Our Services

Family Law

What is Included in a Family Law Practice?

Typical family law issues include divorce, separation agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, child custody, child support, adoption, guardianship, annulments, termination of parental rights, spousal support, which includes post-separation support and alimony, equitable distribution and restraining orders. Because the family law court process in North Carolina and across the United States can be overwhelming at such a stressful time, it is extremely beneficial to consult an experienced North Carolina family law attorney who knows how to navigate the legal system. Below is an expanded explanation of some of the more common family law issues and how a family lawyer can help with these difficult decisions:

  • North Carolina Divorce: In order to file for divorce in the state of North Carolina, the plaintiff or defendant in the divorce 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. Divorce from bed and board is a judicial separation, wherein the Judge orders one spouse to leave the martial 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, or committing adultery.
  • North Carolina Division of Assets: In the state of North Carolina, assets are split during a divorce according 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. 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.
  • North Carolina Custody Issues: As with most states, North Carolina courts use the best interest of the child test in determining child custody. 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. Parents usually attend court ordered mediation prior to litigating their case in court. There are temporary custody hearings, permanent custody hearings, and motions to modify custody in which one party must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances affecting the best interest and welfare of their child since the entry of the last order.
  • North Carolina Child Support: The purpose of child support is to put the children in the same position as if the parties were still married and living together. For parents earning $250,000 a year or less, the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines are typically used to determine the amount of child support that must be paid. The guidelines take daycare expenses and health insurance expenses into account when determining how much money should be paid, as well as the amount of time the children reside with the non-custodial parent.
  • North Carolina Spousal Support: In the state of North Carolina, if one spouse can show they need assistance while attempting to become self-supporting, then spousal support, or alimony may be awarded. 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, whereas 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 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 and the contributions of either spouse to the other’s training, education or increased earning power.

If you are in the midst of any of the above family law issues it can be extremely beneficial to speak to an experienced North Carolina family law attorney. The attorneys at Cox Law Firm can assess your situation, determine the best way to proceed, and help guide you through this stressful process.

Elder Law

Elder Law involves helping aging adults or persons with disabilities who are, or could be facing health care issues in the future.

As you grow older, your health care needs as well as your financial needs change. Elder Law Attorneys work with you to develop a plan to meet those changing needs. This could include a plan to protect you from losing your home or life savings in the event you need significant long-term care in the future. Long-term care is a range of services and support you may need to meet your personal care. Long-term care may be provided by unpaid family members and friends, but the term is typically used when referring to services provided by a facility such as a nursing home. Often, planning involves creating a strategy to help people qualify for Medicaid to cover the expense of a nursing home while still being able to salvage financial resources and maintain financial independence. It is a tragedy to lose your financial resources and independence at a stage in life when you need it most.

Attorneys generally categorize elder law planning as crisis planning or proactive planning. In crisis planning, you or a loved one has an immediate need to receive long-term care. In proactive planning, you or a loved one may not have an immediate need for long-term care, but you or a loved one desires to plan in case an unforeseen circumstance arises in the future. Only a comprehensive estate plan can address your medical needs as you age and protect your nest egg. Elder Law attorneys also provide advice on how your assets should be managed in the event of your disability and how your assets should be distributed upon your death.

At Cox Law Firm, we will help you understand and deal with the following issues including:

  • Avoid or minimize losing your hard-earned financial resources on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Estate planning to provide you peace of mind knowing your wishes will be followed after your death
  • Navigating complex rules and laws surrounding Medicaid
  • Finding trusted care providers in North Carolina
  • Understanding the implications of difficult health care decisions
  • Long-term care insurance needs

Finding the right elder law attorney is important because many of the service providers (hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities) are not in a position to offer advice on your legal options.

While we cannot solve the problems that come with aging, we can assist with proper planning to create a smooth transition for you and your loved ones. Proper care and a plan to pay for that care are vitally important for adults of all ages. If you or a loved one need help with planning for these complex issues, please call us today.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is putting in place your plans to care for your loved ones when you are no longer here. Everyone needs basic estate planning whether it is a will and/or trust, health care power of attorney, living will and power of attorney. Even though everyone knows they need it, a lot of people put it off. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the consequences of not planning. Children and other heirs are left to sort out what you really wanted and many times end up fighting because each believes they are right. If you engage in proper planning, you leave no room for doubt. Not everyone needs to plan for tax purposes, but everyone needs to plan. It is important to consider planning in case of a disability as well. If you become incompetent or disabled, it will be more difficult for your caretakers to handle your affairs. It is about self-control. You can put plans in place now that can be implemented in the future in case of such a situation. It is never pleasant to consider your own death, disability or incompetency, but it is necessary. Engaging in this unpleasantness now will reduce if not relieve the burden on your family in the future. There are also financial considerations to take consider. Proper planning now will often reduce estate administration fees that can be costly. Asset protection is an important consideration in today’s world. Do not leave your assets exposed. You do not have to feel “rich” to engage in estate planning. We all need to engage in it whether what happens to my house or how do I distribute my retirement plan. Many of the people I meet with do not realize all the options they have to plan for their families. Most have a house, a life insurance policy and maybe some investments. There are a number of ways to protect the life insurance proceeds and still maintain some control over your family’s future.

