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1. Your Attorney will File Two Claims

The first is called post-separation support.  The second is called alimony.  You will have the post-separation support hearing first and then the alimony hearing later.  Think of post-separation support as “temporary” alimony.  If awarded, it typically lasts until a date specified in the order or until the alimony hearing.

Something to note: you can ask the Judge to order the other side to pay for your attorneys’ fees for both your post-separation support and alimony claims.

2. Affairs are Important

In North Carolina, if the dependent spouse engaged in “illicit sexual behavior” during the marriage and before the date of separation, a court will not award alimony.  However, if the supporting spouse did, a court must award alimony.  If both parties did, a court has discretion on whether to award alimony or not.  And, if the sexual behavior was condoned (forgiven), the court will not consider it when deciding whether to award alimony or not.  Illicit sexual behavior includes vaginal or anal intercourse, cunnilingus, and fellatio.

North Carolina still recognizes claims for alienation of affection and criminal conversation.  Meaning, a third party can still be held liable for breaking up a marriage.

Notify your attorney as soon as possible if you or your spouse has had an affair.

3. Wake County Requires Initial Disclosures

Wake County requires both parties to exchange “initial disclosures.” Initial disclosures include several types of financial documents.  You and your spouse will need to exchange several months’ worth of bank statements, credit card statements, etc.  Once you do, you will notarize a document stating you have provided the other side with all the documents required under the local rules.  There are consequences if either of you do not follow the initial disclosure requirements.  A full list of required documents can be found in the link above.

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4. Wake County Requires Financial Affidavits

Wake County requires both parties to exchange financial affidavits.  The affidavit shows all of your income and expenses.  It’s a very important piece of information for your spousal support case.  Before sending it to the other party, you will notarize it stating that everything is true and accurate.  Spousal support cases are often won or lost due to the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the financial affidavit.  If the other side can use your bank and credit card statements to poke holes in your affidavit, the Judge may decide your affidavit is not trustworthy and use the other side’s numbers instead.

Take your time when filling out the financial affidavit.  Think of it as completing a budget for your household.  We recommend using your last three months of bank and credit card statements to get an average monthly expense for each category.  For example, if you have $500 of grocery expenses in February, $600 in March and $580 in April, your average would be $560 a month.  So, $560 would be the number you use for how much you spend in groceries each month.

5. Be Prepared to Issue and Respond to Discovery Requests

Clients often find answering discovery requests to be both time consuming and an invasion of privacy.  Your attorney will make appropriate objections. But you’ll likely need to answer most of the questions.  Click here to find out more about discovery requests.

Going through a separation is never easy.  When spousal support claims are involved, it’s important to have a knowledgeable family law attorney on your side.  Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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The post 5 Things to Expect in Your Alimony Case appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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Going through a divorce is difficult enough. But if you and your spouse are fighting over the kids, it can be unbelievably overwhelming. Below are some custody tips for parents who are going through a divorce.

1. Try to Settle Your Case in Mediation

With few exceptions, mediation is mandatory in North Carolina for all custody cases.  Neither party can have an attorney at the mediation.  The only other person who will be there is the mediator.  The mediator is not there to decide your custody case for you.  He or she is there to facilitate an agreement between the two of you.  You don’t have to reach an agreement in mediation if you don’t want to.  It’s a completely voluntary process.  The only thing that is mandatory is that you go.

There are a lot of benefits to settling your case in mediation though. For one, you will save a great deal on legal fees.  You will also save yourself the time and emotional toll of going through a custody trial.  Lastly, in mediation, you have the power to decide the outcome.  At trial, the power is taken away from both of you and placed in the hands of a Judge.  His or her decision may not be as favorable as the terms you and the other party work out in mediation.

 2. Speak Civilly with the Other Party

It’s best to limit communication with the other party to cut down on conflict.  If you need to speak, make sure it’s via email or text messages.  Your emails and text messages are potential evidence so be as civil and kind as possible even when the other party doesn’t return the favor.  This is true for phone calls as well as they may be recorded.  It’s legal in North Carolina to record a conversation you are a party to without the other party knowing it’s being recorded.

3. Maintain a Record of all Communication

Make sure to save all emails and text messages between you and the other party.  But not just the other party.  You should limit conversations with the other party’s friends and family members.  But if you have to talk to them, save any emails and texts with them as well.

