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Raleigh Family Law

family-lawWhen times are at their most difficult, you need a Family Law lawyer who will aggressively represent you in your time of need. Our Family Law attorneys provide contested and uncontested legal representation services for: divorce, separation, annulment, arbitration, child custody, visitation, child support, division of property assets, debts and more. While a separation agreement is the preferred way of handling your separation, it is not always feasible. If that is the case, you will want an experienced trial advocate in your corner ready to fight it out in court.

Mediation

Overview

Family law attorneys in Wake County are often more interested in posturing, than in resolving family law disputes. As a result, they often employ hard bargaining tactics which emphasize the differences in their positions rather than seeking a common ground for settlement. This technique often results in one of the parties filing a Complaint in court which commences litigation. The high cost and long delays associated with the Wake County Family Court System often make litigation an impractical method of resolving disputes. Parties increasingly find that they are spending more time and money to litigate than the cost to settle the matter. The increasing number of lawsuits filed each year is indicative of the unwillingness or inability of parties and their attorneys to effectively utilize negotiation to resolve disputes. It is not uncommon for the attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, jury fees, court reporter fees and other related costs to exceed the amount in dispute. However, there is a practicable alternative.

Mediation is a process for resolving disputes by which an impartial mediator assists the parties in reaching a mutually satisfactory settlement. Mediation provides you and your spouse a way to settle the conflict between you in a way that helps you to work together, especially as parents. This is extremely important if you have children and must interact with your ex-spouse after you are divorced. Mediation brings about communication between you, which can then be used when you must discuss issues pertaining to your finances or your children. If you are to avoid the pitfalls of litigation, you should try to avoid attorneys altogether. Neither you nor the other party has to have a lawyer to mediate. However, if you choose to have a lawyer or if your circumstances are such that it is absolutely necessary to have a lawyer, then choose carefully.

The mediation process is entirely voluntary and non-binding. The mediator has no power to render a decision or to force the parties to accept a settlement. Rather, the mediator’s role is to assist the parties in their negotiations by identifying obstacles to settlement and developing strategies for overcoming them. Since the mediator’s job is to keep the parties focused on exploring productive avenues to settlement, posturing and hard bargaining are often reduced or eliminated.

I am often asked ‘what can be mediated?’. I like to say ‘just about anything’ and I truly mean it. Here are some common mediated family law issues:

  • Child Custody and Visitation (Temporary, Permanent & Modifications)
  • Parenting
  • Child Support (Temporary , Permanent & Modifications)
  • Post Separation Support
  • Alimony
  • Division of Marital Assets and DebtsHousehold Furnishings and other Personal Property
  • Pre and Post Nuptial Agreements
  • Revisions to Separation and Property Settlement Agreements
  • Breach of Separation and Property Settlement Agreement Claims
  • Same sex relationship

The Mediator
A family mediator is a neutral person who guides the parties toward a workable solution on their issues. The family mediator helps the parties reach an agreement that is acceptable to all parties.

The family mediator is typically a lawyer who exclusively practices in the area of family law. The mediator has the legal knowledge necessary to frame the legal issues and is trained to help parties explore the options in order to decide on a parenting agreement. The mediator will help the parties think about the possible advantages and disadvantages of a proposed solution. The mediator focuses the parents on future goals to help avoid future disputes.

The mediator is not a judge. The family mediator will not take sides or make decisions for you. The mediator does not give legal advice to the parents. The mediator may suggest possible best or worst case scenarios to help the parents think about what might happen.

The Process
A mediation session is private and confidential. It is normally held in an attorney’s office and no public record is made of the proceedings. If no settlement is reached, any statements made during the proceedings are inadmissible as evidence in any subsequent litigation. The mediator cannot testify for either one of you in court.

There will be reasonable expectations for you to contribute to and simplify the process; forms and questionnaires will be made available in advance of the sessions for those that would like to begin gathering data, completing documents, making decisions, etc. This may help to reduce costs.

A mediation session typically begins with a meeting with the parties and their attorneys. The mediator first explains the format and discusses the confidential and non-binding nature of the proceedings. The mediator will then ask the attorneys for each of the parties to make a presentation of their case, identifying the issues in dispute.

