Best Lawyers Recognition

Two attorneys at Law Firm Carolinas have been named to the 2018 edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers. Best Lawyers recognition is based on peer reviews and client recommendations. Barbara Morgenstern been recognized by Best Lawyers in the practice of Family Law as well as Family Law Mediation. Barbara has also been named a “Legal Elite” by Business North Carolina magazine and a North Carolina Super Lawyer for Family Law. She is a Certified Specialist in family law by the NC State Bar, a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Past President of the NC Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, … Continue reading


One of the largest assets in many marriages is the retirement plan of the spouse who was employed outside of the home during the marriage.  Each spouse is presumptively entitled to one-half the net marital estate under North Carolina equitable distribution law, which typically involves distributing a portion of the retirement plan to the non-employee spouse. Retirement plans are divided by a court order which instructs the Plan Administrator to transfer a portion of the retirement plan to the non-employee spouse.  An order is required because the retirement plan is listed under the social security number of the employee spouse, … Continue reading

The Effect of Reconciliation on Claims Arising From First Marriage

Our North Carolina family law specialist, Ashley D. Bennington, represented a husband in an appeal before the North Carolina Court of Appeals where the question was whether the wife could refile her claims for equitable distribution and alimony arising from the first marriage of the parties.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision and ruled in favor of our client determining that the wife’s claims were time barred.  A copy of the opinion of the Court of Appeals can be found here:  In the instant case, the parties were separated and divorced in the years 2005 and … Continue reading


After practicing family law for 31 years, I have noticed that many of my clients have common misconceptions about family law.  Some of the most frequent questions the family lawyers at Law Firm Carolinasreceive are: If my wife and I are sleeping in separate bedrooms, does that count for the one-year separation required for absolute divorce?     Parties must be physically separated and have separate addresses to count as “separation” for purposes of the one-year requirement for absolute divorce. Does my wife have to account for how my child support payments are used?    Child support is supposed to cover … Continue reading

Grandparent Rights? Requesting Visitation with Your Grandchild

People often call our offices at Law Firm Carolinasasking about grandparent rights.  In North Carolina, grandparents do not have unlimited access to their grandchildren and there is no formal acknowledgement of grandparent rights.  For instance, if the mother and father of your grandchild are married and decide at some point that they do not want you or certain other  grandparents to spend time with or otherwise have access to a child, the grandparents are left with limited legal options to seek access to their grandchild. Absent a showing of unfitness or acts inconsistent with a parent’s constitutionally protected status where … Continue reading

Creating a Contract: Help Me, Help You; Part 1: Who is the Seller? Are They Married?

We have the great privilege of working on real estate transfers in every step of the process, but we usually begin our residential closing work with the receipt of a purchase contract. We find there are good contracts out there and some, well, not so good contracts. So what separates the good from the bad? A good contract is complete and accurate. In the light most favorable, a bad contract has the essential information but leaves Realtors, Brokers, and attorneys trying to fill in the blanks.  This can cause frustration and delays to all of the parties involved.  I find … Continue reading

Legally, Do I Need Something in Writing To Be Separated From My Spouse?

This is probably one of the most frequent questions we as family law attorneys at Law Firm Carolinashear when meeting with clients in our initial consultation. Movies and television shows have led viewers to believe that before you are separated from your spouse, you must have an agreement in place or some other document signed by both spouses declaring that you are separated. While this may be the case in some states, in North Carolina no document or other writing is required in order for spouses to be considered separated.  Spouses are considered separated under North Carolina law when the … Continue reading

When Does My North Carolina Child Support Obligation End?

