“Britny’s Law” went into effect on December 1, 2017, enhancing the penalties for domestic violence in North Carolina, according to an article by WRAL.
Three years ago, Britny Puryear was stuck in a vicious relationship. At that time, Britny lived with her boyfriend in Fuqua-Varina, North Carolina. Over the course of four years, their relationship became increasingly abusive. The relationship ended after a violent argument in 2014, when the boyfriend shot and killed Britny in their home.
The boyfriend was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty in court and received a 32-year jail term. The boyfriend is currently serving his sentence.
Britny’s parents were not satisfied with this outcome. They felt that first-degree murder should apply, given the abusive history of the relationship. Outside of certain exceptions under the felony murder rule, first-degree murder requires premeditation. Stated otherwise, the killer must plan out the murder ahead of time. Generally speaking, that is a difficult standard to prove in cases of domestic violence like Britny’s, where an argument sparked violence.
To continue the fight, Britny’s parents contacted the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV). The NCCADV is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and supporting victims.
Working alongside the NCCADV, Britny’s parents were able to find a Minnesota law that classified domestic violence killings as first-degree murder. So the NCCADV used the Minnesota law as a foundation to create similar legislation in North Carolina.
The initial form of Britny’s law would have made it much easier to apply first-degree murder whenever there was evidence of repeated past abuse. As the bill worked through the North Carolina legislature, however, there were some changes. In its final form, Britny’s law requires a previous conviction for domestic violence in order for first-degree murder to apply.
Overall, Britny’s law clears the path to first-degree murder for future domestic violence killings. If the killer has a previous conviction for domestic violence involving the victim, that qualifies as premeditation. In such circumstances, the resulting charge will likely be first-degree murder, not second-degree murder.
While Britny’s parents are happy to see changes to the domestic violence laws in North Carolina, they plan to continue fighting in their daughter’s honor. They would like to see the initial form of Britny’s law resurrected and signed into law, allowing any past evidence of abuse to escalate a domestic violence killing to first-degree murder.
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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) publishes a report each year detailing the number of marriages and divorces. The topic for exploration today is an analysis of DHHS data on the number of North Carolina marriages and divorces over the past five years.
It is crucial to note that 2017 is not yet available. As a result, the five-year period for analysis will be 2011 to 2016. The following sections will offer a statistical breakdown of DHHS data for the statewide resident population, total divorces, divorce rate, total marriages and marriage rate.
North Carolina Resident Population
In terms of resident population of North Carolina, the DHHS reported the following data.
- 2011: 9,651,025
- 2012: 9,747,021
- 2013: 9,845,432
- 2014: 9,940,387
- 2015: 10,042,802
- 2016: 10,146,788
Over the selected five-year period, the resident population of North Carolina increased by 495,763. The data indicates a lack of significant deviation during this time period. Overall, the resident population in North Carolina rose steadily and consistently from 2011 to 2016.
North Carolina Divorces and Divorce Rate
In terms of total divorces in North Carolina, the DHHS reported the following data.
- 2011: 36,044
- 2012: 36,346
- 2013: 34,218
- 2014: 33,797
- 2015: 30,816
- 2016: 32,960
In terms of the divorce rate in North Carolina, DHHS reported the following data.
- 2011: 3.7
- 2012: 3.7
- 2013: 3.5
- 2014: 3.4
- 2015: 3.1
- 2016: 3.2
Over the selected five-year period, total divorces decreased by 3,084 and divorce rate fell by 0.5 percent. There was a relatively large drop in both total divorces and divorce rate in 2015. Overall, total divorces and divorce rate decreased incrementally from 2011 to 2016.
North Carolina Marriages and Marriage Rate
In terms of total marriages in North Carolina, the DHHS reported the following data.
- 2011: 64,789
- 2012: 64,814
- 2013: 64,504
- 2014: 68,801
- 2015: 70,125
- 2016: 70,699
In terms of marriage rate in North Carolina, the DHHS reported the following data.
- 2011: 6.7
- 2012: 6.6
- 2013: 6.6
- 2014: 6.9
- 2015: 7.0
- 2016: 7.0
Over the selected five-year period, total marriages increased by 5,910 and marriage rate rose by 0.3 percent. From 2011 to 2012, both total marriages and marriage rate remained mostly constant. After a relatively sharp increase in 2014, the numbers seem to have leveled off again. Overall, total marriages and marriage rate increased incrementally from 2011 to 2016.