Following the joint meeting, the mediator will usually separate the parties and begin meeting with them in a series of private, confidential meetings called “caucuses”. In these caucuses, the mediator works with each of the parties to analyze their case and develop options for settlement. Normally, the mediator will caucus numerous times with both sides until the case either settles or it becomes apparent that settlement will not be reached.

Does Mediation Work?
The American Arbitration Association reports that over 85% of all mediations result in a settlement. Here are a number of reasons why mediation works:

  • Attorneys often fear that the making of any “reasonable” settlement offer will be taken as a sign of weakness or will be used by the other side as the starting point for the next round of negotiations. Mediation provides a safe environment for negotiation because the mediator can control and direct the communications.
  • Since the mediator’s job is to keep the parties focused on exploring productive avenues to settlement, posturing and hard bargaining are often reduced or eliminated.
  • Mediation provides the opportunity for all decision-makers to meet at the bargaining table for the express purpose of discussing settlement. With each party paying one half the cost of the mediators fee, each party is vested in working through a reasonable solution.
  • During the mediation session, each party is given the opportunity to directly educate and influence their opponents in the opening presentation. The intensity of a party’s feelings or emotions can be conveyed. As a result, the mediation session normally provides each side with a more realistic view of the opposing position (one not filtered through lawyers) and often results in the consideration of settlement proposals that otherwise would have been rejected.
  • Mediation allows each side to hypothesize a settlement proposal by privately conveying the proposal to the mediator in a caucus. Unless authorized to do so, the mediator will not convey the proposal to the other party. As a consequence, the mediator will be able to determine whether a proposal is feasible without actually disclosing it to the other side. This allows each side to fully explore settlement options without negotiating against themselves or appearing to “give in”.
  • Mediation brings the important issues to the forefront and offers each party a “realistic” look at their case and what results they are likely to achieve in court. As the parties focus on what is important and what they can realistically expect to achieve, their positions on settlement become more reasonable and flexible.
  • Mediation assists the parties in developing options for settlement. Mediators are often creative and the more options that are developed, the greater the chances of success. The mediator can assist the parties to clarify their real objective and to consider alternatives that may have been overlooked.

Realizations of Litigation

  • The law cannot provide the remedy you want, only you can.
  • You have little to no control.
  • The Judge makes the decision and typically neither party “wins”.
  • You want to end a problem, not destroy a relationship. Filing a lawsuit is almost always perceived as a hostile act.
  • Domestic cases often take months (or years) to come to trial.
  • Either spouse may appeal a Judge’s decision.
  • You can continue to litigate even after a final decision is made.
  • Emotion damage to parties and their children
  • Attorney fees and costs are uncontrolled

Tips for Effective Mediation

  • Be prepared. Have all the information you need to address the issues.
  • Be polite and be emotionally ready.
  • Have a realistic view of the issues and a willingness to compromise.
  • Demonstrate good listening skills.
  • Have patience.
Collaborative Law

The word “law” in “collaborative law” is misleading. It would be more appropriate to use the word “approach” or “process” rather that the word “law”. “Collaborative law” refers to an approach or a process to resolving the legal issues that arise during the parties’ separation. The premise of collaborative law is to allow for a peaceable resolution through a process of joint participation versus the adversarial system that everyone expects. The most typical legal issues that are addressed through the collaborative law process are: post separation support, alimony, child custody & visitation, child support and the division of assets and debts.

The primary feature of the collaborative law process is the involvement of attorneys on both sides of the dispute who have committed to handle the case within the guidelines of the collaborative law model. A critical component of the collaborative law model is the limitation that the attorney will represent the client only in the negotiation process and will be disqualified from representing the client should the process break down and either side choose to litigate the dispute. Attorneys practicing collaborative law have found that this process allows the participants to approach negotiations without the litigation-based posturing which many times interferes with the settlement process. Creative solutions are often the result when the collective problem solving skills of both attorneys and both clients are focused on reaching an agreement rather than on preparing or building their case for court. Collaborative law is an alternative dispute resolution technique that enables participants to resolve issues in a cooperative manner rather than in an adversarial atmosphere that may involve litigation. Collaborative attorneys assist their clients in problem solving that create solutions and achieve settlements.

