2023 is Not “2020, Too”

By Ketan Soni

Your new chair, Jill Jackson, comes on board next week!

Here’s where I started last July.


After reading this post, ask yourself:

“What have I done to make things better?”

The answer, partially, is:

“Helping clients endure through one of the most difficult times in their lives.”

That’s great for clients. What about the rest of us (your colleagues)? Volunteer. Be agents of change. Start by contacting Sherard Johnson to volunteer. If you get a chance, email Cheyenne to congratulate her on moving up at the NCBA in a new role!


We did plenty of good this year. A smattering:

  • Our section donated scholarships to NCBA pro bono and LANC attorneys to attend the Family Law Annual meeting in person.
  • We maintained solid relationships with our sponsors and even added a few, which allowed us to have cool socials, donate money, and roll over $1,800 to the next NCBA year.
  • We honored one of our own, Mark Sullivan, with the Distinguished Service Award.
  • We had the blessing of another one of our own, Shelby Benton, of being honored with the John B. McMillan Distinguished Service Award.
  • Two of our section members were part of the NCBA Expert CLE series.
  • We nominated and appointed five awesome new Council members.
  • We are working with other sections on important legislative issues, like Estate Planning, Real Property, and Dispute Resolution.
  • Many more things my brain can’t recall at 10 p.m. while I draft this.

Areas of Improvement

  • NCBA, SOGI, and is there a “we” to the section? Unknown. There are 1,600 Family Law section members and I’m not sure how many we’ll have next year. I don’t have a solution and with only 5% of our membership responding to a recent poll, maybe I’m naïve in presuming this will be an ongoing discussion point.
  • Legislation: I feel like we were bombarded and blindsided with new legislation that could negatively impact our practice. If we didn’t have people like Michelle Frazier, these new laws would have passed without our knowledge. We need to have more voices in our legislature.
  • Committee projects: It’s hard to do our regular jobs and also the volunteer stuff that keeps this section moving. Again, no answer. Just an area where we can do better.

My Goals

I had a proposed plan and some goals this past bar year.

  1. To draft an initial Succession Plan.


  1. To be more grown up like Wade Harrison . . . by collaboratively creating model Financial Affidavits.

Failed twice.  First in my initial goal. Second in my attempt to resurrect the project by comparing the project to spring.

  1. To streamline Council meetings.

Completed. In fact, the last meeting was 1.5 hours.

Committee Goals

I also strove to hold our committees accountable with some goals:

Adoption Goals

  1. Function as a welcoming and collegial forum.
  2. Legislative process to improve adoption process.
  3. Resume tradition of getting together in person to discuss adoption, eat sandwiches for lunch, and have cookies for dessert.


  • Made legislative proposals that were approved re: stepparent adoption.
  • Provided talking points to liaison.
  • Engaged in discussion with Modern Family over UPA adoption provisions.
  • Not enough sandwiches.


  1. Recirculate the alimony survey to Council by email.
  2. Circulate to the larger section.
  3. Figure out if AL/PSS need to be changed.


  •  Commented on multiple proposed changes to alimony legislation during a busy cycle.


  • Goals are to continue kicking butt, as they have been for years.
  • Success!

Alternative Dispute Resolution

  1. ADR Survey for Family Law Section.
  2. Determine what the ADR committee can do to promote the use of ADR in family law cases.


  • Considered joint task force with Dispute Resolution Section.
  • Expansion of arbitration.
  • Circulated survey to section.
  • Commented on Rule 53 changes.


  • 15 blog posts this year
  • Two video interviews/blogs

Custody and Child Support Committee Co-Chair

  • Looking into legislation regarding GALs/Custody Advocates


  • Responded to Shared Parenting Bill (bad idea).
  • Responded to Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act proposed.
  • Responded to bill which would have encouraged 12-year-old children to testify in custody cases (bad idea).

Domestic Violence

No goals elicited, but here’s what they did:

  • Responded to bills on accelerating time for divorce in civil and criminal DV cases.
  • Responded to bill on superseding DV orders.

Equitable Distribution

  1. Fixing 50-20(d), 52-10 by October 1.
  2. Fixing impacts of the Salvatore case – by October 1.
  3. An endless stream of other items.


  • Passed changes on bill regarding ability of spouse to eliminate ED in a deed, GS 41-63 and 39-13.
  • Passed Rule 53 changes with Wade Harrison.

Family Law Bench Book

  1. The plan is to get this completed this year.
  2. Apparently, I volunteered myself to finish the tax chapter.


  • 100% completed Desk Book!

Pro Bono

  1. Expand Custody Clinic in Wake throughout the state, to Wilmington and west.
  2. Recruit local attorneys in these new areas.
  3. Improve working with other sections.
  4. Get a blog post out about this important work by September 1.


  • Held 1 Clinic
  • Continued work!
  • Did the blog post!

Modern Family

  1. Complete a draft Uniform Parentage Act by end of 2022 (volunteers needed).
  2. Get volunteers to draft chapters.
  3. Circulate the draft UPA in January 2023 with comments open until March 2023.
  4. Get a vote on the UPA by the section, in whatever form we have it, by May 2023.
  5. Pass something to get the ball moving.


  • UPA 1st draft is out there and circulated.
  • Initial discussion meetings have been set with many future meetings to vet the proposal.
  • Plan to complete/vote by October 2024.


  1. Get input from section members on what type of events they want.
  2. Focus on creating more “food-related” events with activities, instead of just alcohol-related events.


No goals, but a ton of work! Responded to proposed bills on:

  • Interstate paternity
  • Not letting 12 year olds testify in custody cases
  • Barring PSS in cases with adultery
  • Shared Parenting Presumption
  • Requiring 2-party consent to record conversations
  • Shortening the time to file for divorce in DV cases
  • Interstate Paternity Issues
  • New Step-parent adoption bills

That’s it. I appreciate the section putting up with me over this bar year. As Jill takes over next week, just remember that it’s better to burn out than to fade away (Highlander quote from The Kurgan). Hm . . . even though I won’t delete that quote, it was meant in jest. Before you burn out, get some help or talk to someone. This job isn’t worth your health, mental or otherwise.

Thanks for being a part of our section!