Professional Resources

Professionals want to help their clients and
patients get through divorce a little easier.

Support Materials

Divorce & Parenting

Cooperative Parenting & Divorce – Local program that offers an interactive, comprehensive resources for parents to examine the complex reality of parenting apart. For info: 910-256-6163

Making Two Homes Work – Online educational program that examines the impact of conflict on children and how to create a more cooperative co-parenting relationship. and – Located nearby support groups where parents can share experiences and rebuild their lives. Children aged 5-12 can participate in activities and make friends with others going through similar transitions.

Mental Health

Dr. Phillip Sharp – Psychologist, New Hanover County

Insight Health Services – Linda Whitlock, MSW, New Hanover County

Integrated Therapy Associates – Yael Gold, Ph.D., New Hanover County

Delta Behavioral Health – Maggie Brice, MSW, New Hanover County

Wilmington Psych – Tom Boeker, M.D., Ph.D., New Hanover County

Agape Counseling Services – Troy Peverall, LPC, LCAS, CCS, New Hanover County

Potentials – Shelley Chambers, MSW, LCSW, Wilmington, NC

Mary Christine Parks, LCSW, LCAS, Wilmington, NC

Marcia Gadlin Gelman, Marriage & Family Therapist, LMT, LLC

Wilmington NC Conseling – Charis Counseling Center

Kim Longbottom
Tracy Boyer-Matthews

Garlande Powell, LCSW, LCAS, CCS, ICAADC, ICCS – New Hanover County

Private Investigators

Lighthouse Investigative – Serving the Wilmington, NC area and beyond, Lighthouse Investigative stands by to provide you with the information you need at a competitive price.

Paula Hayes

Bert Croom, LLC – Private Investigations, New Hanover County

Cape Fear Investigative Services – Private Investigator, New Hanover County

East Coast Private Investigations – Private Investigator, New Hanover County

Spiritual Health

Divorce Care – Spiritual Assistance, New Hanover County

Cape Fear Freewill – Baptist Church, New Hanover County

First Baptist Church – Wilmington, New Hanover County

Grace Baptist Church – Wilmington, New Hanover County

Port City Community Church

The Bridge Church

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Shelter & Hotline (Wilmington)

North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Brunswick County, Hope Harbor Home

Pender County, Safe Haven of Pender

Other Resources

Salt Magazine

Cape Fear Magazine

Wrightsville Beach Magazine

Wilmington Magazine

Coastline Mortgage – Mortgage Consultants, All of North Carolina

Wilma Magazine – Wilmington’s Magazine for Women, New Hanover County

Focus on the Coast – Magazine, New Hanover County

IRS – To Request Copies of Federal Tax Returns

NC Dept. of Revenue – To Request Copies of NC State Tax Returns

Link to “Putting Children First” and “Mending Hearts” videos shown at the Custody Mediation Orientation/Parent Education Program that can be shared with extended family and friends to help them understand the court process and child’s experience of separation and conflict.

Tools to simplify shared child custody with online calendars and tips on how to conduct a business-like relationship with your co-parent.

Free kit, Little Children, Big Challenges includes DVD, children’s storybook and guide for parents and caregivers.

Tips for parents on ways to resolve differences and put children first.

Hector Ingram, MAI

Tuck Sleep Foundation

Family Law Attorneys in other Counties

Separating Together – Adrian J. Davis, Wake County

Hatcher Law Group – Rowan, Stanly and Union Counties

Rosen Law Firm – Durham, Cabarrus, Wake, Orange, Gaston, Johnston, Mecklenburg Counties

Child Support

N.C. Child Support Guidelines – Child Support Resource, North Carolina

N.C. Child Support Calculator – Rosen Law Firm, North Carolina

N.C. Division of Social Services – N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

N.C. Child Support Enforcement – eChild Support, North Carolina

Collaborative Attorneys

J. Albert Clyburn

Ashley Michael

Attorneys in Other Areas of Practice

Butler & Butler, L.L.P. – Bankruptcy Attorneys, New Hanover County

T.W. Kerner, PLLC – Business Attorney, New Hanover County

Goolsby Law Firm – Criminal Attorney, New Hanover County

White and Hearne, LLP – Criminal Attorneys, New Hanover County

Kincaid and Associates – Business, Taxation, Employment, Estate Planning Attorney, New Hanover County

Richard Cook – Bankruptcy Attorney

Kara Gansmann – Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorney

Jennifer Marshall Roden – Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorney


