Family Law

FAMILY LAW

Moore Law Group’s Family Law Section focuses its practice on issues arising from traditional and non-traditional domestic relations, including but not limited to marriage, domestic partnerships, civil unions, and dating relationships. Family Law cases are often highly charged and stressful. Jillian Mack, Esq. embodies the tenacious compassion needed to guide and advocate during the upheaval of the breakdown and dissolution of domestic relationships.

Moore Law Group can assist you in a myriad of different domestic issues. We are who you need if you or someone you know needs legal advice or representation regarding Family Law issues. Below are some of the more common areas in which Moore Law Group represents clients.  If you do not see your particular issue on this list, call us to inquire.

  • Appeals
  • Alimony
  • Annulments
  • Breach of Contract
  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Cohabitation Agreements
  • Domestic Violence
  • Equitable Distribution
  • Ex Parte Complaints and Motions
  • Guardianship
  • No-Contact Orders
  • Paternity
  • Pre-Nuptial Agreements
  • Post-Nuptial Agreements
  • Post-Separation Support
  • Power of Attorney
  • Restraining Orders
  • Spousal Support
  • Termination of Parental Rights
  • Third-Party Custody
  • Visitation
  • Wills

North Carolina statutes and case law determine most domestic matters.  Moore Law Group is versed in the relevant law and refers back to the law for guidance often. There are some uniform laws adopted by all states, like the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Sometimes, international agreements like The Hague Convention come into play.

The attorneys at Moore Law Group appreciate that other areas of law can impact family law cases, especially financial issues.  Moore Law Group has built a roster of respected professionals in many areas to assist in a case when necessary and at the behest of the client. Moore Law Group having these professional relationships, is part of the firm’s holistic approach to addressing family law cases.

Moore Law Group attorneys have the skills and experience to support your needs during every phase of the legal process. Moore Law Group understands that most family law cases will resolve before trial. Notwithstanding the same, Moore Law Group has steady experience in trials as well as post-judgment matters.  We are comfortable in and around a courtroom advocating with preparation and skill that cannot be taught.  We work diligently to investigate the facts and circumstances presented by each case. If a trial is unavoidable, the attorneys at Moore Law Group fight for our clients in a courtroom to get the results the client desires.

No matter the size or scope of the case, Moore Law Group is who you need when searching for a family law attorney.

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution (Arbitration, Mediation, and Separation Agreements)

 In addition to substantive knowledge of the law, an outstanding family law attorney also listens, examines, advises, counsels, negotiates, strategizes, advocates, and, when necessary, litigates. Moore Law Group explores alternative dispute resolutions, including negotiation, outside of court agreements, mediation, and arbitration. We recognize that defusing conflict is often preferable and that settlements out-of-court help clients master their own destiny. Moore Law Group can help decide what alternative dispute resolution may work for you.

Appeals

It is imperative you retain an appellate attorney who knows the rules to be followed and the deadlines to be met and can also make resourceful and inventive legal arguments to advocate on your behalf post-judgment. For appeals, Moore Law Group meticulously pours through legal precedent and the trial court’s records to argue for the outcome sought.  If a Notice to Appeal is not filed within the requisite time frame, the right to appeal is waived, so it is essential to find an appellate attorney quickly if considering an appeal of an order. Moore Law Group prioritizes a candid assessment of the appeal throughout the process so the client can make informed decisions.

Child Custody

Biological parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially.  While there are some exceptions, most of the time, a biological parent’s support obligation ends when the child turns 18 unless:

    • The child is still in primary or secondary school, then child support stops when the child graduates or otherwise ceases to attend school regularly, fails to make adequate progress towards graduation, or reaches the age of 20, whichever comes first;
    • Parental rights are terminated; or
    • The child is otherwise emancipated.

Unless it is a high-income case, child support payments are formulaic and calculated based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.  The Guidelines are updated about every three years.  While you can deviate in some circumstances, child support payments are calculated using the parties’ income, the child(ren)’s health insurance premiums, work-related childcare expenses, and qualifying extraordinary expenses. There are several child support worksheets depending on the number of custodial overnights exercised by the parents.

The Child Support Guidelines themselves are intricate with many opportunities to advocate for increases or decreases in the monthly support amount. High-income cases are “outside” of the Guidelines, which drastically increases the need for knowledge and advocacy. Moore Law Group is skilled at utilizing the factors that impact child support to our clients’ benefit in negotiations as well as arguments in court proceedings if negotiations fail to reach an agreement.


