NC family law help and adviceNorth Carolina family law cases are normally the most heated types of cases that exist in the state.  When dealing with a North Carolina divorce, for example, and “equitable division” of property is supposed to take place. What makes this confusing is that “equitable division” does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split, and this is where getting North Carolina family law help is essential to obtaining your fair share of the property acquired while married.

For matters involving children, North Carolina family law statutes dictate that both parents must provide support their children, basing child support amounts on several factors. State-provided family law resources include child support calculators, family law forms, and dedicated agencies but laws are still quite difficult to understand and decipher appropriately. This is why it is not only a smart idea, but essential, to work with a North Carolina family law professional, be it an attorney or other legal professional to make sure you get the rights you deserve.

North Carolina Divorce Help and Advice

North Carolina divorce laws allow for both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. This requires a separation period of one-year or longer, called living separate and apart from each other. What constitutes a “separation period” is tricky though. The North Carolina case of Earles v. Earles, 29 N.C. App. 348 (1976) states that “the words “separate and apart”, as used in G.S. 50-6, mean that there must be both a physical separation and an intention on the part of at least one of the parties to cease the matrimonial cohabitation.” However, isolated instances of marital relations during this one period of separation does not interrupt the one-year separation period. To understand this more fully, it is important to speak with a North Carolina family law professional.

North Carolina couples seeking divorce have several different options. With a no-fault divorce, there is no requirement to prove any wrongdoing, thus, the vast majority of North Carolina divorces fall under this category as it saves time and money (normally saving thousands of dollars and years of litigation). The spouse filing for divorce instead lists the specific reason recognized by the state, such as irreconcilable differences. Filing for a fault divorce requires proving that the other spouse did something wrong. In some cases, fault grounds are preferred in order to gain advantage with marital property division, alimony, or child custody. However, just because fault grounds are proven, does not necessarily entitle the innocent party to more of the marital property or anything else.

Before filing for a divorce, one spouse must be a North Carolina resident for 180 days (six months). North Carolina is classified as an equitable property division state, so each spouse owns income personally earned during marriage and is entitled to manage property under his or her sole ownership. This is beneficial for a high-earning spouse or one who enters the marriage with an inheritance.

During a North Carolina divorce, ownership of property is not the only consideration for who gets what. Marital property, which is property acquired during the marriage, is divided in an equitable manner that may not be an equal division. A North Carolina family law judge begins by presuming equal division and relies on the case made by each spouse to determine whether dividing property differently would be fairer. In many instances, one party either did not contribute income or help to the marriage or may have wasted money on gambling, bad investments, or on trip with an affair. These are some factors that may be taken into account for an “equitable division” of property.

For example, if one spouse earned substantially more money than the other did during the marriage, this individual could lose a significant amount of savings during property division or alimony determinations. An experienced North Carolina family lawyer prepares and presents a case that prevents this from happening or gets the other spouse their fair share of the property.

North Carolina Child Custody Help

North Carolina courts are similar to most state courts in presuming that frequent, ongoing contact with both parents following divorce is in the best interests of a child. This “best interests of the child” standard is what the North Carolina courts will use to make a final determination on who should have child custody in North Carolina or how much visitation to award to the non-custodial parent. Judges normally support joint child custody whenever feasible as it keeps both parents active and involved in the child’s life. However, the time-sharing arrangement (visitation) is determined by what will be most beneficial for the child, not necessarily what either parent wants.

Voluntary parental agreement is usually the best way to determine child custody arrangements. North Carolina courts do not hear many child custody cases because they attempt to force people to work out their child custody arrangements on their own whenever possible. But, when push comes to shove, several factors must be considered to make the appropriate child custody decision. Child custody statutes provide limited guidance, making it important to have legal expertise to avoid misunderstandings or the unfortunate relinquishing of rights. The goal is to put in place a negotiated Parenting Plan that lays out custody, visitation, holiday and vacation schedules, and many other factors that are relevant in dealing with raising a child while no longer being in a relationship with the other parent. A Parenting Plan’s goal is to help the parents avoid future conflict by laying out their rights and responsibilities in a detailed manner. If tall fences make good neighbors, think of a Parenting Plan as a 100 foot wall, helping both sides avoid conflict.

Each parent enters a North Carolina child custody case with equal rights to the physical care of the child. When determining where the child with reside full-time, the court determines what arrangement is in the best interests of the child. A judge examines the behavior and personal history of each parent. The judge may ask many questions and may even ask the child for an opinion regarding custody, depending on the age of the child.

