R. Clarke Speaks | Founder & Attorney | Speaks Family Law, NC

Attorney R. Clarke Speaks

Founder & Attorney
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Clarke graduated from East Carolina University with a BS in Economics. Then, he attended the MBA program at ECU. During law school, Clarke’s focus was always on trial skills. He took every available class, internship, and opportunity to improve these skills. In the summers, he worked for litigation law firms and a federal U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard. During law school, he also worked for the District Attorney’s office.

When he graduated from law school, he started R. Clarke Speaks Attorney at Law. He represented people in family court, civil court, and criminal court. For the next 20 years, he was in court nearly every day of the week.

“I wanted to be a trial lawyer. Court is where you learn those skills,” said Clarke. He learned from some of the best trial lawyers and judges in North Carolina. “I was lucky to have access to phenomenal mentors. I worked with and against some of the best lawyers in North Carolina and, in my opinion, in the nation.”

“My mentor in divorce and custody cases was a retired chief district court. We worked on cases together for many years. He was incredibly devoted to his clients and to his practice. He was a fantastic divorce and custody lawyer. He was a good friend. I will always be indebted to him for all he taught me,” said Clarke.

During his first 20 years of practice, Clarke tried as many cases as possible. “It was always the client’s decision, but I never pushed a client to take a deal when they wanted a trial.” He tried family law cases, injury cases and criminal cases. He tried cases in state and federal court. He tried cases all over North Carolina including cases in Wilmington, Jacksonville, Bolivia, Burgaw, Greenville, New Bern, Raleigh, Greensboro and other areas.
In addition, Clarke has extensive appellate court experience. He has argued in front of District and Superior Court judges and in front of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, The North Carolina Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He filed cert petitions in the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

For the last decade, Clarke has led a large team of talented and dedicated legal professionals. “We help people overcome adversity. Sometimes that adversity comes in the form of an accident and sometimes in a divorce and custody battle. In either instance, we help people develop and execute a plan to overcome adversity and go on to live their best lives.”

In addition to helping people overcome adversity, Clarke has another passion. He believes in investing time and resources in our local youth sports programs. The Speaks Law Firm regularly sponsors youth sports teams. In addition, Clarke was a youth sports coach for 15 years. He coached soccer and basketball. Clarke has retired from coaching but still sponsors youth sports teams. The focus of any Speaks Law Firm youth sports team is always to do our best, get better and have fun.

He has received various honors and distinctions throughout his career. He has written a guidebook for young lawyers for the North Carolina Bar Association. He has been a presenter at legal education seminars for the North Carolina Bar Association. Clarke is the author of The North Carolina Auto Injury Book and a handbook for defendants in federal criminal cases. These books are available on Amazon. He has written other books and articles. He has spoken to large and small groups the practice of law.

Clarke Speaks and the Speaks Law Firm have been recognized by national organizations Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates, NAPIL, U.S. News Best Law Firms, U.S. News Best Law Firms and other organizations for their outstanding legal work and client service.

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Client Review | Wilmington, NC 28401 | Speaks Family Law
  • I was very pleased with the way that Speaks Family Law handled my case. They worked hard to get the most money that they could. Everyone at the firm was always polite and always answered all of my concerns. I would definitely recommend Speaks Family Law to anyone who needs representation. I always knew that they were there anytime I needed them. A big “Thank you!” goes out to all of the people who are involved with the firm.

    - KE -

  • “She was amazing, she was able to give me the information I needed and was straight forward about what was possible regarding my son. She has made me feel confident in knowing that father’s have just as much legal rights to kids as moms. If I need legal help regarding anything further I will be contacting her again for sure.”

    - D. L. -

  • It was a very helpful experience and I am especially grateful for the way they answered my questions and helped me navigate what would have been a much more difficult situation. I felt that my interests were fought for and taken care of and would hightly recommend anyone who might go through this to be respresented by Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division.