An important component of collaborative law is the four way meeting. These four way meetings include both lawyers and both spouses working together to solve problems and create solutions that fit the particular needs of the parties. Four way meetings serve as settlement conferences, assisting the parties in facilitating a resolution of their particular case. There may be numerous four-way conferences before a final settlement can be reached. The parties will agree to employ joint appraisers, accountants or other such professionals thus alleviating unnecessary or duplicate costs. Another important component of the practice of collaborative law is the agreement between all participants to provide full and open disclosure of all relevant information and documents. This approach helps minimize the game playing and delay that sometimes accompanies the discovery. The final settlement once reached will be drafted and may be in the form of a legally binding separation agreement or a consent order that is submitted to a Judge for approval.

Although the underlying theme of collaborative law is settlement without litigation, there are no guarantees regarding settlement that can be made to any individual, whether that individual seeks to resolve their matter through the collaborative law approach or any other process. However, with the threat of litigation removed from the equation, parties are more apt to negotiate fairly and cooperate with one another and it costs much less than a case that has to be litigated.

Choosing the right family law lawyer in Raleigh for your divorce or separation is the single most important decision you will make. Make sure you have an experienced advocate in your corner.

Separation Agreements

separationWhen either of you have decided that “it’s over”, you need to consider entering into what is commonly known as a Separation Agreement or Property Settlement and Separation Agreement. A Separation Agreement is a contract in writing between husband and wife that is signed and notarized. It may resolve all issues relating to child custody, child support, division of property and debt, and alimony. In North Carolina, you must be living separate and apart for one year in order to be granted a legal divorce. During that one year waiting period, you want to protect yourself from the actions and inactions of your estranged spouse. The best advice I can give you is to ignore everything you hear from your friends, neighbors and co-workers and seek the advice of an attorney.

There are many issues you must consider addressing in your agreement. They include: the legal and physical custody of your children and visitation, the payment of child support, healthcare, extraordinary expenses and activities, the amount and duration of alimony, the allocation of debts, assets and finally the division of the household property. You should spend as much effort as you can toward addressing all the issues you have in a Separation Agreement. Inevitably, you may not agree on some issues and those issues can be litigated in a court of law while the other issues are memorialized in the Separation Agreement. All Agreements are not the same. Each Agreement is crafted to the particular needs of each client. Each case presents its own unique set of circumstances and a “form” separation agreement that you can obtain from the internet, neighbor, or a friend should be avoided.

A Separation Agreement is a binding contract and usually the product of much negotiation and disclosure. If you are presented with a Separation Agreement, please have it reviewed by a family law attorney prior to signing.

Uncontested or Absolute Divorces

Disclaimer: This information is an overview of the uncontested divorce filing process in North Carolina and of the divorce papers that are typically filed in Family Court. This overview is not intended for those seeking information to file “pro se” or “to do it yourself or represent yourself”. Many cases are unique and this information should not be construed as legal advice. All persons seeking an uncontested divorce or that have been served papers for an uncontested divorce should immediately seek the advice of a licensed North Carolina attorney.

North Carolina is a No-Fault state and either spouse may seek an uncontested divorce. The party seeking the divorce must live in the state for six months prior to filing for divorce.

Either spouse may petition the court for divorce after he or she has lived separate and apart, with the intention of remaining separate and apart, for a continuous period of one year. There is nothing for the other spouse to dispute except the date of separation.

All uncontested divorces have five steps that include:

  • filing court papers that ask for a divorce;
  • notification of the defendant spouse that a divorce has been filed;
  • scheduling a hearing;
  • notification of the spouse of the hearing date; and
  • attending the hearing and having a judge sign a judgment granting the divorce.

The defendant is required to be served a copy of the Summons and Complaint. The Summons gives the Defendant 30 days to respond to the Divorce Complaint. Service of process, as this is called, is either by the sheriff in the county of residence of the Defendant or by certified mail. The Affidavit of Service authenticates that the Defendant has been properly served. The sheriff will file a certification of the served summons or the Plaintiff is required to file an Affidavit of Service with the court.

In a uncontested divorce complaint, the document identifies the spouses, their addresses, date and place of marriage, states that they have lived continuously separate and apart with the intention of remaining spate and apart for more than one year, that the Defendant is neither a member of the military nor is incompetent and identifies any children born of the marriage.

