Sampson County Family Law Attorney

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Sampson County Family Law Attorney

Sampson County Family Law Lawyer

Family court cases are always emotional ordeals. Spouses have property divisions to contend with, and parents have to negotiate time with their children. During these difficult times, your Sampson County family law attorney will provide comprehensive and compassionate legal counsel. Our legal team has helped many clients protect their rights and access to their children. Below are some common areas of family law that we can help you with.

Understanding Separation in North Carolina

North Carolina state law does not require that a couple have paperwork to legally separate. To be considered separated, you must live in a separate home from your spouse. At least one spouse needs to intend the separation to be permanent.

Couples can agree on the terms of their separation through what is known as a separation agreement. This includes the terms for paying bills, who stays in the home, and even where the children live.

A separation can also include details about:

  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Property division

While a separation agreement is not required to separate from your spouse, it can resolve many legal issues as you dissolve your marriage. Deciding how to divide assets and property can make the divorce process easier. Spouses have the option of using some or all of the separation agreement in the final divorce decree. The agreements can even allow couples to forgo the family court system entirely.

Having conversations about how child support and other important matters will be handled can encourage both spouses to make those tough decisions early on without the pressure of having those choices finalized.

Separation agreements are typically drafted and negotiated by family law attorneys. The documents must be in writing and not simply a verbal agreement. Both parties must sign, and the signatures must be notarized. Provisions about child support and custody can be included in the agreement.

If one parent files for great custody rights in court, a judge may make decisions on child visitation based on the best interest of the child. If child support is not included in the original separation agreement, a judge has the option of requiring one parent (usually the one who earns more) to make monthly payments for supporting one or more children.

What a Divorce Means in North Carolina

Every state handles divorce cases differently. In North Carolina, you are eligible to file for divorce once you have been separated for a year and one day. As described above, this means that you will have to prove that you have been living in different homes for the duration of the separation, and the separation must be continuous. There is also a residency requirement. At least one spouse must currently live and have lived for the past six months in North Carolina before the divorce is filed.

Your spouse does not have to agree to the divorce as long as you are eligible for divorce. Once you file, your spouse does not have to sign paperwork with the court. Your spouse must receive legal notice of the divorce. North Carolina only recognizes no-fault divorce, meaning anyone eligible to file for divorce does not have to have a reason for divorce other than they find the union to no longer be tenable.

Even if you believe your spouse is at fault for causing the divorce, you will still have to abide by the one-year and one-day requirement.

Divorce can also be finalized based on incurable insanity. The state waiting time for this type of divorce is three years, during which both parties must be separated. The reason for separation must be that one party has a serious mental health condition that requires institutionalization. The testimony of two doctors is required by the courts as a means of determining that the institutionalized spouse is incurably insane.

The term “simple divorce” is sometimes used in North Carolina. This is a type of absolute divorce where the person filing for divorce is not requesting the courts to take additional steps to divide property or establish child custody.

To file for divorce, it is recommended that you first hire an attorney who understands family law. Your lawyer will protect your rights and work to negotiate favorable terms for your divorce.

The basic steps of filing for divorce include:

  • Filing complaint: This court filing states the facts of your case and your official request for a divorce.
  • File summons along with a Domestic Civil Action Cover Sheet
  • Affidavit telling the court whether your spouse is active military
  • Pay court filing fee
  • Ensure that your spouse is properly served notice of the divorce

Each of these steps can be completed by your family law attorney who understands court procedures and filing deadlines. A missed filing or incomplete court motion could delay your divorce timeline.

Child Custody During a Divorce in NC

Divorcing parents will have to decide custody and visitation for their children. This includes decisions about where the children will primarily live (unless both parents agree on 50-50 shared custody), who pays child support, and who makes decisions about medical treatments, among other important child custody matters. If both parents cannot agree on child custody, a judge will make a decision in the best interest of the children.

As long as both parents are fit to parent, the courts will ensure that both parents have meaningful access to their children. Child custody is often the most contentious part of any divorce proceeding. Parents are understandably very emotional about the idea of losing access to their children.

Legal custody pertains to a parent’s right to make important decisions about the child. Physical custody refers to the physical possession of a child. Both types of custody can be shared or held solely by one parent. Two other terms you will hear about in family court are sole and joint custody.

A parent who has sole custody has legal custody over one or more children. Parents who have a joint custody agreement must agree before major decisions can be made. Sole physical custody refers to situations where a child lives with one parent primarily but visits the other parent.

Parents who are separated or divorced are not required by law to have a custody order, but a custody order has important benefits. For example, a custody order is court-enforceable. In the event that one parent does not abide by visitation agreements, the other parent can take the at-fault parent to court and potentially have them found in contempt.

Property and Asset Division During a Marital Dissolution

While not every couple has children to contend with, almost every divorce will require an equitable division of property and assets. The state views property as either marital property or separate property. Marital property refers to any assets or land accrued during the course of the marriage. With few exceptions, this type of property is equally divided between both parties during the divorce process.

This is because North Carolina courts view anything accrued during the marriage as belonging to both spouses, regardless of who “paid” for it at the time. Similarly, debts are generally considered to be owned by both spouses equally. One exception to marital property is gifts that are given during the course of a marriage.

During the divorce process, you can request equitable distribution of the marital assets along with requests for alimony and child support. Your spouse has the option of making a counterclaim known as an answer. Your Sampson County attorney will handle this complex negotiation process and work in your interests.

While marital property is generally divided evenly, there are situations where a judge may deem equal division to be unfair. A judge will consider factors like income, debts, and property ownership when deciding the specific division of assets and property. If both parties can come to their own agreement, there will be no need for a judge to make those decisions.


Q: How Much Is a Family Lawyer in NC?

A: The hourly rate of any family law attorney is largely determined by the number of years of experience they have practicing law and their track record of delivering favorable outcomes to clients. Other than the base hourly rate of your lawyer, the cost of your case will largely depend on how many issues need to be resolved (alimony, child custody, child support) and how cooperative both parties are.

Q: What Rights Does a Father Have in North Carolina?

A: The State of North Carolina views both mothers and fathers as equal parents deserving of parenting time. How that looks for an individual case depends on the facts of the case. If you are a father who worries about losing out on your rightful time with your children, hiring an experienced family law attorney can improve the chances that your rights are protected.

Q: Can a 12-year-old Decide Which Parent to Live With in NC?

A: A minor child cannot decide which parent to live with in North Carolina. After the child turns 18, they can decide for themselves where they live. While the child is a minor, the courts will determine visitation time for both parents. The judge may consider a child or teenager’s preference, but the judge will ultimately make custody decisions based on the preponderance of evidence available.

Q: Is NC a No-Fault Divorce State?

A: North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state. This means that either spouse can decide to divorce the other. There does not have to be evidence of abuse, neglect, or infidelity in order for someone to seek to dissolve their marriage. There is a waiting period of one year and one day, during which both parties must be legally separated.

Schedule Your Sampson County Family Law Consultation Today

If you are contemplating divorce or recently found out that your spouse filed for divorce, you will want to work with an experienced and compassionate legal team who will protect your rights. The team of Silva, Kiernan & Associates, PLLC, is here to see you through this difficult time. We will work closely with you to resolve any lingering issues so you can finalize your divorce and move on with your life. Contact our office today to set up your consultation today.

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