Often times, when parents separate, they are able to agree to a parenting arrangement that is in their child’s best interests and works well for the parents. In many cases, flexible schedules between the parents work well without conflict until the child is an adult. This is, however, not always the case.
In situations where parents cannot agree to the custody schedule, they need a child custody order. A child custody order sets out the plan for making decisions for the minor child and for determining when and where the child spends time with each parent. For parents who conflict with each other, this is an absolute necessity.
To obtain a child custody order, a parent must file an action with the court for child custody. After filing the action, the other party must be served with the lawsuit and afforded the opportunity to respond. In custody actions, after filing, the parents are almost always required to attend a court ordered mediation in the hopes of resolving their differences and working out a custody schedule. Attorneys may be but are often not included in these mediations. If resolution is reached in mediation, an order dictating the custody arrangement and schedule will be issued by a judge, which resolves the matter.
In the event that the parties are unable to come to an agreement during mediation, and are unable to negotiate their custody schedule, they require a judge to determine their parenting schedule and end up in litigation. In litigation, the parties become adversaries and lose their ability to control and determine their parenting arrangement through negotiation. The conflict is resolved by the judge upon the presentation of evidence to determine what parenting arrangement is in the best interests of the minor child.
The primary issues to be determined by the judge are legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody concerns decision-making for the minor child. Where the child goes to school, the doctor, therapy, dentist, for example, include matters of legal custody. Physical custody, on the other hand, concerns where the child spends the night and how much time each parent is going to spend with the minor child.
Once a child custody order is issued, it is enforceable by the court through the power of contempt. What does this mean? Basically, in a nutshell, if a party violates the custody order, the court has the power to punish the violating party. The court may have a number of options in punishing the offending party including fines, probation, jail time, and attorney’s fees.
If you need to speak with a family law attorney concerning child custody issues, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.7 states that “[A]n order of a court of this State for custody of a minor child may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested.”
NCGS 50-13.7 states that an order of a court of this State for custody of a minor child may be modified or vacated at any time, upon motion in the cause and a showing of changed circumstances by either party or anyone interested. In fact, the Court of Appeals has consistently held that “the trial court commit[s] reversible error by modifying child custody absent any finding of substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the child.” Davis v. Davis, 748 S.E.2d 594 (N.C. App., 2013) (quoting Hibshman v. Hibshman, 212 N.C.App. 113, 121, 710 S.E.2d 438, 443 (2011)).
Importantly, a finding of contempt will not lead to a modification of custody or visitation. As stated by our Court of Appeals in in Woncik v. Woncik, child custody “cannot be used as a tool to punish an uncooperative parent.” Only when the Court concludes that the interference with visitation was itself a “changed circumstance” is there merit to modify custody and/or visitation. Our Court of Appeals has stated that “A decree of custody is entitled to such stability as would end the vicious litigation so often accompanying such contests, unless it be found that some change of circumstances has occurred affecting the welfare of the child so as to require modification of the order. To hold otherwise would invite constant litigation by a dissatisfied party so as to keep the involved child constantly torn between parents and in a resulting state of turmoil and insecurity. This in itself would destroy the paramount aim of the court, that is, that the welfare of the child be promoted and subserved.” (Davis v. Davis, 748 SE2d 594 (N.C. App 2013) citing Shepherd v. Shepherd, 273 N.C. 71, 75, 159 S.E.2d 357, 361 (1968)).
In Davis v. Davis, the trial court made findings that the parties had a dispute about the custodial schedule and Defendant lost his temper and inappropriately physically disciplined the minor child. The Court still found that there was not a substantial change of circumstances sufficient for the Court to grant Defendant’s motion to modify custody. (“The trial court did not find that defendant's “inappropriate [ ] discipline[ ]” of his daughter rose to the level of a substantial change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the children. The trial court also did not find that the scheduling disputes constitute a substantial change of circumstances. Therefore, the findings of fact and conclusions of law are insufficient to support its requirement that defendant obtain anger management counseling and its modifications of visitation. Accordingly, we vacate those portions of the trial court's order modifying visitation and ordering defendant to attend anger management classes and we reinstate the visitation schedule set out in the 2003 custody order.”) Davis v. Davis, 748 S.E.2d 594 (N.C. App., 2013).
Thus, it is not necessarily easy to modify an existing order for child custody. To do so, you have to prove that a substantial change of circumstances have occurred that impact the minor child, and that it is now in the child’s best interests to have the custody schedule changed. A court cannot modify a child custody order just because you are dealing with a difficult person. That person may be difficult with you, and at the same time be a great parent for the child.
If you have questions about modifying a child custody order and need to speak with an experienced child custody attorney, please click here to contact Adkins Law.
Are you in need of an attorney to help you with your divorce, child support, alimony, child custody, etc.? Adkins Law is here to help! Call us at 704-274-5677 to schedule your consultation with an attorney here at Adkins Law.