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A new North Carolina measure called Rylan’s Law will increase oversight in child custody cases, according to an article by The News & Observer.
Rylan’s Law came into existence to address existing inefficiencies in the state child custody system. Specifically, lawmakers point to the notorious story of a young boy named Rylan. This boy drowned in a pool in April 2016, only weeks before his second birthday.
Before his death, domestic violence concerns forced Rylan and his sister into foster care in October 2015. But several months later, a judge ruled to return the Ryland and his sister to their mother in December 2015. This happened despite the mother’s pending case for child abuse. Approximately four months later, Rylan was dead.
To help prevent this type of disaster from reoccurring, North Carolina lawmakers designed Rylan’s Law. The law will require additional monitoring and oversight in the determination of child custody cases. Specifically, social workers must witness several interactions between the children and parents before making a child custody recommendation.
Considering the nature of this news development, it feels like a great time to review North Carolina laws concerning child support.
Best Interests of the Child in North Carolina
North Carolina laws place a premium on the best interests of the child. This is the single most important factor in any determination of child custody in North Carolina. Essentially, the courts will try to determine that custody arrangement will provide the best environment for the child or children.
In determining the best interests of the child or children, the courts will consider safety, domestic violence, income and other relevant factors. It is important to note that the parents or children can request specific custody arrangements. But the courts are not required to grant such requests. The courts are only responsible for safeguarding the best interests of the children involved.
Variations of Child Custody in North Carolina
There are two major types of child custody in North Carolina – sole custody and joint custody. We will discuss the specific characteristics of each type of custody below.
Sole custody in North Carolina refers to a situation where one parent has complete responsibility for the children. The other parent does not have any power over or rights concerning the children.
Joint custody in North Carolina refers to a situation where both parents share responsibility for their children. While it does not have to be an even split, both parents share decision-making power and custody.
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Whether you are dealing with child custody, divorce or other facets of family law, it is generally prudent to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney. The attorneys at Powers Landreth PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, feature more than 20 years of combined legal experience. Contact us today for assistance.
Today we will review a handful of key considerations for child custody situations that arise in North Carolina. Child custody is often the most challenging part of a divorce, with both parents fighting for custody of their children. In order to maintain focus on the children, North Carolina’s statutory approach places a premium value on the best interests of the children.
How Does North Carolina Determine Child Custody?
The most important factor in the determination of child custody in North Carolina is the best interest of the children involved. In determining best interest, the court attempts to examine multiple angles of the child’s domestic reality. As a result, the working and living situations of the parents come into play. The presence or threat of domestic violence is also an important consideration.
It should be noted that the parents can decide child custody outside of the courts. If the parents are able to come to a mutually acceptable agreement concerning child custody, then the matter is settled. Though if the court determines that the agreement is not in the best interests of the children, they can intervene.
Do North Carolina Laws Favor the Mother over the Father in Child Custody?
In short, no, North Carolina does not favor the mother’s rights over the father’s rights to child custody. Both parents have equal rights to custody. The courts will apply the best interests of the child standard to determine the proper custody arrangement.
Do Children Have the Ability to Influence the Custody Arrangement?
Unlike other states, North Carolina does not impose an age limit on children voicing an opinion on custody preferences. The court has discretion to hear testimony from children concerning their preferred custody arrangement. Though even if the court does hear such testimony, there is no requirement to abide by the child’s preferences.
Are Child Custody Arrangements Permanent in North Carolina?
Child custody arrangements are not permanent in North Carolina. There is a specific process in place for modifying child custody arrangements. Parents must demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. It does not matter if the change in circumstances is positive or negative. But the change in circumstances must have a direct impact on the children involved.
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There can be numerous challenges in any matter concerning child custody, divorce or other aspects of family law. To overcome these challenges, it can be useful to seek counsel from a skilled family law attorney. The Charlotte legal team at Powers Landreth PLLC is prepared to assist you today.Learn More
A crowd gathered in Graham, North Carolina, on to remember 77 victims who died as a result of domestic violence in the state in the past year, according to an article by The Times-News.
