Full-Service Family Law Firm in Pinehurst, North Carolina
At Clarke, Phifer, Vaughn, Brenner and McNeill, PLLC, we approach the breakup of a marriage in a respectful, compassionate and practical way. We work to protect your rights and to achieve the best results as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
The initial interview usually takes one hour, and starts with a discussion of the facts of the case. It is helpful if you bring information about:
- The value of your home and the balance owed on the mortgage
- The balance in your families’ investment and retirement accounts
- You and your spouse’s income
- The balance owed on any large debts
After discussing the facts we will explain the law that applies to your case and give you advice about your rights and your spouse’s responsibilities.
M. James Clarke II has been practicing law in Moore County for more than 30 years and has helped more than a thousand clients with their divorces. He also served on the Committee that drafted the rules for our Family Court.
Mr. Clarke personally handles each divorce case. He is experienced in such matters as child custody and support, post separation support and alimony and equitable distribution of marital property. He is also experienced in the complex issues involved in military divorces, interstate jurisdictional disputes, and valuing unusual assets such as professional practices and family owned businesses.
Negation or Litigation: Which is the Right Choice for You?
Litigation can be expensive and time consuming. Entering into a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement is often the best way to minimize the expense and emotional stress of a divorce. Separation Agreements can resolve such issues as custody, child support, post separation support, alimony and equitable distribution. If your spouse will not cooperate in negotiating an agreement, you have the right to go to court and having a Judge decide the matter. When a lawsuit is filed the court will require the parties to go to mediation to discuss such issues as child custody and property settlement. Mediation successfully resolves many cases, and helps to narrow the issues in the cases that go on to trial.
Post separation support and alimony are often the most challenging issues in divorce cases. Child support is governed by guidelines and worksheets which make results fairly predictable, but spousal support is a “wild card”. The two part test for qualifying for spousal support starts with a determination of whether the spouse making the claim is financially dependent on the other spouse. The second question is whether it is fair for the supporting spouse to be required to pay alimony. If the two part test is met, the next step is to determine how much the dependant spouse needs and how much the supporting spouse can afford to pay. We begin alimony claims by looking at such financial issues as:
- What does each spouse earn?
- Are there bonuses, or other “perks” that should be included in income?
- Is one spouse voluntarily unemployed or underemployed?
- What are the marital debts, and who is paying them?
We also look at factual issues that may help prosecute or defend the claim, such as whether either spouse had an affair before the date of separation. If the dependant spouse has a valid claim, we then prepare a budget for each party, called an Affidavit of Financial Standing, to determine how much one spouse needs and how much the other spouse can afford to pay. We also discuss how long the support should be paid.
Equitable distribution involves the division of property that is acquired and debts that are incurred during the marriage. Property that was owned before the marriage or that is acquired by a gift or inheritance, or after the separation is separate property and does not have to be divided. The law presumes that the property should be divided equally, but there are several factors that could cause the property to be divided unequally.
We have experience in dividing retirement benefits and pension plans and unusual assets such as professional practices, real estate holdings and family owned businesses. We represent both clients with substantial assets as well as people of modest means.
Military divorces present a unique set of challenges such as developing child custody and visitation plans that accomodate deployments and permanent changes of station. Service members often have special pays, Tri care benefits, and Survivor Benefits which may be considered. Also military retirement benefits may be divided, or protected if the service member qualifies for disability benefits.
The law firm of Clarke, Phifer, Vaughn, Brenner and McNeill PLLC has the experience to ensure that the important issues in your case are identified, evaluated, and resolved in the best way possible. We create unique and customized solutions to meet each client’s needs. Please contact us if we can be of service to you.