Each parent has a duty to support their minor children. As most of us know, when the parents no longer live together the parent that has the child most of the time has the right to request child support from the other parent. An Order for child support is often entered by the Court requiring that one parent pay the other parent a monthly amount for support of the child or children. So, the question is then raised: When does my obligation to pay child support in North Carolina end? North Carolina General Statute Section 50-13.4 states that the Order terminates automatically when … Continue reading

The Top 10 Reasons to Arbitrate Your Family Law Case

I am stealing one of David Letterman’s acts to tell you why you might want to arbitrate your family law case.  North Carolina is behind the rest of the country in many areas of the law but not in the area of family law arbitration.  In fact, we were the first state to enact the Family Law Arbitration Act (FLAA), G.S. §§ 50-41 et seq., largely due to the efforts of Raleigh attorney, Lynn Burleson, and Wake Forest University Law Professor George Walker.  Other states have subsequently adopted our statutes. What is arbitration?  Arbitration is a proceeding where a private … Continue reading

The Doctrine of Necessaries – The True Meaning of “In Sickness and in Health”

On your wedding day, you and your spouse promised to care for each other “in sickness and in health.” Like most newlyweds, you probably didn’t truly understand what those words would mean. North Carolina recognizes the Doctrine of Necessaries, which provides that a spouse is liable for the other’s necessary expenses incurred during their marriage. This legal responsibility exists even when the spouse did not sign as a guarantor or request that their spouse receive the services. What constitutes a “necessary”? A “necessary” is something which is essential to one spouse’s health and comfort. Most often, this doctrine is applied … Continue reading

HE/SHE JUST WON’T LEAVE…what to do if the marriage is broken and you have children?

Many times when I have met with clients in Greensboro or Charlotte the first question that is asked is “How do I get my Husband or Wife to leave the home because I need to stay there for the children?” Absent proof of “domestic violence,” what can be done? If the home is owned by both or really even just one of the parties, getting the separation to occur often times is very difficult especially if the “other” party does not want the separation or even if he or she is willing to end the marriage they simply don’t want … Continue reading

Congratulations to Our 4 State Bar Certified Family Law Specialists

Yesterday I congratulated Steve Black for receiving his Board Certification as a Legal Specialist in Real Property Law – Residential Transactions. We have also been informed by the North Carolina State Bar that three of our attorneys, Keith Black, Carole Albright, and Ashley Bennington have been named Board Certified Specialists in Family Law. “Family law” broadly includes divorce litigation; child custody, visitation and child support; equitable distribution; separation agreements; post-separation support and alimony; and family law mediation and arbitration. The NC State Bar began certifying lawyers as legal specialists in 1987. The requirements for legal specialization include being substantially involved in the practice area for at least 5 … Continue reading

I think I made a mistake getting married …Getting an Annulment in North Carolina

Unfortunately there are times following a marriage that parties realize that their marriage is not going to work. When this happens within a relatively short time following the marriage, we are often asked by clients, “Can’t I just get an annulment?” In North Carolina, annulments are only granted based on limited circumstances set forth by statute. Those circumstances include: · When the parties are first cousins or closer in relation; · When one of the parties was under the age of 16 at the time of the marriage, unless there is a court order in place, the female party is … Continue reading

BRANDED WITH THE “SCARLET A”: What effect does Adultery have on your Equitable Distribution Claim?

Your spouse has confronted you with evidence that confirms that you have been having an affair. Does this mean that she/he gets everything from the marriage…all your hard earned dollars, your home and other property? Does it mean that you will have to start over from scratch? The simple answer is NO. Adultery, whether you are the adulterer or the wronged spouse, is not a factor set out by law as having any effect or relevance to equitable distribution of the property that you have acquired during the marriage. North Carolina General Statute 50-20 and following establishes what property is … 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

What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in a Child Custody Action?

What does “BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD” really mean? For many lawyers this is the catch phrase that we tell our new clients when we are asked the following question: “How does a Judge decide where my child will live?” It is a phrase that seems simple yet like an onion when it is peeled back it reveals many layers that are neither set in concrete or consistent in weight. I explain to me clients that a Judge will be concerned about a number of different factors and they are as follows, in no particular order of importance and by … 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