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Divorce

There are few events in one’s life more challenging than divorce. Worries about children, money and an uncertain future can be overwhelming. Emotions cloud decisions. If you are embroiled in a divorce or are considering separation, know that laws are in place to protect you and your children.

Contact the Cox Law Firm in Waxhaw, NC for experienced help. Our divorce lawyers are here to guide you through each step with care and foresight. We will do everything in our power to create workable resolutions to what might otherwise be a lengthy, troublesome and costly battle over finances, children and property.

How does one go about getting a divorce in NC?

North Carolina Is a No-fault Divorce State

In a divorce action, one spouse (the plaintiff) sues the other spouse (defendant) for a divorce. To file for divorce in the state of North Carolina, the plaintiff or defendant in the case must have resided in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing. If the couple currently resides in separate NC counties, the divorce can be filed in either county.

A couple may file for a no-fault divorce if they have lived separate and apart for a period of at least one year. Because NC is a no-fault divorce state, neither spouse needs to claim fault of the other spouse that caused the breakdown of marriage.

Divorce from Bed & Board

Divorce from bed and board is a judicial separation, wherein the Judge orders one spouse to leave the marital residence. It may only be filed on the following grounds:

  • abandonment
  • maliciously causing the other spouse to be turned out of the marital home
  • endangering the life of a spouse
  • becoming an excessive user of drugs or alcohol
  • making the life of the other spouse intolerable
  • committing adultery

Can we settle our issues prior to obtaining the Divorce?

Spouses often resolve their marital claims prior to the divorce being granted. Divorcing spouses should enter into a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement although it is not necessary to obtain a divorce. If you obtain a divorce without entering into a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement or prior to bringing a court action asserting your claims, then you waive your ability to assert marital claims as to property division and alimony and separation support.

Our divorce lawyers are experienced in handling settlement negotiations and will ensure that your rights are fully protected. A settlement is a far better alternative to litigation. Besides saving money, time and stress, through effective negotiations spouses are able to retain control of their decisions, keeping it out of the hands of a judge.

  • If you are faced with a divorce, an experienced trial attorney can ensure your rights and interests are well protected. Contested cases are decided by the courts. Like any lawsuit, the process involves pleadings, discovery, motions, hearings, mediation and potentially a trial. Learn More About Us

The family law attorneys at the Cox Law Firm will not hesitate to try a case if needed. However, if a settlement can be reached we will do everything in our power to do so, when it is in our client’s best interest. Even if litigation has begun, settlement discussion should never be off the table.

Choose an Experienced Divorce Lawyer to Represent You in Union County

Get in touch with the Cox Law Firm today if you need attorneys who will protect you from the onset of the divorce to the conclusion, whether in negotiations or in front of a judge. We handle all North Carolina family law matters, and are prepared to answer your questions and serve as your trusted advocates. Please contact us at 704-243-9693 or visit our Contact Page here

Child Custody

Child custody can become an emotionally charged issue in divorce. Our custody lawyers represent clients efficiently through any conflicts that involve the custody of their children.

The Cox Law Firm will handle your case with sensitivity and respect. We understand that nothing is as important to you as your children, and we will fight hard to protect them and your relationship with them.

Who Decides on Child Custody in North Carolina?

Both parents may agree on custody arrangements. In cases where father and mother do agree, the terms of custody are recorded in a written agreement, or in a Consent Order filed with the Court.

If both parents cannot agree on child custody, the judge will make a decision in a court hearing.

Until a final settlement agreement is reached, or a judge makes a ruling on the custody case, both parents have equal rights to the physical possession of each child of the marriage.

Legal custody in NC may be awarded as sole custody, or joint custody:

  • Sole custody: One parent has absolute authority to make decisions for the child, and has primary physical custody of the child. The custodial parent does not need the other parent’s consent on matters affecting the child.
  • Joint custody: Both parents share the decision making power, and both parents share in physical custody of the children (which may not always turn out to be equally shared physical custody.) This is the most common form of custody arrangement. Successful joint custody is dependent upon both parents striving to communicate and cooperate in parenting efforts for the benefit of the kids.

Visitation rights in North Carolina custody cases apply when one parent is granted primary custody. Unless a history of abuse or neglect exists, the non-custodial parent has the right to visitation with the child or children. Visitation arrangements can be very structured to highly flexible.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

North Carolina courts use the best interest of the child test in determining child custody. A judge will stress the importance of children sustaining a healthy relationship with both parents, unless a risk of harm to the child is present.

