Contact the Family Law Team
P: (919) 821-4711


Physical Address:
Wells Fargo Building
150 Fayetteville Street
Suite 1800
Raleigh, NC 27601


Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1151
Raleigh, NC 27602

(Wake County)
(919) 821-4711
Fax: (919) 829-1583

Tharrington Smith's Family Law Team

The Family Law Team

Family Law Resources

State, Federal and International Resources

  •— Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinions, local court rules, domestic court calendars, judicial directory, AOC forms, court fees research tools and helpful links.
  •— North Carolina State Bar with member directory, publications, ethics, rules and regulations, legal specialist directory and more.
  •— North Carolina Bar Association containing ethics information, Continuing Legal Education classes, forms, appellate rules, Casemaker (research for members that includes appellate decisions, statutes, city ordinances), etc.
  •— North Carolina General Assembly, bill drafts, bill status, and statutes
  •— North Carolina Secretary of State site that includes Uniform Commercial Code filings, corporations database, notary public guidelines, LLC annual reports, etc.
  •— North Carolina law, federal law, legal directories, legal writing information and tools, libraries, legal journals, etc.
  •— Statewide legal aid offices, information about the program, publications and brochures.
  •— List of law enforcement agencies in North Carolina with links to local agencies across the state.
  •— List of North Carolina radio and TV stations, magazines and newspapers, ability to search for statutes and bills, list of state employees with contact information, travel maps by county, and many other interesting facts about North Carolina and its residents.
  •— A wide range of family law information nationwide, including articles/publications, lawyer searches, legal forms, extensive military divorce articles and information, divorce and bankruptcy information, divorce and credit information, life insurance quotes and much more.
  •— Access to Internal Revenue Service forms and publications, including Publication 504 (Divorce or Separated Individuals), Publications 919 (Tax Rate tables), Form 8332 (Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents).
  •– Office of Personnel Management site that includes helpful publications about dividing a CSRS or FERS pension and the requirements for same.
  •— Thrift Savings Plan site that lists TSP forms, publications and booklets, current TSP rates, annuity calculator, and more.
  •— The U.S. Postal Service site that can track and confirm a mail parcel (excellent for confirming service), find zip codes, information on delivery to the military APO and FPO, mail manuals and rate calculations.
  • – U.S. Department of Defense publications and forms (DD2293 for military direct payments to former spouses), and regulations.
  •— U.S. Social Security Administration, information regarding divorce and how it affects your retirement and survivor benefits, code of federal regulations, benefit calculators, forms and publications.
  •— U.S. Department of Labor, the national job bank, health plans, benefits, ERISA and COBRA, wage information (minimum, severance, overtime), retirement planning.
  •— Thomas Legislative Information, a service of the Library of Congress with resources for House and Senate schedules, status of bills and public laws as well as other legislative information.
  •— U.S. Government’s official web portal with everything from laws and regulations to lottery results and INS case status
  •— National directory of process servers and private investigators.
  •— American Bar Association member directory, publications, ethics, rules and regulations, forms and access to the Family Law Section
  •— Law Library  Resource Exchange with links to more than 1,400 sources for state and federal court rules, local county rules, forms and dockets
  •— Link to the Department of Revenue offices in each state, link to tax forms for each state, link to state Department of Revenues for each state.

Military Family Law Resources

  • — Defense Finance and Accounting Service with military pay tables, Basic Allowance for Housing calculator, sample military pension division order language, Survivor Benefit Plan information, and other valuable information when you are dealing with a military party.
  • – U.S. Navy: Listing of all naval vessels, Navy bases, death benefits for veterans, active duty and retired members locator.
  • — Air Force Personnel Center with information about the Survivor Benefit Plan, including enrollment, enlisted members benefits, eligibility for retirement information and air force service member’s demographics.
  •— U.S. Army web site with access to Army publications (Army Echoes), information on USFSPA, SBP, military installations and bases, useful addresses and telephone numbers
  •— U.S. Coast Guard site with information on the Freedom of Information Act, useful addresses and telephone numbers, and more.
  •— Department of Veterans’ Affairs with compensation and pension information, health benefits, life insurance, veterans, benefits time tables and more.
  •— Military health benefits information, forms, and requirements for coverage and contact information.
  • — Link to the ABA Family Law Section Military Committee and extensive information on military benefits and possible strategy to take in a case with a military party. Includes a list of family law attorneys by state/country who volunteer through “Operation Stand-By” to assist service members.
  • — The Bureau of Consular Affairs includes information on travel warnings, international adoptions, International Parental child Abduction, child protection services, passport and visa information, children’s issues, Hague Convention, list of lawyers abroad, summary of how to serve documents abroad, and frequently asked questions and a list of state authentication authorities which may be needed when dealing with a rogatory state.
  • – U.S. Central Authority with Service requirements under the Hague Convention and contact information.
  • – Process Service Network with Hague Convention process servers.

