Valerie Marie Hein Hunter, 28 of North Charlotte, began Hunter & Hein law firm with her husband and business partner, Bill Hunter in 2012. For three years they have run their family law firm from their home where they meet clients at their dining room table.
When they began their firm they wanted to provide professional, affordable and convenient legal services to their neighbors and those in their community, and to get to know each of their clients as people, not just cases. Keep reading to see how they have been able to achieve this so far.
Q. What drew you to family law?
A. My husband and I both have a lot of personal experience dealing with divorce and non-traditional family units. Bill’s parents and my parents are both divorced, and we both have step-parents whom we love very much. Bill has been married previously and has a daughter from that marriage, so he has directly experienced the pain and effects of a divorce.
I am now a step-mother to Bill’s first daughter and we also have a daughter of our own. Bill’s ex-wife is our daughter’s godmother, and we all live in the same neighborhood, just a stone’s throw away from each other. While we have managed to create a good relationship among all those involved in our quite non-traditional family, it took a lot of work to get there. We understand the trials and tribulations that come with divorce and we want to help develop a solution for our clients when they are facing difficult times.
Q. What all does your firm do?
A. We focus our practice in the areas of Family Law (Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Post Separation Support, Alimony, Equitable Distribution, Prenuptial Agreements, Postnuptial Agreements, Separation Agreements, Guardianship, and all other family related matters), Criminal Defense (Traffic, DWI/DUI, Drug and Alcohol Charges, Underage Possession Charges, Assault, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Larceny, Injury to Property, all Misdemeanors an d Felony Charges) and Estate Planning (Drafting of Wills, Living Wills, Healthcare Powers of Attorney, General/Durable Powers of Attorney and Trusts).
Q. How are you able to help families through the emotional challenges that come with divorce?
A. Bill and I don’t see our clients as a case or file number - we see them come in as real people, with real problems, needing real help. We appreciate that when someone walks through our door they are probably facing one of the most difficult times of their life, and they may be confused, overwhelmed or even a little scared about what they will be facing in the coming months.
We try to help ease some of their anxiety by explaining the legal issues and process so that they will know exactly what to expect each step along the way. We listen to our clients, making sure we know exactly what they want to achieve through the divorce process and how they want to get there.
While some are eager to settle their case without going to court, even if that means giving up a little more and taking a little less, others want to fight tooth and nail to get exactly what they feel they deserve. Going through a separation and divorce is a very emotional time and we want to assure our clients that when they hire us, they are getting someone who will be on their side to guide them, stand up for them, represent them and fight for them.
Q. What is the best thing a parent can do for their child when they are going through a divorce?
A. Love their children more than they hate their ex-spouse.
What does this mean? Parents should do anything and everything in their power to keep their children out of the war zone.
Be respectful toward your children’s other parent.
Encourage your children to enjoy their time with the other parent.
Show an interest in the activities your children participates in with the other parent.
Keep the lines of communication open with the other parent.
Even when you can’t even mention who is going to take the fine china without ending up in a screaming match, make it a point to communicate about your children. It is important that both parents foster a strong relationship between their children and the other parent.
Q. What is the main thing divorcing parents should not do?
A. Parents who are going through a separation and divorce have to be very careful not to put their children in the middle of their issues with the other parent.
Don’t talk down to your children’s other parent in their presence.
Don’t make your children choose who they’d rather spend time with, and don’t make them feel bad about being excited to see the other parent.
Avoid viewing your relationship with your children as a competition with the other parent- don’t make your children the rope in a game of tug-of-war.
Q. What types of things do NC courts look at when determining which parent to grant custody?
A. North Carolina judges must base a custody determination on the “best interest of the child” standard. This means that the court will take into consideration everything that affects the children’s interest including the stability of the home, each parent’s living arrangements, the school zone in which each parent lives, the involvement of each parent in the children’s healthcare, school work, activities and daily routine, the children’s relationship with each parent, and any other factor the court determines may have an impact on the children’s best interest.
Q. What are the steps for a divorce when a child is involved?
A. Before filing for divorce in North Carolina, spouses must live separate and apart for one year and one day. For parents, this often means that during the period of separation, child custody needs to be established before the parents even file for divorce. A custody schedule can be made by agreement of the parties through a separation agreement or a consent order filed with the court; or one parent can file for custody, asking a judge to make a custody determination if the parents are unable to agree.
Either way, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney before taking any major steps, so that you know all your options and what to expect moving forward.
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