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Family Law

 

Once a marriage fails, a number of issues may arise depending on the circumstances of the family.

 

Where to go and what to do in Mecklenburg County regarding:

  • Divorce
  • Child Custody and Support
  • Alimony
  • Property Division
  • Domestic Violence 

 

If you have a problem in one or more of these areas, there may be public as well as private assistance available to you. This web page is not intended to state the law, but rather to be a guide for finding assistance and self-help.

 

 

Divorce

Although there is more than one kind of divorce in North Carolina, the only divorce which will allow a person to remarry is an absolute divorce. Except in rare circumstances, the basis for this divorce is a year's separation and 6 months residency in North Carolina.

 

Allegations of fault or incompatibility are not necessary for an absolute divorce. However, such an agreement may be very important. Both spouses must agree and sign a notarized separation agreement for it to be valid. A private attorney can tell you if a separation agreement is needed.

 

Although a non-lawyer may represent himself or herself in obtaining an uncontested divorce, there are private attorneys and legal clinics which advertise in the newspaper under the title "Legal Services." You can obtain a divorce from these firms for a relatively inexpensive fee. You may want to call more than one attorney or clinic, since prices do vary.

 

A non-lawyer who wishes to represent himself or herself must file a sworn and notarized complaint stating:

  1. the spouses' names;
  2. their residence (including a six month prior residency of one of the parties; North Carolina);
  3. date of marriage;
  4. date of separation;
  5. that the spouses have been separated a year; and
  6. names and ages of minor children.

 

He or she may obtain forms and information at the SelfServe Center in Room 3350 of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, 832 East 4th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202. A Civil Summons along with a copy of the complaint must be served on the opposing party. If a person does not contest the divorce and no one wishes to appear in court, a "Summary Judgment" divorce may be requested upon the filing of the appropriate motions, and service upon the opposing party. If a person wishes to contest the divorce a hearing date must be obtained at which he or she must testify.

 

Normally, a right to alimony and most property rights are cut off by the entry of the divorce judgment, if legal action for them is not taken before the judgment is entered. Because these and other rights are affected by the divorce, it is highly recommended that any person with children or claiming or defending claim for alimony or property, contact a private attorney for a consultation to discuss his or her legal rights prior to filing an action for divorce.

 

 

Child Custody and Support

If parents have not signed a separation agreement and no court action has been taken, both have equal rights to custody of their minor children. No written document is necessary for custody so long as both parents are satisfied with the arrangements they have made. However a Separation Agreement is highly recommended to make terms and conditions that are agreed upon regarding custody, visitation and child support binding.

 

If the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation, they should see a private attorney or a private mediator. Once a lawsuit for custody is filed, mediation is available at no cost through the Custody/Visitation/Mediation Program of the Administrative Office of Courts, located at 832 East 4th Street in room 8510 located on the eighth floor of the  Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Their telephone number is 704/686-0220. The mediation process is required before custody will be determined by a judge.  

Private mediation services are also available and are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book. The custody arrangements worked out with a private mediator may require the arrangement to be part of a court order to be considered binding on either parent.  

 

Child Support Guidelines have been established in North Carolina to assist judges, attorneys and parents in reaching a reasonable amount of support to be paid to the parent with primary custody. A copy of the Guidelines can be found in the Mecklenburg County SelfServe Center, room 3350 or in the Civil Department of the Clerk of the Superior Court, room 3725 both are located in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, 832 East 4th Street, Charlotte, NC 28202.

 

If parents cannot agree on the amount of the payment of child support, they should each see an attorney. If a parent seeking child support cannot afford a private attorney, he or she may obtain assistance in the Mecklenburg County SelfServe Center, room 3350 where there are form packets for Child Support. Assistance may also be obtained from "Child Support Enforcement." This organization will prosecute the child support action for a low initial fee and a low hourly rate for staff and attorney time. If legal action is taken, the judge may also make the supporting parent pay part or all of the other parent's legal fees.

The telephone number and address for Child Support Enforcement is:

Child Support Enforcement

5800 Executive Drive, Suite 200

Charlotte, NC 28212

704/342-6325

 

 

Alimony

Alimony is support paid from one spouse to the other who is financially dependent on him or her. There must be a dependency for entitlement to alimony. Marital misconduct, such as adultery, etc. may affect the amount or duration of alimony payments. If you feel you may be entitled to alimony, you should see a private attorney. If you feel you may be claiming or defending a claim for alimony, you should, if possible, speak to an attorney before you leave the marital residence.


Property Division

In North Carolina it is presumed that all property acquired after marriage, but before separation, will be divided equally between spouses, regardless of whose name the property is titled under. Inheritances and certain gifts are excluded from this division. The cash value of insurance policies and vested pension and profit-sharing plans are marital property and may be subject to division. If a pension or profit-sharing plan is to be divided, you should see an attorney prior to divorce because a court order will be required to obtain the division.

 

Under some circumstances, one spouse may be entitled to more than fifty percent of the marital property. If you feel you may be entitled to more than fifty percent, you should see an attorney. The spouses should attempt to agree on a division between themselves. In many cases, the legal fees could be more than the property is worth.

 

In cases where possession of property is absolutely essential or needed for minor children, it may be awarded to a spouse as a part of child support or alimony.



Domestic Violence

If you or your child(ren) are the victim(s) of domestic violence and believe you (or they) are in immediate danger, you should call the police using the emergency number "911." You may take out a criminal warrant against your abuser at any time, day or night, at the Warrant Issuing Magistrates office. The police can provide transportation to a victim of domestic violence to the magistrates office or to the Shelter for Battered Women.

The address and telephone number for the Warrant Issuing Magistrate is:

Warrant Issuing Magistrate
Intake Center
Mecklenburg County Jail
801 East 4th Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
704-347-7844.

 

If the Magistrate believes there is probable cause that an assault or other crime has been committed, he or she will issue a warrant for the abusers arrest. You will not be allowed to withdraw the warrant or stop the procedure once it is started. You will be required to go and testify against the abuser at a later court date.

 

You may also file a civil complaint to obtain a court order pro se (by yourself) keeping the abuser from contacting, assaulting, or coming around you and/or your child(ren). Quicker protective procedures are made available in domestic violence situations. The necessary forms may be obtained in the Civil Department of the Clerk of the Superior Court, Room 3725 of the Civil Courts Building and the Self-Serve Center, Room 3350. In this office they have two types of forms that you can file with the clerk of the court. 50-B is a domestic violence protective order issued when there is an intimate partnership with the other party. 50-C is a civil no-contact order, when there is no relationship with the person you want to file against.

 

"The Shelter for Battered Women" provides a safe emergency residence and counseling for women and children who have been threatened with or experienced violence.

Contact:

The Shelter for Battered Women
704-332-2513.

 

You may also receive assistance form the "Victim Assistance Program."

The telephone number and address for the "Victim Assistance Program" is:

Victim Assistance Program
720 East 4th Street, Room 204
Charlotte, NC 28202
704-336-4126

 

 

 

Conclusion

If you have any questions concerning family law and procedures which are not addressed here, you should see one of the organizations listed herein or contact a private attorney.

 

The Mecklenburg County Bar maintains a Lawyer Referral Service, and you may obtain a referral by calling 704/375-0120. There is a $50 fee for an initial 30-minute consultation with the attorney.

 

If you have a low income and qualify, you may receive assistance from:

Legal Services of Southern Piedmont
1431 Elizabeth Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28204
704-376-1600

 


 

 

 
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