Resources by Family Law Topic

Collaborative Law

  • – Web site of the International Association of Collaborative Professionals
  • – Articles with general information about collaborative family law and its features.
  • -Information about collaborative law in general, including the collaborative divorce model, sample forms, books, training, and many links to articles and other resources about collaborative law.

Resources for Divorcing Families

  •— American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Listing of marriage and family therapists nationwide.  If your area does not have a chapter, call your state’s psychological association.
  • Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, 608-251-4001.  Publishes a brochure on joint custody nationwide.
  •— Children’s Rights Council.  Local chapters deal with custody issues and divorce reform.
  •— National Association of Social Workers. Referral service of social workers who can provide family counseling and/or mediation.
  •— Parents Without Partners.  Referral service for more than 400 local chapters.
  •— Stepfamily Association of America, Inc. Publishes materials about educational resources for stepfamilies.

Support Issues

  • — Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement site with links to state sites
  • – Online child support guidelines, child support calculators, legal research links, case law on the issue of child support, articles and books.
  • – North Carolina Child Support Enforcement where you can make payments online, view NC child support guidelines, CSE guidelines, and links to CSE offices around the state.
  • – National salary compensation information

Child Custody

  • – Web site that includes visitation calendars and communication between parents.
  • – Contains free demo for visitation calculators and calendars for use by lawyers, legal assistants, judges, mediators and parents.
  • – Cost of living comparisons, information on schools, city reports, salary calculator, moving cost calculator and apartment locator.
  • – School Research and Data Consulting Services which has information on all school districts, high schools and most private schools, offer school comparisons for custody cases.
  • North Carolina Guardian Ad Litem attorney manual and forms, links to custody resources, information about the program, contacts each county in the state.

Valuation/ Property Division Issues


Reading Recommendations and Self Help

About Divorce

  • The Divorce Handbook by James T. Friedman, Random House, 1998.
  • Divided Families by Frank Furstenburg and Andrew J. Cherlin, Harvard University Press, 1994.
  • Growing Up with Divorce by Neil Kalter, Fawcett, 1991.
  • Vicki Lansky’s Divorce Book for Parents by Vicki Lansky, Book Peddlers, 1996.
  • Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci, Fireside, 1997.
  • Second Chances by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, Houghton Mifflin, Co., 1996.

About Parenting and Divorce

  • The Single Mother’s Book by Joan Anderson, Peachtree Publishers, 1990.
  • Families Apart by Melinda Blau, Perigree, 1995.
  • Mothers on Trial by Phyllis Chesler, Harcourt Brace, 1991.
  • Dividing the Child by Eleanor MacCoby and Robert H. Mnookin, Harvard University Press, 1994.
  • 101 Ways to be a Long Distance Super-Dad-or Mom, Too! By George Newman, R&E Publishers, 1996.
  • The Custody Revolution by Richard A. Warshak, Poseidon Press, 1992.

Books for Children about Divorce

  • Divorce Happens to the Nicest Kids by Michael S. Prokop, Alegra House Publications, 1996.
  • At Daddy’s on Saturdays by Linda Walvoord Girard, Albert Whitman and Co., 1991.
  • Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Tolon Brown and Laurence Krashy Brown, Little Brown and Co., 1988.
  • Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore by Nancy Lou Reynolds (Illustrator) and Kathy Stinson, Firefly Books, 1988.
  • How it Feels When Parents Divorce by Jill Krementz, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.
  • The Kids’ Book of Divorce, Eric Rofes, editor, Random House, 1982.
  • It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear by Vicki Lansky, Book Peddlers, 1998.