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4. Limit Your Social Media Presence

It’s best to deactivate your social media accounts while your custody case is on-going.  Do not delete any accounts or posts you’ve already made.  But taking a break is a good idea.  Anything you post can be used as evidence in your custody case.  It’s difficult to tell what a Judge will find inappropriate.  It’s also difficult to tell what comments you make on social media will strengthen the other party’s case against you.

If you must be active on social media, do not discuss your current or past significant others, your divorce or your children.  Also, do not post pictures or status updates about any parties, alcohol, drugs or any romantic relationships.  Click here for a more comprehensive guide on Social Media Dos and Don’ts.

5. Consider a Therapist

Divorce is a confusing time for children of all ages.  Therapy allows a safe space for them to process their feelings and learn how to manage their emotions in healthy ways.  If you do not already have your child in therapy, consider doing so now.  Therapy is not just good for children going through divorce.  It’s good for you as well.  Therapy is there for anyone and everyone who wants to feel better, identify negative patterns and create lasting positive change in their lives.  Clients who go to therapy during their case with us are much better off emotionally and mentally than those who do not.

It’s difficult to know what to do during a custody dispute.  Our knowledgeable family law attorneys are here to help.  Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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The post 5 Custody Tips for Parents Going Through Divorce appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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If you are under the age of 18 and wish to have an abortion in North Carolina, there are two options.  The first is to have your parent, legal custodian or grandparent (with whom you have been living for the past six months) give consent to the physician.

If this is not possible, the second option is to obtain a judicial waiver of parental consent.  You do not have to seek consent from your parents first before attempting to obtain the waiver.  If you seek a judicial waiver, the process is completely confidential and, if you make a specific request in your petition, your parents will not be notified of the petition.

To obtain a judicial waiver, you may petition the district court judge in the county in which you reside or in the county in which you are physically present at the time you file the petition.  Either you or a guardian ad-litem may petition the court for a waiver on your behalf.  Additionally, you will have the right to court appointed counsel.  A hearing should be scheduled within seven (7) days of the date the petition is filed, unless you decide to ask for more time.

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At the time of the hearing, the only people who should be in attendance are you, your attorney (if you choose to have one), the Judge, a court clerk and anyone you decide to bring with you.  According to North Carolina statute, at the hearing, the Judge will hear evidence regarding:

  • your emotional development, maturity, intellect, and understanding;
  • the nature, possible consequences, and alternatives to the abortion; and
  • any other evidence that the court may find useful in determining whether the parental consent requirement shall be waived.

A Judge will grant the request if he or she finds that:

  • you are mature and well-informed enough to make the abortion decision on your own; or
  • it would be in your best interests that parental consent not be required; or
  • you are a victim of rape or of felonious incest under G.S. 14-178.

If you are a minor and would like to know more about your legal rights, you should speak with a knowledgeable child welfare attorneyContact our office today to schedule an appointment.

The post A Minor’s Right to Abortion in North Carolina appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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In your legal case, discovery is a process in which documents, other evidence and information are exchanged between the parties.  For instance, if you are going through an alimony case, you may ask the other party for evidence they were involved in an affair.  Text messages, emails or photographs can be helpful in proving an affair.  Or, if you are going through a custody case, you may ask the other party questions about the times you suspect he or she allowed the minor children to be around people doing drugs.

The parties must participate in discovery if either of them are served with it.  There are legal consequences if you don’t.  Going through the discovery process can be helpful to determine your next step.  I.e. should you try to settle the case or move forward with trial?  Below are the different types of discovery that can be used to help you in your family law case.

Interrogatories

Sometimes referred to as ROGs or INTs by your attorney, interrogatories are questions posed to you by the other side.  If you’re going through a financial case, the other side may ask you to list all of your financial accounts.  If you’re going through a custody case, you might be asked to recall certain events in detail and write down a summary of what happened. Your answers will be under oath so you must be truthful and honest when you write them.

Request for Production of Documents

Request for production of documents (RPDs) are questions that ask you to turn over certain documents or other evidence. For instance, you may be asked to turn over the last two years of bank statements or any audio or video recordings you took of the other party during the marriage.

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Request for Admissions

Request for Admissions (RFAs) are statements you must either “admit” as true or “deny” as false.  Each statement is usually worded in such a way to make you admit it is true.  The purpose of RFAs is to narrow down the contested issues for trial.  If you agree with one of their facts, that is one less thing to argue about at trial.

