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Frequently Asked Questions

Whether a couple is choosing to end their marriage, adopt a child, or dealing with other family law issues, it is not uncommon for those involved to have a wide range of questions about their legal rights and options. At Marshall & Taylor PLLC, we understand how important the answers to these questions may be for those in Raleigh dealing with divorce, adoption, domestic violence, and other issues. In an effort to help you get the answers you need in these situations, we have put together the following list of frequently asked questions and answers for a wide range of different family law issues.

Call (919) 833-1040 today to speak with a lawyer if you would like to discuss your situation more in-depth or cannot find the answer for which you are looking.

How Long Does the Adoption Process Take?

The adoption process varies for everyone. Typically, the placement time takes 12 months for domestic adoptions. The placement time of an adoption refers to the time between when an adoption agency completes the home study and the actual placement of the child. This time varies depending on numerous factors put in place to ensure that the child is going to a good home. To get a better idea of your particular timeframe, talk with an attorney today.

What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?

When a court grants custody to a parent, there are two types of custody to which the court could be referring. A parent that has legal custody of a child makes decisions about the child’s upbringing, regarding factors such as education, religion, and medical treatment. A parent or guardian with legal custody has the right to provide input into the child’s life. However, guardians with legal custody do not necessarily have physical custody. The child lives with the parent or guardian that has physical custody. If you are seeking physical or legal custody, a lawyer can help you fight for your parental rights.

What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is a court mandated protection for those who are being harassed, stalked, or continually bothered by someone. The terms of a restraining order can vary, but generally stipulate that the person whom the restraining order was filed against may not call, email, or communicate with in any other way the person who filed the restraining order. In addition, the abuser must stay a certain distance away from the person should they have to be in the same place. To file a restraining order, you may wish to seek the guidance of a lawyer who can help you through the process.

Are there any alternatives to contested or uncontested divorce?

Yes! There are several options that you could consider as alternatives to a more traditional uncontested or contested divorce. There is mediated divorce, collaborative divorce, and simplified divorce. The first two options involve third-party entities that negotiate terms with you and your spouse, but tend to be less hostile than other negotiations. Simplified divorce allows you to skip the court system and finalize your settlement much faster than other forms of divorce (this is usually used when parties are in total agreement about terms).

Can child support payments ever change?

Yes, child support payments are subject to change, depending on the circumstances of the parents and other parties involved. For instance, if the needs of a child increase, then payments might see a related increase, or if the income of the receiving spouse is suddenly reduced or cut off, increased payments are also possible. On the other hand, if the receiving spouse gets a higher income, then child support payments might actually decrease. You can talk with an attorney from Marshall & Taylor PLLC, about how your own payments might change over time.

Why did my alimony payment change?

If your alimony payment recently changed, it could be for a number of reasons. For one thing, if you are paying alimony and your income increased, then your alimony payment may also increase as a result. On the other hand, if you are the spouse receiving alimony and you remarry, then your alimony payment might go down or stop entirely. Because the details of alimony can be difficult to grasp, it’s important to be open with your legal representative about your concerns regarding this issue, and talk with him or her to ensure you completely understand how alimony may be subject to change.

What is the difference between physical and legal custody?

Child custody is one of the most contentious issues in many divorces, and different types of custody arrangements can be pursued to meet the needs of parents and children alike. Physical custody gives a parent the right to keep their child with them in their home, either permanently or temporarily, in cases of joint custody. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make decisions about important issues in the life of their child, ranging from religious upbringing to decisions about medical issues that the child may have to deal with.

What can I do if my spouse refuses to pay child support?

When a couple divorces and reaches a divorce settlement that includes a provision for child support, it is a legal requirement that the parent who is supposed to be paying the child support actually pays what they owe. However, many parents try to avoid their responsibility when it comes to child support payments, often by simply refusing to pay. In these circumstances, legal action may be taken by the custodial parent to get the support payments they need and deserve, which may involve garnishing the other parent’s wages or a number of other possible steps.

How can an attorney help me during divorce?

Technically speaking, individuals pursuing a divorce are not required to be represented by an attorney or other legal professional. However, from a practical standpoint, the representation of a qualified attorney during divorce proceedings can make an enormous difference for an individual’s future. Because a range of different issues may be settled during divorce proceedings, from child custody to spousal support, having an attorney on your side who is well-versed in divorce and family law in North Carolina can prove extremely valuable for ensuring that your rights and interests get the protection they need.

How long does a divorce take?

There is a wide range of different factors that can play a role in determining how long it will take to successfully complete the process of divorce. The type of divorce that a couple seeks to pursue, whether it is contested or uncontested, for instance, can have a substantial impact on how long it takes for the divorce to be finalized. Additionally, the degree to which both partners agree or disagree on different elements of the divorce, from child custody to division of property, can also substantially impact how long the divorce process may take.

What can I do if I can no longer afford my child and/or spousal support payments?

In a divorce, it is common for one spouse to be directed to make payments to the other spouse for child support, as well as for alimony payments to be required. However, over time, the financial circumstances of the spouse making the payments may change, and they may no longer be able to afford what they once could. In these cases, a qualified attorney may be able to help the individual pursue child support or alimony modifications in order to help them to afford their payments.

What is a mediated divorce?