A Verification, a sworn and notarized statement which affirms the accuracy of the information in the divorce Complaint, is attached to the Complaint. Because the Complaint is verified, the Court may use the statements made in the Complaint as findings of fact in entering a Judgment for Divorce.
Once served, the Defendant has 30 days to file an Answer to the Complaint as directed on the Summons. While the defendant may assert other claims (post separation support, alimony, child support, child custody and division of property), the defendant cannot prevent the divorce from occurring and the only real issue the defendant can dispute to hold up the divorce is the date of separation.

Once an Answer is filed or after 30 days, even if the Defendant does not respond to the Complaint, the Defendant must be served a Notice of Hearing. The hearing date shall be no less than 10 days from the service of the Notice of Hearing. The Clerk of Court provides the uncontested divorce hearing dates.

When an absolute divorce is granted, you should know that any claim, either yours or your spouses, for equitable distribution (a division of your assets and debts), post-separation support and alimony are barred. If you are served with a Summons and Complaint for absolute divorce and fail to answer within thirty days, you may lose your right to an equitable distribution (a division of your marital assets and debts), post-separation support and alimony.

The Clerk of Court filing fee is $225 and the service fee is $30 through the sheriff. The total cost, including the attorney fee, filing fee, and service fee, is $775. If you have any questions or unusual circumstances, please feel free to call me to discuss them.

Divorce from Bed & Board

When you have not separated, an alternative divorce is a “divorce from bed and board”. Under the applicable statute, the grounds for a legal separation are: 1) abandonment, 2) cruel and barbarous treatment that endangers the life of the other spouse, 3) indignities that render the other spouse’s condition intolerable and life burdensome, 4) excessive use of alcohol or drugs, 5) adultery and 6) maliciously turning the other out the doors.

The statute is pretty particular and your success in obtaining a divorce from bed and board is heavily dependent on three factors: your particular facts, your demonstrative evidence and lastly, your presentation of those facts and evidence to the court. The Court will not be inclined to Order the removal of a spouse from their home unless they hear very compelling evidence and can make specific findings of fact.

If you are approaching your one year mark, here are some things to think about:

  • You must be a resident of the State of North Carolina for at least six (6) months.
  • You must assert under oath that you have lived separate and apart for one year prior to filing for a divorce.
  • You should know the current address of your spouse.
  • If you want to revert back to your maiden name, I need to know your maiden name.
  • If you have children, I need their names and their dates of birth.
  • If you and your spouse have children born of the marriage, I need both your social security numbers.
  • I need to know the date of marriage, the date of separation and where you were married.
  • I need to know your full legal name and your spouse’s full legal name.
  • If you have a Separation Agreement, I need to review the Agreement.

If you would like more personalized information and the advice of an attorney, please feel free to schedule a $99 initial consultation (up to one hour) by calling (919) 424-8319.

Distribution of Assets, Debts and Personal Property (Equitable Distribution)
Q. What is Equitable Distribution?

A. In North Carolina the process of dividing the property and debts of a marriage is called Equitable Distribution.

Q. When should I make a claim for equitable distribution of marital assets?

A. At any time after separation but before an absolute divorce, a husband and wife may file a claim for equitable distribution.

Q. If I am already divorced, can I make an equitable distribution claim?

A. It is worth repeating that a divorce bars your right to file a claim for equitable distribution unless you have a pending claim at the time of the divorce.

Q. What is the Equitable Distribution process in North Carolina?

A. First, property is identified, next the property is valued as of the date of separation, and finally the property is distributed.

Q. How is property identified?

A. Property is identified as either marital or separate property, valued as of the date of separation, and finally the property is distributed.

Q. What is considered marital property?

A. “Marital property” means all real and personal property acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the course of the marriage and before the date of the separation of the parties, and presently owned.

Q. What is considered separate property?

A. “Separate property” means all real and personal property acquired by a spouse before marriage or acquired by a spouse by bequest, devise, descent, or gift during the course of the marriage. However, property acquired by gift from the other spouse during the course of the marriage is considered separate property only if the intention is stated in the conveyance. Property acquired in exchange for separate property remains separate property regardless of whether the title is in the name of the husband or wife or both and shall not be considered to be marital property unless a contrary intention is expressly stated in the conveyance. The increase in value of separate property and the income derived from separate property is considered separate property. All professional licenses and business licenses, which would terminate on transfer is be considered separate property.