The Truth About Children & Divorce: Dealing With Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive (Emery)

Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce (J. Pedro-Carroll)

The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart (C. Ahrons)

Mom’s House, Dad’s House: A Complete Guide for Parents (I. Ricci, PhD)

Does Wednesday Mean Mom’s House or Dad’s: Parenting Together While Living Apart (M. Ackerman)

Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing (R. Warshak, PhD)

Good Parenting Through Your Divorce: The Essential Guide (M. E. Hannibal)

The Co-parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After a Difficult Divorce (E. Thayer, PhD)

Always Dad: Being a Great Dad During & After Divorce (P. Mandelstein)

101 Ways to Be a Long Distance Super-Dad… or Mom, Too! (G. Newman)

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High (K. Patterson)

Helpful Info

From the Blog

Wives now get unearned benefits … Husband’s too!

October was not only the month for Halloween and Addams Family reruns, but also for new changes to North Carolina laws. I love thinking of the Addams Family as it parodies traditional family roles and makes me remember why I love all the quirky things about my family and my clients’ families. I bet you can remember a funny scene from an Addams Family episode or movie right now without even trying.

Wednesday Addams

Wednesday Addams says “You might find a nice girl to be miserable with.”

October 1, 2019 saw some changes to the North Carolina laws regarding equitable distribution, specifically with regards to pensions. For this blog, N.C.G.S. §50-20.1(h) is amended so that the division of benefits applies to all vested and non-vested pension and retirement benefits. It went on to further define the benefits to include executive benefit plans, church plans, charitable organization plans, and IRAs. Traditional 401(k) and 403(b) as well as 457 accounts are still divisible.

Generally non-vested benefits were not divided because neither party actually owned the benefits. When something is not vested, there is a good argument that the ownership interest has not yet been created. For example, if you have a stock option that you cannot exercise until you have worked at your company for six (6) years, and it is only year three (3) of employment when you separate, then that option has in the past not been divided. It technically did not exist, it was more of a hope or wish that it would exist if everything went correct, the stars aligned, and you kept working at the same company.

However the winds are a changing. There are many, many different types of non-vested benefits which only vest with more work, bonus structures, or other actions which would happen after date of separation. Let’s examine for a moment how this might work. For example, both vested and non-vested stock options are often forms of executive benefits plans. If you are only married for 3 years, why should your spouse be entitled to benefits not accrued or earned on the date of separation? This is new territory folks. The argument on the other side is why should the spouse not be entitled to receive the three (3) years of value when/if they vest? Another good question.

Let’s be honest, it is also ripe for more costs to the client which they don’t need since attorney fees already eat away their estate. It is law changes like this that create so much expense for clients and increase attorney fees. Now a client will almost always need to hire an expert to value the interest that is non-vested. And just how do we value the marital interest of a non-vested stock option that may not be real, owned, or otherwise have value for years to come? Better yet, what about the malpractice of not valuing it when it becomes worth tens of thousands on the strike date?

New laws cost spouses more money for divorce.

And even more, the language attorneys must draft into separation agreements between spouses becomes twice as important. Ensuring that the non-vested benefits may be obtained by the spouse when/if they become vested is a drafting nightmare of Addams Family proportions, without the humor that Fester Addams brings to the table.

So what does that mean for you? It means you must request and provide all non-vested benefits. This is vitally important in cases with non-vested retirement or pension plans, executive or unusual compensation plans, structured bonuses, and if paid commissions.

If you are not scared, well then you are either a seasoned divorce professional waiting for a new law to come out or (the more likely option) you have no idea what any of this means, do not own non-vested benefits, and wonder why I cannot find more child support or alimony things to write about! Touché … and in the memorable words of Wednesday Addams, “You might find a nice girl to be miserable with.”

Wilmington Child Custody Investigator

Custody investigations are difficult and you need the best help you can obtain to ensure your children’s safety and security.

If you ask James Gilchrist, he’s simply the best private investigator there is. After all, child custody investigations takes dedication and a lot of intuition. With a background in law enforcement and over twelve years investigative experience, Gilchrist prides himself in being able to think outside the box and accomplish seemingly impossible things, all while maintaining a level of ethical behavior that garners him respect in the industry.

“I need to have this mentality that I’m the best. I’m always saying to myself that if nobody else can do this, I can, because I want the attorney and the client to rest assured that if I get on the stand to testify, I’m going to know everything there is to know, and the other side is going to be blown away,” says Gilchrist.

