PRACTICE AREAS

Your Caring Family Law Attorney In Charlotte, NC

As you may know, getting divorced under North Carolina law is mostly a formality. You cannot file for absolute divorce (official dissolution of marriage) unless you have been separated for one year.

If you have a claim for alimony or division of property, it is imperative that the claim be resolved prior to the granting of the absolute divorce. Failing to file a claim before that date could quite probably result in forfeiting your rights to marital assets or financial support.

Long before the official divorce, you will need a well-crafted separation agreement to address important issues regarding your children, the family residence, your joint assets and your financial security. If you and your spouse cannot agree on terms, it may be necessary for a judge to rule on custody, property or financial support.

A consultation from our family law attorney at the Law Office of M. Timothy Porterfield in Charlotte, NC can help if you are considering divorce in Mecklenburg County or Cabarrus or Lincoln counties. I am an experienced divorce lawyer who will help you make good decisions and protect your rights. I have represented men and women in complex, high-asset and high-conflict divorce cases.

Technically, divorce is non-contested in North Carolina. A petition for absolute divorce terminates the legal bonds of marriage — even if the other spouse does not want to get divorced — if you have met the requirements of living apart for one year.

My role as a "divorce lawyer" actually refers to negotiations or contested proceedings that typically take place many months or a year before you are officially divorced, which include:
  • Division of marital property
  • Child custody disputes
  • Litigation of alimony/spousal support
  • Disputed levels of child support
  • Domestic violence protective orders
My philosophy is that a mutually acceptable separation agreement is preferable to litigation, because it limits the legal fees, the bad feelings and the harmful impact on children. However, if litigation is unavoidable, I am an experienced trial lawyer who will be thoroughly prepared to vigorously assert your interests in court.

Child Custody

Adult and child holding hands t represent what a family law attorney in Charlotte, NC can do
Worried about what will happen with your children in divorce? A lot depends on you and the other parent. Can you come to agreement about primary custody and the details of co-parenting? Or will a judge to decide who gets the kids and when?

The Law Office of M. Timothy Porterfield in Charlotte represents mothers and fathers in negotiation and litigation of child custody matters. I am an experienced trial lawyer practicing in divorce and family law in Mecklenburg County, as well as Cabarrus and Lincoln counties. As a family law attorney, my goal is to protect your relationship with your child through a solution that serves your child's best interests.

At the time of separation, if the parties cannot agree on where the children will be living, the Judge may in his or her discretion grant a Temporary Parenting Hearing. A Temporary Parenting Hearing is a brief hearing to determine the temporary custodial arrangement. It is usually entered without prejudice to either party, and it is not automatic that the Judge will follow the custody arrangement of the Temporary Parenting Hearing in the Permanent Custody Trial. Nonetheless, this is a very important hearing.

North Carolina has abolished the "tender years presumption" which tended to place young children with the mother. As of present, mothers and fathers are considered equal in the eyes of the Court. If you are seeking custody of your children, I will give you my honest assessment of how I believe the Judge is likely to rule and what the cost and expense may be. However, no attorney can guarantee results and there is always a certain amount of risk with proceeding with litigation.

Judges are mandated to consider what is in the best interest of the minor child in deciding which parent is awarded primary custody and what visitation the child is to receive with the other parent. No case is the same and there are no set automatic visitation and/or custody awards given. However, as a general rule, Courts like to see both parents involved in the life of the child.

Once a custody Order is entered it is never permanent. While the child is a minor you can always attempt to modify the custodial arrangement by showing a material change of circumstances. Once again, the Judges are required to look at the best interest of the minor children and will modify a custodial arrangement if there have been substantive changes that require it.

The court can impose a visitation schedule, but remember that you will have to live by this arrangement for years to come. The best solution is a parenting agreement that you and the co-parent have worked out together. I can help you negotiate and formalize the details to arrive at a practical plan that makes sense for the parents and the children.

I also handle post-divorce modifications of custody, and I am a licensed parent coordinator in Mecklenburg County, appointed by the court to help resolve high-conflict parenting disputes.

Alimony

Contracts prepared by a family law attorney in Charlotte, NC
Post-separation spousal support can be hotly contested, especially when divorcing spouses are already fighting over property or custody of children. Extra-marital affairs during the marriage or new dating partners after separation only add fuel to the fire.

At the Law Office of M. Timothy Porterfield, we try to give clients a realistic and strategic perspective on spousal support — whether it applies and how it fits into the bigger picture of asset division and life after divorce.

I have negotiated alimony payments in separation agreements, and I have litigated high-stakes alimony disputes in court. I will pursue your goals and fight for your interests.

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is money paid by one spouse to the other to equalize income and lifestyle after the parties separate. It can be temporary (post-separation support) or permanent (until death or remarriage).

The primary factors the court considers in awarding alimony include:
  • Income disparity — A high earner and a stay-at-home or lesser-earning spouse
  • Employability issues — Age, disability, education, job skills
  • Length of marriage
  • Adultery by either spouse (prior to separation)
Every case is different. As an experienced family law attorney, I can give you my honest estimate of the amount and duration of alimony (if any), based on the facts of your case, the county, the judge and other factors. If you decide to negotiate alimony, it is a useful bargaining chip in the property settlement. If you decide to litigate, I can help you argue for or against alimony.

Equitable Distribution

Couple needing a Family Law Consultation in Charlotte, NC
If you have been married for any length of time, you and your spouse may have amassed significant wealth. If you are ending your marriage, you soon realize your assets, debts and finances are intertwined and that the math of going your separate ways is complicated.

The Law Office of M. Timothy Porterfield in Charlotte represents women or men in division of marital property, through contested court proceedings or negotiation of separation agreements. I am a skilled trial attorney who has practiced in divorce and family law in Mecklenburg County since 1995.

North Carolina law calls for an equitable split of marital property, but that does not automatically mean that you will get what you believe to be your fair share or a reasonable settlement. My role as your lawyer is to determine what counts as jointly held property, to get accurate values of assets and to help you identify your goals and your foreseeable financial needs.

If you are on amicable terms, the best solution is a mutually acceptable marital property settlement, as part of a formal separation agreement that addresses:
  • The marital home (stay and refinance, or put it up for sale?)
  • Retirement assets
  • Closely held businesses or professional practices
  • Jointly held debts (loans, credit cards)
  • Cars, jewelry, furniture
  • Custody of pets
  • Alimony (spousal support)
Sometimes it is necessary to have the court rule on a particular issue, such as the value of a pension or market value of a house. I regularly handle high-asset contested divorces in which we may bring in accountants and actuaries to support our client's position.

Sometimes full-fledged litigation is unavoidable. I try to steer clients away from going to court over pictures and plates and other property of sentimental value. My philosophy is to help clients focus on the truly important assets to protect their long-term financial interests and to choose legal battles carefully to avoid unnecessary legal fees.
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