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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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What Our Clients Are Saying

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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At Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division, we provide you with multimedia educational resources to help you become informed regarding your Family Law situation. We invite you to explore our library of articles and videos. The better you understand the factors in your case, the more effectively we can work together towards your goals.







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Frequestly Ask Questions

FAQS About Adoption

Below are some frequently asked questions about Adoption:

What types of adoption exist in North Carolina?

NC has different types of adoption to meet different family needs. The types of adoption procedures in North Carolina include:

  • Private agency adoptions (closed adoptions)
  • Open adoptions (the adoptive parents know the biological parents’ identities)
  • Relative adoptions (when parents are unable to care for a child)
  • Stepparent adoption (for mixed families after remarriage)
  • Grandparent adoption (when parents are unable to care for a child)

What is a home study?

When you file an application to become an adoptive parent, you will need to perform a home study with a social worker. A home study is usually necessary (except in stepparent adoptions) so the court can determine if you can provide a safe and loving environment for a child.

It will include fingerprinting and background checks of all adults living in the home. The social worker will also interview each adult and get documentation about important lifestyle factors, including household income, education levels, demographic information, and more. Additionally, if there are already children in the home, the social worker will observe their well-being.

How do I adopt a child from the foster care system?

Not all children in foster care are available for adoption. Most will return to their families when conditions are better for them to return home. However, approximately one-third of NC’s foster care children will need the love and support of an adoptive family.

Most children in foster care available for adoption are school-aged children or siblings who need to be adopted together into the same home. Many face years of moving between foster homes. The foster care adoption lawyers with our firm at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division can help you file your petition to adopt.

How do I find a reputable step-parent adoption attorney near me?

If you married the love of your life and now want to adopt your spouse’s child or children, you need to find more than just “adoption attorneys near me” online. We can help you find the other biological parent to revoke their parental rights and allow you to adopt.

Adoption in NC is a complex legal process that requires applications, fees, a pre-placement assessment (home study), and proof that you and the child are a good fit. Contact our team at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division at (910) 769-7339 in Wilmington, NC, to schedule a case review with a NC adoption lawyer.

FAQS About Family Law

Below are some frequently asked questions about Family Law:

What kinds of cases do your family law lawyers represent?

Our Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division attorneys handle many different types of family law cases, including:

Do my spouse and I need to separate before a divorce in North Carolina?

You and your spouse must separate for at least a year plus one day in order to legally divorce. You do not have to create a separation agreement to file for divorce. However, you and your spouse must have lived separately during that time, and at least one spouse must have intended for the separation to be permanent.

Is North Carolina a community property or equitable division state in a divorce?

North Carolina is an equitable division state, meaning that each spouse retains their individual property from before the marriage, and the court will divide marital property based upon what it determines to be an equitable division for each party. For example, if one spouse will have physical custody of children from the marriage, the court will likely award the marital home to that spouse.

Know that if the court awards the marital home to one spouse, it will likely make the division of the rest of the marital property equitable with the other spouse or reduce alimony payments to account for the value of the home.

Can I request alimony and child support in North Carolina?

North Carolina allows divorcing spouses to request alimony and child support. A prenuptial agreement between you and your spouse may preclude your right to alimony in the event of a divorce, but the custodial parent always has a right to seek child support from the non-custodial parent. A court will determine what is in the best interest of your child(ren) regarding custody and child support.

How do I find reputable Wilmington family law attorneys?

At Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division in Wilmington, NC, our family attorneys have years of experience representing spouses, parents, adoptive parents, and more in their family law cases for divorce, custody, alimony, adoption, paternity claims, separation, and post-divorce agreement modifications. For legal help, call us at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division at (910) 769-7339. We’ll speak for you.

FAQS About Modifications

Below are some frequently asked questions about Modifications:

What conditions qualify for a post-divorce agreement modification?

Agreements made during a divorce such as alimony (spousal support) or child support payments may require updating over time.

Whether you’re seeking a modification to an alimony or child support agreement, the court will require that something significant has changed in order to grant the modification. Acceptable reasons for a post-divorce agreement modification by the court include:

  • Relocation of either parent or former spouse to another county in North Carolina, state, or country
  • A change in job status, including job loss, promotion, or a new job
  • Remarriage by the spouse receiving spousal support
  • An increase or decrease in income by either former spouse or parent that constitutes a significant change in income
  • For child support modification, any significant changes in the child’s needs

When can I request a child support modification in North Carolina?

Remember that child support is not for the benefit of the receiving parent but for the child. The court is extremely strict about what modifications you can make to your child support agreement and when you can make modifications. Our Wilmington family law attorneys can review your case to advise you, but generally, North Carolina will only allow modifications to child support when:

  • Three years have passed since the child support order became effective, and the proposed modification would change the payment amount by 15% or more
  • The child’s medical or developmental needs have changed
  • The payor parent’s income has changed significantly
  • The physical child custody agreement has changed

How can I qualify for a reduction in my support obligations?

