Research for How to Find the Best Wilmington NC Child Custody Lawyer

Ending your marriage can be difficult. Emotions usually run high, especially when children are involved. In the case of a divorce involving young children, a Wilmington NC child custody lawyer may be called upon to help sort through things.

The best child custody lawyer is one that can act as an effective neutral negotiator, negotiating the best interest of the children between the parents. This means that child custody lawyers for fathers can convince the dad that it is in the best interest of the child for the mother to have custody if that is really best for the child. On the other hand, a child custody lawyer working for a mother should arbitrate with the child in mind as well. Even the best child custody lawyer cannot eliminate the pain and emotions associated with divorce entirely, but it is important to express empathy towards all parties involved.

The decisions revolving around your children are among the most important that you will need to make. These significant choices will shape your family’s future and impact the happiness and well-being of your kids for years to come. An attorney for child custody in Wilmington, North Carolina will help you resolve difficult issues regarding the children and help you through the process to seek the resolution that is best for you and your family.

Physical and Legal Child Custody in North Carolina

It is helpful to understand the two main types of custody:

  • Physical Custody – refers to the location where the child will reside.
  • Legal Custody – refers to the decisions that must be made on behalf of the child.

Both parents usually are allowed to have joint legal custody so they can both make decisions that involve such things as education, religion, and healthcare. A Wilmington NC child custody lawyer will explain these issues in more detail when you have a consultation.

Physical custody may be determined using a number of factors:

  • Age of the child
  • Which parent has historically been the primary caregiver
  • Physical and emotional condition of the child
  • Location of the child’s friends
  • Time spent living in the current house
  • Disabilities or required special care

Younger children are more apt to remain in the care of the parent who has been providing the most consistent care. For example, a stay-at-home mother spends many hours of each day with the child and will usually be expected to continue to provide primary care. A child custody lawyer will review your case and provide you with some assistance.

How to Find the Best Child Custody Lawyer

North Carolina requires that decisions are always made in the best interest of the child. The court has somewhat wide reign over this area. The courts generally prefer that the parents handle the issues involving their children before going to court.

While the courts have the ability to change a custody arrangement or a parenting plan, they typically do not do this. The law assumes that when parents agree on a custody arrangement, they do so by taking the child’s best interest in mind. Therefore, it is usually best to try to come to an agreement with your spouse before heading to court through the help of a custody lawyer.

When children are typically age 12 or older, the judge may consider where they prefer to live. Parents need to be mindful of their child’s desires and empathetic to their needs. For example, an adolescent boy may prefer to live with his father while a young woman may want to stay with her mother.

These desires are handled on an individual basis. The judge will interview the child to find out whether their desires are heartfelt and how important the decision is to the child. If your child wants to be heard on this issue, you should be sure to inform your North Carolina child custody attorney.

Sometimes parents are able to successfully co-parent with a shared living arrangement. For instance, a child may stay with one parent for three nights a week and the other for four nights, or the nights may alternate. This type of situation is most successful when parents live in close proximity to each other, preferably within the same school district and maybe within walking distance. This type of arrangement can be difficult for a child, so it is best to make sure that both you and the other parent are on board to try to make the situation as easy for the child as possible.

Child Custody Cases Where a Parent is Unfit

It is unusual for a parent to be denied visitation with their child. In situations where the parent has been deemed unfit, however, the court will decide visitation on a case-by-case basis. A parent may be considered unfit only for a handful of reasons such as if the parent is a convicted felon, drug or alcohol dependent, or has been convicted of harming a child.

In order to be denied visitation, a parent must be proven to be unfit to care for their child. This can be difficult and complicated because in some cases, there simply isn’t enough proof available due to reasons such as the parent not being found guilty of a crime.

