Family Law


Many believe “divorce” includes spousal support or alimony, property division, or child custody and child support.  In North Carolina a divorce is a final process which legally ends the marriage, and does not specifically include other issues.  North Carolina is a ‘no fault’ divorce state, requiring a period of separation in excess of 1 year to enter a divorce.  A final judgment of divorce can terminate the ability to address property and alimony.  Therefore we recommend consulting with one of our attorneys to make sure your rights are protected prior to the final step of divorce.  Divorce is likely one of the most difficult things a person can do, but we have the experience and skill to protect you and guide you through the process.  Please call us at 919.832.8507 if we can help with your divorce.

Can I change my name?

Yes, you can go back to your maiden name and it is cheaper when done in conjunction with a divorce.

If I list another state as my residence, can I be divorced in North Carolina?

This is a common issue in today’s world, particularly with the military service members and spouses.  The key to this what we refer to as one’s domicile, defined as residency plus an intent to remain.  The way to determine domicile is to examine items like your driver’s license, voter registration, insurance, vehicle tags, mailing address, and the like.  If you are a domiciled in North Carolina, then you can be divorced in the state.  If you have questions or concerns about state issues, please contact our office for further assistance.


Spousal Support

This is money paid as support from one spouse to another, and is often referred to as alimony.  Our divorce attorneys are in the best position to assist you in seeking or defending against spousal support.   If you are seeking alimony or defending against a spousal support claim, it is important to work with an experienced Raleigh divorce attorney at Law Offices of Mark Sullivan, P.A.. We have the capability that is needed to help protect your rights and finances.  Please call us at 919.832.8507 to set up a consultation. 

The law on alimony and support includes many factors, including:

·       Income of each spouse;

·       Expenses of each spouse;

·       Minor children and related expenses;

·       Length of the marriage;

·       Contribution by one spouse to the career, education, or training of the other;

·       Financial needs;

·       Lifestyle or accustomed standard of living;

·       Debt obligations, if any;

·       Marital fault.

Our team typically resolves spousal support at mediation, trial, or by separation agreement.  Support or alimony will have a financial impact on both the supporting spouse and the recipient.  Therefore, most clients attempt to resolve the matter outside of a court to save legal fees.  In the event it is not able to be settled within the client’s chosen parameters, we have the experience and know-how to seek the court’s assistance through trial.

How much will I receive?

Normally support from one spouse to another is based upon the amount of need of the dependent spouse.  Financial need would include typical expenses such a mortgage or rent, food, insurance, electricity, and so on, but would also include an assessment of your standard of living.  Our attorneys will work hard to obtain support designed to factor in your accustomed lifestyle.  The amount of alimony is a complex question which requires a full analysis of your financial circumstances and other statutory factors.  Please contact us to help you with your alimony claim.

How much will I have to pay?

Alimony payments are based upon one’s ability to pay, though often measured against the amount of need requested by the other spouse.  We will take into account a reasonable standard of living, and assess what you can really afford to pay.  For example, in a prior alimony trial we calculated that if the amount of requested alimony was ordered, then the paying spouse would be dead broke within a certain amount of years.  This can be very compelling evidence, and this is just one example.  The amount of alimony is a complex question which requires a full analysis of your financial circumstances and other statutory factors.  Please contact us to help you with your alimony claim.


Equitable Distribution

Why choose us?

If you are facing a divorce, it is essential to have a professional guide you through a division of property, assets, and debts, also known as Equitable Distribution.  We understand how critically important it is to protect your finances here at Law Offices of Mark Sullivan, P.A..  We have handled military divorce, complex business divisions, commercial and residential real estate, vested and unvested stock, trust accounts, retirement accounts, division of military benefits, and more.  To put our experience to work for you, please call us at 919.832.8507 to set up a consultation.

Property Division Law in North Carolina

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which means the assets are divided equitably, but not necessarily 50/50.  For example, the court will consider other factors such as the tax consequences, the age and health of each spouse, the expectation of any pensions or retirements, including military benefits and military retirement, and more.  Further, assets or property that was inherited, gifted to only one spouse, or owned prior to the marriage are often not subject to be divided.   Law Offices of Mark Sullivan, P.A. has a special emphasis on military pension benefits, survivor benefit plan, thrift savings plans, and military retirement, so we are particularly equipped to assist in any case where one spouse is or was a member of the United States military, active or reserves.  Our Raleigh divorce attorneys are dedicated to always do what it is right and can help you properly handle the division of assets, retirement, and debt.

Does it matter if it is titled in my name?

Title does not control under the equitable distribution law of North Carolina.  When facing a divorce, it is usually not wise to solely rest on title alone without consulting an attorney.  Our divorce attorneys are happy to discuss your case and assess the need for a division of property, performing what we have deemed a “sanity check” to keep smart people from making a big mistake in a divorce or property division.

What property gets divided in North Carolina?

Only your marital and divisible property is valued and divided.  The term property does not mean simply real estate.  Rather, marital property is anything that you and/or your spouse acquired during the marriage, prior to separation, and is presently owned. The following property is generally not considered marital property: property which is gifted to you separately from your spouse, property that you inherit, or property that you owned prior to your date of marriage.  Please call our office if you have questions about division of assets, retirement, and debt to set up a consultation.

Can he/she take my pension?

The law would allow for a calculation of the marital share of the pension, of which your to-be-ex spouse would be entitled to one half.  This is calculated by the following fraction:

Number of months of participation in pension during the marriage ÷ Number of months of total participation in pension plan

Military pensions are complex and require a particular set of skills and knowledge.  Mr. Sullivan is one of the leading national experts in military divorce and military pension division.  We have the expertise required to properly handle your military pension division and military divorce.  Please give us a call if you have questions about a military pension or military divorce.