The state Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act stipulates multiple factors for consideration including the amount of time each parent has to spend with the child, caretaking abilities of each parent, and the environment that each parent is able to provide. Physical custody involves where the child resides and legal custody is the right to make important childrearing decisions. The judge may award one parent primary physical custody and the other visitation or may award joint physical custody. Legal custody awards can also have different configurations.

North Carolina Child Support Help

North Carolina is like all other states in requiring both parents to support children whether following a divorce or even if the parents were never married. Child support amounts depend on the income and resources of each parent, the number of children, and the child custody arrangement. Courts may also impute, or hold a parent to a certain amount of income when that parent has the ability to earn more money. This happens when a parent voluntarily quits working a high paying job, stops working overtime, or does something else in a nefarious way to avoid paying child support to the other parent.

The parent who does not receive primary custody is typically the one to make child support payments. North Carolina child support guidelines serve as a baseline measure but a judge can adjust an amount considered financially unreasonable or failing to meet the needs of the child. Payments for child support typically continue until the child is 18.

Using state guidelines and state child support worksheets to calculate child support can be complicated for many different reasons, such as determining exactly what “gross income” is. For example, an unemployed parent is considered to have income in the form of unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or workers’ compensation or Social Security payments. In addition, support amount is based on the amount of custody the parent has. Based on this complexity, it is wise to have an expert North Carolina family law professional assist with child support estimation to ensure the court makes a fair decision.

North Carolina Father’s Rights Help

In the past, North Carolina child custody cases were determined primarily by giving custody of the children to the mother rather than the father. However, North Carolina father’s rights advocate groups and lawyers have been fighting for years to make sure that fathers and mothers stand on even ground for a child custody decision. North Carolina law does not favor one parent over the other but it is not unusual for courts to unconsciously prefer mothers as this took place for decades nationwide. Fathers now have equal rights regarding their children and should not settle for less than they deserve. North Carolina father’s rights attorneys specializing in helping male parents prove that they are the best caregivers and help prevent fathers from being taken advantage of during child support decisions.

Rights of fathers are not based solely on marriage, so even unmarried fathers can win child custody or receive child support. A paternity test is normally used to prove that the male is the father of the child and to establish paternity in a “parentage case”, which is the type of case involving two parents that are unmarried. Once paternity is established, the father is entitled to the same parental rights as the mother. North Carolina father’s rights advocates help their male clients fight for custody or visitation.

Fathers are often unaware of their parental rights and believe that they will automatically lose a child custody case. North Carolina family law attorneys show fathers that this is not true and help them rebut accusations of mistreatment or poor parenting to win their cases. There is no substitute for an experienced attorney if you are a father – even though fathers now have equal rights, many older judges still lean towards a mother, so do not go at this alone!

The Next Step

Now that you have a basic understanding of the various issues that can come up in a North Carolina family law case, you are a step ahead of your spouse or the other parent. OF course, having a solid understanding of the various laws that are applied to North Carolina cases is a must, but t is also essential to get experienced family law help to have the best chance at winning your case. Whether you need an experienced North Carolina attorney or would prefer a legal professional to help guide you through the process, we can help. Give us a call, there is nothing more important than family, and with our teams help, you can have a fighting chance at getting the family rights you deserve!

2 thoughts on “North Carolina Family Law Help and Advice”

  1. About 2 years ago, my daughter was struggling with drug addiction. The father of her child obtained full custody of their son. Now, my daughter is clean, completing her associates degree, living on her own, and drug-free. For more than 1 year, she has been keeping her son 1/2 of the week. My daughter would like to get legal custody of her son back. Is it possible for her to do this without a lawyer since the father of her child is in agreement with this?

    1. If both parties are in agreement to share custody and parenting time, it certainly can be done without an attorney. The struggle here will be to draft a complete Parenting Plan (also called a Custody Judgment, Allocation Judgment, or something similar, depending on the state). A complete parenting plan will detail who gets decision making abilities for things like medical care, school, extracurricular activities, etc. This would likely be joint / shared decision making. The parenting plan also needs to detail parenting time: days and times for each parent to have the child, vacation time, holidays schedule, and communication between each other and with the child.
      To ensure that things are done properly, a lawyer should be involved, but it would just be in the drafting of an Agreed Parenting Plan that they both would sign and the lawyer would enter in court with probably only 1-court appearance. It would be relatively simple, fast (like a week), and not cost a fortune (since it’s an agreement). and most importantly – it would be done CORRECTLY. Give our team a call, get it done the right way and get it done before the year ends! Here is the link to our free evaluation page to speak with an attorney.

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