The court will review the various issues that are involved in the case to decide how it should be resolved. Sometimes the answer is supervised visitation. Supervised visitation requires one parent to have another, neutral party with them at all times during a visit. This can make visits safer and less worrisome; however, it can also prove to be more complicated. In some instances, a parent may be allowed limited visits, and sometimes overnight visits are denied.

Because there are so many variables, it is hard to know in advance how the situation will work out. Discuss the case with a Wilmington NC child custody lawyer before you move forward with your case.

Custody Lawyers – Putting a Parenting Plan in Place

A parenting plan is a document that outlines all of the major issues regarding children in a divorce. You work with your child custody lawyer and your spouse to create a workable parenting plan that makes sense and is fair. Keep in mind that both parents are generally allowed to spend time with their children. Once a court order is in place, both parents need to abide by it and cannot make unauthorized changes.

It is particularly important to spend time making a plan that is as detailed as possible. If the children are in school, it should address when and where the child will be picked up from school daily and how weekends, holidays and vacations will be spent. Consider splitting the time between parents as equally as possible during a child’s vacation time.

Keep in mind that these situations might change. For this reason, the plan should include instructions for parents on how to handle changes and modifications in the future. This is particularly important when the children are young because, over the years, many things can change. Have your child custody attorney review the wording of the document to make sure that it is clear and precise.

Child Custody Lawyers Mediation in North Carolina

When there is no previous order in place or when parents are not able to agree to custody arrangements, the courts generally require mediation. Mediation takes place with a professional who is experienced with child custody issues. The mediator facilitates discussions between parents and helps communications.

There are several goals of mediation, including reducing conflict between parents, allowing parents to make informed choices, and creating a custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interest. When mediation results in an agreement, you and your spouse will sign it, and it will become part of the custody order by the court. Before doing so, make sure that you have it reviewed by your custody lawyer.

Parents can attend mediation without a court order if they like. Additionally, your Wilmington NC child custody lawyer may be extremely helpful in resolving disputes between you and your spouse. Your custody lawyer will work with your spouse’s child custody attorney to try to come to a fair agreement that is best for the child.

Child Attorneys – Relocation Involving Children

When one parent or the other wishes to relocate with the children, it can make for a difficult situation. In many instances, the other party won’t agree to the relocation because it will severely limit visitation with the child. It can be beneficial to try to work out the arrangement first with help from a child custody lawyer.

Probably the best time to relocate with your child is immediately at the time of the divorce. This is when the court will be less likely to interfere with the decision. If you are a relocating parent, you’ll need to prove that the relocation is in the best interest of the child and not just due to a change in work or living situations.

If you are a parent living in Wilmington, NC, who opposes the relocation of your child, you will need to state your case in court. This can be done with assistance from a child custody lawyer. A change to the custody and visitation requires a court hearing. At the hearing, both you and your former spouse must be present, along with your custody lawyer.

The judge will need to see proof that the relocation is best for the child and that not relocating could be harmful. If you oppose a spouse and child relocation, you will need to show that the child is happy, secure and healthy in his or her current environment and that a move could be physically or emotionally detrimental to his or her well being. Your child custody attorney will review what to expect at the hearing, so you are prepared in advance.

Modifications to Child Custody Agreements

Changes to child custody and support can be made, but only through the proper legal channels. Either parent is allowed to file a modification to child custody or support agreements. The parent must be able to prove that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances that have a detrimental effect on the well-being of the child.

It is essential that you do not take matters into your own hands by confronting your former partner about these issues in an angry or aggressive way. For example, if a parent hasn’t paid child support, you do not have the right to withhold visitation. This is a common occurrence but one that has to be avoided. Instead, take the proper legal steps if a parent is not living up to the rules and order of the court.

Contact a child custody attorney to help you resolve these types of breaches.

Child Custody Lawyers Near Me

Child custody cases can be extremely complicated and often require assistance from a child custody attorney. Even when you and your spouse seem to agree on the main issues, there are many loose ends that have to be resolved. The failure to properly handle a child custody case can have a negative impact on your child for the rest of his or her life.