    - S.H. -

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What You Should Expect in Divorce Court in North Carolina

Wilmington Family Lawyers

Divorce hearings can be scary for anyone. They are even more intimidating if you are getting divorced for the first time. Are you wondering what to expect in divorce court? There is no specific answer. Every case is different and it may present unique challenges and experiences. However, having unclear or unrealistic expectations may lead to disappointments. Ask for help from Wilmington family lawyers. They will help you set your expectations right.

1. What should you expect when going through a divorce?

Divorce can be stressful for anyone. It does not matter how bad your marriage was. Remember that all divorce cases are different. Do not expect to have the same experiences that your friends did. Expect to experience a rollercoaster of emotions including:

  • Excitement
  • Guilt
  • Fear
  • Anger

2. What should you expect in court?

Divorce court is not as complicated as you may think. Working with your Wilmington family lawyers makes the process simpler. However, you should not expect to stand there while your lawyer does all the work.

You must work with them to get the settlement that matches your expectations. Do not let your fear or anger take over. You must remain calm even when your spouse is lying against you.

Do not expect to “win” in a divorce case. No one really wins in divorce court. Even when dealing with important matters such as alimony, custody, or division of property, you should keep your emotions in check. Note that you won’t always get everything you want.

3. Why should you hire Wilmington family lawyers?

Hiring a lawyer is a good idea even if you are going through a non-contested divorce. Divorce lawyers give you the legal advice you need to get through the difficult period. Like marriage, divorce is a legal process that should be treated professionally.

A divorce lawyer will protect your rights, interpret legal terms, speed up the process, help you initiate conversations with your spouse, and ensure fairness through the process. Hiring a lawyer should not be seen as an act of aggression.

4. How should you prepare kids for divorce?

Even when going through a divorce, you should remember that the children are not getting divorced. You should avoid saying rude or hurtful things to your spouse in their presence. Seek the help of a therapist.

They will help the children process their emotions and get through the process. You should also get co-parenting classes for their sake. The more you fight during a divorce, the more damaging the process can be.

Do not attempt to interfere with the relationship between your children and your spouse unless there is a history of abuse.

If you need the help of Wilmington family lawyers, seek help from Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division. We understand that divorce can be a very personal and sensitive matter. You need the help of good lawyers through the process. We will treat you with respect and high levels of professionalism through the process. Contact us today and book an appointment.

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What Is Contempt Of Court In Family Law?

While a family court is a court within the civil court system (in contrast to the criminal court system), when a family court issues an order, the person named in the order is required under law to fulfill the obligations of the order. For example, if a court orders a person to pay child support and they fail to do so, they are in direct violation of a court order and can be penalized as such.

One such penalty for violating a family court order is being held in contempt of court. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our Wilmington family lawyers at the law office of the Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division to learn more, and consider the following about what you should know about contempt of court in a family law case in North Carolina:

What Is Civil Contempt of Court?
If a party does not fulfill their family court order, the affected party can file a motion to hold the party in default in civil contempt of court. Such an order may be filed when a party fails to comply with a court order in regards to:

  • Child custody;
  • Child support;
  • Spousal maintenance/alimony;
  • Property division;
  • Any other family law matter.

The purpose of filing a civil contempt order is to force a delinquent party to comply with the order.

Punishment for Civil Contempt of Court

The purpose of holding someone in civil contempt of court is not necessarily to punish the defendant, but instead to ensure that they comply with the court order. While a person may be incarcerated for up to 90 days initially (and up to one year per North Carolina Statute Section 5A-21, typically, a judge will order payment of any unpaid benefits (child support, alimony, etc.) or garnishment of wages, or take action to require the defendant to comply with the original court order.

In some cases, a person who is in violation of a court order could be held in criminal contempt of court, although a person cannot be found in criminal contempt for the same conduct that landed them in civil contempt. If a person is found in criminal contempt, they may be ordered to pay a fine and may be subject to incarceration.

Filing a Contempt Motion

If your ex-spouse is in violation of a court order, you do not merely have to accept the default. Instead, you have the right to take steps to enforce the court order, including filing a contempt motion with the court and serving the defendant with the motion. In order to ensure that your motion of contempt is filed accurately, it is best to work with a qualified lawyer who has experience managing contempt of court cases. In addition to filing a contempt motion, an attorney can also help you to understand the other options you have for enforcing a court order.

