Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to the most common questions our clients have.

Family Law FAQs

When can a step-parent adopt a child?

There are a few ways that a step-parent can adopt their step-children. The easiest way requires both birth parents to sign a consent-to-adopt form, which allows the adoption to proceed without the need for a termination of parental rights hearing. If getting consent from the other birth parent isn’t possible, then that parent’s rights must be terminated. There are other requirements that may be waived, such as a home-study, that will vary on a case-by-case basis. For help with adopting your step-child, contact us today.

Do you have to be married to adopt a child?

If you’re looking to adopt a child on your own in North Carolina, there is no requirement that you be married. However, if you are looking to adopt a child with a partner, North Carolina will not allow you to adopt unless you and your partner are married. The timing of the marriage can impact which forms and steps are required to finalize the adoption, so contact us today to help complete your family. 

How do I prove that I’m legally separated from my spouse?

Unlike some states, North Carolina does not require, or even allow, you to file something to make your separation official. In many cases, the only evidence of separation comes from the Complaint for Absolute Divorce and a hearing on that Complaint after one year has passed.

Can I waive child support in a separation agreement?

While you can stipulate an amount of child support in a separation agreement, that stipulation is always subject to modification by the Court. However, a well-drafted child support provision in a separation agreement can be used to argue a presumptive amount that will cover the needs of the child. Child support court has many rules and nuances, so it is important to ensure you are represented by experienced family law attorneys. At Morris & Fox, our attorneys focus their practice on family law cases, and have experience representing clients in all facets of child support cases.

How much will I pay in child support?

Child support in NC is determined by the income shares model. The very same worksheet that the court uses to determine how much you’ll pay is available to the public, and you can use that to help determine how much you’ll owe in child support. Even with the worksheet, there are several statutory and case law related reasons to deviate from the worksheet amount. Contact the attorneys at Morris & Fox to discuss those deviations today.

How soon can I get divorced?

Generally, you can’t get divorced until you have lived separate and apart from your spouse for a full year. Separate and apart means you can’t live under the same roof, and one of you has to intend to never resume the marriage. What it means to live separate and apart is changing, so if you have any questions get in touch with us below to discuss the exact circumstances of your case.

Can I get custody of my grandchild?

North Carolina is one of the few states that recognize grandparents’ rights in custody cases. It is a very fact-specific and complex area of law. If you are looking for custody or visitation with your grandchildren, you want an attorney fighting for you who has experience in that complex area of law. At Morris & Fox, we have represented Grandparents seeking custody, and defended parents against custody claims from Grandparents. Schedule your consultation with us today to discuss what options are available to you. 

Can I sue my cheating spouse’s lover?

Commonly called “heart balm actions”, if you have been cheated on by your spouse, you may be able to bring two different claims against your spouse’s paramour: alienation of affections, and criminal conversation. Both actions are designed to compensate you when someone interferes in your marriage and causes it to end. Our attorneys have handled and defended these lawsuits, and are ready to discuss your options with you. Contact us to discuss your case today.

DSS just took my kids. What do I do now?

If the Department of Social Services has taken your kids, it is important to act quickly to secure legal representation. While you are entitled to have a lawyer appointed to represent you, that appointment will not happen until the initial court date. There is nothing scarier than having the government show up at your front door and leaving with your kids. You need an aggressive trial attorney who is ready to fight to get your kids back from day one at the very first hearing. Tom Morris and Heather Fox have represented countless parents in DSS cases, and know how to guide you through the complex process that is DSS court. If your kids have been removed, contact us immediately so we can start fighting for you and your family.

Can dads get primary custody of their kids?

There are few things scarier to a father than the thought of not seeing their kids anymore just because they’re Dad and not Mom. While North Carolina has come a long way with respect to a father’s rights in custody cases, it can still be an uphill battle. While there is no formal presumption in favor of Mom getting custody, Dads need a skilled attorney who knows how to fight against old prejudices that come Judges have. As a father of four kids, Tom Morris knows exactly how important it is for Dads to ensure they have someone fighting fiercely by their side. Tom and Heather have helped countless Dads get custody of their children, and are ready to ensure that your rights to parent your own children are protected.