Q. Is the division of property equal?

A. There is an equal division of marital property unless the court determines that an equal division is not equitable. If the court determines that an equal division is not equitable, the court will consider several factors to divide the marital property equitably.

Q. What factors are considered in an unequal distribution of property?

A. The Court considers twelve factors to determine distribution of property:

  1. The financial state of the parties at the time of distribution,
  2. Any prior marriage support obligations,
  3. The duration of the marriage and the age and physical and mental health of both parties,
  4. The need of a parent to occupy the marital residence and use the household effects for the care of the children of the marriage,
  5. Any pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property,
  6. Any contribution made to the acquisition of marital property by the party not having title,
  7. The contribution made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse,
  8. Any direct contribution to increase the value of separate property, which occurs during the course of the marriage,
  9. The ability to liquidate the marital property,
  10. The difficulty of evaluating an interest in a business and the economic desirability of retaining that interest,
  11. The tax consequences to each party,
  12. Any other factor that the court finds to be just and proper.
Q. Does equitable distribution include assets and debts?

A. In North Carolina, property includes both assets and debts acquired during the marriage, and owned on the date of separation.

Q. What is the valuation of property?

A. The court is required to fix the net value of the marital property as of the date of separation, which is the fair market value less the amount of any encumbrances. It may be necessary to hire an appraiser or other professionals to place a value on property.

Q. If I am receiving alimony and child support, does that affect the distribution of property?

A. No. Child support and alimony are separated from equitable distribution.

Q. Can pensions and retirements be divided?

A. Pensions and retirement funds are considered marital property (and often very valuable) and consequently subject to division.

Child Custody & Visitation

girlParents have equal rights to the custody of their children born of the marriage. In most cases, parents come together and work out a suitable agreement outside of the Court system. However, when parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, the Court will make a decision concerning custody based on what is in the best interest and welfare of the child. Below are a few common questions and answers relating to child custody.

Q. Why do we need a signed agreement for the custody of our children?

A. Without a written and signed agreement, for example, one parent can disrupt a child’s life by deciding suddenly to move the children to another school or city. Having an agreement in writing maintains consistency for the children, which is essential to their well-being. Custody and visitation arrangements can be written in a Separation Agreement along with decisions concerning spousal support and distribution of property.

Q. We cannot agree on custody arrangements, what is the next step?

A. One parent must file a Complaint, beginning a lawsuit, for child custody. The parties will have to attend mediation, and possibly parenting classes. Eventually, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, a trial court judge will hear evidence and determine custody.

Q. How does a judge decide who gets custody of the children?

A. A judge uses many factors to determine child custody. Some of the main considerations are the age of the children, the stability of a parent and their home environment, the time a parent has to spend with the children, efforts by either parent to undermine the other parent, facilitation of visitation and involvement of the other parent, child abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol problems, the wishes of a child of sufficient age (not a controlling factor), and any acts of domestic violence between the parties. Additionally, there is no preference to choose a mother over a father. A judge’s order for child custody and visitation will include findings of facts that support what the Judge feels is in the best interest of the children.

Q. What if I my spouse is being unpredictable during the pending claim for custody?

A. If the child’s life becomes unstable or they need protection from a parent’s actions, a judge may enter temporary orders for the custody and support of children.

Q. What is joint legal custody?

A. When parents have joint legal custody, they share in the decision making for the child on issues such as education and religion. It does not mean necessarily shared physical custody. In North Carolina, the vocabulary commonly used to describe custody arrangements does not have a set amount of physical time spent with a child associated with the term, for that reason, the arrangements written in the agreement are more important than what vocabulary we use.

Q. What is sole legal and physical custody?

A. A parent who has sole custody makes all major decisions and has primary physical custody of the child.

Q. If my spouse has primary physical custody of the children, what are my visitation rights?

A. The parent who is the non-custodial parent has the right to visit with their child. Similar to custody, many factors determine the visitation schedule. Children’s schedules, the distance the parents live apart, parent work schedules, etc., will determine visitation. Younger children typically spend most of their time with the custodial parent and typically spend, at a minimum, every other weekend, a weekday evening, alternate holidays, and two weeks each summer with the non-custodial parent. For a 50/50 custody arrangement to succeed, parents must be very cooperative and amicable with one another. If parents end up in a courtroom to determine custody, it is not common for a judge to order this type of arrangement.