Child Custody

The statutes for child custody in North Carolina provide for rights and privileges for both biological parents, and sometimes for third parties.  Custody statutes are intentionally broad because every family is different. Judges use a body of case law to guide custody decisions in court cases.  Anyone facing a potential custody issue should seek a firm, like Moore Law Group, who thrives in our advocacy because we are well versed in representing all sides of custody negotiations and litigation.

Determining custody involves both legal and physical custody.  Legal custody determines involvement in the decisions made for the general welfare, health, education, and religion of the minor child. Physical custody determines where the child will spend their time from day to day.

Moore Law Group can advocate for either parent, whether it be the father or mother. Third parties can seek custody of a child when specific facts exist.  Third-party custody in North Carolina comes with a high burden as biological parents have a paramount constitutional right to parent their children and that legal presumption must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. We advise, negotiate, and fight for the custodial time desired by the client.

While North Carolina statutes grant grandparents visitation rights, certain facts must exist for the grandparents to be included as a party in a custody action.  Grandparents may seek custody of their grandchild, but the standard for a grandparent to seek custody is to meet the criteria for third-party custody.

 Guardianship

 If a person in North Carolina cannot manage their own affairs, a petition for guardianship may be appropriate.  There is guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate (financial matters); While different people may be appointed as guardian of the person and of the estate it can also be the same person.  Guardianship creates a legal relationship between the guardian and the person who lacks the capacity to make decisions regarding their affairs.  The scope of guardianship depends on the needs of the specific case. Moore Law Group can help you decide whether guardianship or another alternative, like a power of attorney, is most appropriate for your situation.

 Modification

“Change is the only constant in life”- Heraclitus. There may come a time after your initial separation or divorce, where updating a prior order or agreement becomes necessary. There are a plethora of factors that can trigger a modification of a former agreement or court order. For example, incomes can increase with a promotion or decrease with a lay-off, there may be down-turn in a business, parents may move further away making a custody schedule no longer feasible, the needs of the children change as they mature, and sometimes emergencies arise.

Support awards, both spousal support and child support, can be modified depending on the circumstances. A substantial change in income for either party may give rise to a shift from the current order. For child support, the passage of time alone can lend to a modification.

There are legal standards to meet when requesting a change to an order or agreement. Moore Law Group is fully equipped to advise and argue for or against modifications in negotiations or in a courtroom.

 Paternity & Legitimation

Paternity and legitimation are procedural processes that can often be determined by submitting to a blood test. Paternity does not have the same legal effect of legitimation. Moore Law Group can help you and your family navigate this area of law to address your needs.

Legitimation describes the legal acknowledgment of the biological relationship between Father and child when the child is born out of wedlock. A child born out of wedlock is “automatically” legitimated when the child’s biological parents marry any time after birth. The parent-child relationship enjoys all the rights, privileges, and obligations of a child were born during a marriage once a child is legitimated, t. A legitimated child is entitled to inheritance rights and benefits. A child born out of wedlock that is not legitimated will not inherit from the father’s estate, collect insurance payments, nor receive any other type of benefits if the father dies without a will.

Paternity is a process typically used to determine and establish, by law, the biological father.  In North Carolina, the law presumes that a child born to a married mother is a child of the marriage, meaning the law presumes the mother’s husband is the child’s biological father; paternity needs to be established to rebut that presumption.

Marriage and Divorce

Prenuptial (Antenuptial) & Postnuptial Agreements

Moore Law Group knows the questions to ask and the small things to consider if you are interested in entering a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. In addition to statutes, Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements are governed by contract law.  To be enforceable, the contracts must be appropriately drafted with painstaking foresight and attention to detail.  When writing these contracts, our goal is to make sure that the agreement is legally binding and enforceable on the parties, the way the client intended at signing, in the event of separation or divorce. A well-drafted pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement can drastically reduce stress in the event of a separation or divorce.

A pre-nuptial (prenup), or antenuptial agreement is executed before the couple gets married and is effective upon marriage. A prenup can provide for the financial and property rights and setting rights and obligations for each party should they separate and divorce, which can be attractive to partners with significant assets or financial resources. It may prove helpful to plan how assets are to be split if the parties separate before they are at the point of separation, where emotions often run high.   Sometimes, separate assets can obtain a marital component or even be “gifted” to the marriage.