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To learn more about how our family lawyers at the office of Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division can help, please call us today or send us a message. We know how emotional and complex family law matters can be, and want to provide you with the representation you deserve.

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What Forms Do I Need To File a Divorce in Wilmington, NC?

Filing for Divorce

Not only is filing for a divorce an emotionally demanding process, it is also a legally intensive one. To be sure, in order to file for a divorce, one will need to gather and fill out the appropriate forms, file the forms at the relevant location, ensure that their spouse is served the petition and summons, and then negotiate any issues in a divorce (or go to court to litigate the divorce).

At the office of the Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division, our Wilmington family lawyers are able to help you navigate the divorce process, beginning with collecting and filing the proper divorce-related forms. Here’s an overview of what forms you’ll need to file for divorce in North Carolina:

What Forms Do I Need When Filing for a Divorce in North Carolina?

You can file for divorce in North Carolina without establishing a cause for divorce, other than separation of one year, if:

  • You are a resident of North Carolina (you or your spouse has lived in the state for at least six months); and
  • You and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least one year.

The following forms can help you to seek an absolute divorce from your spouse, but cannot help you in terms of seeking an award for equitable property distribution, alimony/spousal support, child support, or child custody. The three documents that you will need in order to inform the court of your intent to divorce are:

  1. Complaint for absolute divorce;
  2. Domestic civil action cover sheet; and
  3. Civil summons.

Once you have filled out these three forms, you must file them with your local clerk’s office and pay the filing fee.

One this step has been completed, the next step is to officially and legally inform your spouse of your intent to divorce. This requires serving your spouse with the complaint and summons (which can be done by the sheriff).

Once your divorce is finalized, two other important forms are the judgment for absolute divorce and the certificate of absolute divorce.

What About Resolving Issues in the Divorce?

The documents listed above are for those who are pursuing a pro se divorce, which means that they are representing themself during the divorce process. If you are hoping to obtain a judgment from the court in regards to other issues in the divorce, such as equitable distribution or child custody, there are separate forms that you must file, such as a claim of equitable distribution of marital property, or alimony and post-separation support forms.

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Navigating the divorce process on your own isn’t recommended, as if you make a mistake during the process, the consequences could be serious. Instead, you should work with a qualified family law attorney, such as those found at the Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division. You can reach our Wilmington family lawyers to schedule a consultation by calling our law office directly, or sending us a message telling us more about how we can be of assistance.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Marriage is more than a romantic union; it is also a financial one. Often, one spouse will end up much worse off financially after a divorce, and North Carolina empowers judges to award alimony to one spouse. A Wilmington family lawyer can help you submit a request as part of your divorce.

Alimony is money one spouse pays to his or her ex, typically in monthly installments. Alimony helps ameliorate some of the unfairness of the divorce, often allowing the lower-earning spouse to maintain a comfortable lifestyle.

But how long does alimony last? Once upon a time, only women received alimony and they got it for the rest of their life. However, that is no longer the case around the country or in North Carolina specifically. The duration of alimony is set by a judge, and certain life events can also cause alimony to terminate.

Distinguishing Alimony from Post-Separation Support

First, we need to clarify that alimony is not the same as post-separation support, though sometimes people call them the same thing. Post-separation support is money one spouse will pay to the other for until alimony is determined. Once alimony is granted, dismissed, or denied, post separation support ends.

Calculating the Duration of Alimony

A judge has discretion for how long alimony lasts. The judge will look at a variety of factors and can decide to do one of the following:

  • Set an end date
  • Set no end date and have alimony last indefinitely

A judge might set an end date if the marriage was very short, or if the judge wants to give one spouse a certain amount of time to get an education or training so they can be self supporting.