Do moms automatically win custody fights?

Under the Tender Years Doctrine, the mother was presumed to be the fit and proper parent to have primary custody of the child(ren). North Carolina has since abolished that doctrine, and moms and dads are presumed to have equal rights with respect to custody. There are several other deciding factors that can have a definitive impact on the outcome of your custody case, regardless of whether you’re mom or dad. The skilled attorneys at Morris & Fox have successfully represented both mothers and fathers in custody cases, so contact us to discuss the specifics of your case.

Can I talk to my partner if they filed an ex-parte against me?

No, you absolutely may not talk to your partner if you are subject to an ex-parte. Your partner cannot give you permission to violate the domestic violence protective order. If you do violate the ex-parte order, it is not only a Class A1 misdemeanor, but also will severely hurt your chances to successfully defend yourself in the permanent order hearing. If you have been served with an ex-parte DVPO, you need to contact Morris & Fox as soon as possible. The timeline for responding and hearing is short from the date the ex-parte was issued, and the stakes are high if a permanent order is granted. Our experienced domestic violence attorneys know how to guide you through the process and protect your rights. Schedule your consult today.

Criminal Law FAQs

Should I refuse a breathalyzer test?

North Carolina has a well earned reputation as one of the toughest states in the country for DWIs. While you always have the right to refuse a breathalyzer, NC’s implied consent offense means that your license will be suspended for a full year for refusing, even if not ultimately convicted of the DWI! We hear from clients all the time that they were told to never consent to a breathalyzer, but that isn’t always the best advice in NC. If you’ve been charged with a DWI in NC, you may be facing real jail time, the loss of your license, and heavy fines. The experienced criminal law attorneys at Morris & Fox have defended individuals charged with all levels of DWI in North Carolina, and are ready to fight for you.

The police called and want to talk to me. Should I talk with them?

As a general rule, we always advise against anyone talking to the police without an attorney present. Even when we are present, we rarely consent to an interview with the police. When the police are looking to interview you, there is little to gain from you, and much to lose. It’s a common misconception that you may be able to talk your way out of being charged, or that it is just a misunderstanding you can clear up. If the police want to talk to you, they most likely already have enough to charge you. Don’t give them the opportunity to strengthen their case against you. If you have been contacted by the police, you need to contact our skilled criminal defense attorneys immediately. We have experience representing people in both state and federal criminal cases, and are ready to defend your rights. Call us today.

How can I drop criminal charges?

People frequently ask us how they can drop criminal charges against someone. To be clear, once the criminal process has begun, the only person with the ability to drop the charges is the District Attorney. While you may be tempted to simply refuse to testify, you should know that North Carolina law allows the District Attorney to recover court costs against you if you have sworn out a warrant and refuse to testify. If you want to drop charges against someone, contact us so we can discuss how we can help guide you through the criminal justice system.

How do I take out criminal charges?

North Carolina allows individuals to initiate misdemeanor criminal charges against others on their own. While each county will handle the process differently, the general process involves going before a magistrate judge and giving a sworn statement to the magistrate about what happened. The magistrate can then issue a warrant for the person to be arrested. The case then passes to the District Attorney’s Office, who is ultimately responsible for prosecuting the case. You will be subpoenaed to testify as a witness, and may have the right to restitution from the defendant. The process can be confusing and scary, and you can benefit from a skilled attorney guiding you through the process to get justice. At Morris & Fox, we have experience helping victims of crimes get justice, and can act as an interface between you and the legal system. Schedule a consult with our attorneys to discuss how we can help guide you to justice.

What happens if I violate a restraining order?

Violation of a domestic violence protective order, also known as a 50-b, is a Class A1 misdemeanor in North Carolina, the most serious level of misdemeanor offenses. A 50-b violation is also an offense for which Judges tend to give particularly harsh sentences. If you have already been convicted of violating the protective order twice, the third time will be treated as a Class H felony. DVPO violations are serious charges that should not be taken lightly. You need a skilled criminal defense attorney who knows how to guide you through the criminal justice system and ensure your rights are protected along the way. Contact us to discuss your case today.