Family Law Services


Legal problems can affect families profoundly. We help clients effectively resolve the family legal problems in North Carolina. If you face a family related legal issue, talking with an experienced attorney is the best way to resolve things quickly and effectively. Family law cases can be extremely complicated and often look more like a math issue rather than a court case. Precise calculations in the areas of child support and property division (among others) are crucial to getting a positive result for your case. A simple $25 error in a child support calculation for a 2 year old child will cost you approximately $5,000 by the time that child turns familyeighteen. Don’t trust these important matters to an attorney who does not have experience in North Carolina child custody cases.

We believe in common-sense solutions for family matters.

Whether you are facing a divorce, legal separation or a paternity action that could also involve child custody issues or family violence, or numerous other issues that affect families, the divorce attorneys and family lawyers at Levinson Axford Law are dedicated to achieving the best possible results for you. From modifications, child support, spousal support or other family law matters, we have the skill to help. We are there for you — from the moment we take your case until the moment it is favorably resolved.

Family Law Services


 

North Carolina is a “no-fault” divorce state which means that no specific reason or misconduct by either party is needed to file.
A dissolution of marriage may be granted on the grounds that there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved and that therefore the marriage is irretrievably broken. If the respondent denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the petitioner (the person filing for divorce) must prove one or more of the following:

  • The respondent committed adultery and to continue the marriage would be intolerable
  • The respondent has behaved in such a way that continuing the marriage would be intolerable
  • The respondent abandoned the petitioner for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition
  • That the parties have lived separate and apart by mutual consent for at least twelve (12) months prior to filing
  • That the parties have lived separate and apart for a continuous period of at least twenty-four (24) months before filing

  • If you file for divorce and your spouse (the respondent) contests the divorce, you must meet one of these conditions. Therefore, if you still live with your spouse and there has been no adultery, then you must rely on the second condition (your spouse has behaved in such a way as to make staying together impossible to tolerate).

    Custody issues can be extremely complicated and there is no easy answer most of the time. First and foremost, judges will primarily be concerned with what is best for the children, not what is best for the parents. When determining
    custody, there shall be no preference given to either parent in the awarding of custody because of that parent's age, sex, or financial status, nor because of the age or sex of the child. The most important thing to take away from this is that judges in North Carolina are directed by law to not favor a mother over a father, as was often the case in the past.


    If two parents can't reach a mutual agreement concerning custody of the children, the court will determine custody based on the best interests of the child, considering all relevant factors, including:

  • The wishes of the parents and the proposed parenting plan submitted by the parents
  • The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively involved in meeting the needs of the child
  • The relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent
  • The adjustment of the child to the child's home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved
  • The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child
  • The wishes of a child as to the child's custodial parent (this factor grows in importance as the child gets older)
  • The courts use the "Income Shares" model for child support. This model declares that the level of support is based on the combined income of both parents. What this means is that your combined incomes will be used to determine what it costs per month to care for your child(ren). The North Carolina child support guidelines provide very specific calculations to determine what amounts you will pay or receive. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of the child support calculation but also sometimes results in an unfair result for one parent. Luckily, the statutes governing child support do not command the court to follow the final number if the judge feels that it is unfair.


  • The financial needs and resources of the child
  • The financial needs and resources of the parents
  • The physical and emotional condition of the child as well as the child's educational needs
  • The child's physical and legal custody arrangements
  • The reasonable work-related childcare expenses of each parent

  • At the beginning of litigation, both parents will be required to provide detailed financial information so the court can make an intelligent determination regarding child support. It’s very important that this information is provided promptly and accurately by a qualified child support lawyer.

    North Carolina is not what is commonly referred to as a “community property” state. Officially, North Carolina is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that if the parties can't reach a mutual agreement concerning the division of the marital estate, the court will distribute the property and liabilities in an equitable, but not necessarily equal fashion.


    The court will take the following factors into consideration when making its decision:

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse, including the desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for reasonable periods to the spouse having custody of any children
  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as homemaker
  • The value of the non-marital property set apart to each spouse
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage
  • Custodial arrangements for minor children

  • There is a tendency towards allowing the custodial parent (when children are involved) to remain in the marital home. This is to cause the least amount of disruption to the children during the divorce. It’s worthy noting that conduct of the parties during the marriage may (and often is) considered by the court when dividing property. This commonly includes infidelity but may also refer to physical or mental abuse, among other forms of misconduct.

    In general, prenuptial agreements are favored and enforceable under North Carolina law. To be enforceable, a prenuptial agreement must be based upon full disclosure of all relevant facts between both parties entering into the agreement. The parties must both fully understand what they are agreeing to and both parties must be acting in good faith. Furthermore, the agreement itself must be fair and reasonable. In other words, a court will not approve a prenuptial agreement simply because both sides have agreed to the terms – those terms must be fair.

    Prenuptial agreements must be entered into before the marriage. As a general rule, terms of the agreement dealing with property and most other financial matters will be upheld by the court if they are fundamentally fair. However, issues dealing with child custody and child support will be fully reviewed by the court. Of course, a judge will probably consider what the parties have agreed to as one factor, but will also have to decide whether or not the terms of the agreement are in the best interests of the child(ren).

    A prenuptial agreement can always be challenged by either party during a divorce.

    The party challenging the agreement has the burden of proof to show that the terms were invalidated or that some (or all) of the document is unfair. If a court finds that the previously mentioned requirements were not followed, or that the agreement is somehow “unconscionable” the agreement will not be enforceable. This is why it is so important to follow all of the rules of disclosure and to work closely with a North Carolina prenuptial agreement attorney before attempting to execute a prenuptial agreement.

    A separation agreement must be agreed to by both parties and will include provisions regarding such issues as maintenance (alimony), child custody and support, as well as the division of property. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, all of the terms of the agreement (other than items dealing specifically with any children) will eventually become part of the divorce decree, if there is one. Since courts are tasked with looking out for the best interests of children in any legal proceeding, custody, support, and visitation are always modifiable if circumstances change. Of course, if a couple decides to reconcile during a legal separation, then the agreement can be voided if both parties agree to do so. There are typically two reasons that spouses might consider a legal separation instead of going straight to a divorce.


    Personal Reasons For A Separation


    A husband and wife may honestly not know yet if they want a divorce. A legal separation would provide a “trial run” to determine if divorce is the right choice. A separation agreement allows the parties to see what it’s like to live apart and whether or not any children of the marriage are affected negatively. The spouses likewise can find out if they can live with the reality of only seeing their children part of the time. All of these issues (and others) can be explored before taking the final step of filing for divorce.


    Financial Reasons For A Separation

    It is not uncommon for spouses to avoid divorce for a variety of financial reasons, even though they no longer wish to live as husband and wife. A common reason is health insurance. If only one spouse has employer-provided insurance then the non-insured spouse would likely lose coverage upon the finalization of a divorce. A legal separation would allow coverage to continue. A couple may also determine that there are significant tax advantages to filing their federal return jointly. This can only be accomplished if the couple is not divorced. In military families, full benefits don’t fully vest for the non-military spouse until they have been married for ten years. It might therefore make sense to postpone the divorce with a separation agreement until the ten years have passed. These are just some of the practical reasons to legally separate rather than divorce.