4 Steps to Getting a Divorce in North Carolina

Marriage is a rite of passage – a milestone that so many people in Durham, NC look forward to as they enter their 20s and 30s. In fact, more than 90 percent of people will marry by the age of 50. And, for the most part, a healthy marriage is good for your overall physical and mental health. A healthy marriage can lead to a healthy family, and children that are raised in a happy home are said to have fewer mental, physical, educational and social problems. That said, about 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce (even more if you include those who are married subsequent times).

Hollywood often portrays the divorce process as lengthy and dramatic, and it certainly can be for some couples. But, it doesn’t have to be. Divorce in North Carolina is a pretty straight forward process if you and your spouse can agree to the terms and conditions of your separation. As such, today we’ll discuss the 4 simple steps required to get a divorce in Durham, North Carolina.

divorce in durham

Step 1: Physically Separate

Once a married couple decides to end their marriage in divorce, they must first become physically separated. The couple can no longer cohabitate and must live in separate residences in order for the state of North Carolina to legally recognize the separation. It should be noted that a couple can be physically separated but not necessarily legally separated in our state until one of the parties obtains a “divorce from bed and board.”

There are a number of reasons that could be sited to obtain a legal separation including but not limited to abandonment, cruel and barbarous treatment, drug abuse, adultery, or engaging in a pattern of conduct that makes living conditions “intolerable and life burdensome.” Furthermore, a legal separation does not provide grounds for either spouse to remarry, but it does allow you to obtain orders for post-separation support, alimony, asset division, child custody or child support.

Step 2: Hire a Divorce Attorney in Durham, NC 

Actually, you may want to hire an attorney before you separate to help guide you through the process. However, it is not always necessary to have a divorce lawyer in order to get a divorce. Sometimes, simply asking the right questions and getting help from document preparers who will ensure your interests are represented is all that is required. However, even the most straight forward situations can become complicated, so you may want to seek assistance from an attorney in Durham just to be safe.

Once you’ve hired an attorney (or a legal document preparer), you’ll need to start collecting the following information:

  • Assets (property, savings, investments, etc)
  • Spousal Support (if necessary)
  • Debt
  • Legal Decision Making
  • Child Support
  • Parenting Time

Step 3. File a Divorce Complaint with the Clerk of Court in Your County.

Your next step will be to obtain an absolute divorce in Durham, which requires that one spouse files a complaint with the Clerk of Court in the county of residence. Your divorce attorney can do this on your behalf. The county Sheriff or a deputy will then serve divorce “papers” to the other spouse (typically delivered via certified mail).

Once you’ve been physically separated for at least 12 consecutive months, either spouse can then file for a legal divorce. Please note that the 12-month physical separation requirement in North Carolina resets if the couple chooses to move back in together (this does not include isolated incidents of marital relations).

Step 4: Finalize the Process and Appear Before the Judge

Before standing before a judge, you and your spouse will be required to finalize all decisions and agreements as it relates to the division of assets, child custody, alimony, etc. In many cases, these decisions can be made outside of court with the support of a mediator. However, if you cannot come to an agreement in this way, you’ll be required to attend a hearing in front of a judge to present evidence that supports your petition for divorce. A judge will decide how everything is divided, who will have custody of your children and then grant you a divorce in Durham.

If you want to know how do you get a divorce in NC, turn to us for help. Durham Divorce lawyer, Kevin E. Jones can help you resolve a divorce or child custody issue. We can also help with your insurance, injury and other legal matters in an ethical and proper manner. Don’t let your health, finances and overall wellbeing suffer because you’re unaware of your legal rights. Contact Kevin E Jones before making any final decisions.

Proving Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident that was NOT Your Fault

If you’ve recently been in a car accident in Durham, NC that was not your fault, and you’ve been injured, you may want to seek compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company. This is called a “third-party claim,” and is best obtained with legal representation to maximize your settlement.  Insurance companies traditionally want to pay as little as possible but should compensate you for your medical expenses, any lost wages as well as some compensation for general “pain and suffering” if you can prove it. With that in mind, today we’ll define pain and suffering, how it is calculated and how you can best prove that you incurred pain and suffering in a car accident that was NOT your fault.

pain and suffering

What is “Pain and Suffering?”

Pain and suffering is a legal term that encompasses a broad range of injuries that a plaintiff may suffer from as a result of an accident. More simply put, it is defined as “the stress you experience from your injuries.” It often includes physical pain, emotional and psychological or mental trauma such as insomnia, fear, depressed mood, grief, worry, anxiety, inconvenience and the loss of the enjoyment of life.

