Family Law FAQs

How do I obtain "legal separation" from my spouse?
Generally speaking, in order to obtain a divorce in North Carolina the spouses must live must live separate and apart from one another for a period of one year without resumption of the marital relationship. Furthermore, one of the spouses is required to have lived in the State of North Carolina for at least six months. The parties are not necessarily required to have something in writing indicating that they have separated from one another.
What issues are involved in a separation and divorce?
The main issues in a separation and divorce are post-separation support and alimony, child support, child custody, and equitable distribution of marital assets and debts.
Do my spouse and I have to go to court in order to settle our marital issues?
No. In fact there are several ways in which a couple may settle their marital issues without going to court. Such avenues include separation agreements, consent orders, and the collaborative law process. All involve negotiation between the parties out of court.
What happens if we cannot reach a settlement out of court?
If you cannot reach a settlement with your spouse out of court, your next step will likely be to move forward in court. This requires filing a complaint with the court for the claims that may be at issue in your case (e.g. child custody, child support, alimony, equitable distribution, etc.) if you haven't already. Your case will ultimately be heard before a judge who will listen to the merits of each party's claims in order to decide how the case will be resolved.
Does the mother always get custody of the children?
No. The custody and visitation of any minor child will be based on what is considered to be in the best interests of that child. A court will typically consider numerous factors in order to make a custody determination, but will certainly seek to ascertain the environment that best promotes the general well-being and development of the child.
How is child support calculated?
Child support is typically calculated by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines provide three worksheets (A, B, and C) and each worksheet is meant to address the following custody arrangements:

Where one spouse has primary custody
Where the spouses share joint custody
Where there is a split custody between the spouses

In addition to the amount of nights the child spends with one parent, the guidelines also take into consideration the monthly gross income of each parent, work-related child care costs, and health insurance premium costs just to name a few.
How long must one pay child support?
The general rule is that child support is to continue until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is later. That is, if the child is still in primary or secondary school when he or she turns 18, a parent shall continue to pay child support until the child graduates, stops going to school on a regular basis, fails to make "satisfactory academic progress towards graduation", or reaches age 20, whichever occurs first.
Can I prevent my spouse from seeing our children if he or she is late on child support payments?
No. Although child support and child custody/visitation are closely related, one spouse may not prohibit the other from seeing the children because he/she has not made their child support payments.
Is the marital property split evenly?
It depends. Although a court will presume that equitable distribution of the marital assets is a 50/50 split, an equitable division of the marital property does not necessarily mean an equal split. As such, a court will take into consideration various factors to determine if the marital property should be divided between the parties evenly or unevenly.