To what extent do you think you can handle legal issues associated with family matters? It creates a lot of heartache when one acts in a way consistent with what they believe should be the law, only to find the law states something different. At Haas & Associates, PA, we try to help people have a clearer understanding of the law, especially when it comes to someone’s specific situation. Below are just a few “snipets” of the law in North Carolina from various family-related topics, for your reference. These are only some of the general rules, so please consult with an experienced family law attorney first before making any lasting decisions, as there are MANY EXCEPTIONS to the general rules!
In North Carolina, one can get married at the age of 18, without parental consent. Minors who are 16 and 17-years old must have the consent of their parents to marry. Minor who are 14 and 15-years old cannot get legally married without a court order. Most frequently, the couple will apply for a Marriage License at the Register of Deeds Office. Marriage ceremonies must be conducted in the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate; or in accordance with the laws where the marriage ceremony is to be performed. Marrying kin closer than a first cousin, a minor/incompetent (except as otherwise stated), or anyone who is already married is prohibited. Once legally married, either spouse may change his/her name to be consistent with that of his/her spouse.
You must be separated for at least one year and one day, before filing an action to get divorced in North Carolina. Living separately means living under “two separate roofs”. North Carolina is a “no fault” state, which means you do not have to prove grounds (other than separation period), in order to get a divorce.
One spouse may need to pay spousal support to the other spouse, after separation, based on many factors, including but not limited to the ages of the spouses, years of marriage, earning capacity of each party, value of the estates of each spouse, and marital misconduct (drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical/emotional abuse, and infidelity/adultery). If the parties can’t agree on terms of spousal support, a court will need to decide whether to award alimony, as well as the amount and duration.
Child Custody and Support
Child care and support laws apply to all biological and adoptive parents (regardless if that parent is on the child’s birth certificate). The law is clear that both parents are responsible for providing basic needs to their children. These laws ensure that both parties contribute towards the child’s well-being, and the Court always has the ability to modify court orders regarding custody and support, until the child is at least 18 years old. Custody is determined on a case-by-case basis, and the law does not favor either parent. Rulings are based on the best interests of the child, not a parent. Child support is generally calculated based on each parent’s gross income, custodial schedule, who pays the health insurance premiums and/or other extraordinary needs of the child.
North Carolina is an “equitable distribution” state, and divides all marital property (property acquired during the marriage and prior to the date of separation) in an equitable manner. “Equitable” does not always mean “equal”. The Court will consider many factors, when deciding what is equitable, including, but not limited to the value of separate property owned by a spouse (and whether the other spouse contributed to the value), who will have primary custody of the children, the health of the parities, the earning capacity of each party, and the length of the marriage.
Both parents have a right to raise their child(ren); however, an unwed father must prove paternity before he can have an enforceable right to custody/visitation. If the father executes an “Affidavit of Parentage” for child support purposes, he may rescind the acknowledgment within 60 days of signing, without a court order. After 60 days, in order to rescind, he must show that he executed it as a result of fraud, duress, mutual mistake, or excusable neglect, or that DNA test results show he is not the father. The biological father may file to legitimate the child at any time, and any interested party can file to establish paternity of the child prior to the child’s 18th birthday.
Termination of Parental Rights
In the case of child neglect, abuse or dependency, the legal custodian of the child may seek to have the parental rights of a parent terminated. Parents cannot voluntarily terminate their own parental rights, unless they do so as part of an Adoption proceeding. Once a parent has had his/her parental rights terminated, he/she no longer has any further obligations regarding the child (except overdue child support). An adoption ends the legal relationship between the parent and the child, and is nearly impossible to reverse. The child’s best interests are the primary considerations in cases of termination of parental rights.
Don’t guess at what you think the law is. Know BEFORE you act. We’ve helped hundreds of families and individuals, just like you and very different from you, over the past two decades. Let us help you. You’ll be glad you did.