In North Carolina family law practice, litigation is started with a summons and complaint being filed, followed by an answer and counterclaims and finally, a reply to the counterclaims.   This series of filings is collectively referred to as the pleadings in the case.

Motion in the Cause.

Claims in North Carolina family law cases can also be made in the form of a motion in the cause.   For example, even if the issue of child custody is not raised in the pleadings, a party may file a motion and ask the court to award child custody.  This is a motion in the cause.

Another example is that of equitable distribution.  In North Carolina equitable distribution law, there is a rule that a claim must be made for equitable distribution prior to divorce or the right of a party to ask for an equitable distribution is lost forever.    Even if the pleadings are closed, a party may file a motion in the cause for equitable distribution any time up until the entry of the divorce judgment in a case.

Several types of claims may be made by motion in the cause.   Alimony, postseparation support, equitable distribution, child custody, child support and attorneys fees all may be made by motion.  Like equitable distribution, claims for alimony and postseparation support must, however, be made prior to the entry of the absolute divorce.


Scott Allen is a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC with over twenty-eight years of experience in all areas of family law litigation and settlement. He can be reached at 919.863.4183 and his email is