as private school for a child with special needs. In addition to these expenses, you also need … Continue reading

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts if You Are Considering Separation or Divorce

Do get advice from an experienced family law attorney in your area.  Ask your family, friends, colleagues for their recommendations because issues involving separation and divorce are complex and good advice from an attorney you trust is critical. Don’t move out of the marital residence before getting advice from an attorney unless there is violence in the home or other safety concerns that warrant moving from the residence. Don’t sign any agreements or court orders without the advice of an attorney. Don’t discuss affairs or relationships with third parties with your spouse or anyone else other than your attorney. Do … Continue reading

Physical Separation vs. Legal Separation

Clients often ask “what does it mean to be separated?” First, you must be physically separated meaning you and your husband or wife have to live at separate addresses – it is not enough for the spouses to be sleeping in separate bedrooms or in separate parts of the house.  Prior to physical separation, it is advisable to enter into a Separation Agreement to formalize your intention to live permanently separate and apart from one another.  The Separation Agreement will waive certain marital rights, such as estate rights or the right to share in the future assets of the other … Continue reading