While it’s important to answer all discovery on time, a special rule applies to RFAs.  If you do not respond within the time limits set out by statute, every statement is deemed admitted.  This can be potentially disastrous for your case.  For example, say the other party included a statement for you to admit you did drugs in front of the minor child.  If you do not respond with a denial within the statutory time limit, the Court will recognize that you admitted this statement as true.

Depositions

Depositions can also be part of the discovery process.  During a deposition, a party or witness must answer questions.  While the deposition typically takes place in a lawyer’s office, your answers will be made under oath.  Depositions are helpful to find out what a party or witness will say before trial.  While it is expensive to go through depositions, they are often used in high conflict custody cases or divorce cases involving an affair.

When going through the discovery process, it’s important to note that discovery requests and questions are written to be very broad.  That way the other side can get as much information as possible.  It’s not unusual for clients to feel angry and that their privacy is being violated when they read the questions.  Most questions should be answered despite how invasive they are. But some questions are legally objectionable.  If they are, your attorney may tell you not to answer them.  When you are served with discovery, you should go over the questions with your attorney to find out what you should and should not answer.

If you are dealing with a family law matter, contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys.

The post What is Discovery? appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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Has your marriage degraded to a point that living with your spouse causes you emotional distress? Do you live in a home ruled by intimidation, fear, or threats of domestic violence? Are you fearful that if you don’t do everything the right way that there will be consequences which can include emotional or physical harm to you or your minor children? Do you worry that if you leave the marital home you won’t be able to take your children with you and you won’t be able to support yourself? These are the typical stories of victims of domestic violence. Seeking a domestic violence protective order may be your only way out.

Domestic violence protective orders can also be used improperly. It is not uncommon for a protective order to be filed to effectuate a separation or get a quick custody order in place. If an actual act of domestic violence has not occurred, this is wholly inappropriate and wastes valuable Court resources that should be dedicated to helping actual victims.

Understanding what constitutes domestic violence and how a 50B order can protect you are the first steps in getting started.

What is Domestic Violence?

Many people think they can’t get a domestic violence restraining order unless their significant other has physically assaulted them. An act of domestic violence is defined under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1 and includes the commission of any of the following acts:

  • Causing bodily injury
  • Attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Placing a person or a member of the person’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, that rises to a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress
  • A range of sexual offenses including, forcible rape, statutory rape of a child, forcible sexual offense, statutory sexual offense, sexual activity by a substitute parent, custodian, or with a student, sexual battery

You may obtain a domestic violence protective order on behalf of yourself or minor children residing with or in your custody.

In order to obtain a domestic violence protective order under Chapter 50B a present or past personal relationship with the accused is required. A personal relationship is defined under North Carolina law as a relationship wherein the parties involved:

  • Are current or former spouses;
  • Are persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
  • Are related as parents and children, including others acting as parents (grandparents, foster parents, guardians, etc.) Have a child in common;
  • Are current or former household members;
    Are persons of the opposite sex who are in or have been in a dating relationship.

It is important to point out that the definition of a personal relationship under North Carolina law discriminates against same-sex couples who have never lived together. You cannot obtain a domestic violence protective order against a current or former same-sex individual with whom you are in a dating relationship if you have never lived together. Your sole remedy would be to proceed for a no-contact order under Chapter 50C. For more on this and the fight to extend the protection of Chapter 50B to same-sex couples, click for more information.

Assuming you can prove a personal relationship, you may find it easier to understand what actions constitute domestic violence by breaking acts up into three categories.

Physical Acts and Attempted Physical Acts

If a person you’ve been involved in a personal relationship with causes you bodily injury or attempts to cause bodily injury, you’ve satisfied grounds for a domestic violence protective order. While the definition of bodily injury is not clear under North Carolina law, the key distinction to understand is that mere physical contact does not necessarily constitute bodily injury. You must prove some type of injury whether it be a severe injury that required a hospital visit or cuts and bruises. Note that self-defense is a defense to domestic violence protective orders. If both parties have suffered cuts and bruises and a Court can’t determine who the aggressor was, injuries standing alone may not be enough to support the entry of an order.

Attempting to cause bodily injury can consist of swinging an object, firing a weapon, attempting to punch or otherwise hit a victim, or pushing down stairs or towards an object that can cause harm. This list is not all-inclusive, but proof of actual bodily injury is not required if in fact an attempt was made to cause you harm. If you can provide bodily injury or an attempt to cause bodily injury, you do not have to prove fear of imminent bodily injury that inflicts substantial emotional distress.