A joint effort organized by the Family Justice Center and Family Abuse Services, attendees assembled in front of the Alamance County War Memorial. With a crowd bearing candles to the light the night, the name of every one of the 77 domestic violence victims rang out into the darkness.
Part of the motivation for organizing this event centers on raising awareness of the growing domestic violence epidemic across Alamance County.
What is the Definition of Domestic Violence in North Carolina?
The legislature outlined the state-specific approach to domestic violence in Section 50B-1 of the North Carolina General Statutes. There are two major elements to the crime of domestic violence – personal relationships and types of conduct.
What is the Definition of Personal Relationship in North Carolina?
One element of the North Carolina definition of domestic violence concerns personal relationships. There are six different types of personal relationships outlined under Section 50B-1.
In order to qualify as a personal relationship, the people must be:
- Married or previously married;
- A male and female who currently live or previously lived together;
- In a parent-child or grandparent-grandchild relationship;
- Parents to the same child;
- Current or previous household members; or
- A male and female who are currently or were previously in a dating relationship.
What Conduct Qualifies as Domestic Violence in North Carolina?
The other element of the North Carolina definition of domestic violence concerns certain conduct. In cases where the perpetrator and victim have a personal relationship, it is domestic violence if the perpetrator:
- Inflicts harm or injury or attempts to inflict harm or injury;
- Threatens or harasses to the point of severe emotional distress; or
- Commits a sex crime, including rape.
Section 50B-1 does offer a specific exception concerning self-defense. If a person is in reasonable danger of injury or death, then they are allowed to defend themselves. In such circumstances of reasonable self-defense, it is not considered domestic violence.
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Whether you are facing domestic violence, divorce or other aspects of family law, it is important to have professional help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Powers Landreth PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for assistance with your case.Learn More
After a federal appeals court ruling, a North Carolina law that enables magistrates to refrain from performing same sex marriages will continue in full force, according to an article by The Charlotte Observer.
Introduced as Senate Bill 2 by State Senator Phil Berger, the law in question allows magistrates and other officials to decline to perform a lawful marriage based on religious objections. Senate Bill 2 arrived in the North Carolina legislature in 2015, in response to a 2014 federal court decision.
That 2014 decision essentially legalized same sex marriage legal in North Carolina. Moreover, any magistrate who refused to perform a lawful wedding could be subject to discipline. Several months later, Berger introduced Senate Bill 2. Former Governor Pat McCrory vetoed the initial bill. But the legislature overcame that veto and passed Senate Bill 2 on June 11, 2015.
Approximately two weeks later, the United States Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, rendering same sex marriage a fundamental, constitutional right across the United States. But Senate Bill 2 lives on in North Carolina, creating a potential conflict between state law and federal rights.
In an effort to combat Senate Bill 2, three different couples banded together to file a challenge in federal court. The couples argued that their taxes should not help facilitate this type of law. At the time of filing, approximately five percent of North Carolina magistrates were refusing to perform same sex marriages on religious grounds. Of particular note, every single magistrate in McDowell County was refraining from performing same sex marriages due to religious objections.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, heard the case. After considering the arguments and evidence, the Fourth Circuit determined that the couples lacked standing to bring a challenge. The court noted that none of the couples had their marriage licenses rejected. Without suffering harm – such as denial of marriage due to a magistrate’s religious objection – the couples are not allowed to challenge the law merely as taxpayers. As a result, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the case.
At this point, the couples will need to decide whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Until then, Senate Bill 2 will continue on in full force as the law of the land in North Carolina.
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If need legal help concerning same sex marriage, child custody or other facets of family law, you do not have to tackle every obstacle alone. You can turn to a proficient family law attorney at Powers Landreth PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina to help you navigate toward an effective resolution. Reach out to us today for help.
Our topic for discussion today involves the North Carolina approach to equitable distribution. In simple terms, equitable distribution refers to process of the court dividing up marital property between the spouses during divorce proceedings. It is important to note that equitable distribution only occurs when the spouses cannot agree amongst themselves to a fair distribution of their property.
How Does North Carolina Define Equitable Distribution?