Gilchrist considers GPS trackers to be one of the most important tools in his private investigative work. The use of GPS trackers allow investigators to conduct surveillance and gather useful information without being detected, all while still remaining extremely cost effective to clients.

“One GPS can give us the same information as if we had hired 3 investigators to follow one person around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Gilchrist.

Using a self-enclosed, metal box container, Gilchrist can place a GPS tracker on a vehicle that provides location data up to every ten seconds. The trackers allow Gilchrist to monitor the travels and whereabouts of any car as it drives along public roads or is parked in public places. The information these trackers provide can be critically important in cases concerning alimony, child custody, harassment, or alienation of affection.

“I think GPS trackers are a wonderful tool, because people need to know what’s really going on before they make a life decision. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to know the truth before making any decisions,” says Gilchrist.

Another investigative technique that Gilchrist has mastered is the art of dumpster diving. Although he’s the first to admit that the actual act requires little skill, knowing just what to look for in a mound of someone else’s trash takes experience and grit.

“If you’re trying to prove cohabitation of somebody of the opposite sex living in the house, and you’re going through the recipes and see they bought animal crackers, cleaning products, and then they also bought Old Spice…well who’s wearing the Old Spice? Or maybe you know he drinks a certain style of beer or wine, and then you see another brand on the receipt – those sorts of things can absolutely raise suspicion and are beneficial when you find them,” says Gilchrist.

Gilchrist believes that it’s his job as a private investigator to trust nobody, and to think that anybody can do anything. Yet to him, the work he does daily for his clients doesn’t really feel like work at all.

“I enjoy this too much to call it work. The most rewarding thing in this job is to get things right. Anything other than the truth in the courtroom just makes the whole system corrupt. That’s why it’s so important to me to be able to help make sure that a child is going to be with the right parent, because of the truth.”



Private Investigator Bert Croom – Expert at Background Checks

Bert Croom’s journey as a private investigator started in high school. As a teen, Bert became a cadet with the Wilmington Police Department, where he spent his evenings running fingerprints at the department’s front desk. He then became an officer in 1979, and over the next 17 years moved his way up the ranks to Tabor City’s chief of police. In 1994, Bert retired from the police force and returned to Wilmington. He decided to then turn his experience in law enforcement into a new career as a private investigator, and he’s been helping people discover the truth ever since. Performing a background check clearly is part of his second nature.

Croom and his team tackle all sorts of domestic cases, including child custody, divorce, alienation of affection, and cohabitation. No matter the situation, running a thorough background check is the first step in every single investigation. Bert’s crew can dig a little deeper than many other private investigators in town, simply because of the access to multiple databases he has acquired over the years.

“Most everyone can do a regular comprehensive search, but we also check DMV records, federal records, and criminal records for every state. We can see if you’ve been to the pawn shop or if you’ve had any contact with law enforcement,” says Croom.

“I’ve been doing this stuff for 24 years, so I’m striving every day to get better information and be able to provide it to our clients.”

Although other private investigators may have the ability to pull information from the same databases, Croom says that the cost of doing so is something that deters most of them. Fortunately, Croom has had enough work coming through the office over the years to be able to afford the expense that come with having access to so many databases.

“We probably have about 10 different databases that we use, and they each give us such an amazing amount of information,” says Croom. “When somebody’s going to come in here to see me, I’ll go ahead and run their name before they arrive, and I’ll know most everything before they even tell me. I want to know who’s coming in and see what kind of information we’ll be getting. The information you get back from the searches far outweighs the cost of running these things.”

Croom believes that having the ability to run such far-reaching background checks makes cases go much smoother. The knowledge they provide is vital in instances such as setting up clandestine surveillance or monitoring social media accounts.

“I’m a fact finder. Knowledge is worth its weight in gold, because the person with the knowledge is normally going to be the winner,” says Croom.

Croom strives to treat every case with the understanding that it’s the most important thing in the world to happen to that person. Whether a client is going through a divorce, has been arrested, or is a victim of a crime, it’s going to be one of the most significant things that’s ever occurred in their life. Croom says that he and his team therefore put as much attention to detail as possible into each and every case.

“If you need something, and I know that you really need it, then we’re going to help you out. I’m not going to let you walk out of here with nothing,” says Croom. “We’re going to look out for you, because that’s just what we do.”

