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.
Control distribution of assets – You wouldn’t hand over your car keys to a child who has not had proper preparation driving, and chances are you would not want to hand over all your assets to a teenager either. But if both parents die at the same time, or while their children are still minors, the children would inherit all the assets upon their 18th birthdays. A trust allows you to specify how and when you want your children to inherit.
Protect assets from creditors – Placing an inheritance in a trust ensures that those assets are protected from your heir’s, or their spouse’s, creditors. A properly drafted trust can protect all your assets throughout your beneficiary’s lifetime from divorce, liability, lawsuits, and other judgments.
Protect inheritance from spendthrift heirs – Not everyone is good with money. If your heirs fall into that category, you can use a trust to ensure the assets are not frittered away due to spendthrift behavior.
Provide for children of prior marriage or relationship – You can use a trust to both provide for your current spouse and any children from a previous relationship. By doing so, you can prevent pain, confusion, and arguing, which may exist in blended family situations.
Provide for a special needs heir – Leaving assets outright to an heir with special needs could disqualify them from receiving important government benefits. Leaving those assets in trust bypasses this potential risk.
Avoid probate – Assets can pass to heirs without going through probate by using a trust, saving beneficiaries the time and expense of the probate process. Probate is an expensive, public, and unnecessary court process you can keep your family from having to deal with.
Protect privacy – Once a will is entered into probate, it becomes public record, and anyone may access information on what someone inherited. A trust, on the other hand, is a private document that protects your family’s privacy.
If you need to arrange a consultation with an estate planning attorney,contact Adkins Law or call (704) 274-5677.
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.
In North Carolina, when you separate from your child’s other parent, there are a lot of things to consider and plan for. In most cases, it is best to have a consent order entered as to your child custody arrangement, and any child support obligations. A custody order is required to enforce any agreements as to child custody.
In North Carolina, there are two kinds of child custody: legal child custody, and physical child custody. Legal child custody concerns decision making, and what parent is making such decisions as to where the minor child is attending school, what doctor and dental treatments the minor child will have, what religious practices the child will adhere to, and what extracurricular activities and events the child will participate in. Physical custody, on the other hand, concerns what parenting time each parent will spend with the minor children.
Most cases involving child custody are resolved by direct negotiations with the opposing party, and the remainder are resolved through the process of mediation. Most jurisdictions require the parties to attend a mandatory mediation before they may present their child custody case in front of a judge. Mediation is often successful as it gives the parties the ability to maintain a sense of control in resolving and settling their matter. In the event your spouse or partner is unreasonable, and unwilling to settle, your case may be forced into litigation, where the judge determines a child custody arrangement dependent upon the best interests of the minor child.
If you need to speak with a child custody attorney regarding a child custody matter, please contact Adkins Law. We are located in Huntersville NC and are happy to be of service.
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.
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.