Relevant factors which have to do with the child will be taken into consideration, including the parent’s day to day involvement with the child, the stability of both parents, the child’s current living arrangement and relationship with each parent, the parent’s ability to co-parent, and which parent is more able to provide a secure, safe environment for the child.

There is no maternal preference in North Carolina; mothers cannot be favored over fathers in custody evaluation. The only question is what is best for the child.

Disputes over Custody of Children

Custody should focus on the children and what is best for them. Many NC child custody cases are based on voluntary agreement by both parents.

Yet due to the inherent complexity and emotional nature, these cases may derail into a custody battle between parents.

Our custody lawyers have experience handling difficult cases. We will work intently to resolve your issues and reach compromise to settle custody issues outside of the courtroom, while fully protecting the rights and interests of you and your children.

Parents usually attend court ordered mediation prior to litigating their case in court. There are temporary custody hearings and permanent custody hearings. Temporary hearings will generally provide for custody arrangements for the child’s welfare until a permanent hearing and permanent child custody orders can occur.

The use of the courts to resolve custody disputes should be a last resort, and when all other avenues fail. The Cox Law Firm can help. We will evaluate your case, advise you about what is meaningful to a judge and what is not, and present a compelling case that demonstrates to the court that is it in your child’s best interests to grant you custody.

We Can Help You Modify Child Custody Arrangements

Custody and parenting time (also called “visitation”) are subject to change. We can help you file a motion to modify custody, in which you must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances affecting the best interest and welfare of your child since the entry of the last order. The court will make a judgment whether the custody modification serves the child’s best interests.

Contact the Waxhaw Child Custody Lawyers at Cox Law Firm

North Carolina child custody laws are vast and complex. When you are facing custody issues, you need to know that you will be able to protect your rights to be with your children. You want to provide your child with the best possible chance to have the stability and structure that lead to a successful life.

At Cox Law Firm, we share your concerns about the impact that divorce will have on your children. Our family law attorneys are here to protect your rights regarding custody, parenting time, child support and any other matters.

Contact us to schedule a consultation today at 704-243-9693 or visit our Contact Page here.

Child Support

Whether you are paying child support, or entitled to receive it, the issue is one of great important to your family’s financial future.

The purpose of child support is to put the children in the same position as if the parties were still married and living together. In North Carolina, both parents have a legal obligation to support and meet the reasonable financial needs and maintenance of their minor children.

When both parents are able to agree on a sum, that payment amount can be a binding part of the separation agreement. However, when both parents cannot agree, either parent may petition the court to set the amount of support that will be required.

North Carolina Child Support Guidelines

For parents earning $300,000 a year or less (or below $25,000 per month), the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines are typically used to determine the amount of support that must be paid. The guidelines follow a formula when determining how much money should be paid. Daycare expenses and health insurance expenses are taken into account, as well as the amount of time the children reside with the non-custodial parent.

Determining Child Support in NC

The amount of support varies depending on the child’s needs, the child custody arrangement and the parties' income and expenses.

The Guidelines require the use of one of three child support worksheets (A, B or C) that best describe the custody arrangement. Support generally falls under the following three scenarios for child custody:

  1. Primary Custody: When one parent has primary, physical custody of all children receiving child support (Worksheet A)
  2. Joint/Shared Custody: When both parents share custody of all children receiving support – or – when one parent has primary physical custody of one or more of the children and the parents share custody of another child (Worksheet B)
  3. Split Custody: When primary, physical custody of two or more children is split between both parents (Worksheet C)

Factors considered with each above scenario to establish the amount of support include

  • gross monthly income
  • pre-existing child support obligations / responsibility for other children
  • work-related child care costs
  • health insurance and health care costs

You may have a child or children with special needs or have extraordinary circumstances as a parent or parents. We can help you file a motion to deviate from the guideline range to meet your financial obligation.

When Do the Child Support Guidelines Not Apply?

If you and your ex-spouse’s income together is above $25,000 per month, or $300,000 per year, the guidelines do not apply. In the case of combined high incomes, the court will factor in “estates, earnings, conditions, accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties, the child care and homemaker contributions of each party, and other facts of the particular case” to determine the proper support amount.

Can I Modify Child Support?

Sometimes circumstances affecting a child’s needs or the paying parent’s ability to pay change substantially, after the original support order was made.

  • The paying parent or the recipient parent may recalculate the support amount every three years. If the recalculation amounts to a 15 percent difference in support payment amounts, the court will likely adjust your child support to the new amount.
  • If you have an uncontrolled, significant change in circumstances − such as job loss or other involuntary loss of earning ability − you may request child support modification.