When does child support terminate in Mecklenburg County? Child support terminates in North Carolina when a child reaches eighteen years of age, except:
1. It stops sooner if the child is emancipated.
2. If a child is still in high school when the child reaches eighteen, child support payments continue until the child graduates, ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age twenty, whichever comes first, unless the Court, in it’s discretion, orders that child support payments at age eighteen or prior to high school graduation.
If you have questions regarding child support or the termination of child support in Mecklenburg County, contact Adkins Law. We are located in Huntersville NC and serve the greater Charlotte area.
Filing for an absolute divorce in Mecklenburg County requires the following:
1. At least one party must have lived in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
2. The parties must have lived separate and apart for at least one year and one day prior to filing for the divorce.
3. The plaintiff (the person who is filing the lawsuit) must be able to prove that he or she served the defendant (the person who is getting sued). This is usually done by mail or sheriff.
Once I file for divorce, how long does it take?
Although it may be possible to process a divorce in a matter of days (if both parties agree to expedite and appear in person before a judge), once the plaintiff files for divorce, it takes anywhere from three to four months on average for the divorce to be finalized.
Do I have to go to court?
No, in an uncontested divorce in Mecklenburg County, neither party is required to go to court. You may select to appear in court to expedite the divorce process, or you may have your attorney handle the entire matter for you.
How much will this cost me?
Court costs for filing a divorce in Mecklenburg County are $225.00. There is also a $20.00 fee for the hearing to occur, $10.00 fee if you wish to resume your maiden name, and approximately $10.00 to $30.00 fee to serve the other party (if they do not wish to accept service).
If you need representation in filing a divorce in Mecklenburg County, contact Adkins Law. In most cases, we can get all required information over the phone, have you verify and sign the filing documents, and process the divorce without the necessity of you having to meet in person or go to court.
If you are contemplating separation and divorce, and need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, contact Adkins Law. We are located in Huntersville NC, and serve the greater Charlotte NC area.
In North Carolina, the goal of child support is ensure that the child is receiving the same proportion of their parents’ income as they would if they lived together. This is determined by a formula through the North Carolina Support Guidelines, which are designed to meet the needs of the child while being fair to both parents. The child support order will dictate the amount of money the non- custodial parent must pay.
How is the support computed?
Calculating child support requires determining the parents’ total gross income and calculating the percentage that each parent contributes to the total. The court may also consider overtime pay, bonuses, self- employment and other biological or adopted children. Step- children are not considered in the calculation.
It is important to remember child support has priority over all other financial obligations, and in addition to setting child support, the order may require one or both parents to provide health insurance coverage for the children.
How does the process work?
The non- custodial parent will be served with a Civil Summons and Complaint. They can respond to the document by filing an answer, providing financial information to the child support office prior to the hearing date and signing a voluntary support order, appearing at a hearing, or getting an attorney who will assist in responding to the Complaint.
If the non- custodial parent does not respond to the Compliant, the court may enter a default offer. This means the court takes everything the custodial parent says to be true, and enters an order based on that information.
Coming to an agreement between the parties is always preferred, and if both parents are able to find a solution that they can agree on then a court hearing is not required.
Contact Adkins Law today to set up a consultation and discuss the best way to move forward in your Child Support case.
Undeniably, many families in the US experience serious domestic problems that often necessitate legal interventions. Just like other states of the US, North Carolina (NC) too has its unique laws, under the North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS), that govern all the family matters and that are applicable across its respective regions including Mecklenburg County and all the regions within such counties such as Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville in Mecklenburg County. As such, it is crucial for all persons residing within NC, particularly in Mecklenburg County to know the fundamentals of family law in NC likely to affect them such as separation and divorce, alimony, child support, and child custody.
Noteworthy, separation and divorce (NCGS § 50) are two different concepts under North Carolina’s family law statutes. A legal separation does not end one’s marriage. Instead, a legal separation lets the parties remain married but live separately. Marital misconduct may come into play here if a party wants to file an action for a forced legal separation. However, for an action for a forced legal separation (divorce from bed and board) to succeed, the complainant must provide evidence establishing that the spouse was at fault including cruelty, adultery, and indignities, etc.
Significantly, although one can legally separate at whatever time, the parties must have been physically separated for a minimum period of one (1) year to succeed in a no-fault divorce. As such, one must meet the legal definition of “separation” to file a divorce case. Merely living in different rooms of the same house or living in separate houses but maintaining the appearance of a relationship does not qualify as a legal separation under the state’s law. If the couple reconciles, the separation period terminates. Additionally, another option other than separation exists, though rarely pursued. Here, the law allows a partner to file for divorce after being lawfully separated for three (3) years and believes that the other partner suffers from untreatable lunacy.
Alimony, child support, and child custody are also NC family law issues. According to NCGS § 50-16.3A, alimony is the act of paying for the upkeep and maintenance of a partner, either through a lump-sum or on an ongoing basis provided by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. In Mecklenburg County, forinstance, the general rule is that a dependent spouse is the one earning less income, though the NCGS contains sixteen factors (NCGS § 50-16.3A) that guide the court in making such a determination. When it comes to child custody in NC, the most common reference usually made is “the best interest of the child.” Here, the judge (not a jury) hears the evidence presented before the court and decides how the parents, either jointly or individually, will share time with the children and make decisions impacting the lives of the children.