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Threats of Physical Acts

You can also obtain a domestic violence restraining order if a person with whom you’ve had a personal relationship threatens to harm you, a person in your family, or a person in your household. In order to proceed on this ground, you must prove that the threat occurred but you also must prove that the threat placed you in fear of imminent serious bodily injury and that it caused substantial emotional distress. Generally, these threats take the form of a threat to physically assault you or a household member. Fear is a requirement under this prong that must be established; a DVPO cannot be issued despite a threat if you do not have a subjective fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

If the opposing party is represented you can expect an exploration of whether you are fearful on cross examination. Common evidence that is presented to try and prove you did not have a fear of the defendant is:

  • Statements by you that you didn’t believe the defendant would carry out the threat;
  • Proof that you continued to communicate with the defendant after the threat was made, including inviting the defendant to your home, going to the defendants home, and/or attempts to reconcile the relationship;
  • Continuing to live with the defendant;
  • Not notifying authorities or anyone else about the threat and the fact that the threat caused you concern;
  • Communication with the defendant after entry of an emergency ex parte order.

Substantial emotional distress is another term without a clear definition under North Carolina law. The following are examples of substantial emotional distress that have been found to be sufficient by local judges:

  • engaging in individual therapy for yourself or your minor children
  • sleep disturbances
  • uncontrollable emotions
  • paranoia and/or anxiety
  • abnormal daily patterns
  • mental health diagnoses that result from domestic violence, such as PTSD and behavioral disorders

It cannot be stressed enough that you must prove 1) a threat of bodily injury, 2) fear of imminent bodily injury, and 3) substantial emotional distress. If any of these elements are missing, legally a judge cannot grant your domestic violence protective order.

Note: Retaining an attorney is not required to seek a domestic violence protective order. Courts hear from unrepresented persons regularly and are focused on providing assistance for people in need. There are also organizations which can assist you in filing for no cost to you such as Interact and Legal Aid. Seek help today to put an end to domestic violence.

Harassment and Stalking

Chapter 50B also includes within the definition of domestic violence placing a person or a member of the person’s family or household in fear of continued harassment that causes substantial emotional distress. Criminal harassment is required and is defined under North Carolina law as (N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-277.3A(b)(2)) knowing conduct directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose. Harassment can be in person or can be conducted via written, printed or electronic communication or transmissions.

Harassment can include a wide range of conduct communicated in many different ways. If you’ve been a victim of conduct that you believe is aimed at tormenting or terrorizing you may be able to obtain protection via Chapter 50B. An important point is that the conduct must not serve a legitimate purpose. Often client’s complaint about repeated litigation and litigation related actions and refer to them as harassment. In custody cases, it’s not uncommon for communication between parents to break down to a point where insults are frequently exchanged in basic communication.

Criminal harassment in cases like these can be tough to prove, due to the fact that a legitimate purpose to communicate may exist during the course of legal proceedings.

Obtaining an Ex Parte Order

When you file for a domestic violence restraining order, you can seek an emergency order if you believe there is a danger of serious and immediate injury to yourself or your minor child. Upon filing your action, you’ll appear in front of a judge and offer testimony regarding the allegations in your complaint. This initial hearing is an ex parte hearing, which means that it can be conducted without notice to the other party. Based on your testimony, a judge may enter an emergency ex parte order which would prevent your abuser from having contact with you pending a hearing on your complaint. If the court cannot find a danger of serious and immediate injury to yourself or your minor child, the court will deny the ex parte, however, you will still return for a hearing on whether a permanent domestic violence protective order should be entered.

Get Help: How to File a Domestic Violence Protective Order (Wake County)

10 Day Return Hearing

Whether or not an ex parte is granted you will return to court within 10 days for your return hearing. If you’re able to meet the standard to obtain a domestic violence order, it will be entered and remain in place for a period of 1 year. We’ve described what you must prove at this hearing in this guide, but the short and sweet version is either:

  • Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Placing a person or a member of the person’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, that rises to a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress
  • A range of sexual offenses including, forcible rape, statutory rape of a child, forcible sexual offense, statutory sexual offense, sexual activity by a substitute parent, custodian, or with a student, sexual battery.
Other Remedies

A court can also order any of the following to assist a victim of domestic violence:

Your first priority should be the protection of you and your family from acts of domestic violence. Exposure to domestic violence can have a lasting effect on you and your children’s mental and physical well-being. Take action today with the assistance of our attorneys.