Absolute Divorce: In North Carolina, absolute divorces are almost always granted on the basis of one year’s separation. An absolute divorce may only be obtained through a judgment of the Court. There are major legal ramifications that accompany the entry of such a judgment. A divorce judgment automatically ends certain legal rights that exist by reason of your marriage and automatically bars claims for alimony and equitable distribution of property, unless those claims have been settled with appropriate written legal documents or unless those claims have been raised in a legal proceeding and are pending at the time of the absolute divorce.

Grounds for Divorce: A spouse seeking an absolute divorce must be able to demonstrate to the court that (1) that he or she has been living in separate dwellings from the other spouse for a period of at least one year, (2) that during that year, the parties did not resume the marital relationship and (3) that at least one of the spouses formed the intent to end the marital relationship when the separation first occurred.

Reconciliation: Failed attempts at reconciliation may be considered a resumption of the marital relationship and can have significant legal repercussions. While we want marriages to succeed, a party contemplating reconciliation should discuss this issue with a divorce attorney to minimize any adverse legal consequences.

Dating Relationships: Any extramarital affairs or dating relationships on the part of either spouse, either before or after a separation, should be brought to the attention of your attorney so that you can be advised on how these relationships may affect your legal rights.  In North Carolina, a spouse may be able to bring a lawsuit against a third party for alienating the affections of and/or having sexual relations with that spouse’s husband or wife.

Importance of Attorney Consultation: It is very important for you to consult a divorce attorney immediately upon being served with an absolute divorce complaint and you should consult an attorney before filing an absolute divorce complaint yourself.

Alienation of Affections: This is a civil tort action that a spouse brings against the boyfriend or girlfriend of the other spouse. It is based on the common law idea that spousal affections can be stolen.

Alimony: Alimony is financial support provided to a spouse or former spouse. 

Annulment: An annulment is a remedy to set aside a marriage based upon certain limited legal grounds or circumstances.

Answer: The pleading in which the defendant responds to the allegations made in the plaintiff’s complaint that initiates the lawsuit.

Arbitration: The process by which parties agree to resolve their disputes outside of court, using the services of an experienced third party arbitrator who is authorized by the parties to make decisions about the resolution of the issues.  Arbitration is governed exclusively by the parties’ agreement to arbitrate and the arbitrator’s decision is usually binding upon the parties.

Child Support Guidelines: In child support cases in which the combined gross incomes of the parents do not exceed $300,000 per year, a court is likely to refer to a table of child support numbers called the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. Although the court may deviate from these guideline amounts, they are presumptive and relied upon by the court in arriving at an appropriate child support award.

Cohabitation: The act of two adults dwelling together continuously and habitually in a private heterosexual relationship, even if this relationship is not solemnized by marriage, or a private homosexual relationship. Cohabitation is evidenced by the voluntary mutual assumption of those marital rights, duties and obligations which are usually manifested by married people, and which include but are not necessarily dependent upon, sexual relations. Cohabitation may be relevant to the issue of alimony entitlement.

Complaint: The pleading filed by the plaintiff initiating a lawsuit. It is a request for relief from the court, and sets out the issues that the plaintiff wants the court to resolve.

Consent Order: An agreement of the parties that is memorialized as a court order bearing the signature of a judge. Attorneys for the parties will determine the best instrument or instruments for recording the settlement terms. Some agreements are memorialized with consent orders and some with separation agreement and property settlement contracts and some with both.

Counterclaim: The pleading in which the defendant requests relief against the plaintiff. It is essentially the defendant’s complaint against the plaintiff in the same lawsuit brought by the plaintiff.

Criminal Conversation: This is a civil tort action that a spouse brings against the girlfriend or boyfriend of the other spouse for having sexual relations with that other spouse.

Dependent Spouse: The spouse who, for the purposes of postseparation support or alimony, is determined to either be actually substantially dependent on the other spouse for financial support or substantially in need of financial support to maintain a certain pre-separation lifestyle.