In Section 50-20 of the North Carolina General Statutes, we can find the state-specific definition for equitable distribution. Essentially, North Carolina allows either party to a divorce to ask the court to determine a fair division of spousal property. At that point, the court will examine both the marital property of the spouses. Then the court will determine a fair division of that property between the spouses. For reasons we will discuss below, the court will not divide the separate property of the spouses.
How Does North Carolina Define Marital Property?
Section 50-20 also provides the state-specific definition for marital property. Essentially, North Carolina defines marital property as all of the real and personal property acquired by either spouse during their marriage. It is generally understood that anything acquired after marriage and before separation or divorce shall be considered marital property.
Examples of marital property include pension, retirement and other deferred compensation, whether vested or unvested. The same applies to military compensation rights under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, whether vested or unvested.
How Does North Carolina Define Separate Property?
Section 50-20 also outlines an exception to the marital property rule concerning separate property. Essentially, separate property refers to real and personal property acquired before marriage. Separate property also refers to professional or business licenses that are not transferable.
Separate property can also include property acquired during marriage by either spouse directly, such as through a will or gift. But this exception requires specific language indicating that the property is intended for one spouse only and should not be considered marital property.
Whether you are dealing with equitable distribution, divorce or other aspects of family law, there are innumerable considerations to take into account. In such situations, it can be extremely helpful to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to ensure that you take an appropriate course of action. The legal professionals at Powers Landreth PLLC in North Carolina are eager to assist you today.
Today we will explore the North Carolina approach to collaborative divorce. Established in 2003 via amendment to the North Carolina General Statutes, this legal process leverages alternative dispute resolution to help spouses complete the divorce process as quickly and efficiently as possible.
How Does North Carolina Define Collaborative Divorce?
In Chapter 50, Article 4 of the North Carolina General Statutes, we can find the state-specific definition for collaborative divorce, which is referred to legally as collaborative law.
Under Article 4, collaborative law is a legal procedure that allows a husband and wife to resolve divorce and other marital disputes without involving the courts. Instead of going through lengthy court proceedings, the spouses work together to find a mutually acceptable solution to their problems.
Throughout this process, the spouses will have to account for the standard issues in any divorce. They will have to agree upon the proper division of their property, distributing ownership as they see fit. If the spouses have children together, they will work together to determine the custody arrangements. In certain cases, they will also agree upon the presence and amount of child support, alimony and other support payments.
What are the Requirements for Collaborative Divorce?
As outlined in Article 4, the husband and wife must agree in writing as to the parameters of their collaborative divorce. To be effective, the husband, wife and their lawyers must all sign the writing. The written agreement must outline all relevant understandings concerning the collaborative divorce, such as property division, child custody and support payments.
There is an additional detail to account for with collaborative divorce agreements. If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement through the collaborative divorce process, the attorneys must withdraw from the case. Those same attorneys are not allowed to represent the spouses in future divorce proceedings.
Are Collaborative Divorce Proceedings Confidential?
Article 4 provides that collaborative divorce proceedings are confidential and privileged. This means that all statements, communications and work product related to the collaborative divorce would be inadmissible in future divorce proceedings. This applies to statements, communications and work product from the spouses, attorneys and third-party experts.
Do You Have Questions for a Skilled Family Law Attorney?
Whether you are dealing with collaborative divorce or other aspects of family law, it is vital to tread carefully. Fortunately, an experienced family law attorney can analyze your situation and help you work toward a positive outcome. Located in Charlotte, North Carolina, Powers Landreth PLLC is prepared to assist you with your family law case. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for professional assistance.
Advocates against domestic violence organized a march in Charlotte on September 28th, according to an article by FOX 46 Charlotte.
Featuring domestic violence victims, members of the community and law enforcement officials in their ranks, the advocates marched along North Tryon Street. They displayed a number of signs with messages such as “verbal abuse is domestic abuse” and “men, step up and prevent dv.”
A domestic violence counselor for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) highlighted the importance of establishing a support network for victims. The counselor also underlined the CMPD dedication to domestic violence issues, with six detectives and four counselors available to victims. The counselor also highlighted the partnership between the CMPD and the Charlotte branch of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council.