The post Domestic Violence Protective Orders – 50B – A Complete Guide appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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Whether you have an equitable distribution, child support or spousal support case, it’s important to have a full financial picture of the marital estate.  That way, you know what you are working with when it comes to dividing the marital estate or figuring out how much spousal support or child support is owed.    

If you and your spouse are still married, it’s not unusual for one spouse to have more control over the finances than the other.  You may not ever have had access to any of the accounts.  That’s okay.  It’s important to know we can still get the financial information we need even under these circumstances.

That’s true even if your spouse owns a business and you suspect he or she is hiding money. 

We often represent dependent spouses.  Our firm is experienced at getting the financial information you need to handle your case effectively.  Below is a list of steps we can take to make sure we get the full financial picture.

Voluntary Exchange of Documents

Before filing any lawsuits, your attorney may advise you to work out an agreement with your spouse.  That doesn’t mean you have to “fly blind” (so to speak) during negotiations.  In Wake County, it’s common for attorneys to voluntarily share between 3 to 6 months of financial statements between the parties.  This allows the parties to negotiate in good faith.  If an agreement is reached, there is usually a clause in the separation agreement that sets out a significant penalty if either party has hidden assets.

Mandatory Exchange of Documents

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Wake County Local Rules

If you file litigation, the Wake County Local Rules will apply to your case.  The Local Rules require mandatory disclosure of assets and debts.  The list of documents you and your spouse must share with each other is extensive.  Even more so if either of you own a business. 

If you’re curious what type of documents you will need to turn over, take a look at Rule 11.6 for ED disclosures, Rule 9.2 and 10.3 for spousal support disclosures and Rules 6.2 and 10.2 for child support disclosures.  The Certification of Initial Disclosures for Equitable Distribution and Certification of Initial Disclosures for Support cases puts these documents in a checklist format for you.

Discovery Requests

Despite your spouse sending documents required by the Local Rules, your attorney may advise you to ask for additional information through discovery requests.  Discovery is a term used to describe the process by which you can ask the other party to turn over specific evidence.  You can send your spouse Requests for Production of Documents, Interrogatories and Request for Admissions and they must answer.  Click here to learn more about the discovery process. 

Legal Remedies for Non-Compliance

If your spouse is evasive with financial documents, you do have legal remedies.  If your spouse does not provide documents as required by the Local Rules, you may file a motion to compel.  The same is true if he or she fails to answer your discovery requests.   You can ask that attorneys fees be taxed to your spouse for the prosecution of the motion.  If the Judge enters an order to compel, the other party must follow it.  If he or she does not, you may file a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of court and ask for attorneys fees in that motion as well.   

If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, it’s very important to speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to get the advice you need. Please contact our office as soon as possible to set up a consultation.

The post What to Do if You’re Concerned Your Ex is Hiding Money appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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Many divorcing couples have questions about credit card debt. Who is liable for it? How will it be divided?

As a general rule in North Carolina, property acquired during the marriage is presumed marital and is divided equally between the parties.  However, debt is treated differently.  There is no presumption that debt acquired during the marriage is marital.  North Carolina courts will exclude debt from the marital estate unless a party can prove it was incurred for the joint benefit of the parties.  That being said, if there is evidence of actual benefit to the marriage, the debt will most likely be deemed marital.  Even so, if the credit card debt is deemed marital, a judge may not order the debt split directly down the middle. Likewise, if you and your spouse reach a settlement outside of court, you will have broad discretion in determining how the debt is divided.

Below are some options to consider when dividing credit card debts that benefited the marriage:

Keep the debt in your sole name:

If the credit card is in your sole name, even if most of the debt was acquired by your spouse, consider keeping the debt. You can make up for it by taking an extra share of the marital assets equal to the credit card debt. 

This is an advisable strategy for several reasons.  First, if the card is in your name, the credit card company will hold you liable for the debt no matter what arrangement you and your spouse reach.  Second, If you and your spouse agree your spouse will be liable in the settlement agreement but he or she doesn’t pay, you will still be held liable by the credit card company.  While you should be able to enforce the settlement agreement through lengthy litigation, the headache will not be worth it. Plus, there is the possibility you may not be able to collect on any judgment entered against your ex-spouse.

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Pay off joint accounts as quickly as possible:

Joint accounts should be paid and closed as soon as possible.  This will protect you in the long run by decreasing your risk of liability connected with depending on your ex to help pay off debt.  Consider using joint savings account funds to pay off joint credit card accounts at the time a settlement is reached.

