Kristin H. Ruth


Kristin Ruth grew up on a wheat farm in Kansas, graduated from Kansas State University and worked her way through law school at Campbell University. In 2000, she was awarded the North Carolina Child Support Council’s Distinguish Service of Excellence Award. In 2003, she received the national American Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women’s Association.

As a partner in the firm, Kristin represents clients in all aspects of family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, and equitable property distribution. She brings more than 25 years of courtroom and mediation experience to her practice, in particular to matters involving grandparent visitation and domestic violence, as well as family law disputes between same-sex couples. She is a certified mediator and certified financial mediator.

Prior to joining Smith Debnam, Kristin spent seven years in private practice before being elected to the 10th Judicial District Court bench in 1998, where she served as a district court judge in Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina. As a family court judge, she concentrated the majority of her time presiding in the courtroom designated for the enforcement of child support. While in office, she earned re-election in 2002, 2006, and 2010, and was awarded the Commissioner’s Judge of the Year Award in 2004, presented by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in Washington, DC.

Kristin is a frequent guest speaker at national and international events on issues covering child support and ethics. She is a former member of the Federal Child Support Task Force, National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and Chief Justices’ Commission on Professionalism, and has served as president of the North Carolina Child Support Council. Ruth currently serves on the board of Carolina Dispute Settlement Services and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association, Wake County Bar Association, and Tenth Judicial District Bar. Kristin is married to John Preston Ruth, LTC, USMCR (retired) and retired American Airlines Captain. Preston and Kristin have one son, Kenan, who attends the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Get to Know Kristin

What do you enjoy outside of work?

“Riding horses is the one true passion that I have had as long as I can remember. My dad bought me a pony for my 6th birthday and I have been actively riding and caring for horses ever since. Riding is great exercise, but more importantly, spending time with my horse provides me an opportunity to enjoy the company of my “friend” and the great outdoors.”  

What was my very first job?

“My very first “real” job was as a flight attendant for American Airlines. After graduating from Kansas State University, I traveled to Texas to teach horseback riding at a girl’s camp for the summer. One of the camp counselors from Dallas introduced me to her mother who was a former flight attendant. She encouraged me to apply at the end of summer. By chance, I called American Airlines, they interviewed me and I was hired. I retired from American in 1996 with 17 years! Because of the flexible scheduling, I was able to attend law school while flying for American Airlines.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“It is personally rewarding and a privilege to be able to counsel and advocate for my clients as we navigate together through the complexities of the legal system while making difficult decisions that affect not only them but their families.”


  • North Carolina State Bar
  • Texas State Bar
  • Kansas State University, Bachelor of Science, 1974 – 1978
  • Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Campbell University, Juris Doctor, 1987 – 1990
  • Family Financial Mediation Certification (16 hours), 2013
  • Superior Court Mediation Certification (40 hours), 2012
Professional Affiliations
  • NC Bar Association, Member
  • Board of Governors, Vice-President of the North Carolina Bar Association (2009-2010)
  • Member of the Wake County Bar Association
  • Member of the 10th Judicial District Bar
  • Member of the Federal Task Force on Child Support (2004-2010)
  • Member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) – 2000 – 2012
  • Former Board Member for Carolina Correctional Services
  • President, Carolina Dispute Settlement Services
  • Current Board of Trustees for the Apex United Methodist Church
  • Current Member of the Texas Bar Association (inactive status)
  • Current Member of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys
  • Member of the American Business Women’s Association (1998-2008)
  • Member of the Juvenile Justice Commission (2008-2009)
  • 2005 President of the North Carolina Child Support Council
Awards & Recognition
  • Selected to participate in an “Expert’s meeting on the Draft Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and other forms of Family Maintenance” April 20, 2006 in Washington, DC. By invitation from Mary Helen
  • Selected to participate in “Institutionalizing problem-solving practices in all courts: A Working Summit”, Bureau of Justice and National Judicial College, Reno, Nevada, May 10-12, 2005.
  • Presenter at the United Nations 11th Annual Crime Congress in Bangkok, Thailand (April 2005)
  • Presenter at the Annual International Conference on Restorative Justice in Winchester, England (March 2004)
  • Guest speaker on Voice of America (March 2003)
Civic Involvement
  • Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees, Apex United Methodist Church
  • Mission service to Italy as a law student with a team of students who wrote appeals for 100 refugees who were denied refugee status to the United States.
  • Guatemala Service project coordinator and organizer for a team of law students
  • Mission trips to Dominican Republic, Bahamas, and Guatemala sponsored by the Apex United Methodist Church in Apex, NC.
  • Appalachian Service Project (ASP)/Kentucky 2009
  • Former Kiwanis Club member and past president
  • Member of the Camelot Book Club, Raleigh, NC
Published Articles
  • Ruth, Kristin (2008) “Breaking the Cycle” by using alternatives to incarceration, unpublished paper co-authored, Raleigh, NC.
  • Ruth, Kristin and Dr. Rhonda Zingraff. (2007) “New Research Shows Power of Problem-Solving Methods in Court.” Child Support Report Vol. XXIX, No. 4, April, Washington, D.C.: Office of Child Support Enforcement.
  • Ruth, K. “Breaking the Cycle: Alternatives to incarceration lead to collections in Wake County, North Carolina, Child Support Report, Volume XXVIII, No.       1, January 2006, Washington, DC: Office of Child Support Enforcement. 38 (1) 2.
  • Contributed to article, Ashton, J. (2006) “Child support dockets benefit from uprising problem­ solving court principle”: Juvenile and Family Justice Today, 14 (4), 19-21.
  • Carlson Attorney-Advisor/Office of the Assistant Legal Advisor for Private International law under the US Department of State.
  • Contributed chapter entitled, “The Cookie” in “Rekindling the Human Spirit,” an anthology on life lessons. (2003)
  • Contributed chapter entitled, “O ‘ Yez! O’ Yez! O’ Yez!” in, “Life, Work and Money from A Woman’s Perspective” an anthology for women. (2002)
  • Numerous speaking engagements, presentations and training (nationally and internationally) on problem-solving courts, alternatives to incarceration, mediation, ethics and child support. Details provided upon request. Classes are accredited for continuing legal and judicial legal education. (1998-present)
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