In most personal injury cases, the plaintiff should be able to obtain some amount, for pain and suffering damages in addition to compensation for medical bills and lost wages.

How is pain and suffering calculated?

Pain and suffering are calculated in multiple ways depending on who is doing the calculation. Attorneys and insurance companies tend to use very different approaches. Many attorneys are trained to use two approaches to calculate pain and suffering.

Legal Approach #1:

The first approach attorneys may use is to multiply the plaintiff’s actual damages (medical bills and lost wages) by a certain number, generally between 1 and 5 (depending on the severity of the injury). For example, if a plaintiff incurs $5,000 in medical bills related to a broken arm, he might multiply that by three, and conclude that $15,000 represents a fair amount to demand for pain and suffering.

Legal Approach #2:

Another approach that the plaintiffs’ attorneys might use is the per diem (per-day) method. With this approach, an established amount such as $200.00 is assigned to every day from the day of the accident until the plaintiff reaches maximum recovery.

Insurance Approach

Insurance companies are under no obligation to use either of these legal approaches in calculating pain and suffering. In fact, many insurance companies use computer algorithms to determine the amount offered for pain and suffering. The final amount usually takes into account the type of injury as well as the type of medical treatment sought by the plaintiff.

For example, if the plaintiff sought treatment from a physician, the insurance company will usually consider that treatment to signify a more compensable injury than treatment by a chiropractor. They would also take into account the length of time the individual received treatment. Regardless of whether or not treatment was warranted, if the insurance company believes that treatment was excessive for the type of injury, the insurance company will not include all of the treatment in its calculation of pain and suffering.

Needless to say, calculating pain and suffering gets a bit complicated.

How Can You Prove Pain and Suffering?

Considering that pain and suffering can be calculated in multiple ways, but is ultimately determined by the insurance company, how can it be proven to an insurance adjuster? Documentation. Documentation. Documentation.

Your attorney will do his or her best to prove the extent of an injury and accompanying pain and suffering by providing evidence through documentation such as:

  • Photographs
  • Personal journals recording the victim’s physical and emotional stress since the accident in question
  • Proof of treatment by any mental professionals (necessary where the plaintiff is claiming injuries such as increased anxiety, insomnia, or depression) the victim has seen since the accident

Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a family member has been injured in an accident caused by another person, it is a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. Kevin E. Jones will tenaciously represent you and work to get you the maximum amount you deserve in Durham, NC. Call (919) 672-8330 for more information, or to set up a free case evaluation.

Need an Attorney on New Year’s Eve in Durham, NC?

Happy New Year’s Eve! Goodbye 2019, hello 2020! Tonight is one of our busiest night’s of the year. Not only are we celebrating the start of a new year, but we find that Durham, North Carolina has a tendency to amp up the need for an attorney. If one of those legal needs is you, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (919) 672-8330.

New Year’s Eve and the wee hours of New Year’s Day are some of the busiest times for legal assistance at our firm for a variety of reasons. For one, many people enjoy welcoming in the new year with celebratory drinks, but not everyone makes the wisest decisions at the end of the night. Secondly, the police department tends to put all hands on deck to provide traffic reinforcement, so you may see additional cops on the roads. In fact, Durham police have already announced that they’ll be looking for four fatal driving maneuvers this holiday, including:

1. New Year’s Eve Drunk Driving

If you plan to drink tonight, please allow yourself some time to sober up, bring a designated driver or call a ride to get you home safely. There are plenty of buses, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts throughout the Durham area, so there should be no excuse for getting home safely. One drink within 90 minutes can leave some people legally impaired (i.e., registering a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher).

If you choose to drive yourself home, remember that police checkpoints, visible and hidden, will be all over the road; thus increasing the chances for you to be arrested. This police presence is necessary and appropriate to assure everyone’s safety, but even if you manage not to get caught by the police, it’s really dangerous to drive any motor vehicle after having had more than one drink during a 90 minute period. No “buzz” is worth the risk.

2. New Year’s Eve Distracted Driving

In addition to drunk driving, police will also be looking for distracted drivers. Distracted driving is any kind of driving that takes your eyes of the road, hands off the wheel or mind off the task of driving. New Year’s Eve provides the perfect recipe for all of those situations to occur, especially if you find yourself watching your phone for details on the next party or trying to calm any drunk passengers in the back seat. Distracted driving is an impairment that is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

3. New Year’s Eve Speeding

New Year’s Eve is not necessarily the most unsafe day of the year to drive. In fact, it’s the 5th unsafest day (with Thanksgiving being the unsafest day), but drunk or distracted driving paired with speeding can be a recipe for disaster. Police will be posted all over the city looking for easy targets. Don’t make their job any easier by speeding.