Even if the judge does not include an end date, this does not mean that a person ends up paying alimony forever. Instead, a spouse can always petition the court to increase or decrease alimony payments as circumstances warrant. For example, say a judge orders you to pay alimony to your ex-wife. Over the course of 2 years, she finishes her college degree and get a high-paying job. At this point, she probably does not need alimony, so you can petition a judge to cut off payments at that point.

Events that Terminate Alimony

Alimony will end if the following occurs:

  • The spouse who is paying alimony dies
  • The spouse receiving alimony gets married again
  • The spouse receiving alimony dies
  • The spouse receiving alimony begins cohabitating with boyfriend or girlfriend in marriage-like relationship

If you suspect that an ex has entered a new relationship, meet with an attorney to review your case. You might be able to petition the court to cut off alimony.

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A judge has discretion for how long alimony lasts. The judge will look at a variety of factors and can decide to do one of the following:

  • Set an end date
  • Set no end date and have alimony last indefinitely

A judge might set an end date if the marriage was very short, or if the judge wants to give one spouse a certain amount of time to get an education or training so they can be self supporting.

Even if the judge does not include an end date, this does not mean that a person ends up paying alimony forever. Instead, a spouse can always petition the court to increase or decrease alimony payments as circumstances warrant. For example, say a judge orders you to pay alimony to your ex-wife. Over the course of 2 years, she finishes her college degree and get a high-paying job. At this point, she probably does not need alimony, so you can petition a judge to cut off payments at that point.

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How Long Does Alimony Last After a Divorce in North Carolina?

During a divorce case, a judge will often award alimony if one spouse financially depends on the other. Alimony is also called spousal support or maintenance. Depending on the circumstances of a divorce, a court may award alimony for a specific period of time, permanently, or with zero spousal support.

Moreover, the rules governing alimony vary from one state to the next. In some jurisdictions, spouses must have been married for a certain period of time to be eligible for spousal support. Here, we lay out general alimony rules across the US, but if you have specific questions, please contact the experienced Wilmington family lawyers at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division today.

General Alimony Rules

Once divorce in the country became a possibility, couples could only divorce based on misconduct. Given that it was the husband’s misconduct that ruined the marriage, he was expected to pay alimony. On the other hand, wives who committed the misconduct could forfeit their right to spousal support. Additionally, wives who cheated on their husbands weren’t eligible to get alimony.

No-fault divorces came into existence during the second half of the 20th century. But still, some states made spousal support conditional on which party was at fault. Today, a split exists across the US: marital fault plays a role in determining alimony allocation in half of the states.

Permanent alimony is spousal support awarded either for life or till the age of retirement. Some state laws dictate that a spouse cannot be mandated to make alimony payments past the retirement age of 65. Additionally, some states have a limit on the duration of permanent spousal support, prohibiting awards lasting longer than a decade. This is not the case in North Carolina.

Nowadays, rehabilitative alimony is replacing permanent alimony. It bridges the gap between the divorce date and the time the dependent party becomes financially independent.

How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Getting Alimony?

When one spouse depends on the other for finances, a certain assumption applies. The courts assume the dependent spouse has been in marriage long enough to forgo studies or work opportunities. Super-short marriages of a few years or less rarely result in prolonged spousal support awards. But, most states do not have a minimum amount of time for a dependent spouse to be eligible for alimony.

Some jurisdictions do have a set minimum period before a spouse is eligible for support. Courts will only award spousal support in marriages lasting longer than a decade in states such as:

  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Maine

In such states, alimony payments cannot last longer than half of the marriage’s length unless extenuating circumstances apply. For example, In Texas, marriages must be at least 10 years long for alimony awards, and payments only last 3 years. That’s excluding any extenuating circumstances like a physical disability.

Determining how much alimony a spouse may be eligible to get and the duration of the payments can be difficult. Most states do not have clear guidelines on how a judge should calculate alimony. Hence, spousal support awards vary from one county to another and even from one judge to the next.

A competent family law lawyer from Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division because they have the experience you need and may have insight on how your judges usually give rulings in alimony matters. Therefore, if you are trying to negotiate spousal support with your spouse, you should both have attorneys for a smoother process.

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