Brian N. Stretcher, Ph.D.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
Brian offers assistance to clients in the practice areas listed below, and a few that are not listed. If you don't see the area of law you think applies to your situation, feel free to call Brian at 828-884-6575, or email your questions to email@example.com.
Wills and Trusts
If you are an adult and you have "stuff" (i.e. any sort of property, real or personal) you should have a plan for disposing of that property in the event of your passing. No one likes to talk about it, but having an estate plan will make things much easier for your loved ones when the time comes, and it will give you peace of mind to know that your loved ones are taken care of and will not be overwhelmed with arrangements after your passing. The firm offers a full range of Estate Planning Services, including the preparation of wills, trusts, living wills, durable power of attorney, and health care power of attorney.
Don't be fooled; there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to estate planning. Fees for estate planning services include a review of your estate assets, counsel about how your estate planning documents work and the type of documents needed to meet your estate planning goals. Discounts may be available for the preparation of complete estate packages, and for the preparation of reciprocal documents for you and your spouse or partner.
Divorce & Equitable Distribution
Unfortunately, many marriages fail. When a marriage fails, it is usually necessary to divide the assets and debts of the marriage (equitable distribution in North Carolina) and, if there are children, determine the custody arrangement, visitation, and child support. While not always a simple process, it is possible to to be guided by an experienced attorney who can look past the emotional issues that always accompany the termination of a marriage, and keep the process as painless as possible.
Property division and custody are separate processes from divorce itself in North Carolina. While most issues are settled by agreement, if the parties cannot agree on an issue, it has to be determined by litigation. For a divorce case, fees may be charged at at an advanced flat rate or an hourly rate, depending on the circumstances. A deposit against anticipated hourly fees is paid by the client prior to the firm starting work on your case.
When a loved one passes, their property should be distributed to their next of kin according to either the will, if there is one, or according to state law if there is not. Both processes require court involvement, and at times can be quite frustrating. Meanwhile, there are creditors that need to be paid, funeral arrangements to make, and relatives to keep happy. Trying to take care of all of those arrangements and administer a loved one's estate can be overwhelming. Or, perhaps there is concern that those charged with administering the estate are not doing so in a proper or timely manner.
The firm can take care of much of the frustrating process of estate administration for you. And, although charged by the hour, typically fees are capped by law or rule and paid by the estate during administration, not directly by the deceased's family unless you are challenging the will or property distribution.
Custody, Visitation and Child Support
Along with divorce, custody, visitation, and child support are commonly collectively referred to as Family Law. Termination of a marriage with children may involve all three. However, the law also provides for resolution of such matters by non-traditional families. Not everyone who has children is married, and so the law provides a means for non-married parents to assert custodial rights. Sometimes parties other than a parent, such as a grandparent or other significant caregiver, may wish to take legal steps to care for, visit, or otherwise see to the welfare and support of a child. That includes the State, who may pursue child support claims against parents who no longer live with and provide for their children directly. Child support includes healthcare coverage for the children.
Custody and visitation actions can be lengthy and time consuming, and although flat fees may be offered in some cases, they are usually billed by the hour. A deposit against anticipated hourly fees is paid by the client prior to the firm starting work on the case, and the balanced billed later. Child support matters are more variable; establishing or contesting an initial support order is relatively straightforward and therefore might be paid as a flat fee, but enforcing or modifying existing orders can be complex and sometimes must be paid by the hour as well.
Let's face it, people sometimes get into trouble. Whether it's you or a loved one, things usually go much better for a criminal defendant in court if they have an attorney at their side. Your attorney knows the rules of the game, the attorneys on the other side, when to say what needs to be said and when to be quiet. If a defendant is facing potential jail time, it is usually foolish and frequently disasterous for them to try and represent themselves.
Fees for criminal cases must generally be paid in advance, but depend on a number of factors, including what the client wants to do. The more serious the offense, typically the higher the fee, as more time will usually be required to investigate and prepare the defense. Fees are necessarily higher for cases that will go to trial, and higher still for a jury trial. Nevertheless, the firm does work with its clients to keep fees manageable.
Juvenile cases include delinquency proceedings, which are essentially criminal proceedings against a child under the age of 18. Just like adults, sometimes kids get into trouble with the law. Children should be represented by counsel rather than a legal guardian in almost all delinquency proceedings, as well-meaning guardians often do not fully understand the process, nor the collateral consequences associated with choosing certain paths to resolve a child's case.
Juvenile cases also include dependency, which is when the State seeks to remove a child from the legal guardian because of alleged threats to the child's safety. Removal may be temporary with the objective of reuniting the family, or the State may seek permanent termination of parental rights. It is vital to have qualified counsel during such proceedings, to both protect the parent's rights and to guide the parent through the often frustrating process.
Delinquency and Dependency cases are generally paid for at the beginning just like an adult criminal case. Some Dependency cases may be billed by the hour, with a deposit paid at the start of the case.