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Family Law Attorney

Family First – We are here to help!

Issues involving your family are stressful and emotional, even if they are not contested. At BURNEY & JONES, PLLC, we are on your side. Whether you are seeking to be informed of your rights, or find yourself in a fight to keep these rights, WE CAN HELP! We will be with you every step of the way to ensure that you and your family are protected. We provide Family Law services in both New Hanover and Pender Counties.

Separation Agreement

A Separation Agreement reflects an agreement between separating spouses addressing issues such as property division, alimony, custody, visitation, and child support. A Separation Agreement allows spouses privacy and flexibility in deciding these personal issues, in addition to addressing rights and responsibilities during a period of separation. A Separation Agreement can become an Order of the Court if the spouses divorce. At BURNEY & JONES, PLLC, we will help you consider and plan for every aspect of a separation and a divorce.


In North Carolina, there are two ways in which one can file for a divorce: a divorce from bed and board, and an absolute divorce. In order to file for either type of divorce, one of the spouses must have resided in North Carolina for six (6) months or more.

Divorce from bed and board is a fault-based, court-ordered, legal separation. A chief advantage is that no waiting period of separation is required. However, a legally recognized fault such as: abandoning the family, maliciously turning the spouse out of doors, cruel or barbarous treatment that endangers the spouse’s life, indignities rendering the spouses’ condition intolerable and life burdensome, excessive use of alcohol or drugs, or adultery is required. Additional claims such as spousal support, child support and property division can also be raised when filing for a divorce from bed and board.

An absolute divorce requires that the spouses be separated for a year, with at least one party’s intent to remain separate. This divorce proceeding dissolves the martial contract. Other claims such as spousal support, child support, and property division can also be filed before the divorce is finalized.

Marital discord is stressful and emotional. Laws governing your rights and responsibilities can also be confusing. Consequently, choosing the right attorney is crucial. At BURNEY & JONES, PLLC, we successfully combine passion with compassion to effectively handle your Family Law needs.

However, not all divorces have to become emotionally and financially draining. For spouses that are able to settle claims outside of the courtroom, a Collaborative Divorce may be an acceptable alternative. With a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse is represented by an attorney focused on collaboration and achieving a desired outcome outside of the courthouse. This process is entirely voluntary, and if selected, we will facilitate an amicable dissolution of the marriage.

Custody/ Visitation

One of the most important, and often times the most difficult, decisions a separating family faces are concerns for the care and custody of the minor children. Custody can be either legal (decision making) or physical (where the child resides). Custody may be either by agreement between the parties, or by court order if the parties cannot agree.

Once an action for custody is filed, both parents are required to attend court ordered mediation for the purpose of resolving custody and visitation issues. If out of court efforts are unsuccessful, a judge decides custody and other related issues. The judge will use the standard of what is in the child’s best interest. Factors may include the relationship the child has with both parents, the fitness of a particular party as a parent, and if the child is old enough, what the child desires.

In the event there is a concern of immediate risk of flight from the state, or immediate danger to the child, the court can issue an emergency custody order.

Visitation is usually decided with custody, and as with custody, can be either by agreement or court order. Grandparent visitation can also be achieved if there is a pending custody action and the grandparents have a special relationship with the child.

Child Support

Child support is money that is paid by one party (non custodial parent) to the parent or party with whom the child resides (custodial parent or party). Child support is determined using the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, which considers: both parties monthly gross income, childcare, health insurance premiums, and extraordinary expenses. At BURNEY & JONES, PLLC, we can assist in determining if you are either paying or receiving the correct amount of child support. Child support can be modified at any time upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances, such as income changes, new biological children in the home, mental or physical disabilities, or incapacity.

Alimony And Spousal Support

North Carolina law permits a dependent spouse to receive support payments from the supporting spouse, and may award attorney’s fees in appropriate circumstances. Post Separation Support is money that is paid between the time of separation and divorce; whereas, Alimony is the amount that is paid once the divorce is finalized. The amount and duration of payments can likewise be decided by either the spouses or by the court. Factors in making this determination include: the duration of the marriage, marital misconduct, relative earning capacities, as well as the relative needs of the spouses. Alimony and spousal support can also be modified at any time upon a substantial change in circumstances.

Property Division (Equitable Distribution)

One of the more difficult aspects of a separation or divorce includes dividing the property acquired during the marriage. In North Carolina, there is a presumption that property acquired during the marriage should be split equally. At BURNEY & JONES, PLLC, we can assist in correctly identifying and valuing marital assets.

Domestic Violence/ Restraining Orders

If you are the victim of domestic violence, you should seek help immediately. Our community provides several resources and shelters for victims of domestic violence. Alternatively, if you are the alleged offender of domestic violence, it is crucial that you seek legal assistance immediately, as acts of domestic violence can have both criminal and civil repercussions.

In North Carolina, there are two types of restraining orders depending on the relationship of the individuals involved. Both are available to prevent injury, harm, harassment and abuse.

A Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO or 50B) is available if the parties are or were in a personal relationship (current or former spouses, persons of the opposite sex who live or have lived together, persons related as parents (grandparents) and children, persons who have a child in common, current or former household members). A Civil No Contact Order (50C), is available to persons who do not have a personal relationship with the other party (acquaintances, former friends, strangers, etc).

Enforcement: Civil/Criminal Contempt

If a current court order is not being complied with, additional court proceedings can be initiated to ensure enforcement. A violation of that order can result in either criminal or civil contempt. Contempt can result in monetary fines, jail time, or both. Whether you are seeking enforcement, or defending against a contempt issue, it is extremely important to have counsel at your side.