Call Us for More Information about Child Support in NC

The attorneys at Cox Law Firm will represent your case effectively to ensure that a fair and enforceable support amount is entered by the court.

We know how to work with the subtle complexities of North Carolina child support laws. We help in all matters of support modification and offer strong legal counsel in cases where enforcement becomes necessary.

If you have a situation or questions regarding child maintenance and support, please contact our Union County lawyers today at 704-243-9693 or visit our Contact Page here.

Property Division

Beyond issues involving children, the most complex part of many divorces is division of assets. When marital property and financial security is affected, a divorce lawyer experienced in property division is key to protecting your interests.

Our divorce lawyers will assist you through the entire process. We will identify marital assets and determine fair and true valuation of assets. If disputes arise, we work to negotiate an equitable property split outside of the courtroom.

Division of Assets by Equitable Distribution

In the state of North Carolina, assets are split during a divorce according to the rules of equitable distribution. While the presumption is that there should be an equal split of assets and debts that are marital property, there are a number of statutory factors that can justify an “unequal” division and distribution of assets. Depending on the circumstances, the court may find compelling reasons to award a larger share of assets or debts to one spouse.

It is important to remember that if your claim for equitable distribution has not been filed with the courts or resolved via a separation agreement prior to the Court granting your divorce, you will lose the right to later petition the court for equitable distribution.

What Items are Marital Property?

In North Carolina, the classification of property determines if the court has to power to divide it. Property must first be classified as either marital, divisible, or separate. North Carolina Courts have the authority to distribute only marital and divisible property. North Carolina General Statute §50-20(b)(1) defines marital property as all real and personal property acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the course of the marriage and before the date of separation of the parties, and presently owned.

These are the assets that you and your spouse will divide. Common examples of marital property are the home, vehicles, bank accounts, income, pensions, retirement accounts, jewelry, furniture or art.

DIVISIBLE PROPERTY

Divisible property is a category unique to North Carolina and involves the treatment of passive changes in value to marital and divisible property after the date of separation and before the date of distribution as well as property received after separation but as a result of the efforts during the marriage. An example of this would be a bonus or commission earned during the marriage but not received until after the separation.

What Property Cannot Be Divided in a Divorce?

Property and assets that are not “marital” assets are called separate property and are exempt from division.

Separate property generally refers to (1) any property you or your spouse owned prior to the marriage, (2) items received by one person during marriage that was intended for that person alone, such as an inherited item, or a gift, and (3) assets gained after separation with post-separation earnings.

Does the Court have to Be Involved in the Division of Assets?

No. If you and your spouse are able to agree on how to divide your marital assets, you may split up the property as you wish. Under NC divorce statutes, your decision must be recorded in a formal separation agreement.

If We Cannot Agree, How Will the Court Divide My Property?

In North Carolina, if you cannot amicably resolve how to divide the marital property, the court rules on the property division. This complex process can be boiled down into the following steps:

  • Identification: Investigate and asses all assets of both spouses, from real estate to personal possessions.
  • Classification: Categorize all property as marital or separate.
  • Valuation: Attach a fair market value to each marital asset
  • Distribution: Divide all marital property equitably between the parties.

The judge takes many factors into account to determine equitable division of assets, such as both spouses’ income, debt, property, age, health, expectation of pension, or other marital support obligations,. Also considered are fair market values; prenuptial or postnuptial agreements; duration of the marriage; tax consequences — and much more. Fault, such as marital misconduct, is not a factor in equitable distribution.

The above actions taken by the court to assess and divide marital property are the same actions that your attorney from the Cox Law Firm will take when assessing the division of assets in you case.

Contact our Equitable Distribution Attorneys

Our goal is to create swift and efficient resolution to the division of property and all other family law issues. We want our work to help you and your children transition to the next phase of your life as securely as possible.

We serve clients throughout Union County and Mecklenburg County to resolve property division matters including:

  • Division of family business
  • Division of real estate
  • High net worth divorces
  • Disputes concerning the division of property

If you need a lawyer for property division or other family law matter, please contact us at 704-243-9639 or visit our Contact Page here.

Alimony

Spousal support and Alimony in North Carolina is not a guarantee. Determining who will pay or receive alimony during and after divorce can be a highly contested part of the divorce process. The assistance of a competent attorney who can draw on many years of experience in this area of family law is vital to attaining your alimony goals.