Postnuptial agreements are contracts made between spouses during the marriage. Postnuptial agreements can be made when separation is not in sight or can be for space with a goal of reconciliation. It is helpful if assets have already been planned for, making the long and expensive process of litigating a divorce not nearly as much of a concern.

Protective Orders (Domestic Violence, No-Contact Orders & Restraining Orders)

Moore Law Group’s experience in prosecuting and defending various types of protective orders helps us in each client that retains the firm.  When dealing with family matters, sometimes emotions flare, occasionally nasty things are said, and in some situations, someone is threatened, assaulted, monitored, or harassed. Some Statutes, like Chapter 50B, deal with domestic and familial violence while others, like Chapter 50C, provide for protection from people who do not meet domestic relationship requirements.  Rule 65 Orders restrain a defendant from taking actions that are likely to cause irreparable harm to the plaintiff.

Some laws allow for an emergency order, also called an ex parte order, entered for a short period before the defendant is served and has an opportunity to appear and give the court their side.  The plaintiff must meet the standard for an emergency order, and the return hearing is usually set within ten days of an ex parte order being issued.

If there is an imminent threat of violence, please call local law enforcement as your immediate safety is the most crucial concern.

If a protective order is something that you are considering or defending, Moore Law Group can help.

 Spousal Support (Post Separation Support and Alimony)

post separation support and alimony comprise spousal support. Spousal support is the financial support the supporting spouse owes the dependent spouse.  Moore Law Group has broad experience advocating for clients in the prosecution or defense of spousal support claims.

While post-separation support can generally be thought of as “temporary alimony,” the legal standards between the two are different. Divorcing spouses need an advocate knowledgeable of the nuances in spousal support law.  Like most aspects of divorce, both post-separation support and alimony are decided on a case-by-case basis.  Unlike child support, there is no set formula for determining the appropriate amount of support. Still, the law provides several factors, listed below to help determine the amount and duration of the spousal support award.

Post Separation Support Consideration ((N.C. Gen. Stat §50-16.2A)

    • The standard of living
    • the present employment and reoccurring income of each party from any source
    • the parties’ income-earning abilities
    • The separate and marital debt service obligations
    • Expenses reasonably necessary to support each of the parties
    • Each party’s respective legal obligations to support any other person(s)

Alimony Factors (N.C. Gen. Stat §50-16.3A)

  • The marital misconduct of either of the spouses. Nothing herein shall prevent a court from considering incidents of post date-of-separation marital misconduct as corroborating evidence supporting other evidence that marital misconduct occurred during the marriage and prior to date of separation;
  • The relative earnings and earning capacities of the spouses;
  • The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;
  • The amount and sources of earned and unearned income of both spouses, including, but not limited to, earnings, dividends, and benefits such as medical, retirement, insurance, social security, or others;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse;
  • The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;
  • standard of living of the spouses established during the marriage;
  • The relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs;
  • The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses and the relative debt service requirements of the spouses, including legal obligations of support;
  • The property brought to the marriage by either spouse;
  • The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  • The relative needs of the spouses;
  • The federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  • other factor relating to the economic circumstances of the parties that the court finds to be just and proper.
  • The fact that income received by either party was previously considered by the court in determining the value of a marital or divisible asset in an equitable distribution of the parties’ marital or divisible property.

Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution (Property Division)

North Carolina is an Equitable Distribution, or “equal division,” state with statutes that establish how the court may distribute the marital estate when spouses separate. Equitable Distribution presumes but does not necessarily mean an equal division of the marital estate is equitable.  Broadly, the marital estate is both parties’ debts and assets. Unlike other states, the title of the property does not control whether the asset or debt will be classified as marital, separate, or divisible property.

You should feel confident that your legal counsel knows the options available within the law and the professional community to search for and find all marital assets.  Moore Law Group advocates for each client, utilizing the facts and circumstances presented during the divorce process and applying the law with an eye for advocacy. We have the skill and experience to uncover the entire marital estate.

There are twelve (12) factors, listed below, that can be considered when determining an equitable division of marital assets and debts.

