DIVORCE

Our team at Apple Payne Law comes to work every morning to make your life easier. When you’re going through a divorce, it’s natural to get caught up in the emotions, the heartbreak, and the anger that brought you to this point. We take it upon ourselves to handle the legal proceedings objectively, ensuring that your emotional state does not affect the case and cause unnecessary grief. Our job is protecting our clients in the complex and tricky proceedings that tend to bring out the worst in people. We guide you every step of the process, from your separation to your final divorce decree.

Before you move out of your marital home – call us! Every move you make can have an impact on the divorce proceedings. Come discuss a plan with us. We can use our expertise to ensure that you don’t forfeit any property rights or worse by taking the wrong actions.

While, under North Carolina law, a married couple can be considered separated as long as they’re living under separate roofs, but it’s still a good idea to sign a separation agreement. These agreements can make the actual divorce go smoothly. In a separation agreement you can preemptively settle any property or equitable distributions. You can deal with the bigger issues that come up in a divorce up front, with legal representation to ensure both sides are satisfied with the agreement early on in the divorce process.

In North Carolina, an absolute divorce refers to the termination of your marriage bond, created by your marriage certificate. A court will only grant you an absolute divorce if a married couple separates for a year prior to the divorce or in the case of incurable insanity. You don’t need physical proof that you have been separated for a year, but you must remember the date your separation began. And that’s when a separation agreement makes this process easier.

During the divorce proceeding, we can request for an automatic name change. If you want to return to your maiden name, we’ll make it easier for you so you can avoid the numerous forms afterward.

In some rare cases, you may be granted an annulment as opposed to a divorce. An annulment voids your marriage – it’s erased from records and you appear as though you’ve never been married. North Carolina has strict limits on granting annulments, they include: marriages between family members closer than first cousins, marriages in which one party is underage, marriages in which one party is impotent (and medically diagnosed by a doctor) at the time of marriage, if one party in the marriage lacks the mental capacity to understand what the marriage contract entails, and if one party commits to the marriage under false pretenses.

Where many divorce proceedings turn ugly is in the division of personal property obtained during the marriage. Separating “marital” and “nonmarital” possessions can cause conflict between a separated couple, especially with varying interpretations of property issues and laws. Sometimes it’s not difficult, but when it is, court-ordered property distribution may be necessary. We work diligently for our clients to ensure they are satisfied with the outcome of such a difficult legal process.

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Paternity & Legitimation cases focus on the relationship between a father and his biological child(ren). Whether you’re a father seeking visitation rights or partial/full custody of your child, we are ready to fight for your right to your child. Often mothers receive special preference in courts, but we know how to establish your paternity and your legal rights to your child. Then we can also help you with any additional proceedings you want to take after your paternity is established, like custody and child support.

Payne Law enjoys bringing together families through stepparent or private adoptions. The adoption process, like many family law cases, is emotional and complex. You’re vested in the child you want to adopt and run the risk of allowing your emotions to get the best of you. Choose representation that can guide you to the objective, legal proceedings regarding the adoption. Then you can plan for the emotional investment you’re making with the adopted child. Plan that adoption party and shower them with affection while we take care of the details.

When you’re in the process of adopting a little angel you’ve fallen in love with, the last thing on your mind is a tower of paperwork. Instead, you can decorate their future bedroom while we handle the clerical work involved in the adoption process.

Also, if your adoption involves any extenuating circumstances such as interstate adoptions, contested adoptions, or termination of parental rights, that make it more stressful, let us take that burden for you. We are here for you!

Like many family law court cases, the termination of parental rights is challenging. North Carolina has strict laws on the termination of these rights based on the state of the parents as well as what is best for the child. Often, termination of parental rights cases come up when a parent is accused of neglect, abuse, nonsupport or abandonment of the child. And most of the time, grandparents or stepparents are the party seeking termination with the intent to adopt the child. These are delicate, emotional situations that require compassion and expertise on our part that we’re always willing to give to our clients.

Parents are typically responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority, 18 years old. This includes determining where the child lives and goes to school and providing them food, shelter, and clothing. When a minor is emancipated, the parents or guardian has no say in their decisions or lifestyle. Emancipated minors can purchase a house, rent an apartment, enroll in any school they choose, sue someone or be sued, make health and well-being decisions they couldn’t prior, get married, vote before the legal age, and apply for a work permit. A minor can obtain emancipation through a court order, by joining the military, or through marriage.