If you pay child support, you may qualify for a reduction in your payment amount if you lose your job, experience financial hardship, become disabled, or go to jail. For example, if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for disability, you will likely qualify for a reduction in your child support responsibility.

How can your Wilmington divorce attorney help me in my post-divorce modification case?

A divorce modifications lawyer with Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division can help you compare your current situation to your reported income and other factors when the court established your alimony or child support payments. This post-divorce agreement modifications lawyer can help you file the correct petitions with the court to request a modification. Call us at Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division at (910) 769-7339 in Wilmington, NC, to schedule a case review.

FAQS About Paternity

Below are some frequently asked questions about Paternity:

How do I establish paternity for my child in North Carolina?

North Carolina presumes fatherhood for a man married to the mother during her pregnancy or at the time of birth. However, if the couple is not married during that period, but are both present for the birth, they can both sign an affidavit of parentage. This act establishes paternity without requiring a DNA test or marriage between the parents.

If either the mother or father of the child wants to file a paternity action against the other, a paternity lawyer from our firm can help. A paternity action requires a DNA test. Fathers who want to claim their parental rights to visitation, custody, or child support can file an action against the mother. Mothers who want the court to enforce child support can file the action against the alleged father.

What are the benefits of establishing paternity for my child?

Many fathers want to establish paternity for their children for a number of reasons, including:

  • Wanting to share custody or spend time with their children
  • Wanting to pay child support
  • Having a right to child support if they have child custody (physical custody)
  • Having a right to make important decisions for the child (legal custody)
  • Allowing the child to receive benefits through the father’s Social Security or family health insurance
  • Allowing the child to inherit from the father’s estate
  • Allowing the child to access medical records from the father’s side of the family

Can a child support law firm help me establish paternity to pursue support for my child?

If you are the custodial parent and need to secure child support from a putative (alleged) father, a paternity attorney from our firm can help you file a paternity action against the father. If the court finds through a required DNA test that he is the biological father, it can require him to pay child support.

How do your Wilmington family law attorneys handle complicated paternity cases?

At Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division, our paternity attorney will speak on your behalf. Knowing how essential establishing paternity is in cases involving child custody, child support, visitation, inheritance, and other areas of family law, we analyze each case to come to a reasonable agreement between parties.

For legal help with a paternity matter, call Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division at (910) 769-7339 in Wilmington, NC.

FAQS About Guardianship

Below are some frequently asked questions about Guardianship:

What is guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal relationship that enables a court-appointed person to make decisions on behalf of another person who cannot make decisions for themself.

Guardianship relationships are typical for children who do not have a mom or dad in the picture, and people with mental disabilities who do not have the capacity to control their own healthcare decisions or finances.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a guardian?

Guardians can fulfill several roles on behalf of the “ward,” or the individual under their care. Primarily, guardians act as surrogate decision-makers and advocates for their wards.

This does not mean that guardians have complete and total control over their wards, but that they are responsible for stepping in for decisions outside the wards’ comprehension or judgment. Guardians must protect their wards’ rights to make their own choices where able and applicable.

How do you obtain guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal relationship, and as such, it involves a legal, court-ordered process.

First, you must determine the type of guardianship relationship to seek. North Carolina law recognizes three guardianship relationships:

  • Guardian of the estate: A guardian appointed to manage a person’s property and business affairs
  • Guardian of the person: A guardian appointed to perform duties related to the care and custody of the ward
  • General guardian: A guardian that performs duties for the estate and care of the ward

Then, you must file the appropriate documents with the clerk of courts. The clerk will then schedule a hearing that you and all interested parties must attend.

How can an attorney help?

Navigating guardianship can be confusing for those with no legal background. If you’re seeking guardianship of a ward or need help altering a guardian relationship, having a guardianship attorney on your side can be highly beneficial.

Family lawyers for guardianship know this process like the back of their hands, allowing them to provide experienced, tailored advice and guidance. Your legal guardian attorney can help you determine which type of guardianship to seek, walk you through the legal process, and ensure that you fulfill your roles and relationships according to NC laws.

Alternatively, a guardianship attorney can help you end or alter a guardian relationship in which you are the ward of the guardian.

Contact our guardianship attorneys today at the Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division for assistance. Call us at (910) 769-7339 or fill out our contact form to request your consultation.

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This website and the information contained here within is provided by Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division as a service to clients and friends. It is not intended to be a solicitation or to render legal advice. Contained in the website is information about legal issues and legal developments. Content provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. The content is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

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