In light of this new development, we will review North Carolina laws concerning domestic violence in the following sections.
How Does North Carolina Define Domestic Violence?
In Section 50B-1 of the North Carolina General Statutes, we can find the state-specific definition of domestic violence.
The first requirement of domestic violence involves a personal relationship. We will discuss the parameters of personal relationships below. But for now, we must note that domestic violence can only apply if the parties have a personal relationship.
The second requirement of domestic violence in North Carolina involves the commission of certain crimes. It is domestic violence if the perpetrator:
- Causes or attempts to cause bodily injury;
- Inflicts substantial emotional distress by placing the aggrieved party in fear of imminent serious bodily injury or continued harassment; or
- Commits rape or other sex offenses.
There is an important exception to Section 50B-1 concerning self-defense. It is not illegal for individuals to defend themselves in a reasonable manner.
How Does North Carolina Define Personal Relationship?
Section 50B-1 also provides us with North Carolina’s definition of personal relationship. As domestic violence only applies in cases where there is a personal relationship, this is an important concept to grasp.
Section 50B-1 outlines a number of categories that qualify as a personal relationship. People who are currently or were previously married spouses. People of the opposite sex who lived together or have previously dated also qualify. People who are engaged in a parent-child relationship – including grandparents and guardians – qualify as well. And another example is current or former household members, even if no dating relationship exists.
Do You Have Questions for an Experienced Family Law Attorney?
Whether you are dealing with domestic violence, divorce or other aspects of family law, it is paramount to take a cautious approach. After all, the legal issues at play concern you and your family, making it difficult to balance personal interests against family needs. Thankfully an experienced family law attorney at the North Carolina office of Powers Landreth PLLC can help you plan the road to recovery with carefully implemented strategy. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for help.
Today we will explore the North Carolina approach to child custody and child support. Before we delve into specifics, there is an overarching consideration we need to consider first. North Carolina places a high importance on the best interests of the child. In any determination of child custody or support, the court will examine what circumstances will yield the best outcome for the children involved.
What are the Different Types of Child Custody in North Carolina?
There are three major types of child custody in North Carolina.
First, we will discuss sole custody. In this situation, one parent has sole decision-making power on behalf of the child or children. The other parent does not have any rights concerning the child or children.
Second, we will discuss joint legal custody and joint custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents share decision-making power on behalf of the child or children. Though joint legal custody does not necessarily involve shared physical custody. Joint custody means the parents share equally in decision-making power and physical custody of the child or children.
Third, we will discuss primary custody. In this situation, the parents share decision-making power on behalf of the child or children. But the breakdown of physical custody is less even. One parent has physical custody during the week; the other parent has physical custody on the weekends.
Having covered the basics of child custody, we can move on and explore the North Carolina approach to child support.
How Does North Carolina Determine Child Support?
The North Carolina Court System provides a number of worksheets to help calculate child support. Interested parties are encouraged to review applicable worksheets to gain a better understanding of the factors involved.
In most cases in North Carolina, there are four primary factors involved in the calculation of child support:
- Gross monthly income of one parent;
- Gross monthly income of the other parent;
- Monthly health insurance allocation of children; and
- Childcare costs related to work.
It is important to note that if the parents make less than $300,000 combined annually, then child support will be determined by the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.
Is Child Support Permanent in North Carolina?
No, child support is not permanent in North Carolina. The limit on child support is generally the child’s 18th birthday or high graduation. Though there are extremely rare circumstances in which child support may extend beyond the child’s 18th birthday or high graduation.
It is important to note that the amount of child support can also change over time. If there is a substantial change in circumstances for either parent, then the courts may increase or decrease child support contributions.
Do You Have Questions for a Skilled Family Law Attorney?
Whether you are dealing with child custody or support, divorce or other aspects of family law, it is prudent to be cautious. There is a need to balance your personal interests against the needs of your family. Even the smallest issue can lead to disastrous consequences. That is why it is crucial to consult with a skilled family law attorney to design a strategic and balanced approach. Otherwise, you may not put yourself in the best possible position for a successful outcome.
Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Powers Landreth PLLC has 20 years of combined legal experience. If you have questions about child custody or support, divorce or other aspects of family law, please feel free to contact us at your earliest convenience.