4. New Year’s Eve Seat Belts

Finally, if you’re caught in a traffic stop, police will be making sure that all drivers and passengers are following the law by wearing their seat belts. North Carolina law requires all people in a car (including the back seat!) to be properly buckled up. It’s the law! Be fairly warned, waiting until you see a cop on the side of the road to buckle up is not going to cut it. Cops will be posted around the city noting infractions and then signaling to another officer down the road to pull cars over. Your safest bet is for everyone in your vehicle to wear their seat belt at all times.

While we always encourage you to make safe decisions behind the wheel, we particularly stress safe driving tonight. Beyond being a danger to yourself and others, you’re much more likely to get arrested on New Year’s Eve than any other night of the year. For more information, or to set up a free case evaluation, give us a call and ask for Kevin E. Jones at (919) 672-8330. Happy New Year!

5 Ways to Keep Domestic Violence Out of Your Holidays

While the holidays are often romanticized to be spent with family, gathered around a warm fire, opening gifts and sharing kisses under the mistletoe; the reality looks nothing like a Hallmark movie. The stress of planning get-togethers, buying presents, and the general hustle and bustle of the season can prove to be too much for some people. In fact, according to Durham police, domestic violence calls dramatically increase during the holidays.

Today we’ll discuss five causes of domestic violence and hose to keep it out of your household this Christmas.

domestic violence

1. Emotional Stress

Relationships can be stressful enough on a normal day, but the holidays can be particularly trying. When people are off work and spending more time than usual in close proximity with the “ones they love,” it’s easy for arguments to take hold.

Keep arguments at bay by recognizing when you’re at your breaking point and take time to recharge. Drive the long way home to decompress. Avoid high traffic areas. Go to the gym. And, if you feel stressed, angry, or frustrated, leave the situation and go outside before doing something you’ll regret later. It is nearly impossible to feel compassion and rage at the same time, so do yourself (and your partner) a favor and walk away.  Once the anger subsides, you can return inside to try and express your feelings in a calm, non-confrontational way.

2. Financial Burdens

The additional pressure of buying presents, going on trips and hosting parties can really add up during the holidays and turn normal financial struggles into a pressure cooker.

To keep financial burdens from turning into abusive behaviors, work together with your partner to come up with a holiday budget. More importantly, remember that yelling or getting angry about your financial problems won’t make them go away. Rather, spend some time on financial planning and effective budgeting.

3. Holiday Spirits

We’ve all enjoyed unwinding with a few drinks at the company Christmas party, but when a couple of drinks turns into using alcohol to cope with the stress of the holidays, it can become a treacherous slope. The more alcohol you consume, the less you will be able to control your anger.

If you know that you become an angry drunk, avoid drinking completely this holiday season. You can still attend the holiday parties, but don’t feel pressured to drink in order to have a good time. No time like the present to give sobriety a shot. Furthermore, if you’re already feeling anger, frustration or sadness this season, seek help from a counselor or AA group.

4. Road Rage

Contrary to popular belief, no one let all the idiots loose just as you left your driveway. It just so happens that all of Durham is out shopping for Christmas gifts as the exact same time, which can lead to congested roads and short tempers. If you’re already feeling the holiday pressure, one episode of road rage can drive home with you, leading to domestic violence behaviors.

Don’t let other drivers’ actions or poor driving affect your “holiday spirit.” If you feel yourself getting angry, roll down the window and take in some fresh air, or pull over. Even better, avoid roads that you know will be congested. It may take you a little longer to get home, but it’ll be worth it if you have a better attitude.

5. Lack of Time

No matter how much we all try, the holidays have a way of sneaking up on us and then taking over our schedule. Between work, parties, school, and shopping, it can be tough trying to adjust to holiday schedules. Combine that with a lack of sleep, and your normal stress level can be heightened to new levels of anxiety which can lead to anger and domestic violence.

Make sleep a priority. A lack of sleep increases your ability to get irritated and can cause anger, frustration, and resentment towards the people you love. While it may feel as though you have a lot to do in a very little amount of time, don’t forget to save some time for yourself and your family to make memories for the future.

Domestic violence is one of the major reasons that couples file for divorce. If you are considering filing for divorce in an abusive situation, contact Kevin E. Jones today. We can help get protection orders in place as well as ensure that you remain safe throughout the divorce process.