How Can We Help?

Afi S. Johnson-Parris
Chair, NCBA Family Law Section

The past few weeks have been surreal. With the rising crisis of COVID-19, we’ve had to adapt and change every plan we’ve had for the Family Law Section, our annual meeting, our CLE, and much of the business of the Association. We face the very real possibility that our practices and our lives will be damaged in ways that we can’t fully imagine.

In chaotic times, it helps me to focus on what I can do to help. We can all help in some way, and that’s what the leadership of the Family Law Section has endeavored to do.

At our last meeting of the Family Law Council, we voted to donate $5,000 of our Section funds to the Jane B. Weathers Lawyers Helping Lawyers Fund. This Fund was established upon the retirement of a long-time association staff member, Jane Weathers, to provide grants to lawyers experiencing financial hardship due to unforeseen difficult circumstances. Be it medical, personal, or professional challenges, the Fund is there to help.

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What Language Does Your Law Firm Speak?

By Chelsea Gajewski

One of the beautiful things about this Country is all of the unique individuals who live in it. While the most common language in America is English, there are individuals who speak other languages who need our services as family law attorneys. We want the family law community to be as accessible to those individuals as we are to those who speak English. After English, the most common languages spoken in North Carolina are Spanish, French, and German. With that being said, the Membership Committee has created a survey for law firms who practice in the area of family law. The survey includes questions that will help us to identify which legal professionals have the ability to assist non-English speaking clients through their domestic case. If you or someone at your firm speaks a language other than English, we want to know! Ultimately, once we collect this information, we intend to provide a comprehensive list on the NCBA website as a resource for those clients who are seeking domestic help and for whom English is not their first language. The link to the survey is here.

If you have an idea of a different resource list that should be available on the NCBA website for our domestic clients, please e-mail me at

Thank you

Chelsea Gajewski

Notarization During the COVID-19 Crisis

Laura Linfante

Pam Deeds Stewart

By Lori Linfante and Pam Deeds Stewart

The COVID-19 crisis has not affected the Notary law in North Carolina. However, the NC Secretary of State’s Office has issued guidance on how to comply with the in-person appearance requirements in this time of practicing social distancing. Some steps that can be taken to reduce exposure to the Notary and the principal (“signer”) are the same as the recommended COVID-19 precautions we should all be practicing such as not shaking hands, cleaning your hands often, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and keeping a 6-foot distance from others. Specific suggestions when notarizing documents are to not share pens (ask the signer to use their own pen), viewing the identification from the tabletop instead of touching the identification, and standing at the opposite ends of a long conference table. Some firms are offering curbside notary services or other outside options as ways to keep their employees and clients safe. These Notary challenges will be increased for parties that reach an agreement while they are participating in a mediation conducted via electronic means. It will be a process of getting the documents to each party at their location and then having them signed and notarized.

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Fight Hunger, Help Others in the COVID-19 Pandemic – Participate in the Legal Feeding Frenzy and Support Your Local Food Bank!

Michele Livingstone

Will Quick

By Michele Livingstone and Will Quick

We are in unprecedented times with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  It is now more important than ever that we help our neighbors and those who are not as fortunate. I am confident that each of you is doing your part.

Even in the best of times, however, over 1.5 Million North Carolinians struggle with hunger—of those, nearly half a million are children. With public schools and many religious and nonprofit organizations that traditionally serve the food insecure in our communities being closed for indefinite periods, and government leaders calling for social distancing to help limit the spread of Coronavirus, that need is never more pressing than now.

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China’s One Child Policy compared to Paynich v. Vestal (Jan. 2020)

By Janet Gemmell

Do you remember when China started the One Child Policy? While watching a documentary on the unintended tragic consequences of this policy, I started to wonder what may occur if the USA started a similar policy.

Imagine the Federal Bureau for Parental Licensing (FBPL). What if a person had to apply for a license from the FBPL? What kind of requirements and testing would be implemented? Would you be required to be physically and mentally healthy? Maybe an ink blot test? The MMPI-2 administered? Genetic testing? Would marriage or long-term committed relationship be a prerequisite?

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Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s Announcement Regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

By Afi S. Johnson-Parris

Family Law Section members, please make note of Chief Justice Beasley’s announcement today regarding the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) impact on court operations, which goes into effect on Monday, March 16. You can access her announcement here:

Although courthouses will remain open, this will have a direct impact on many of us practicing in the North Carolina Court System because all court proceedings will be rescheduled for at least 30 days, with some exceptions.

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Tribute to Bill Drew

By Jennifer Tharrington 

Since 2018, the Family Law Section has partnered with the Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section on a joint task force to review and amend the Uniform Parentage Act for presentation to the North Carolina legislature. This post is a tribute to a founding member of that task force, William (Bill) Drew, who passed away on February 21, 2020. Bill practiced in Charlotte with the firm now known as K&L Gates, until his retirement in 2002. Post-retirement, Bill remained actively engaged in the Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section and was one of the first attorneys to recognize the need for updated parentage statutes in North Carolina that better addressed the needs and definitions of modern families. Bill was a visionary and a pioneer that played a fundamental role in the work of the task force. Although retired and in his 70s, Bill noticed and understood the gap in North Carolina’s parentage statutes long before most other practitioners. He cared deeply about protecting all children and wanted to ensure that North Carolina parentage statutes were fair and inclusive—that no child, regardless of how he or she was conceived or born, would fall into a gap in the law. Bill was willing to actually do the work that was necessary to evolve the law and bring it back into alignment with the current reality of the American family. He generously offered his time, energy, and effort. He didn’t just call for change. He was willing to be the change. Bill’s presence on the task force will be deeply missed, and we hope to continue this important work in his memory.


4ALL Statewide Service Day

By Larissa Mañón Mervin 

4ALL Statewide Service Day — Have Fun with Your Peers and Experience the Rewards of Serving Together

Hi Family Law Section Members!

We’ve circled back around to the time of year where we all get to participate in the 4ALL Statewide Service Day. This year, the 4ALL Statewide Service Day will be held on March 6, 2020 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in the following cities: Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh, and Wilmington. For those who have participated in the past, you know that this is an enjoyable and rewarding way to use our legal skills to help the general population with some of their most pressing legal questions, many of which are family-law related. For those who have not yet participated, I encourage you to try it this year! You’ll be glad you did!

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Case Updates – ED and Life Insurance

By Ketan P. Soni

Crago v. Crago – Mecklenburg County

During the parties’ marriage, they both liquidated 401(k) accounts and pension plans due to unemployment.  Husband went back to work, and Wife enrolled in school. A few years later, the parties opened up a joint account where both Husband and Wife would draw money, and Wife would sometimes withdraw funds to transfer to her separate account.

Wife had children from a previous marriage. Prior to this marriage, that ex-husband took out a $1M life insurance policy and named Wife the beneficiary. Wife partially paid the insurance premiums with funds received from Husband.  That ex-husband died, and 4 months later the parties separated.

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“Murder on Birchleaf Drive: Trial Strategy for True Crime Lovers”

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When Meredith Fisher discovered her sister Michelle’s brutally beaten and lifeless body on the floor of the master bedroom she shared with her husband Jason, a quest for justice began—one that would ultimately last 12 years and end in the murder conviction of Jason Lynn Young in a Wake County courtroom.

The compelling story is told in Murder on Birchleaf Drive by Poyner Spruill lawyer and NCBA member Steven B. Epstein.

The Jason Young murder case is also now the focus of a 3-hour CLE program Epstein will present on January 10 at the N.C. Bar Center titled “Murder on Birchleaf Drive: Trial Strategy for True Crime Lovers.

Click here to access brochure.  Click here to register.

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