Speak to an attorney asap if you discover a secret credit card account:

If you discover a secret credit card account, it’s possible the debt was not used to benefit the marriage.  An attorney can advise you on your rights and help make sure you are not liable for this debt. Moreover, this debt may be a sign your spouse has been engaged in financial marital misconduct such as reckless spending or wasting of assets.  If that is the case, you should speak with an attorney asap to protect your interest in the marital estate.

If you’d like to know more about your rights when it comes to credit card debt in a divorce, contact our office today to speak with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys.

The post What to Do with Credit Card Debt in a Divorce appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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When a child or parent has a mental health issue, it’s important to seek help. But what if your child needs help but you and the other parent don’t see eye to eye on the solution? What if the other parent needs help but refuses to seek treatment? Are there any legal remedies?

Proving a Mental Health Issue Exists:

The first step for seeking a legal remedy is to prove there is a mental health issue. This applies whether it’s the child or parent with the issue. If there is already a diagnosis, it’s relatively easy to prove. The simplest way to do that is to subpoena the treating physician to testify in court. If there is not a diagnosis yet, your case will be more complex. You should speak to a family law attorney regarding a legal strategy tailored to your specific needs. That being said, you’ll be able to testify about behaviors you have seen.

Legal Remedies for Mental Health Issues:

Based on the testimony and evidence provided in court, the Judge may order therapy for the person afflicted with mental health issues. But the Judge may decide that a deeper look is needed before making an ultimate decision. If that’s the case, the Judge may order a psychological evaluation.

A psychological evaluation is a way of assessing a person’s mental health. It will determine if there is a mental health issue and the appropriate therapeutic treatment. The evaluation is through and has several parts. Usually there is a questionnaire, a discussion with the physician and tests.

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Filing a Motion for a Psychological Evaluation:

If you believe a psychological evaluation is necessary in your case, you can file your own motion. If you do, you’ll need to prove that there are mental health concerns that affect the other parent’s ability to parent the children.

Filing a motion for a psychological evaluation may seem like a great idea. But there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of. First, if you file a motion for a psychological evaluation, the other party may file one against you too. You should be prepared to undergo the same examination you wish to put the other party through. Second, a psychological evaluation can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $5,000. The Judge has the ability to order the other party to pay the costs. However, there is always a chance she will order you to both share the costs.

Third, it’s always possible the other party’s evaluation will state there are no significant issues. Judge’s give great weight to psychological evaluations. So, if the other party’s evaluation comes back with no problems, his or her case will be much stronger in the Judge’s eyes. If that’s the case, you’ll need to have a conversation with your attorney regarding your legal strategy moving forward.

Mental health issues in family law cases are complex. But our firm is very experienced in dealing with these types of cases. Whether you, the other parent or your children are dealing with mental illness, we can help! Contact us today to set up a consultation and learn your legal rights.

The post Mental Health Issues and Child Custody in North Carolina appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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Divorce is a very personal experience.  Each and every one of us experiences it differently. 

Some of us mourn the loss of the relationship.  Some of us celebrate it.  Some feel a great sense of liberation.  Others are full of grief.  Still others are don’t know what they are feeling.   

The good news is, whatever you’re feeling, it’s perfectly normal.  Just like there is no one way to experience grief, there is no one way to feel about your divorce.  

Wherever you are on the spectrum, you might be wondering what to do to commemorate your divorce anniversary.  Of course, you don’t have to do anything at all.  But if you want to do something, it will definitely help the healing process.  

 If you’re a little stuck about what to do, here’s list of things you can do to mark the occasion. 

Reflect on the Past Year:

It’s important to reflect on where you’ve been so you can figure out where you’re going.  If you keep a journal, take an evening to read and reflect over your journal entries for the past year.  Then, write out your thoughts on how far you’ve come, where you’re right now and where you’d like to be in the future. 

If you don’t keep a journal, look back over your pictures of the last year.  What have you seen?  What have you done?  Then do the thought exercise described above. 

Speak Kindly to Yourself:  

When reviewing your past year, you might find yourself engaging in negative self-talk.  That’s extremely destructive.  Filling your own mind with critical thoughts that make you feel dumb or worthless doesn’t help.  It only hurts you.  Would you speak to a child the way you speak to yourself?   Of course not.  Because you know the damage it would do to them. 