Q. Once custody is agreed upon or ordered, can custody arrangements be changed?

A. Custody can always be modified. If there is a substantial change in circumstances and the parent asking for the change can show evidence that it is in the best interest of the children, a change in custody is possible.

Child Support & Modifications
Q. Do I have to go to Court to receive child support payments?

A. Parents can write out the provisions of child support in a Separation Agreement. If a parent believes he or she will have trouble receiving regular child support payments, it may be necessary to ask the Court to order payments. A claim for child support can be filed at any time while the child is a minor and is always modifiable. The amount of child support is typically reviewed every three years or upon a significant change in circumstances such as loss of employment or a temporary or permanent disability.

Q. Will the noncustodial parent have to pay child support?

A. Both parents must pay child support. Payment of child support is generally based on the amount of time spent with the child and a percentage of the income of each parent. In effect, the parent who earns more money pays child support to the parent earning less.

Q. How is child support determined?

A. The court uses established guidelines to determine how much child support each parent pays. The guidelines generally are set to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance, taking into consideration the estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of a particular case.

Q. What if the child support payments are more than my ability to pay?

A. A judge may vary from the child support guidelines. The party ordered to pay child support will have to show by the greater weight of the evidence that the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.

Q. What recourse do I have if my spouse refuses to pay Court ordered child support?

A. There are several remedies available a judge may use to enforce child support payments. A judge may secure payments by means of a bond, seizure of property, by requiring the execution of an assignment of wages, arrest, garnishment of wages, or place a specific lien against a particular real property.

Q. If my spouse files bankruptcy, can they discharge child support payments?

A. Child support payments are not subject to discharge in a bankruptcy court.

Q. Can I refuse visitation if I do not receive child support payments?

A. The remedies set out above are the only actions available to force child support payments and are separate from a parent’s right to visit a child. Children do not understand the complicated issues that adults create and it is in their best interest to have consistent contact with both parents.

Q. How long will child support payments last?

A. Child support payments last until a child reaches 18 unless the child is still in high school or fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first. In addition, payments will cease if the child becomes emancipated.

Q. Can I appeal Court ordered child support?

A. Yes, a party may appeal Court ordered child support, however, the party will continue child support payments throughout the appeal process unless the Appellate Court decides otherwise.

Alimony and Post Separation Support
Q. What is alimony?

A. Alimony is the payment for support and maintenance of a dependent spouse by a supporting spouse. Typically the dependent spouse, husband or wife, is in fact substantially dependent on the supporting spouse for their support.

Q. What is post separation support (PSS) and when does it terminate?

A. PSS is Court ordered spousal support paid by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse until the date specified in the order of post-separation support, the parties resume marital relations, the dependent spouse remarries, the dependent spouse cohabits with another adult in a private heterosexual or homosexual relationship, the dependent spouse or supporting spouse dies, or an order awarding or denying alimony, whichever comes first.

Q. What does it mean to be “substantially dependent”?

A. A spouse, either husband or wife, has monthly expenses that exceed the monthly income and the party has no other means to meet the expenses. The dependent spouse does not have to be impoverished. The Court considers the dependent spouse’s standard of living to which they have become accustomed during the last several years prior to the parties’ separation.

Q. How is alimony paid?

A. Payments for alimony can be made in periodic payments, in one lump sum, a transfer of title in real property, or an interest in other property.

Q. What factors are considered by a judge to determine alimony payments?

A. In making a determination, the court may consider the following factors:

  1. The parties’ accustomed standard of living,
  2. The party’s present employment and other reoccurring income and/or earnings,
  3. The party’s ability to earn income,
  4. The marital and separate debt service obligations,
  5. The legal obligations to support other persons (including children), and
  6. The expenses reasonably necessary to support each of the parties.
Q. How long do I have to pay alimony?

