North Carolina laws change frequently based upon statues and case law and can affect the information on this site and the information contained herein is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the laws.

Divorce within the legal system is a serious matter and can be daunting and unfamiliar to the citizens of North Carolina. Divorce itself has various components, all of which may not apply to everyone who has or is contemplating separating from one’s spouse. Our firm can help you through the complicated legal process by advising you or your rights, your legal options and informing you of the local Cumberland County procedures and practice for your issues.

We help those who are married and may have claims for absolute divorce (based on one year’s continuous separation of spouses), separation agreements (final terms on all agreed upon issues between spouses), custody (for married or un-married persons and separated parents), child support, post separation support (temporary alimony/spousal support), alimony (permanent spousal support), equitable distribution(marital property distribution), step-parent adoptions, minor name changes (when the parents want to legally change the name of their child), grandparent rights, termination of parental rights (when one parent seeks to terminate another parent’s rights) and collaborative law (an out of court way for parties to resolve all of their marital issues in a fair and amicable setting). All fault grounds for divorce have been abolished in North Carolina for divorce.

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If the spouses have been separated with at least one having the intent to end their marital relationship and have lived separate and apart for at least one (1) year without resuming their relationship, either may file for divorce in North Carolina. However, at least one spouse must have been a continuous resident of North Carolina for at least six (6) months prior to the lawsuit for divorce being filed.

Spouses living in the same house but in different bedrooms or rooms are not living separate and apart for purposes of separation and divorce in North Carolina. Whether there has been a resumption of the marital relationship during the separation period will be determined by all of the circumstances, meaning, the separation period may have to restart. Isolated incidents of sexual intercourse during the separation period will not be considered a resumption of marital relationship.

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When married persons stop living in the same residence with the intent from at least one spouse to end the married, the parties are now legally separated.

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There are various aspects of custody in North Carolina including who can file for custody and visitation of a child. Generally, the Courts will grant with joint custody of the child, with one person being designated the primary custodian and the other person being designated the secondary custodian. With joint custody, both parents are able to have access to the child’s school information, grades, medical information, doctor’s appointment information, and all basic information of the child.

At this time, Cumberland County recognizes the below provisions for joint custody. However, these are subject to the Court’s discretion and can be changed, modified and the like depending on each family’s different scenario.

A. The parties shall each provide to the other party a current address and phone number and notice of any change of the address and/or phone number. Each party may maintain regular phone contact with the minor child but no phone call shall be made to the child between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

B. The parties shall each have full and complete access to all school and medical records of the minor child. Each shall have the right to converse with the medical providers, counselors, day care providers, teachers, and other school personnel with regards to the minor child.

C. Each party shall have the right to authorize medical treatment for the minor child while in their care and each will keep the other informed as to the general health and well-being of the child, including illnesses, medical treatments, and appointments, and each shall notify the other as soon as possible should the minor child be hospitalized.

D. Subject to school rules, each party shall have a right of access to the child at school including school lunches with the child and the parties shall have the right to attend any and all school functions, including parent-teacher conferences, award assemblies and other events at the schools/daycare and any and all extracurricular activities and each party shall keep the other informed of such functions and activities.

E. The primary custodial parent shall provide to the secondary custodial parent the web address of the child’s school and/or daycare so that the secondary custodial parent may access the school and/or daycare schedule and activities and shall provide the password necessary to access the child’s information. The primary custodial parent shall provide the secondary custodial parent a copy of the minor child’s report card within five (5) days of receiving it and information about school pictures in a timely matter.

F. Any plans, arrangements, or disagreements that may arise between the parties, in regard to the minor child, will be discussed between the parties and not in the presence of the minor child. The parties shall refrain from making any disparaging remarks about the other parent to or in the presence of the minor child. All parties shall discourage others from making disparaging remarks about the other parent to or in the presence of the minor child.

G. Only the primary custodian may check the child out of school during the school day. The secondary custodian may check the child out of school during the school day only when the party has written permission to do so. If the visitation schedule provides that the visitation begins at the end of the school day, the secondary custodian may pick up the child from school but only at the end of the school day.

H. Only the primary custodian may withdraw the child from the school when he attends.

I. No party shall post any derogatory remarks or pictures about a parent, other relative or significant other on any social media site or allow others to do so in their place. Each party shall limit placement of pictures of the minor child on any social media site.

