Law Overview

The dissolution of marriage is an unusually traumatic event.  Family law covers all aspects of marriage, divorce and child custody.  The emerging issues of family law, especially here in the Piedmont Triad, cover marriage, divorce, and child custody of same sex couples since North Carolina permits same sex marriage.

The information on this website is designed to address areas that may be of concern to you. It is not intended as legal advice for your particular case; do not let this information replace discussion and advice from one of our attorneys. Family law is complex; your case may have nuances that make some of the general statutes herein inapplicable. This is designed for basic information so we may be able to communicate with some common vocabulary. We hope it will remove some of the uncertainties you may have. You will have specific questions even after you have studied this information. Please ask those questions and keep asking them until you understand the answers.

There are four basic legal causes of action to grow out of the dissolution of a marriage when there are children. Furthermore, there are three causes of action in a marriage without children. For purposes of this discussion, these actions are classified as follows:

1. Child Custody and Support

2. Spousal Support

3. Division of Property

4. Divorce

With the exception of obtaining the actual absolute divorce, the resolution of these issues can be achieved either by agreement or through litigation. Furthermore, mediation and/or arbitration may facilitate agreement in some cases. To obtain the absolute divorce, a simple court hearing is necessary. If other litigation is involved, each cause of action can be maintained in a separate lawsuit; however, one or more of these actions are usually combined in one lawsuit with separate claims for relief for each cause of action. As an example, in a family made up of a husband, a wife, and at least one minor child, one lawsuit might address (1) child custody and child support, (2) postseparation support and permanent Alimony and (3) interim possession of the marital home and property division (equitable distribution).

Now we have the emerging issues of same sex marriages and the issues related thereto.  It is contemplated at this time, that in North Carolina generally the family law statutes of Chapter 50 will apply to same sex couples.  There are places that the statutes seem to create ambiguities as this area of the law has developed rather rapidly as law changes go.  Some of the biggest areas of concern are in issues related to children, particularly if one partner to the same sex marriage is an actual biological parent and one is not.  Those custody issues need to be worked through very carefully in same sex marriages to insure that the intent of the relationship and the relationship with precious children continues, even if there is a same sex divorce.  Presumably, same sex marriage partners in North Carolina will have no trouble adopting. However, you need to be alert when surrogacy or similar issues make one of the partners a biological parent and the other not a biological parent.  Good luck in exploring these emerging issues of family law and child custody.  We are happy to set up an initial consultation to discuss your concerns.