Family law cases are some of the most sensitive and emotionally charged cases to deal with. The last thing anyone ever wants is to be involved in a legal battle with a spouse or a family member, but these types of cases are more common than you might think. Domestic relations issues can leave everyone involved fatigued, emotionally drained, and in some cases financially drained.
Fortunately, an experienced Mooresville family law attorney can help make the process much easier and ensure the best outcome for you and your family.
At Waple & Houk PLLC, we have extensive experience dealing with all kinds of family law cases, from matters as simple as a legal name change to more complex cases such as highly disputed divorce cases involving issues such as division of property, child custody, spousal support, etc.
Our compassionate attorneys are prepared to fight for your rights and secure the best outcome in your family law issue in Mooresville, North Carolina. Contact us today at (704) 480-3899 for a free consultation find out more about how we can help you.
Table of Contents
What Qualifies as a Family Law Case?
Family law cases are civil cases that typically involve issues affecting spouses, children, parents, and even grandchildren. Some of the most common types of cases handled in a North Carolina family court include:
Contested and Uncontested Divorce
Couples looking to dissolve their marriage can file a divorce case asking the family court to end their marriage. This can be done through a contested or uncontested divorce. A contested divorce is whereby the spouses can’t agree on certain issues regarding their divorce and they ask the judge to make a ruling on these issues.
On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is whereby the spouses reach an agreement on all issues regarding ending the marriage.
Parental Rights, Child Custody, and Child Support
These types of cases seek to address who gets the custody of the child and establishes the rights and obligations of each parent. In addition, the court determines the amount of child support that will be paid.
Spousal Support and Alimony Agreements
In these cases, the court determines whether alimony should be awarded, as well as the amount and the length of time the alimony should be paid.
Legal Name Changes in North Carolina
An individual looking to legally change their name can do so by filing a petition for change of name in a North Carolina family court.
Victims of domestic violence can seek a restraining order against the abuser in a North Carolina family court to ensure the abuser keeps away from them.
In Department of Social Services cases, the courts determine whether the biological parents or legal guardians of a child abused or neglected the child and the court also determines whether the children should be removed from the custody of these individuals by the Department of Social Services.
Guardianship/Conservatorship for Elderly Family
Our Mooresville law family attorneys can help families establish a guardianship or conservatorship arrangement for an elderly love one who is unable to make his/her own decisions anymore.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in North Carolina?
Grounds for divorce refer to the various reasons divorce can be legally granted in a North Carolina family court. First, it is important to note that there are two types of divorce in North Carolina: Absolute Divorce and Divorce from Bed and Board.
Grounds for Absolute Divorce
This is the complete dissolution of a marriage contract between the divorcing parties which is accompanied by the forfeiture of all rights and privileges that come with it such as inheriting the other party’s estate. This is done through the issuance of a formal court order known as the decree of absolute divorce.
North Carolina State Law provides for the following grounds for absolute divorce:
- Incurable insanity
Absolute divorce may be granted in cases where the spouses have lived separately for at least 3 years due to the incurable insanity of one spouse. Incurable insanity has to be proved by two doctors, one of whom should be a psychiatrist from one of North Carolina’s four-year med schools.
- Living separately for at least one year
A spouse can secure an absolute divorce if the couple has lived separately for at least one year. But for this to happen, one of the spouses must have lived in North Carolina for at least 6 months leading up to the date of the complaint for absolute divorce is filed.
Grounds for Divorce from Bed and Board
This is a fault-based legal process where the affected spouse proves that the other spouse committed a marital fault. Unlike in an absolute divorce, in divorce from bed and board, the spouses remain technically married but legally separated. This means that they aren’t yet free to remarry until an absolute divorce proceeding is complete. In a DBB, the spouses’ rights to one another’s estate are affected.
Grounds for Divorce from Bed and Board include:
- Abandonment of the family
- Drug abuse
- Indignities or actions that render the condition of a spouse intolerable
How Do You Start the Divorce Process?