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A separation agreement is a legally binding, permanent agreement between the spouses which resolves all of their legal issues including: custody, child support, alimony, property, tax filing, life insurance and the like. It is always best to consult an attorney prior to attempting to prepare your own document. You should never sign a Separation Agreement without having an attorney review the document with you. We can assist with the preparation of the agreement and/or advise you on a document that has already been prepared by another party or attorney. Signing these documents is very serious and terms can not be changed later because you change your mind. These agreements are good because they allow the parties to resolve their issues amicably and the spouses know their finances, property, children and all aspects of their lives better than a Court system does so it is always better to attempt to resolve legal issues outside of Court if able to do so.

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Child Support is the money owed from a parent or parents to the person whom has custody of the child. North Carolina has the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines that are established by the legislature that dictates how child support in North Carolina is calculated. There are some options to deviate from these statutory amounts, but they are based on specific things.

Child support takes into account each party’s gross monthly income from all sources which can be a person’s job, their VA income, their G.I. Bill money, income from rental properties, ongoing monthly gifts from another person and the like. Child Support also takes into account the cost of medical and dental insurance for the child, daycare expenses for the child and extraordinary expenses. What is considered extraordinary can vary based on each person’s case but it may include the cost of private school, travel expenses to visit with a child, a car payment or car insurance for a child.

Child Support normally terminates at age 18, however, if the child is still enrolled in high school, it would continue until the child graduates high school, but not past age 20.

Also, in a Separation Agreement parties can agree to further child support outside the statutory time and it is important to see an attorney about that to fully understand what happens if parents agree to those extension provisions.

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Alimony is spousal support in North Carolina. Post Separation Support (PSS) is temporary alimony and is put in place by a Court pending a permanent order. Alimony is the permanent version of spousal support. A spouse who is substantially dependent on the other spouse and believes they need money each month to continue to support themselves once the parties separate and/or ultimately divorce can ask the Court for spousal support. The Court also has to make a finding that the supporting spouse has the ability to pay the dependent spouse. There are various factors the Court looks to when deciding the amount and duration of any spousal support payments and outcomes vary from family to family. The Court will look to the parties’ ages, their health, how long they were married, the education and work history of each, the bills for each party, and the like.

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The Court has the authority to value and divide property acquired during the parties’ marriage to one another. Normally “marital property” is anything that is acquired starting the day the parties marry until the day they separate. This can include bank accounts, credit card debt, houses, cars, boats, retirement/pensions, personal items in the home, life insurance and the like. Normally even if a spouses name is not on the property (like a bank account or credit card), if it was used during the marriage, the Court may still have the ability to deem it marital and split it accordingly.

The presumption is that property will be split “equally” but there are factors in North Carolina for the Court to award one spouse more of the estate and/or debt than the other.

Property division is complex. If parties can not agree how to divide their debts and assets on their own through a Separation Agreement or consent order, the Court will divide it.

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Collaborative Law is when each spouse hires an attorney in order to negotiate all aspects of their marriage with the goal of reaching a comprehensive settlement. The roles of the attorneys are different in Collaborative law in that each attorney acts more like a mediator. Their objective is to facilitate a peaceful negotiation between the parties, not represent their client in a court of law. In order to facilitate this process, the attorneys who represent in the client in Collaborative law are prevented from representing the clients in litigation if settlement fails. This really encourages open discussion, sharing of information and documents in order to come to fair, amicable resolution outside of the Court system.

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This is a lawsuit filed under the Juvenile code. It is a lawsuit that is filed when someone wants to file to legally terminate one, or both of the legal parent’s rights to a child. The legal basis for filing a termination of parental rights is very specific in North Carolina and can include factors such as willfully abandoning the child or lack of paying child support for a specified period of time for the child. Private terminations (meaning, terminations filed in domestic, civil district court and NOT through the Juvenile system) are very complex and are a very serious matter with multiple and specific steps that have to be accomplished.

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This is when a step-parent wishes to adopt their spouses’ child. It can be accomplished in two (2) ways in North Carolina. The first way is that the other biological parent (the one whose rights are being terminated) is consenting to the adoption. That parent can sign a form agreeing to allow their child to be adopted by the step-parent. The second way is if the other parent either will not consent or adopt or can not be located to sign the consent to adopt. At that time, a Termination of Parental Rights must be filed and Order entered terminating that other parents’ rights. The only way to move forward with a step-parent adoption is to have either the consent signed or the order terminating parental rights if that other parent is still living. If the adoption is granted, that step-parent becomes the new “biological” parent and the child’s birth certificate is changed.

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North Carolina is a state that acknowledges grandparent rights under certain circumstances. It is important for grandparents to discuss those with an attorney if they have questions or what to know what they are allowed to file through the Court system.

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Generally a minor’s name can legally be changed if both parents consent and it is a proceeding through the Clerk of Court. There are some other situations in which a minor’s name can be changed without both parent’s consent but you must speak with an attorney to see if you qualify for those exceptions.

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