A. A party ordered to pay alimony is under an obligation to provide the support until terminated by either a date set by the court, remarriage of the dependent spouse, death of either party, or cohabitation of the dependent spouse. Alimony is intended to be rehabilitative to the dependent spouse. The hope is that the supporting spouse can provide the dependent spouse the opportunity to become self-supporting. The age, health, physical well-being, and other similar qualities are also factors the Court may consider.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people about to wed that spells out what will be classified as marital property, how those assets and debts will be distributed in the event of divorce or death and typically whether or not post separation support or alimony will be paid by either party.

You should consider having a prenuptial agreement if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You may be receiving an inheritance
  • You have children and/or grandchildren from a previous marriage
  • One of you is much wealthier than the other
  • You have loved ones who need to be taken care of, such as elderly parents
  • You have or are pursuing a degree or license in a potentially lucrative profession such as medicine
  • You could see a big increase in income because your business is booming
  • You have assets such as a home, stock or retirement funds you want to protect

A postnuptial agreement is a contract between two married people that spells out how assets and debts will be distributed in the event of divorce or death.

Domestic Violence, Stalking and Harassment

Domestic Violence

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can take out a temporary Domestic Violence Protective Order. The alleged act of domestic violence does not need to be physical violence. The court will enter the Temporary Domestic Violence Protective Order if it is convinced that you have been abused (physically or mentally) or sufficiently threatened with abuse. The court will then set a date for a formal hearing within 10 days, at which time the alleged abuser is given an opportunity to defend himself. If you are successful, the court will order a one year order of protection. Additionally, the court can award a temporary custody and support order. If you are a victim and are unsure if you need an attorney at the 10 day hearing, please schedule a $99 consult and we will advise you based on your circumstances and our experience on how you should proceed.

If you are an accused and someone has taken out a Domestic Violence Protective Order against you, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced defense attorney. If a Domestic Violence Protective Order is entered against you, it can result in many negative consequences including no contact with the victim, temporarily losing custody of your children, having to vacate your residence, and being ordered to attend counseling for domestic violence, anger management, and/or alcohol/drug related problems. We know how a domestic violence charge can disrupt your life. It can jeopardize your employment and educational opportunities, your ability to possess a firearm, and cause you much embarrassment and anxiety. Domestic Violence charges can also have a detrimental effect on other legal matters, such as child custody. At The Law Corner, our attorneys are prepared to analyze your case, listen to your individual circumstances, and aggressively defend you in court. Domestic Violence charges in North Carolina are very serious. If you have been charged with Domestic Violence, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney to properly and effectively represent you. Domestic Violence includes any physical or psychological harm inflicted by a significant other, an ex-partner, or a family member. At The Law Corner we handle all types of Domestic Violence cases, including:

  • Assault
  • Assault on a Female
  • Chapter 50B matters
  • Violations of Protective Orders
  • Violations of Restraining Orders
  • Communicating Threats
  • Civil No-Contact Orders

Stalking

Offense: A defendant is guilty of stalking if the defendant willfully on more than one occasion harasses another person without legal purpose or willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person without legal purpose and the defendant knows or should know that the harassment or the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to do any of the following:
(1) Fear for the person’s safety or the safety of the person’s immediate family or close personal associates.
(2) Suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment.

Definitions:

(1) Course of conduct. – Two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, is in the presence of, or follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person, or interferes with a person’s property.
(2) Harasses or harassment. – Knowing conduct, including written or printed communication or transmission, telephone, cellular, or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, pager messages or transmissions, answering machine or voice mail messages or transmissions, and electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose.
(3) Reasonable person. – A reasonable person in the victim’s circumstances.
(4) Substantial emotional distress. – Significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.
Classification: Any person found to be in violation shall be guilt of a Class A1 misdemeanor. A defendant convicted of a Class A1 misdemeanor under this section, who is sentenced to a community punishment, shall be placed on supervised probation in addition to any other punishment imposed by the court. A defendant who commits the offense of stalking after having been previously convicted of a stalking offense is guilty of a Class F felony. A defendant who commits the offense of stalking when there is a court order in effect prohibiting the conduct described under this section by the defendant against the victim is guilty of a Class H felony.