So instead of looking at the past year with a critical eye, be kind to yourself.  Speak to yourself with love and compassion.  Recognize that you had a tough year.  And yet, despite everything that happened, you’re still standing.  You’re still strong.

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Treat Yourself:

This is the perfect time to start replacing bad memories with good ones!  Go ahead and do something nice for yourself.  A day at the spa, a day at the movies, a wine and design class with your friends… you get the picture.  Have some fun!

Have a Party: 

Divorce parties are trending right now and for good reason.  If you’re in the mood to celebrate, then you should do it.  Get some balloons, cake, music, friends and games and get busy!

Go Out with Friends:

Even if you’re not the party type, surrounding yourself with friends during this time is a healthy idea.  If you’d rather keep things low-key, take a couple of friends out for dinner.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing. 

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

The post What to do on Your Divorce Anniversary appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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Has your marriage degraded to a point that living with your spouse causes you emotional distress? Do you live in a home ruled by intimidation, fear, or threats of domestic violence? Are you fearful that if you don’t do everything the right way that there will be consequences which can include emotional or physical harm to you or your minor children? Do you worried that if you leave the marital home you won’t be able to take your children with you and you won’t be able to support yourself? These are the typical stories of victims of domestic violence. Seeking a domestic violence protective order may be your only way out.

Domestic violence protective orders can also be used improperly. It is not uncommon for a protective order to be filed to effectuate a separation or get a quick custody order in place. If an actual act of domestic violence has not occurred, this is wholly inappropriate and wastes valuable Court resources that should be dedicated to helping actual victims.

Understanding what constitutes domestic violence and how a 50B order can protect you are the first steps in getting started.

What is Domestic Violence?

Many people think they can’t get a domestic violence restraining order unless their significant other has physically assaulted them. An act of domestic violence is defined under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B-1 and includes the commission of any of the following acts:

  • Causing bodily injury
  • Attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Placing a person or a member of the person’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, that rises to a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress
  • A range of sexual offenses including, forcible rape, statutory rape of a child, forcible sexual offense, statutory sexual offense, sexual activity by a substitute parent, custodian, or with a student, sexual battery

You may obtain a domestic violence protective order on behalf of yourself or minor children residing with or in your custody.

In order to obtain a domestic violence protective order under Chapter 50B a present or past personal relationship with the accused is required. A personal relationship is defined under North Carolina law as a relationship wherein the parties involved:

  • Are current or former spouses;
  • Are persons of the opposite sex who live together or have lived together;
  • Are related as parents and children, including others acting as parents (grandparents, foster parents, guardians, etc.) Have a child in common;
  • Are current or former household members;
    Are persons of the opposite sex who are in or have been in a dating relationship.

It is important to point out that the definition of a personal relationship under North Carolina law discriminates against same-sex couples who have never lived together. You cannot obtain a domestic violence protective order against a current or former same-sex individual with whom you are in a dating relationship if you have never lived together. Your sole remedy would be to proceed for a no-contact order under Chapter 50C. For more on this and the fight to extend the protection of Chapter 50B to same-sex couples, click for more information.

Assuming you can prove a personal relationship, you may find it easier to understand what actions constitute domestic violence by breaking acts up into three categories.

Physical Acts and Attempted Physical Acts

If a person you’ve been involved in a personal relationship with causes you bodily injury or attempts to cause bodily injury, you’ve satisfied grounds for a domestic violence protective order. While the definition of bodily injury is not clear under North Carolina law, the key distinction to understand is that mere physical contact does not necessarily constitute bodily injury. You must prove some type of injury whether it be a severe injury that required a hospital visit or cuts and bruises. Note that self-defense is a defense to domestic violence protective orders. If both parties have suffered cuts and bruises and a Court can’t determine who the aggressor was, injuries standing alone may not be enough to support the entry of an order.

Attempting to cause bodily injury can consist of swinging an object, firing a weapon, attempting to punch or otherwise hit a victim, or pushing down stairs or towards an object that can cause harm. This list is not all-inclusive, but proof of actual bodily injury is not required if in fact an attempt was made to cause you harm. If you can provide bodily injury or an attempt to cause bodily injury, you do not have to prove fear of imminent bodily injury that inflicts substantial emotional distress.