Before filing for divorce in your local courthouse, you need to ensure that you meet the following requirements:
- You or your spouse must have been living separately for at least one year
- You or your spouse must have lived in North Carolina for a minimum of 6 months prior to filing for divorce
If you have met the above requirements, you will need to follow the steps below:
Preparing and Filing Your Forms
To initiate the process, you will need to fill out the following documents and file them with the court’s clerk of the county where you or your spouse resides:
- A complaint detailing the facts of your case as well as your request for divorce. If you have any specific requests, for example, spousal support, division of property, etc., you need to include them in your complaint.
- Civil Summons
- An affidavit pursuant to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, notifying the court whether your spouse is a member of the military
- Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
When filing these forms, you will need to pay a filing fee. However, for those who are unable to pay these fees you can file a Petition to Proceed as an Indigent to have these fees waived.
Serving Your Spouse
The plaintiff or party requesting the divorce is typically prohibited from personally delivering the divorce documents to their spouse. This can either be done through a sheriff, a process server, or a non-party above the age of 18 years.
You will then have to wait 30 days after the date your spouse is served for the case to go on. This is meant to give your spouse enough time to respond to your divorce papers.
Notice of Hearing
Once the 30 days have lapsed, you will fill in a Notice of Hearing at the Clerk’s office indicating the hearing date and time and serve a copy of the form to your spouse not later than 10 days before the date of hearing.
How Does the Division of Property Work in North Carolina?
First, it is important to note that North Carolina is an equitable division state, which means that the courts will try to divide the property in a way that is fair to both parties depending on their circumstances. In community property states, the property is divided equally between both spouses regardless of who bought it.
Types of Property Divided
Before the property is divided, it is first sorted into three categories:
- Marital property: All property acquired by the couple during the marriage up until the separation.
- Divisible property: Any positive or negative changes in value experienced by any of the couple’s marital property or debt after the date of separation. This also includes any income earned by either spouse from the couple’s marital property after the separation.
- Separate property: This includes any property acquired by the individual spouses prior to the marriage or any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage through inheritance or as a gift from a third party.
Note that only the marital property and divisible property is divided during a North Carolina divorce proceeding.
Factors Considered During Property Division
Factors considered during property division in North Carolina include:
- The age and health condition of the spouses
- The duration of the marriage
- The assets, income, and debt obligations of the spouses
- The liquidity of the couple’s assets
- Efforts contributed by each spouse in acquiring the property
How Is Child Custody Decided?
When deciding who gets the custodial rights of the child(ren) involved, the judge has to ascertain what kind of arrangement will be in the best interests of the child(ren).
To determine what’s in the best interest of the child, the judge considers the following factors:
- The ability of each parent to take care of the child
- The living conditions of each of the parents
- The child’s age
- The relationship of the child with each parent and siblings
- Specific needs of the child
- The preference of the child in terms of which parent gets the custodial rights
- Any other factor that the judge may deem necessary
What Is Alimony and How Is It Decided?
Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is financial support paid to a spouse who is determined to be unable to support themselves after divorce or continue the standards of living they were accustomed to during the marriage. This is meant to help the other spouse stay financially secure as they adjust to life after marriage.
The judge will consider the following factors to determine the amount and duration of alimony payments:
- Each spouse’s earning capacities
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age, physical and mental health of each spouse
- Assets acquired during the marriage
- Marital misconduct including acts such as adultery, reckless spending of assets, dangerous behavior putting the family at risk, etc.
The courts may or may not set an end date for the alimony payments. Typically, the alimony payments end when the end date lapses, if either of the spouses dies, or if the dependent spouse remarries.
Contact an Experienced Mooresville Family Law Attorney Today!
Are you dealing with any kind of family law issue? You need an attorney who is well-versed with all the nuances of family law and is sensitive to the nature of family law cases. Our skilled North Carolina family attorneys at Wapple & Houk PLLC have vast experience dealing with all kinds of family law issues and we are ready to offer you the best guidance and legal representation in your case.
Call us today at (704) 480-3899 to protect your family and parental rights and secure the best outcome in your case. We offer a free case evaluation.