Written by Annesophia Richards


How porn addiction affects marriage and causes divorce

I know that about 1/4 of my clients or their spouses are addicted at any point in time. What is so bad about an addict’s life? Why do they turn to drugs or porn? They own houses, cars, kids, pets, savings, vacations, and tons of stuff. Many of my clients, and maybe even my staff or I, are addicted to their mobile phones even. Porn addiction is a rampant reason for divorce. Porn addiction is likely the first step before a spouse cheats. Addiction is everywhere.

New research out of Portugal is teaching us that the American ideas on addiction are creating more problems. Portugal is the only nation that has decriminalized all drugs. Basically, it is not against the law to take any drug in Portugal.  The ideas about nudity and porn are also different in Europe also.

I just returned from my trip to Germany.  While there I spent hours riding on the trains and had plenty of time to think.  I thought about the clients who are porn addicts and how watching a stranger having sex on a computer screen is causing them to lose the actual person they are married to.  We can blame the spouse for not engaging in sex with their husband or wife under the belief that if only there was enough sex there is no need for porn.  But porn is used in place of human connection just like all addictive substances.

So when I see a case that involves a spouse’s use of porn, I now need to think about what type of human connections they have available to them.  Can this porn addiction stop?  Will the porn watching happen in the presence of the minor children or be on a computer they use?

The issue is pervasive in the United States and marriages are suffering because of porn. Porn is not the only addictive substance which our society is abusing, but it is one of the most hurtful to the other spouse.  A spouse that is being abandoned for porn blames themselves and finds fault within, thus suffering an identity crisis or at least a drop in self-esteem.

If you love someone with an addiction – click the link and watch the Ted Talk that pops up. Tell me what you think….are we on the right road with tough love or do we simply need more honest, authentic, and sympathetic love?

Divorce is a death that is filled with sorrow.

I recently read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, which I highly recommend especially during the time of a divorce. One quote hit me like a ton of bricks: “Sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there is a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.

At the time of the vows you remember the hope, the joy, and sometimes the fear?  And now here you are – at the death of the dream. Divorce happens. It starts with the unfixable emotional hurts and culminates in separation.

That’s where I come in as an attorney. My clients have to share their sorrow and loss with me. I don’t take it upon myself, because sorrow is so very personal, but when shared it is lessened. When the pain of separation and divorce is understood and when the intricacies of the financial and legal issues are managed, then the emotional pain can be felt and moved through. It doesn’t disappear, but like all emotional pain, it can dull with time and new joys can fill the void.

Just yesterday I received an angry email from a client and I was confused. Prior to the email I had not heard any concerns, any hurt, any frustration. I had thought the case was moving in the right direction and the client was happy with both the representation and the future. How wrong. Yet, how could I have known?

Healing the Sorrow of Divorce

The worse thing for a divorce attorney is when the client suffers in silence. When my clients keeps their pain locked inside and won’t share it, I am lost in the quagmire of trying to help with no clear direction. That has the tendency to cause poor outcomes, a lack of understanding, and a loss of rights. So do the best a client can do is to be honest with me as their attorney.  Tell me of the loss you suffer through daily or when the pain is so much that the process becomes muddy and confusing or unbearable for that day. I care and I never want you to suffer in silence.

Here is a link to the book I mentioned:

Janet L. Gemmell

Q&A: Worried About Money

Question:  I have been married for 12 years to my husband.  He only works part-time.  Will I owe him alimony and if so how much and for how long?  – Worried About Money

Dear Worried About Money:

Alimony (and it’s kissing cousin Post Separation Support) are paid by a spouse that earns more to a spouse that earns less.  It does not matter if you are a husband or wife, the statute does not consider gender.  Based solely on what you wrote, yes you may owe alimony.

Now, the rest of your question is difficult.  In some NC counties there are alimony calculators or formulas, but we do not use one here.  The judge looks at the reasonable needs of both parties based off of their budgets and incomes which they provide on financial affidavits to the court.  The court may consider why your spouse is not employed full-time and can even impute him with income.  If he is imputed with income, then the court treats him as if he is actually earning that amount.  In that case, he may earn enough of imputed income that you would not owe him any alimony.  Before you agree to anything, go and at least meet with an attorney and find out what they think about your specific situation.  You could end up paying for years, so make sure the amount is correct.  You could also end up not paying at all.  That is more than enough reason to meet with an attorney.  Best of luck!

The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service only, a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action. The information above is available for public viewing and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship with any individual. This answer is provided for informational purposes only, a person should consult with their own individual legal counsel before taking any action that could affect their legal rights or obligations.