Divisible Property: Property that must be divided pursuant to an equitable distribution claim and that is the product of post-separation changes to marital property.  Divisible property includes passive increases and decreases in the value of marital property, such as interest and dividends. It also includes any property received after the date of separation which a party had a right to before the separation and which was acquired as the result of efforts of either or both parties during the marriage.  Increases in marital debts related to financing charges and interest accrued since the date of separation are divisible property.

Divorce from Bed and Board: A court-ordered separation.

Equitable Distribution: The legal rules and procedures under North Carolina law for classifying, valuing and dividing marital property and debts.

50-B: The chapter of the North Carolina General Statutes that provides for domestic violence relief.  50-B is a shorthand reference to its location in the Statutes. This chapter provides expedited relief to protect spouses, children and other people in personal relationships who have experienced violence or are facing the prospect of violence.

Joint Custody: This term may refer to either joint legal custody or joint physical custody, or to both. There is no precise statutory definition of joint custody, so parties and the court must clarify what is intended. Joint legal custody involves a common joint decision-making arrangement whereby the parents are required to consult with each other on major issues involving the children. “Joint physical custody” is defined in the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines as a residential schedule for the children providing that each parent has the children residing with him and her for more than 122 nights (one-third) per year.

Judgment: A final written decision of the court regarding the litigated issues.

Jurisdiction: The authority vested in the court to hear an action. If the court does not have jurisdiction, the action cannot proceed. A court must have jurisdiction over both the subject matter of the complaint and over the parties themselves.

Litigation: A court action and the use of the court system to determine the outcome of contested issues.

Marital Property: As defined by the North Carolina Equitable Distribution statute, property acquired during the marriage through the efforts of one or both spouses between the date of marriage to the date of separation, excluding gifts and inheritances received by one party from someone other than the spouse.

Marital Misconduct: Behavior during the marriage that may later influence a court’s decision regarding postseparation support, alimony and divorce from bed and board. Marital misconduct includes physical or financial abandonment, turning the other spouse out of the marital residence, indignities, excessive drinking or drug use, waste of money, adultery, and cruel or barbarous treatment. 

Mediation: The process by which parties attempt to resolve a dispute outside of the court system, through a negotiation-styled settlement conference with the assistance of a third-party settlement facilitator. Unlike an arbitrator or a judge, the mediator has no authority and if the parties fail to reach a settlement, the parties may proceed to trial.

Order: A written interim directive of the court. An order is similar to a judgment except that, unlike a judgment, an order does not finally dispose of the entire case.

Post Separation Support: Spousal support paid either until a specific date set forth in a court order or until an order is entered either awarding or denying alimony, whichever occurs first.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO): This is an order required by the Internal Revenue Service when dividing assets in certain types of retirement plans to avoid adverse tax consequences.

Separate Property: As defined by the North Carolina Equitable Distribution statute, property that belongs to one party and is not subject to division by the court.  Generally, this is property that a party either owned prior to marriage, acquired after the date of separation or acquired as a gift or inheritance from a third party at any time. Debts are classified as separate if they were incurred prior to the marriage, after the date of separation or at anytime for a non-marital purpose.

Separation: A physical residential relocation of one spouse.

Service: The delivery to the opposing party of a pleading or some other legal document related to the lawsuit. This is a necessary process if the document is to have any legal significance.

Separation Agreement and Property Settlement A written contract memorializing terms to which the parties have agreed. A case may be resolved with one or more such contracts.  Unless the contract specifically provides that it is to be incorporated into a court order or judgment, the contract will not be reviewed or filed with the court.

Summons: A document notifying a party of a court action and requiring that a party respond within a certain time frame. It is issued by the clerk of court and usually is served by the sheriff or by certified mail to the individual named on the summons. It is typically served with the complaint.

Supporting Spouse: The spouse upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent for financial maintenance and support or from whom such spouse is substantially in need of financial maintenance and support.

Venue: The appropriate judicial district within the state of North Carolina for the lawsuit to be filed.


We deal with people,
not cases.