Domestic Violence Protection Order 50B is a restraining order. If there is proof that an act of domestic violence occurred, then the court can grant a restraining order to the defendant that protects them from future attacks. You can file a protective order without charging the other party, if you wish to protect yourself and avoid antagonizing an abuser further. But we do believe that people deserve to pay the consequences for their actions. So if you choose to charge your abuser, we are ready to fight for you and protect other people who could potentially become targets of the same abuse.

In the case of no physical harm to the victim, the court can issue a Civil No-Contact Order to protect the victim from further verbal abuse that could become physical. These orders can prohibit the abuser from visiting or contacting the victim in any way (phone, written communication, or online means), showing up at the victim’s workplace or otherwise stalking the victim, etc. These orders can be temporary or permanent. Sometimes temporary no-contact orders are issued to prevent further conflict over a court holiday during a proceeding.

Many couples choose to outline prenuptial, or premarital, agreements prior to their wedding ceremony. It’s an easy way to establish property and financial rights in case your marriage ends in divorce. When you determine these rights early on, you don’t risk your emotions clouding your judgement during a stressful time like when you’re going through the divorce.

Similar to the prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement is a way to establish property and financial rights in the case of divorce. However, this legal contract is signed after the couple has been married, but prior to any separation.

FAMILY

Unfortunately, we all know that family problems arise whether we like it or not. And when they do, we know they can get heated. When you argue with someone close to you, it can be worse than with someone you don’t even know! Instead of letting these problems build up and explode in a detrimental way, hire legal representation immediately and settle the dispute with the aid of the court. When you try to represent yourself in a courtroom you may let your emotions get the best of you.

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CUSTODY

Unfortunately, if you are divorced or separated from your significant other and you don’t have a written agreement regarding custody, you open yourself up for more disputes. Without a written document, a parent can change the custodial arrangement by moving the residence of a child. One parent is free to move to a different county or state with the child without any repercussions, as long as they’re not avoiding the jurisdiction of the court and they have no controlling written document outlining the custodial arrangement for the children. It’s best for all parties involved, especially the child(ren), to determine a custodial arrangement with legal counsel.

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In North Carolina, a couple may settle custodial arrangements privately or out of the courts. However, if you forgo a controlling written document outlining the child custody arrangements, then you run the risk of the arrangement being changed at the drop of a dime. And if the child custody case goes to the court, you need to be able to prove that your home environment is the best for the child. The judge chooses custody rights based on which is in the child’s best interest and well-being.

When a stepparent requests custody of a child, they must first demonstrate standing for the request. This means that you must have a good reason for requesting custody of a child that is not your blood relative. The process is complex and requires legal counsel to be taken seriously in the courtroom. An example would be a long-term couple that broke up but lived together with the boyfriend’s daughter. Her biological mother is not involved and the girlfriend requests custody. If she can prove she has standing, meaning she could prove that she handled most of the child’s special medical care, for instance, then she could win custody of the child.

Grandparents only have rights to a child in two cases: if both parents are unfit to care for the child (because of death, addiction, unstable mental state, or disability) or when both parents of the child are in a custody dispute with the court. For the first instance, grandparents can bring the situation that makes the parents unfit to the attention of the court and request custody. In the second case, they can only request visitation if they are being denied time with their grandchildren during the custody proceedings.

SUPPORT

Whether you’re going through a separation, divorce, or custody battle, we can take the pain out of the complexities of family law. We know it’s hard to ask for financial help when you need it, especially when you need the money for your family. Instead of letting your emotions get the best of you, let Payne Law get you the support you need! We work hard so you can focus on your emotional well-being while we make sure you’re covered financially.

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Postseparation support, or spousal support, is financial assistance to be paid until a specified date or until there is an order defining alimony. The spouse requesting the spousal support must be the dependent spouse, and the other the supporting spouse. The dependent spouse must also prove that they don’t have the resources to meet their needs.

When the dependent spouse is found to lack the resources to meet their needs, the higher-income spouse is required to send money to the lower-income spouse to cover living expenses. This court-ordered payment is separate from child support. You can request temporary alimony, permanent alimony, or lump sum alimony during your divorce proceedings.

Child support in North Carolina is based on a formula involving the custody category and the gross income of both parents. Child support payments are court-ordered until the child turns 18 years old, but the parent paying support can elect to continue the payments past that age to help with college or other living costs. Both parents have a right to request changes after the child support has been ordered.

Looking for legal advice? We are here to help.