Often, the court appoints joint physical custody of the children to the parents. Sometimes the court will award one parent as having main physical custody while the other having ancillary physical custody accompanied with a visitation schedule. One parent is usually ordered to pay the other parent child support. Such support is usually assessed using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, especially if the combined yearly income of the two prior to taxation amounts to $300,00.00 or less (though also dependent on the custodial schedule), and such a support lasts until the child turns 18 years and graduates high school, or the child is lawfully emancipated. If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, contact Adkins Law.
Domestic violence is far more common than we know. It is a problem that affects people regardless of race, gender, sexuality or socioeconomic status. If you or someone you love is being abused, it is important to come forward to seek help.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is causing, or attempting to cause, bodily injury to the victim. It can also be placing the victim in fear of imminent, serious bodily injury. This may include continued harassment if it causes severe emotional distress.
It is important to remember that domestic violence can only occur between people who have a current or former relationship. This includes spouses, household members, parent/ child or boyfriend/ girlfriend.
What to do if you are a victim of domestic violence
Your safety is the biggest priority—get yourself to safety and call 911. If you do not have a safe place, you can seek help at a shelter.
From there, you have the option of seeking a restraining order and/ or filing criminal charges. Criminal charges are recommended because the criminal system has some procedures in place that the civil system does not, like probation and violent offender programs. If the abuser is found guilty at trial, then the terms and conditions of his or her sentence depend on various factors including what crimes the abuser has committed against you and prior offenses
How does domestic violence effect custody and child support?
It is rare for those issues to be handled in the civil domestic violence process of getting a restraining order. Many judges prefer that issues of child support and custody be handled in a separate action. You will need to file a separate complaint seeking custody and child support.
What about alimony and property division?
The judge in your domestic violence can only deal with these issues on a very limited basis, such as addressing temporary distribution of vehicles and the home. Many judges prefer that these issues be handled in a separate action. You will need to file a separate complaint alimony and equitable division.
Domestic violence proceedings can be confusing and time consuming, especially when dealing with other family law issues. Contact Adkins Law today to set up a consultation and decide your next steps.
In preparing answers to requests for admissions, the answers must be made in good faith and answer the request in detail. Answers that do not accomplish this may be stricken at the court’s discretion and sanctions applied. The following excerpted Rules and cases support the above conclusion. If the defendant in your case offered only blanket denials, and you are able to provide documentation showing that his answers were not complete or made in good faith, it is likely that a judge would be amenable to striking the answers, thus making them admissions, and imposing sanctions such as attorney’s fees. If the opposing party has a good faith belief that their denials were correct, then they will likely not be sanctioned. Of particular interest in Rule 37 (c), which explains the grounds under which a judge may choose to sanction for failure to admit.
NC Rules of Civil Procedure
If objection is made, the reasons therefor shall be stated. The answer shall specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. A denial shall fairly meet the substance of the requested admission, and when good faith requires that a party qualify his answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, he shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder.
If the court determines that an answer does not comply with the requirements of this rule, it may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. The court may, in lieu of these orders, determine that final disposition of the request be made at a pretrial conference or at a designated time prior to trial. The provisions of Rule 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion.
N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 1A-1, 36
Rule 37 (c)
Expenses on failure to admit.--If a party fails to admit the genuineness of any document or the truth of any matter as requested under Rule 36, and if the party requesting the admissions thereafter proves the genuineness of the document or the truth of the matter, the requesting party may apply to the court for an order requiring the other party to pay to him or her the reasonable expenses incurred in making that proof, including reasonable attorney's fees. The court shall make the order unless it finds that (i) the request was held objectionable pursuant to Rule 36(a), or (ii) the admission sought was of no substantial importance, or (iii) the party failing to admit had reasonable ground to believe that he or she might prevail on the matter, or (iv) there was other good reason for the failure to admit.
N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 1A-1, 37
Rule 8 (c)
(b) Defenses; form of denials. -- A party shall state in short and plain terms his defenses to each claim asserted and shall admit or deny the averments upon which the adverse party relies. If he is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of an averment, he shall so state and this has the effect of a denial. Denials shall fairly meet the substance of the averments denied. When a pleader intends in good faith to deny only a part of or a qualification of an averment, he shall specify so much of it as is true and material and shall deny only the remainder. Unless the pleader intends in good faith to controvert all the averments of the preceding pleading, he may make his denials as specific denials of designated averments or paragraphs, or he may generally deny all the averments except such designated averments or paragraphs as he expressly admits; but, when he does so intend to controvert all its averments, he may do so by general denial subject to the obligations set forth in Rule 11.
N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 1A-1, 8
Wachovia Bank of N. Carolina, N.A. v. Bob Dunn Jaguar, Inc., 117 N.C. App. 165, 174, 450 S.E.2d 527, 533 (1994)