What happens to my business in divorce?

Businesses and divorce create complex and often unique situations which should be addressed by competent professionals on a case-by-case basis.  All, some, or none of your (or your spouses’) business may be considered marital property and be subject to a property division.  There are many strategies to employ to protect a business or seek credit for a business, all of which are best done with a full assessment of the facts, circumstances, risks, need for professionals such as CPAs, and relevant considerations such as other owners, estate planning desires, and the like.  Our attorneys have walked this path before, and can steer you in the best direction for your business divorce situation.


Child Support

Child support in North Carolina is designed to make sure the child or children are provided for, and is a crucial component family law.  Need an attorney for a child support case in Raleigh or the surrounding areas?  The attorneys at Law Offices of Mark Sullivan, P.A. would be glad to assist with our client-driven model.    

North Carolina has adopted a calculator for child support.  They are typically done either through a court order, or a mediated or settled upon agreement prior to court.   

Common Child Support Questions:

Does child support include college?

No, unless you agree to do so in a contract.  Ordinarily child support continues until does not provide for support beyond age 18 or graduation from high school, whichever is later.

How much will child support be?

The amount is based upon a number of factors, but primarily the incomes of the parties, any adjustments (such as insurance), and the custody schedule.  We can calculate the child support once we have all of your financial information.

Am I entitled to child support?

Child support is designed for the child or children, but you may be entitled to receive a monthly payment of support for your child or children.  North Carolina child support is calculated by taking into consideration the custody schedule, the income of each parent, the costs of insurance for the child or children, any work related child care expenses, and any extraordinary expenses for the child or children.  While every case is different, North Carolina has adopted a calculator to assist in determining the appropriate amount of support.

If we have equal custody, do we need child support?

Even on an equal schedule, North Carolina child support guidelines may provide for a monthly payment of child support.  If you do not want a child support payment, you may want to consider related issues such as any tax issues, splitting medical, vision, or dental expenses not covered by insurance, expenses for activities of a child or children, and fees for school or school related items.  Our child support attorneys would be glad to assist you in determining either the appropriate support amount or the best way to legally address other items.

Can child support be changed?

Modification of child support can be accomplished by showing a substantial change in circumstances.  Do not wait to seek advice if your child support is insufficient or if you are having a difficult time paying child support. 

Child Custody and Visitation

You probably have concerns about a war over child custody if you are reading this.  You understandably have a lot of questions.  We have answers and solutions.  Nothing is more important than your children, and we understand that and will do our best to advocate for you and your children.  We know how to get you through this, and we can get there together.  We have conducted numerous child custody trials, including extended trials with multiple child custody expert witnesses, to protect our client’s interests. 

What child custody schedule is best?

There is no one schedule that is right for every child or every family.  We commonly see a few different schedules:

·       1 week on/1 week off rotations;

·       2-2-3 or 2-2-5 – this means one parent always has Monday and Tuesday, the other parent always has Wednesday and Thursday, and the weekends are rotated between parents;

·       Every other weekend, with or without a weeknight dinner or overnight visit;

·       Weekend only schedule.

As a parent, you should seek the schedule that best fits with the child’s interests and also works with schedules, travel, activities, and the like.  Please contact us if you need assistance on a child custody schedule at 919.832.8507.

Do the courts always choose the mom over the dad?

North Carolina no longer has a presumption in favor of the mother.  This answer can be county-to-county, but most judges start with a 50/50 custody arrangement unless or until they hear reasons to deviate from that equal share of time.

What happens if we cannot agree about custody?

This is a common question and the answer is that a district court judge will decide the custody schedule.  The standard used to decide is “the best interests of the minor child.”  What does that mean?  It is very broad, and the judge has tremendous freedom in deciding the custody schedule.  The parents are normally in the best position to decide, after all no one knows a child better than a parent.  In the event you have to go to court to resolve your custody dispute, we have the skill and experience to represent you and your children’s best interests.

How long does it take to resolve child custody?

This varies by county, but we tell our clients to prepare for the marathon, because child custody is definitely not a sprint.  We hope and work for the quick settlement if it is in the client’s interests, but most custody cases take at least several months to more than one year to resolve.

What age can the child decide who to live with?

North Carolina courts have not put an exact age in place.  Instead, the courts look to the age, maturity, capacity, and discretion of the child.  Even if a child was to express a desire, the court does not have to rule for the parent that the child says he/she wants. 

Who has custody of our child without an agreement?

In short, it is a tie.  Parents have equal rights without an order from a court or an agreement.   For many parents, this creates instability and does not allow for a predictable schedule.  For example, there may be unexpected or last minute changes or demands from one parent to the other.  The solution to this problem is a custody order prepared by a competent professional.  For assistance with custody, please call us at 919.832.8507

Can I move with my child?

We call this a ‘relocation case.’  We understand why you (or your ex) may want to relocate or have to relocate.  Child custody relocation is difficult, and often nearly impossible to settle. We have handled a large number of relocation cases and can guide you through the process step-by-step. 

We know we did not answer the exact question.  Why?  The real answer involves a detailed analysis of many factors, including the opportunities presented by the relocation, the motive of the parent moving, the child’s ties to the non-moving parent and how they will be impacted by the move, and so forth.  To assess your move, please call and speak with one of our attorneys at  (919) 832-8507.