Good divorce lawyers can help you resolve disputes and build a strong case for or against spousal support on the basis of factors exclusive to your family situation. The Cox Law Firm can help make a difference when alimony is being considered.

In the state of North Carolina, if one spouse can show he or she needs assistance while attempting to become self-supporting, then spousal support, or alimony may be awarded. The court must find one spouse to be a “dependent” spouse, and the other spouse to be the “supporting” spouse.

Whereas fault is not a factor in equitable distribution, martial misconduct can bar an award of alimony. Spousal support is intended to ensure both spouses maintain a lifestyle which is as close as possible to their marital lifestyle.

Post-separation support is a temporary financial support paid during the period of separation prior to divorce.

Alimony is paid by one spouse to another after the divorce is finalized.

In order to award alimony and to determine the amount, the judge will look at diverse factors and evidence, including:

  • the income of each spouse, their separate earning abilities and financial need
  • each spouse’s physical, emotional and mental condition
  • the presence of any marital misconduct
  • the length of the marriage
  • the ability of both spouses to become self-sufficient
  • the contributions of either spouse to the other’s training, education or increased earning power.

At the discretion of the court, alimony may be awarded for a specified or an unspecified period of time. If the period of time is indefinite, alimony will cease upon the death of either spouse, or if the dependent spouse remarries or cohabitates.

Will Spousal Support Be Part of Your NC Divorce?

Determining alimony is a complex area of family law. Whether you are seeking or opposing it, we can assist you. From negotiating terms of spousal support, to making modifications to a permanent alimony order, the Cox Law Firm is prepared to advocate assertively in your interests.

Contact our Union County lawyers today for an initial consultation regarding your case at 704-243-9693 or visit our Contact Page here.

Personal Injury and
Wrongful Death

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates more than 31 million injuries occur each year in the United States alone. Obviously not all those injuries will result in a personal injury claim; however, those that involve negligence may. More than half of all personal injury lawsuits are the result of an automobile accident, followed by medical malpractice injuries, product liability injuries and the very broad category of “other” injuries, which includes construction accidents.

There are many different types of personal injury claims, including the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Trucking accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Product liability cases
  • Slip and fall injuries
  • Dog bites

While legal procedures governing personal injury lawsuits are similar across the United States, North Carolina personal injury laws have some unique requirements. If the amount of damages being sought is less than $10,000, personal injury litigation may be filed in Small Claims Court. where the defendant resides. Lawsuits seeking damages between up to $25,000 are filed in District Court Division usually where the Plaintiff lives or the accident occurred, and those lawsuits seeking more than $25,000 in damages are filed in Superior Court.

North Carolina Statutes of Limitations

The amount of time plaintiffs are allowed in which to file a lawsuit is called the statutes of limitations. These statutes vary from state to state, as well as according to the type of lawsuit being filed. In North Carolina, plaintiffs have three years following the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, but an injured party should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine their particular statute of limitation that applies to his or her case.

North Carolina Contributory Negligence

North Carolina personal injury laws follow the rules of contributory negligence, meaning if the defendant is able to prove the plaintiff was responsible for the accident in any way, the plaintiff will not be able to collect damages. Personal injury lawsuits may request compensatory damages which are considered reimbursement for necessary and reasonable medical expenses and compensation for lost wages, both current and future. Non-economic damages such as emotional distress or pain and suffering are allowed under North Carolina law.

North Carolina Wrongful Death

Under North Carolina Statutes, section 28A-18-2, a wrongful death is defined as one caused by a “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” When a wrongful death occurs, a civil claim, seeking damages for the wrongful act may be filed. If the decedent had a will, the person named as executor will most likely be appointed by the court. If no will exists, family members may petition the court to be named representative of the estate. The person named by the court will represent the decedent’s lawful heirs in a wrongful death suit. A North Carolina wrongful death suit must be filed within two years of the death of the decedent in order to fall under the statutes of limitations.

The Complexities of a Personal Injury Case and How You Can Get the Help You Need

The vast majority of personal injury cases, both in North Carolina and across the nation, are resolved prior to trial via negotiated settlement, arbitration or mediation. Most people are unfamiliar with the legal system, the tactics of insurance adjustors, and may be unprepared for the level of paperwork required and the deadlines which must be met once a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit is filed. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to the negligence of another, it is likely you are doing your best to heal while carrying on your everyday tasks. Trying to deal with a personal injury lawsuit in addition with everything else can be overwhelming. Having an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney by your side can result in a more positive outcome for your future.