Distinctive Representation in Sophisticated Family Law Matters
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Turner v. Oakley, 2022-NCCOA-266.

Facts: The parties to the case had one child together and never married. In 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint for custody of the child. He was granted secondary custody, with Defendant having primary custody. In 2018, Plaintiff filed an emergency custody ex parte motion, and alleged that there had been a substantial change in circumstances that affected the child’s welfare since the entry of the 2013 order. The trial court granted the emergency custody motion and, at the end of the hearing on emergency custody, granted Plaintiff primary physical and legal custody. Defendant was granted supervised visitation. Defendant moved for a visitation schedule in 2019. Orders were entered that addressed a visitation schedule. Then, in 2019, Defendant responded to Plaintiff’s custody motion filed in 2018. In 2020, the trial court entered orders modifying the 2013 child custody order, granting primary custody to Defendant. Plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

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Hill v. Durrett, 2022-NCCOA-460.

Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant were married in a friend’s backyard in 2015, and just 14 months later the couple separated. The backyard ceremony was officiated by a Ms. Plante, who was a Reiki master known as Azera Moonhawk. Ms. Plante was Defendant’s friend and was a minister of the Universal Life Church but was not authorized to perform weddings. Plaintiff eventually filed a divorce and equitable distribution action. Plaintiff also sought to have the marriage annulled based on Ms. Plante’s insufficient ordination. Plaintiff did not survive the proceedings and died before they were concluded; his estate carried on with the annulment. Defendant was the one who arranged the entire backyard extravaganza. She was the one who was good friends with Plante/Moonhawk. She was the one who told Plaintiff that Plante was qualified to perform the ceremony. She was the one who confirmed with Plante whether she could perform the ceremony. The trial court annulled. Defendant appealed.

Issue: Was the Plaintiff (his estate) equitably estopped from seeking an annulment?

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Military Parents and Relocation

Part of being in the military is having very limited input as to where you are stationed. If you are a military parent who is not with your child’s other parent, this can mean moving far away from them. A move  like that can have a major impact on the custody of your children.

No matter where you are stationed, it is important to reach out to a civilian family law attorney when dealing with custody. Custody is civilian law, and your JAG corps will not be able to help you very much. Which court has jurisdiction over your child is usually based on where your child has lived for the past six months. If you have moved around often due to military service, it may be difficult to determine what court you should file in without the help of an experienced attorney. Continue reading →

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Hicks v. Hicks, 2022-NCCOA-139.

Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant attended a mediation to attempt to settle the Equitable Distribution and alimony parts of their case. In mediation, they reached a settlement and memorialized their terms in a consent order, entered in September of 2018. Among those terms, Defendant received a parcel of land with a requirement to refinance the loan to remove Plaintiff’s name and debt. Defendant also received another parcel of land, with a similar refinance provision. Finally, the consent order provided that Plaintiff shall pay a distributive award to Defendant for $87,500, on or before January 1, 2019. Defendant was having difficulty refinancing the loans on the parcels he received. Plaintiff’s counsel reached out the Defendant’s new counsel to discuss the issue of the loans, but then noticed that “Plaintiff” and “Defendant” on the distributive award provision were interchanged (the parties agreed that Plaintiff would be receiving the award). Plaintiff thus filed a Rule 60 motion on April 15, 2020, requesting that the court correct a clerical mistake under 60(a) or such other justifiable relief under 60(b)(6). Plaintiff and her attorney testified that it was the mutual agreement that Plaintiff receive the award, and Defendant pay it. The trial court granted relief under 60(b)(6) and amended the typo. Defendant appeals. Continue reading →

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Custody and Deployment

Being deployed or stationed somewhere that your child cannot follow is a major stressor for parents in the military. How will your child do without you? What will your life be like without them around? If you are not with your child’s other parent, you also have another concern – what will happen to your custody arrangement while you are gone? Will the other parent allow your family members to maintain their relationships with your child? In case there isn’t already a plan in place for your deployment, the courts in North Carolina have a process to help you get any custody issues settled before you leave. Continue reading →

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Preston v. Preston, 2022-NCCOA-207.

Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant married in 1988, and began divorce proceedings in 2018. Plaintiff filed his claim for divorce in October of 2018. In July 2019, Defendant filed her answer with motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficiency of process, failure to state a claim, and a motion for sanctions. Defendant’s chief argument was that Plaintiff was not a resident of North Carolina and not a resident of Mecklenburg County. The trial court found otherwise. In an interesting turn of events, Defendant verified her complaint for postseparation support, alimony, equitable distribution and fees just a day before the hearing for her motions to dismiss. In her complaint Defendant actually stated that Plaintiff was a resident of North Carolina. Her complaint was then filed an hour after the hearing on the motions to dismiss. Defendant later filed a motion to stay the divorce, which was denied. Plaintiff then motioned for Rule 11 sanctions based on Defendant’s conduct. The trial court granted and ordered that Defendant pay $15,000 in fees to Plaintiff. Defendant appealed. Continue reading →

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Parents Stationed in the US

If you are a parent and a member of the US Military, we at Woodruff Family Law Group thank you for your service! If you are not with your child’s other parent, you are probably concerned about what your military service will mean for your custody agreement or custody battle. Being in the military limits where you can live, when you can have leave, and what your daily schedule will be. How will that impact your children? What will a court think about those impacts? Fortunately, the federal and North Carolina state governments have acted to provide you with some protections in these situations. Continue reading →

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Shropshire v. Shropshire, 2022-NCCOA-441.


Plaintiff and Defendant separated and initiated a case for Equitable distribution (ED). Pursuant to a pretrial Order, the parties filed affidavits for the ED trial. Both parties listed retirement plans under the “marital property” section of the affidavit. This included the Plaintiff’s 401(k) plan. Furthermore, both parties designated that Plaintiff’s retirement plans had values to be determined for date of separation and “net” value. Under the section of the affidavit marked for “divisible property,” neither party listed any property.

In a hearing in August of 2018, the parties testified about ED. In October 2018, the trial court judge told the parties that evidence was going to be reopened so that evidence could be presented that showed the date of trial values for the retirement plans, as well as value of the marital residence. Plaintiff objected to the reopening and filed a motion to recuse.

The motion was denied in trial court and the reopening was allowed. The information was provided over objections, and a final ED order was entered. Plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

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Wooten v. Wooten, 867 S.E.2d 767 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Wooten v. Wooten came before the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Defendant Husband’s appeal of the trial court’s Summary Judgment ordering specific performance by both parties.

FACTS: The parties married in 1997 and divorced in 2016. When they divorced, they signed a Separation Agreement that stated that Defendant Husband would pay Plaintiff Wife $4000 per month and put $8500 per year into the children’s 529 educational savings plans. Continue reading →

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Wake Co. obo Williams v. Wiley, 2022-NCCOA-402.

Facts: Defendant was ordered to pay child support to Plaintiff in an order from Maryland entered in 2007. For enforcement, the order was to be filed in Wake County. At that time, Defendant was over $42,000 in arrears. Plaintiff filed their notice for registration of the Maryland order and later confirmed the registration through a default judgment in 2018. Defendant next filed a motion to set aside the confirmation because she alleged that she was not properly noticed of the hearing. The trial court denied. Defendant also sought to dismiss the confirmation pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(2), (4), and (5). These were also denied. Defendant appealed. Continue reading →