Charlene Edwards Law Office

Family Law

 

Family or Domestic Relations Law is the area of law that deals with family relationships. There are many specific aspects of the law that make up the Family Law Realm including:

Absolute Divorce — An absolute divorce is what most people think of when they hear the word divorce. It is the absolute cessation of a marriage. In North Carolina, the only ground for obtaining a divorce is a separation that has lasted for more than one year, that is at least 366 days. Most divorces are uncontested but occasionally there is a contest ¬†about the date of separation or there are other marital claims which may make a divorce contested.

Divorce From Bed and Board — This is not a divorce in the typical sense. Once a Divorce From Bed and Board is granted, you cannot remarry someone else until you have been separated for more than a year and obtain an absolute divorce. A Divorce From Bed and Board is merely a court imposed separation based upon marital misconduct. Typically, this is the action that is filed when the parties or at least one party no longer wishes to be married but no one will move.

Marital Agreements: There are three types of marital agreements in North Carolina and each have their own requirements to be valid. They are the Pre-Nuptial Agreement,Post-Nuptial Agreement and the Separation Agreement. A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is drafted prior to a parties marriage and details each party’s rights and duties coming from the marriage including how property acquired after the marriage will be handled in the event of a divorce. A Post-Nuptial Agreement is the same as a Pre-Nuptial Agreement except it is executed by the parties after the marriage has already occurred. There are differences in each regarding fairness, fiduciary duty, and requirements for effective execution. A Separation Agreement is the document that is most often used. This is the agreement between the husband and wife as to how to divide their marital estate upon separation. Occasionally, the parties enter into child custody and child support agreements as part of the separation agreement with the property settlement. Each of these agreements have specific legal requirements to be valid. Make sure you speak to an attorney prior to entering into one of these agreements.

Property Distribution: Also known in North Carolina is Equitable Distribution. Any property acquired during a marriage between the date of marriage and the date of separation is presumed to be marital property regardless of title and is subject to being divided during a separation and divorce. Debts accumulated during the same time period may also be subject to being equitably divided. The Courts begin with the assumption that an equal (50-50) split is equitable although the statute lists several factors where one party or the other may convince a court that equal is not necessarily equitable and an unequal division in favor of one party or the other is equitable.

Child Custody: Child custody is one of the most important aspects of any domestic case. It is also one of the most emotional issues anyone can face. Where will your children live and with whom? What kind of access will you have to your children? Who will make major decisions for your child? These and many more questions race through your mind when child custody becomes an issue between the parents or, occasionally, third parties.

Child Support: This is the amount of money that each parent owes to their children for the general upkeep and maintenance of the child or children. The North Carolina General Statutes gives authority to the Conference of Chief District Court Judges to establish child support guidelines. The guidelines are the presumptive way in which child support is established in North Carolina. The calculation of child support involves the use of a formula which has certain variables. The most significant variables are each party’s income, daycare expenses, the cost of medical insurance, and the living arrangements of the children. The guidelines can be rebutted as well as a party may, under certain circumstances, request a deviation for good cause.

Spousal Support –There are two types of spousal support in North Carolina. Post-Separation Support is the support owed by a supporting spouse to a dependent spouse during the period of separation prior to divorce. Alimony is the spousal support owed to a dependent spouse from a supporting spouse after the divorce is granted. There are many factors such as income, expenses, marital misconduct, the age of the parties, the length of the marriage, and others which the court considers in determining 1) if the spouse seeking support is actually dependent upon the other spouse for their upkeep and maintenance; 2) if the spouse support is being sought from can afford to pay spousal support and was a supporting spouse during the marriage; 3) the reasonable needs of each party; 4) whether support should be awarded, the amount and the duration of payments. The right to receive support may be modified or terminated later for various reasons including the remarriage or cohabitation of the dependent spouse or death of either party.

Cohabitation Agreements — North Carolina law defines cohabitation as two romantically involved adults living together without the benefits of marriage. Although the state recognizes cohabitation, there are no special rights or protections afforded to those who live together without the benefit of marriage. In fact, it was illegal to do so until 2006, when a court struck down the centuries-old law forbidding cohabitation as unconstitutional. While now you can live with your significant other, don’t expect the court to automatically sort out your affairs if you break up. You’ll have to draft up your own agreement to do that. Since cohabiting couples have no special status under state law, they must take other steps to protect themselves in the event of a future break up. You can do this by creating a cohabitation agreement. This is a contract that outlines a couple’s individual rights and responsibilities if and when the relationship ends. A cohabitation agreement is enforceable in a court of law. For example, the contract can identify how you’ll divide the property you purchased together if you split. It can also discuss how you’ll divide debts and obligations and whether one of you will financially support the other for a limited time after the split.

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1170 N Main Street
Lilington NC, 27546

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Family Law
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