Maybe you have reservations about your child or grandchild receiving your house, your insurance benefits and/or your retirement plan outright. Estate plans can be crafted to protect this young person from creditors, future ex-spouses and even from themselves. We make Estate Planning convenient and easy. You will know the fee up front and will be presented with options so that you can make an informed decision as to the type of planning you desire. We charge flat fees for all of our estate planning, and we do not engage in hourly billing to craft your plan. Stop putting off this important decision.

Local Government Law

North Carolina Towns, Cities and Counties are municipal corporations and organized under the laws of the State of North Carolina. Most towns in North Carolina operate under a Council/Manager form of government, whereby the Council appoints a manager to serve as its chief administrator. The Town Councils or Board of Commissioners hold monthly or bi-monthly meetings whereby the Mayor presides and the elected officials conduct the town’s business. Like any other business, there are a myriad of legal issues towns and counties can face, including open meetings laws, public records, public contracting, land development regulations, drafting ordinances, employment issues, code enforcement, and tax collection, just to name a few. Cox Law Firm has a wealth of experience and knowledge in dealing with municipal and county issues. Attorney Melanie D. Cox currently represents the Town of Stallings, Town of Wingate, and represents Anson County in tax foreclosure matters.

Personal Injury & 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.

Civil Litigation

What exactly is Civil Litigation?

Of course no one wants to go to court for any reason, however many people, particularly those involved in a business of one sort or another, could well find themselves involved in a lawsuit. In a criminal case, a person violates the law, and charges are brought by the federal, state or local government.. In a civil case a person or entity claims another person or entity failed to properly carry out their legal duty. In a civil case, the only possible remedies are of a financial nature, or, in certain cases, an order to either do something or stop doing something.

The Progression of a Civil Case

A civil case is set in motion when the plaintiff's attorney files a complaint; once the complaint is filed, the defendant will also likely retain an attorney. The defendant or his/her attorney will answer the complaint, and specific timelines must be followed regarding filing of the answer. Should the defendant not answer the complaint within the allotted time, he or she may lose the right to defend the case. Following the answer to the complaint, discovery will take place. During discovery, both sides will seek information regarding the case from the other. This may be done through depositions, written interrogatories, and requests for production of documents. A large number of civil lawsuits settle prior to trial, but usually this occurs after extension discovery so that both parties understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

Types of Civil Litigation

There are many types of civil litigation including the following:

  • Personal Injury may be the type of civil litigation people are most familiar with and is generally based on the doctrine of negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care. In order to establish liability, the plaintiff must prove a reasonable person would have acted different under the same circumstances than the defendant acted. Automobile accidents, dog bites, dangerous or defective products and premises liability all fall under personal injury.
  • Wrongful Death cases are filed when a loved one dies due to another’s negligence. The survivors of the deceased may be able to bring a wrongful death suit, seeking compensation for losses such as future wages from the deceased, lost companionship and even funeral expenses. Wrongful death claims may result for a fatal car accident, a complex medical malpractice suit, murder, or a product liability case in which the person dies as a result of negligence.
  • Business Disputes occur relatively frequently. Business disputes can include contract disputes, breaches of contract, collections, enforcement of contracts, business fraud, construction related disputes, employment agreement disputes and breaches of fiduciary duty.
  • Condemnation/Eminent Domain is when the State, Federal, or local government takes your property or part of your property for a “public purpose.” The law requires that the government pays you “just compensation” for your property, but often the landowner and government may disagree on what just compensation is. An attorney can help you through this process with obtaining an appraisal, negotiations, and trial if necessary.
  • Estate Litigation occurs in a number of different scenarios from an heir challenging the legitimacy of a will to creditor seeking to recover assets of the estate to satisfy their claims. In North Carolina, spouses have certain statutory rights to receive a “spousal share” making it difficult for one spouse to disinherit the other spouse. If a spouse feels they did not receive their fair share under the will, then he or she should contact an attorney immediately to pursue their options as they have a limited time period to bring their claim.

Seeking Damages through Civil Litigation

When you have been injured because of another person or company's negligence, you have a legal right to seek compensation for those injuries. North Carolina laws specifies that injured parties have a right to both economic and non-economic damages, including:

  • Past medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Long-term care
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability or scaring
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of consortium

If you believe you have a civil litigation claim or have been sued, it can be extremely helpful to speak to a knowledgeable North Carolina civil litigation attorney who can assess your situation and provide you with options.