CYBERSTALKING

Offense: It is unlawful for a person to:
(1) Use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person.
(2) Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.
(3) Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct of the person electronically mailed or of any member of the person’s family or household with the intent to abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass, or embarrass.
(4) Knowingly permit an electronic communication device under the person’s control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section.

Definitions:

(1) Electronic communication. – Any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature, transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, computer, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system.
(2) Electronic mail. – The transmission of information or communication by the use of the Internet, a computer, a facsimile machine, a pager, a cellular telephone, a video recorder, or other electronic means sent to a person identified by a unique address or address number and received by that person.
Classification: Any person found to be in violation shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Juvenile Delinquency

Prior to becoming an attorney, Brian worked with juveniles from 1990-1997 in a variety of settings. During his undergraduate study, Brian was an Intensive Surveillance Officer and Summer Program Director for the Mahoning County Juvenile Court. After graduation, Brian became employed at a private mental health hospital in a residential treatment center for juveniles. When Brian moved to Cleveland, Ohio, he was employed at a State Correctional Facility for Juveniles.

In March 2004, Brian became a Wake County Court Appointed Attorney for juveniles. Juveniles have nearly all the constitutional rights of an adult and deserve equal protection. Although juvenile records are sealed and not public record, there can be dire consequences if convicted.

Brian feels it is important to contribute to the young lives of our future and he would be honored to represent your daughter or son. If your child has been accused of a crime, do not allow him to make a statement to the police and do not waive his right to have an attorney to be present. Many times the police will ask questions during their “investigation”. During this investigation, your child may not be “in custody” and may not have the right to counsel.

Abuse, Neglect & Dependency

Brian has been receiving appointments on the court appointed list in Abuse/Neglect/Dependency cases since 2004. Brian is intimately familiar with Wake County Human Services, the Guardian Ad Litem’s Office, the North Carolina General Statutes on abuse, neglect and dependency and the termination of parental rights. Brian knows the process, the different proceedings and the very important role of a parent’s attorney. As an aggressive advocate for protecting parental rights, Brian balances his skill and experience with the practical aspects of each case in achieving the end goal which is having children remain in their home or being returned to their home as soon as possible.

Self Help Clinic

Self Help Family Law Clinic

Finding free legal services or advice from a lawyer in Raleigh, NC in the area of Family Law is nearly non-existent. What you can find is affordable legal services at The Law Corner. At The Law Corner, our family law lawyers strive to serve everyone who is experiencing a family struggle. To that end, we have created the Self Help Family Law Clinic, which is held every Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at 211 E. Six Forks Road, Suite 205, Raleigh, NC 27609. We help you with the document preparation and procedure and you represent yourself in court.

We can assist you with filing for an uncontested divorce, a complaint for child custody or child support or both, a motion to modify custody or child support, a complaint for emergency custody, a motion to show cause, a domestic violence petition, a motion to claim exemptions, an answer or counterclaim as well as other legal documents. We provide affordable flat fees so your legal rights will not be compromised.

We will even provide you with legal advice, continued consultation and hearing preparation prior to your scheduled hearing at the rate of $175-225 per hour, with a prepaid minimum of 2 hours scheduled.

Every Friday by appointment anytime between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm

Family Law Initial Consultation (up to one hour) $99
(Each additional half hour or part is $75)

File It Yourself Motion to File Exemptions $200

File It Yourself Domestic Violence Petition $250

File It Yourself Custody Complaint $300

File It Yourself Motion to Show Cause $300

File It Yourself Motion to Modify Custody or Child Support $300

File It Yourself Answer & Counterclaim $400

File It Yourself Uncontested Divorce $500

File It Yourself Emergency Custody Complaint $800

Payment is due at appointment and may be made by credit card, in cash or by money order. All rates are for legal services and do not include court costs or filing fees. If you are deemed indigent, you may be eligible to have your court fees waived.

PLEASE DO NOT BRING CHILDREN TO APPOINTMENT

*Bring a complete copy of all court documentation pertaining to your case*

Disclaimer: While use of the Self Help Family Law Clinic creates an attorney-client relationship, it does not constitute an on going legal engagement with any attorney at The Law Corner once the work product is completed. Any additional legal services will be provided upon entering a new contract and payment of a retainer or through the scheduling of a consultation and payment of the consultation fee.

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