  • The income, property, and liabilities of each party at the time the division of property is to become effective.
  • Any obligation for support arising out of a prior marriage.
  • duration of the marriage and the age and physical and mental health of both parties.
  • The need of a parent with custody of a child or children of the marriage to occupy or own the marital residence and to use or own its household effects.
  • The expectation of pension, retirement, or other deferred compensation rights that are not marital property.
  • Any equitable claim to, interest in, or direct or indirect contribution made to the acquisition of such marital property by the party not having title, including joint efforts or expenditures and contributions and services, or lack thereof, as a spouse, parent, wage earner or homemaker.
  • Any direct or indirect contribution made by one spouse to help educate or develop the career potential of the other spouse.
  • Any direct contribution to an increase in value of separate property which occurs during the course of the marriage.
  • The liquid or nonliquid character of all marital property and divisible property.
  • The difficulty of evaluating any component asset or any interest in a business, corporation or profession, and the economic desirability of retaining such asset or interest, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.
  • The tax consequences to each party, including those federal and State tax consequences that would have been incurred if the marital and divisible property had been sold or liquidated on the date of valuation. The trial court may, however, in its discretion, consider whether or when such tax consequences are reasonably likely to occur in determining the equitable value deemed appropriate for this factor.
  • Acts of either party to maintain, preserve, develop, or expand; or to waste, neglect, devalue or convert the marital property or divisible property, or both, during the period after separation of the parties and before the time of distribution.
  • In the event of the death of either party prior to the entry of any order for the distribution of property made pursuant to this subsection:
      • Property passing to the surviving spouse by will or through intestacy due to the death of a spouse.
      • Property held as tenants by the entirety or as joint tenants with rights of survivorship passing to the surviving spouse due to the death of a spouse.
      • Property passing to the surviving spouse from life insurance, individual retirement accounts, pension or profit-sharing plans, any private or governmental retirement plan or annuity of which the decedent controlled the designation of beneficiary (excluding any benefits under the federal social security system), or any other retirement accounts or contracts, due to the death of a spouse.
      • The surviving spouse’s right to claim an “elective share” pursuant to G.S. 30-3.1 through G.S. 30-33, unless otherwise waived.
    • Any other factor which the court finds to be just and proper.

Post-Judgment Matters

Occasionally, further legal advice or action is necessary once an Order is entered, and the pending matter is “closed.”  Orders and agreements may need enforcement or modification.  Moore Law Group is versed in modifying child support, spousal support, and child custody by agreement, as well as in an adversarial court proceeding. Although the initial proceedings may be complete, Moore Law Group can advise and represent our client zealously throughout the prosecution of, or defense against, any post-judgment matter. We can assist you with an appeal and/or other post-judgment requests like contempt, breach of contract, and/or modification of an Order. Sometimes, the court’s jurisdiction lasts decades, and Moore Law Group is here to help at any stage in your case.

Power of Attorney

 There are several types of Power of Attorney documents: a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, and a Limited Power of Attorney. The client controls who makes decisions on their behalf and the circumstances that trigger said authority, like incapacitation or a medical emergency.  A Power of Attorney can accomplish your present and future plans for your affairs. A Power of Attorney could be an alternative option if you want to avoid a court process like guardianship. Moore Law Group can help you decide what documents are right for you

Protective Orders

Contempt/Orders to Show Cause

When a court enters an order, it must be followed as long as it remains in full force and effect. Abiding by an order can sometimes be tricky, and there are things parties should consider in prosecuting or defending contempt proceedings.  A party may be found in civil or criminal contempt of an order.   There are several consequences the judge can impose when a party is found to be in contempt.  Potential consequences include but are not limited to, the offending party paying any backed support owed (arrears), abiding by purge conditions for a period, paying the other party’s attorney fees, and even active jail time.  Moore Law Group is who you need to fight for the outcome you desire in contempt proceedings.

Cohabitation Agreements

When two people live together, a contract is sometimes needed to clearly provide for the rights, obligations, and expectations of the cohabitating parties. Family Law statutes draw a sharp line between married and unmarried parties. The laws in North Carolina do not provide for parties who cohabitate but are not married. Cohabitation Agreements can cover just about anything if a couple wants to address rights and responsibilities without “tying the knot.” If you cohabitate and subsequently separate without an agreement, even after decades, your legal options may be limited.  Moore Law Group knows the right questions to ask and the right things to consider if you are interested in entering a cohabitation agreement.