Threats of Physical Acts

You can also obtain a domestic violence restraining order if a person with whom you’ve had a personal relationship threatens to harm you, a person in your family, or a person in your household. In order to proceed on this ground, you must prove that the threat occurred but you also must prove that the threat placed you in fear of imminent serious bodily injury and that it caused substantial emotional distress. Generally, these threats take the form of a threat to physically assault you or a household member. Fear is a requirement under this prong that must be established; a DVPO cannot be issued despite a threat if you do not have a subjective fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

If the opposing party is represented you can expect an exploration of whether you are fearful on cross examination. Common evidence that is presented to try and prove you did not have a fear of the defendant is:

  • Statements by you that you didn’t believe the defendant would carry out the threat;
  • Proof that you continued to communicate with the defendant after the threat was made, including inviting the defendant to your home, going to the defendants home, and/or attempts to reconcile the relationship;
  • Continuing to live with the defendant;
  • Not notifying authorities or anyone else about the threat and the fact that the threat caused you concern;
  • Communication with the defendant after entry of an emergency ex parte order.

Substantial emotional distress is another term without a clear definition under North Carolina law. The following are examples of substantial emotional distress that have been found to be sufficient by local judges:

  • engaging in individual therapy for yourself or your minor children
  • sleep disturbances
  • uncontrollable emotions
  • paranoia and/or anxiety
  • abnormal daily patterns
  • mental health diagnoses that result from domestic violence, such as PTSD and behavioral disorders

It cannot be stressed enough that you must prove 1) a threat of bodily injury, 2) fear of imminent bodily injury, and 3) substantial emotional distress. If any of these elements are missing, legally a judge cannot grant your domestic violence protective order.

Harassment and Stalking

Chapter 50B also includes within the definition of domestic violence placing a person or a member of the person’s family or household in fear of continued harassment that causes substantial emotional distress. Criminal harassment is required and is defined under North Carolina law as (N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-277.3A(b)(2)) knowing conduct directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose. Harassment can be in person or can be conducted via written, printed or electronic communication or transmissions.

Harassment can include a wide range of conduct communicated in many different ways. If you’ve been a victim of conduct that you believe is aimed at tormenting or terrorizing you may be able to obtain protection via Chapter 50B. An important point is that the conduct must not serve a legitimate purpose. Often client’s complaint about repeated litigation and litigation related actions and refer to them as harassment. In custody cases, it’s not uncommon for communication between parents to break down to a point where insults are frequently exchanged in basic communication.

Criminal harassment in cases like these can be tough to prove, due to the fact that a legitimate purpose to communicate may exist during the course of legal proceedings.

Obtaining an Ex Parte Order

When you file for a domestic violence restraining order, you can seek an emergency order if you believe there is a danger of serious and immediate injury to yourself or your minor child. Upon filing your action, you’ll appear in front of a judge and offer testimony regarding the allegations in your complaint. This initial hearing is an ex parte hearing, which means that it can be conducted without notice to the other party. Based on your testimony, a judge may enter an emergency ex parte order which would prevent your abuser from having contact with you pending a hearing on your complaint. If the court cannot find a danger of serious and immediate injury to yourself or your minor child, the court will deny the ex parte, however, you will still return for a hearing on whether a permanent domestic violence protective order should be entered.

Note: Retaining an attorney is not required to seek a domestic violence protective order. Courts hear from unrepresented persons regularly and are focused on providing assistance for people in need. There are also organizations which can assist you in filing for no cost to you such as Interact and Legal Aid. Seek help today to put an end to domestic violence.

Get Help: How to File a Domestic Violence Protective Order (Wake County)

10 Day Return Hearing

Whether or not an ex parte is granted you will return to court within 10 days for your return hearing. If you’re able to meet the standard to obtain a domestic violence order, it will be entered and remain in place for a period of 1 year. We’ve described what you must prove at this hearing in this guide, but the short and sweet version is either:

  • Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Placing a person or a member of the person’s family or household in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment, that rises to a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress
  • A range of sexual offenses including, forcible rape, statutory rape of a child, forcible sexual offense, statutory sexual offense, sexual activity by a substitute parent, custodian, or with a student, sexual battery.
Other Remedies

A court can also order any of the following to assist a victim of domestic violence:

Your first priority should be the protection of you and your family from acts of domestic violence. Exposure to domestic violence can have a lasting effect on you and your children’s mental and physical well-being. Take action today with the assistance of our attorneys.

The post Domestic Violence Protective Orders – 50B – A Complete Guide appeared first on Raleigh Divorce Lawyers.

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