We cannot think about anything more important than family, especially our children. When parents break up there are a lot of issues to determine as far as child custody and visitation is concerned. It is hard enough for parents to agree how to raise their children under one home; when a child has to spend time in two homes, decisions can be even harder to make.
In North Carolina, our court system has determined that it is in a child's best interests to spend time with both parents. Determining how much time to spend with each parent and what child custody schedule to have may be difficult for some parents.
If parents can agree to their parenting time and a custody schedule, they are often able to put this in a child custody order, which spells out what days and overnights a child is to spend with both parents. If parents cannot agree to a custody schedule, they sometimes need the involvement of the court system. This requires at least one parent to file a complaint for child custody.
In Mecklenburg County, before a parent can have a trial to determine the custody arrangement, the court requires that the parents complete a parenting education class. This may be completed by taking a four hour parenting education course online. Parents are also required to complete mediation, which may be conducted through a private mediation involving the parents, attorneys, and a mediator, or through a court-ordered mediation program.
If parents are unable to agree to a custody schedule at mediation, they are able to then seek a court date for a permanent child custody hearing. At the custody hearing, both parents present evidence showing why it is in the child's best interest to spend more time with them or what custody schedule works best for the child.
If you need to speak with a Huntersville child custody attorney, contact Adkins Law. One of our experienced child custody lawyers will be able to assist you through the child custody process.
For many of us, our children are the most important parts of our lives. Certainly, as we attempt to navigate all of the issues that come with divorce, not only child support and child custody but even the way we divide our property or decide whether or not to relocate for our job – our children are at the forefront of our minds. Though many things may change following a divorce, this is not one of them. Especially following the divorce, many parents are worried about their children-worried about how they will handle the transition from one home to two, and how they will deal with the complex emotions they may have. This is an understandable concern-and the truth is that unfortunately there is nothing you can do to entirely take away the pain of divorce for your children. The good news, however, is that there are things that you can do to help your children navigate this often difficult and emotionally confusing time, and come out healthy and happy on the other side:
Contact Adkins Law to arrange a family law consultation with an experienced Huntersville child custody attorney. One of our Huntersville child custody lawyers can help guide you through your child custody matter.
In an ideal world, alimony payments would always be made on time, and be of help to the dependent spouse as they are intended to. Unfortunately, however, the real world can often be less than ideal. In some circumstances, for any number of reasons, one spouse will fail to make the required alimony payments to the other. While this is unfortunate, the law fortunately provides remedies for those spouses who deserve alimony and are not receiving it.
If the parties initially determined alimony via a separation agreement, their initial attempts at enforcement will understandably be different than if alimony was determined by a court order. Separation agreements are generally governed by contract law, and as a result, those seeking to enforce a contract must file an enforcement action in civil court if the spouse is not following the terms of the contract, unless the agreement was previously incorporated into an enforceable court judgement. If a party attempts a contract enforcement action without success, they can file an initial action for alimony with the court, though this will of course take an additional amount of time and effort. It must be understood, however, that if your divorce has been processed before you file a court action for alimony, the court will lose jurisdiction to enter an award of alimony. A court action for alimony must be pending before your absolute divorce is entered.
On the other hand, if a court initially entered the alimony determination, the parties may return to the court to seek enforcement of the order. After being notified that one spouse is significantly behind on his or her obligation to pay alimony, and after verifying that this is the case through proof presented by the dependent spouse, the court may order the amount to be paid in a lump sum to the dependent spouse. If the supporting spouse does not have enough cash to cover the delinquent amount, the court may potentially order the transfer of title to other property to the dependent spouse, might garnish the supporting spouse’s wages or bank account, or might place a lien against the supporting spouse’s real or personal property until the delinquency is satisfied. If a case is extreme enough, the court might find the non-paying spouse in contempt, which can result in additional fines and even jail time.
Contact Adkins Law to speak with an experienced Huntersville divorce attorney about your alimony matter. One of our Huntersville divorce lawyers will arrange a family law consultation with you to discuss your strategies and options moving forward.
Without question, worrying about your children and making the time and effort to ensure that they are taken care of and provided for throughout the divorce process and after should be one of your primary concerns as a parent. However, it is also important to remember that in the midst of caring for your children, you also shouldn’t forget to care for yourself. After all, it can be hard to fill others up when you are feeling empty yourself. Sometimes, people can have a tendency to neglect self-care or put it in the back burner following a divorce, feeling that there are simply more important things deserving of their time. We would argue against this misconception, and would encourage you to remember that when you feel better, and when you have more energy, you are better able to meet the challenges of each day, and to care for those you love.
Often, people think of property in terms of tangible items, and this is understandable. It’s important not to overlook non-tangible property however – not only things like retirement and pension accounts, but also things like insurance policies, which have definite value, and which must be addressed as you prepare to move forward down two separate paths. As you prepare to negotiate and divide your property during the divorce, it can be helpful to maintain a detailed inventory of all of your existing insurance policies, as well as all of the designated beneficiaries on those policies.
Depending upon the particular circumstances one spouse may be required to maintain the other spouse on their insurance policy for any number of reasons, so it is also important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney as to your circumstances before making any final decisions one way or the other. In addition, as you prepare for divorce, it can be helpful to begin the process of obtaining quotes for new policies if you will be canceling your old ones. Doing so will save you time and headache in the long run.
Many rely on COBRA coverage after a divorce until they can arrange for a new policy. It is, however, always a wise decision to contact your insurance company to discuss the divorce, as well as what steps might need to be taken (and what costs will be incurred) to continue the coverage. It should also be noted that in some settlement agreements as part of the property division between the parties, one spouse agrees to cover the full or partial COBRA payments for the spouse and/or children who were formerly named on the regular insurance policy.