You can save yourself a lot of worry and sleepless nights when you hire a child custody lawyer near you in Wilmington, North Carolina who understands the complex issues that are involved and will handle every minor detail in the case. At Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division, we understand the many issues that need to be resolved in child custody cases, and we work hard to represent you from start to finish, achieving the results you want.

Contact Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division to schedule a consultation with a child custody lawyer today.

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Why Choose Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division?

Passion – Our family law attorneys, Justin Moulin and Sarah Gray, are dedicated to helping clients with legal matters involving divorce and family issues in Wilmington, North Carolina. We put clients’ needs first, and we are passionate about helping people through emotionally difficult times.
Experience – When dealing with family legal issues, you need someone with a proven track record. Sarah Gray and Justin Moulin have dedicated their careers to representing families. Sarah has more than 10 years of experience representing clients, while Justin has worked in multiple counties in North Carolina and has focused on custody and child support actions, protective order hearings, alimony claims, property division, and divorce.
Case review – You can have peace of mind when you discuss your needs with us. We will review your circumstances and goals. In this discussion, we can create a plan for you and determine your challenges and opportunities. Fill out our online form to schedule a case evaluation.

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  • 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.

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  • “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.”

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Frequestly Ask Questions

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.

Contact Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division Today

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.

How Do You Serve Child Custody Papers in North Carolina?

A child custody dispute has two sides, and a court needs to hear from both before deciding on such an important issue. If you file court paperwork first, then you will need to inform the other parent. This is called “serving” papers on them.

North Carolina law has detailed rules regarding service. If you need help in your custody dispute, contact a Wilmington family lawyer today. You will be at a disadvantage if you try to tackle a child custody dispute on your own.

What Not to Do: Hand Deliver Papers Yourself

Silver Lake Family Law Attorney This might sound like the simplest way to give the other parents papers — swing on by their house and hand-deliver them yourself. Unfortunately, the law prevents this, so it is not an option. And that kind of makes sense.

Because you are an interested party in the dispute, you would have an incentive to claim you delivered the papers when you really didn’t. So North Carolina sensibly doesn’t let you do that in most cases.

Option 1: Ask the Sheriff to Deliver

You have a few options for legal service of process, and having the sheriff deliver is probably the easiest method. You should ask the sheriff of the county where the other parent lives or works. This might not be the county you currently live in.

The sheriff will charge a small fee, usually $30. You will have to fill out some paperwork to make it easy for the sheriff to make service.

Option 2: Use Certified Mail

You can use this method to send the complaint and civil summons to the defendant. You must:

  • Use certified mail
  • Request a return receipt to show that the mail was delivered and signed for
  • Attach the green receipt to an Affidavit of Return of Service by Certified Mail
  • Fill out and file the Affidavit of Return of Service by Certified Mail with the court to prove that you made service on the defendant

Option 3: Acceptance of Service

This is an option if you get along with the other parent. He or she can sign a sworn statement in front of a notary public that they received the complaint and civil summons. The defendant must file the statement with the court. So this is an exception to the rule that you can’t hand-deliver the paperwork—you actually can, but only if the defendant will sign and file the acceptance of service. You can call and ask ahead of time but choose another method if they won’t agree to accept service.

Option 4: Publication

This option is reserved for situations where you can’t find the other parent and don’t know where they live. You will need to perform a pretty thorough investigation. All other methods must be exhausted first.

It isn’t enough to swing by your ex’s house and see if their name is still on the mailbox. Instead, ask friends and family if they know where the other parent went. You will also need to search online for information. Talk to an attorney if you can’t easily locate the defendant.

Need Help? Give Us a Call

Service of process rules is tricky. Failing to follow them can result in your case getting kicked out of court, so it is probably best to contact Speaks Law Firm, PC Family Law Division, today. We have years of experience handling child custody issues, and we would be happy to assist in any way we can.

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