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.
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.
by: Jacqueline Keenan
Do you feel that you are being threatened?
In North Carolina, it is illegal to try to stop a witness from testifying through threats or intimidation. Intimidation under this law can include threats of bodily harm or violence, cursing, vulgarity, or threatening language given the context of the statements as a whole.
These statements can be explicit, like “if you testify I’m going to break your arm,” or can contain language that implies a threat, like “I’ll give you a taste of your own medicine”, or “I’ll make you regret this”.
Threats made against a witness are a Class G Felony. In North Carolina, a Class G Felony alone can lead to a sentence of 8-31 months in prison. This is a serious crime!
Who is affected by this law?
The witness intimidation law protects any person who has been “summoned” or is “acting as a witness”.
It punishes any person who threatens, intimidates, attempts to intimidate, or prevents the attendance of a witness from any North Carolina state court.
The law also pertains to defendants in a criminal proceeding who threaten a witness in their case with the assertion or denial of parental rights.
What to do if you’re being threatened
If you are a witness and feel you are being threatened, it is important that you report the threat to the police or an attorney on the case, so they can take appropriate action.
If you’re interested in more information about witness intimidation, contact Adkins Law!
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.
Do you have the "REAL" ID?
The North Carolina DMV has begun to offer a form of identification that satisfies a new federal ID requirement for boarding planes, entering federal buildings, military bases and nuclear facilities.
The "real" ID works and looks like a normal driver’s license but has a gold star in the upper right-hand corner. The star indicates that you’ve met the ID standards spelled out in the federal REAL ID Act.
To get a REAL ID, an applicant has to provide documents that show who they are, where they were born, where they live and that they have a Social Security number. The documents that meet the requirements to prove these things include:
-a birth certificate
-a valid U.S. passport or immigration documents
-a Social Security card
The federal government will begin requiring REAL ID for air travel. It was also be required to access other federal facilities such as military bases beginning on Oct. 1st, 2020. Those without a state-issued ID (with the gold star) would still be able to board a plane. However it would require a driver’s license and another form of identification, such as a passport.
Licenses that do not meet the requirements will include the words “Not for Federal Identification.”
A common question that arises is concerning the termination of parental rights. When parental rights are terminated, all legal ties between the parent and child are severed. This cannot be done consensually. A court must find grounds for the termination, and that the termination is in the child’s best interests.
In North Carolina, termination of parental rights proceedings are held in juvenile court before a district court judge. There is no jury. The petitioner (the person attempting to terminate the parental rights) must (1) show that there are grounds for the termination, and (2) that it is in the child’s best interests to terminate the parental rights. The petitioner must show by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for the termination exist, and that the termination is in the child’s best interests.
NCGS 7B-1111 sets out several grounds for terminating parental rights in North Carolina. A petitioner needs to prove at least one ground to successfully have a respondent’s parental rights terminated. Some of the ground which justify a termination include abuse, neglect, willful abandonment, the assumption of child custody by one party and the failure to pay child support by the other, a child born out of wedlock with the failure to establish paternity or legitimize the child, the failure to provide proper care and supervision when the child needs specialized care, a conviction of a serious felony such as murder or a sexually related offense.
Even upon the petitioner proving one of the grounds justifying termination, a judge must still find that the termination is in the child’s best interests. To that end, an evidentiary hearing must be held with sworn testimony. A parent cannot simply consent to the termination, even if they want to, fail to file a responsive pleading, or fail to appear at the termination hearing.
Adkins Law is located in Huntersville, North Carolina and primarily serves Mecklenburg County, and the Lake Norman area. If you want to speak with an experienced family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
State law has mandated seat belt use by NC drivers for more than 30 years. The seat belt law has changed a lot over time. As a result, not everyone is clear on who is covered, what is required, and what the penalties are for seatbelt violations.
1. Everyone in the car must buckle up!
G.S. 20-135.2A(a) requires that every occupant of a motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts must have a seatbelt fastened properly on a persons body when the vehicle is in forward motion on a street or highway.
A handful of exceptions apply to the following people and motor vehicles:
2. A motor vehicle may not be stopped for a back-seat passenger’s failure to buckle up!
An officer who has reason to believe that a driver or passenger does not have a seat belt properly fastened on his or her body may stop the car to investigate. A law enforcement officer who has reason to believe that there is a rear passenger without a seat belt may not pull the car over. That’s because G.S. 20-135.2A(d1) categorizes the failure to buckle up in the back seat as a secondary violation. A officer who has lawfully stopped a vehicle for another reason and learns in the process of a rear seat belt violation may, of course, give a ticket to the driver for this offense.
3. What is the penalty for front seatbelt violations?
The penalty for a seat belt violation has significantly increased since seat belt use was first mandated. Back in 1986, a violation of the seat belt law was punishable by a fine of $25. No court costs were assessed.
Today, the penalty for a front-seat occupant’s failure to wear a seat belt is $25.50 plus $154.50 in court costs. That is $180.
The costs of a rear seat violation are a lot simpler. That penalty is a flat $10 and no costs may be assessed.
If you need an attorney to help you with a Seat Belt Violation please contact Adkins Law today. Our attorney's are located in the Huntersville, Lake Norman area. We specialize in Traffic/ DUI. For all other information regarding a Seat Belt Violation click here.