In a mediated divorce a couple will come to a consensus about most aspects of their divorce agreement together. They will then utilize a neutral, court-appointed mediator to help negotiate all remaining issues that have not been agreed upon. Mediated divorces are advantageous because they are commonly less expensive and time consuming, in addition to being more amicable than other forms of divorce. Though a lawyer is not necessary to pursue a mediated divorce, experienced legal advice may be critical to the confidence of each individual that their claims were accurately and firmly arranged prior to mediation.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a process by which couples will meet with each other in the presence of their own independent lawyers in order to address each and every aspect of their divorce agreement. These divorces are typically less expensive than other forms of divorce, including mediated divorces, and often substantially less time consuming. Since there often is no litigation involved in collaborative divorces, this process can be considerably more amicable. Because of the reduced conflict and trauma compared to a court process, this form of divorce can be particularly beneficial for families with young children.

What is division of debt?

Just as all assets and property will be divided during a divorce, so too will any debt that the couple held. While most debts that a couple held will likely be divided equally between the two, there are some debts that may be assigned to one individual over another. Debts that were incurred before marriage, for example, will likely be the responsibility of the person who accrued them. However, even debt that was incurred during the course of the marriage may be divided in some cases according to the earned income of each individual.

Is it possible to adopt my step-child?

You may be able to adopt your step-child if you meet the following conditions: your spouse must have legal and physical custody of the child and your spouse and the child must have lived with you for the past six months. If the child’s other biological parent is still alive and still has legal rights to your step-child, however, you will need to obtain his or her consent in order to gain the legal rights to the child. If the other biological parent consents to giving you the legal rights, then you may legally adopt your step-child.

Why is divorce arbitration useful?

As a substantially more cost-effective and quicker form of divorce, arbitration can spare a divorcing couple the more protracted and contentious processes of a litigated divorce. As such, arbitration can offer a more amicable way to dissolve a marriage, oftentimes resulting in a friendlier relationship after the divorce. Additionally, should a divorcing couple have concerns regarding the privacy of their divorce; divorce arbitration can provide a more private way to dissolve their marriage.

How much will our divorce cost?

As outlined by the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct, there are a number of factors that will determine an attorney’s fees. Throughout the various stages of a divorce, an attorney’s fees will be based upon the following: the amount of time and labor required to pursue the divorce, the degree of complexity and difficulty of your circumstances, the achieved result of your case, the County in which you divorce took place, and any other extraordinary circumstances that prevented your attorney from representing other clients. As such, it is necessary to discuss your situation with an attorney in order to obtain an accurate estimate of how much you divorce may cost.

What should I ask a divorce attorney that I’m thinking about hiring?

Finding a divorce attorney who will not only represent your case but suit you well is important, and it all starts by inquiring about just the right things. Smart questions to ask a potential divorce attorney might include the following:

  • How many divorces have you handled? Were any similar to mine? Were the outcomes positive?
  • What kinds of fees should I expect from your services?
  • What exactly do you need from me in terms of being a client?
  • How will I stay in touch with you throughout the divorce process?

All of these questions can give you a sense of how an attorney operates during a case, and may make it easier to determine which attorney is right for you.

Is divorce the right step for me to take?

Every relationship is unique, and only you can determine if this step is “right” for your situation. However, if you have gotten to a place where you are no longer happy, your marriage seems beyond salvageable, and you want to move on, then consulting a divorce attorney could be a smart move. Remember, over 50% of marriages end in divorce nowadays, so you don’t have to feel singled out in your decision.

If my ex got remarried, do I have to pay alimony?

Usually not. When an ex-spouse who is receiving alimony payments remarries, usually courts will mandate that those alimony payments are no longer necessary. Because your individual situation could be different, though, it is important to talk with an experienced attorney about your legal options to ensure that your rights are not violated and that you are protected legally.

How long does a restraining order last?

The length of a restraining order varies depending on the type of action filed in court. If you believe that you are in immediate danger, the court may file a temporary restraining order within 24 hours without notifying the defendant. After that initial filing, there will be a hearing to determine whether a longer restraining order is needed. The hearing must happen within 15 days of the filing date. At the hearing, the court will determine whether a longer restraining order is necessary. Typically, restraining orders last for one year and require an official motion from you in order to extend the order past a year.

What is an open adoption?

There are many options that come along with the adoption process. One option that is becoming increasingly popular is an open adoption. An open adoption allows the adoptive parents and the child to stay in contact with the birth mother. This provides both parties with several benefits that are not available with a traditional adoption, including ongoing health information from the birth mother that could be relevant to the adopted child. In some cases, the birth mother can write letters to the child and may even have visiting rights. In a traditional adoption, birth mothers are rarely, if ever, allowed to contact the family once the adoption is complete. If you are interested in learning more about different adoption options, contact an adoption lawyer who can guide you through the process.

How is a lawyer helpful during the adoption process?

Essentially, adoption is a legal process by which a child becomes the legal responsibility of their non-biological parents. Due to the nature of this process, there can be an overwhelming amount of legal documents that the parents-to-be will need to understand and agree to. While you are preparing your home for your new child, handling all of these legal documents can be stressful. An adoption lawyer can read the documents for you, help you understand your legal rights, and ensure that no mistakes that could delay the adoption are made.