If one or both spouses have life insurance policies, the beneficiaries and terms of those policies will need to be reviewed and possibly negotiated during the property division process. It can be helpful, after an absolute divorce is granted, to provide the divorce decree to your insurance company and instruct them to notify all beneficiaries of any policy changes or missed payments. This can help to ensure that the policy premiums continue to be maintained, and that the policy remains active, and up-to-date with the appropriate beneficiary information.
It can be helpful to consider how the insurance policy might fit into your overall estate plan, as life insurance proceeds are generally included in the estate. Some choose to use a helpful planning tool called an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, or ILIT. An attorney who understands family law and estate planning will be able to advise you as to whether a tool like this might be helpful in your particular circumstances.
If you and/or your spouse do not have life insurance policies, this does not necessarily mean that you should entirely ignore this issue during your divorce. In some situations, couples who are divorcing and do not have insurance are actually ordered by the court to acquire insurance. Typically, this occurs in a situation where the divorcing couple has children, and one spouse earns significantly more than the other. In that situation, the court will often order the spouse who earns more income to obtain a life insurance policy naming the ex-spouse as a beneficiary in order to ensure future financial security in the place of standard support obligations if the higher-earning spouse passes away.
Contact Adkins Law if you need to speak with an experienced Huntersville family law attorney to arrange a consultation. One of our Huntersville divorce lawyers can arrange a consultation with you to discuss your family law matter in detail.
Certainly, making the decision to move away after a divorce and after an initial custody arrangement is determined can be a hard decision for anyone to have to make. Whether the move is for a new job, because of a remarriage, or simply to start a fresh chapter in a new setting, much consideration often goes into making that choice. That choice certainly becomes more complicated when children are involved, and it must be decided whether the children will relocate as well, or whether current custody arrangements will change in some way.
If you or your ex-spouse is considering a relocation, it is always wise to check your separation agreement or child custody order for any restrictions on relocation that may exist. Some custody orders place restrictions on parents moving out of state or moving the children more than a specified number of miles away. If you have such restrictions in your custody order and you violate them, you could be found to be in contempt of court and subject to a variety of penalties, which may, depending on the severity of the situation even involve the loss of some of your custodial rights. For most parents, this simply isn’t worth the risk.
Even if your separation agreement or custody order does not specifically place limits on traveling or relocating, those considering doing so should still be cautious, as moving without the consent of the other party or the permission of the court might later be used against you, or result in the other parent seeking an emergency custody order for the return of your child to North Carolina.
This is not to say that relocation will never be allowed. In fact, in many circumstances, courts do allow a parent, particularly if that parent is the child’s primary physical custodian, to relocate with the child. As is always the case in contested custody issues, the court will seek to make a decision regarding the proposed relocation that is ultimately in the best interest of the child. If a parent objects to the other parent relocating with the child, that parent will have the burden of presenting evidence that the move is not in the child’s best interest.
Ultimately, a relocation may end up being the best decision for your family, and certainly as a parent, you are in the best position to know whether or not that is so. Regardless, however, it is important to think through that decision carefully, and to make sure you are making it in accordance with the terms of any agreements or orders already in place in your case. Doing so is ultimately in the best interest of all involved.
If you need to speak to an experienced Huntersville family law attorney regarding your child custody arrangement, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation. One of our Huntersville child custody attorneys can arrange a consultation with you to discuss your family law matter in detail.
Under the United States Constitution, and under North Carolina law, parents have the “paramount right to custody, care, and nurture” of their minor children.” This is otherwise known as the “superior rights doctrine,” and essentially, it means that parents are considered to have rights that are superior to those of non-parents when it comes to determining and acting in the best interests of their children. Thus, for the most part, in North Carolina and across the country, courts will seek to allow parents to maintain custody of their children whenever it is possible.
In certain instances, however, parents may be unwilling or unable to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. In those situations, the court may consider other options, and grandparents may seek to petition the court for custody of their grandchildren. Certainly, if you are a parent or a grandparent who finds yourself in this situation, consulting an attorney should be your first step.
Generally, however, it can be helpful to know that as a grandparent seeking custody of your grandchildren under the North Carolina General Statutes, in order to seek custody of your grandchildren, you must be able to demonstrate to the court that the child’s parents are unable to fulfill their parental duties, which essentially means that you must establish that the parents have taken actions that are inconsistent with their paramount constitutional right to custody of the child(ren). While there are different ways to meet this burden of proof, in some cases grandparents may show that an unfit parent may:
· Have abandoned their child;
· Have continually neglected their child;
· Have abused their child;
· Have shown an ongoing pattern of substance abuse;
· Have decided to voluntarily give up custody of their child;
· Be unable to provide a safe and nurturing home for their child;
· Have a proven history of domestic violence;
· Be unable in other ways to provide the safe and nurturing home that the child needs to grow and thrive.
If, considering the law and the proof that is required to obtain custody you believe you can do so, you can proceed to seek custody under N.C. Gen. Stat §50-13.1(a). Under this provision, you can file your claim for custody at any time, provided you can establish standing to do so. Standing simply means that the person who is seeking the custody has a right or interest that is recognized and protected under the law. Certainly, the ultimate determination as to whether or not a grandparent is granted custody will be left to the discretion of the court, as is the case with all custody matters.
In other situations, grandparents may only be interested in seeking visitation with their grandchildren, as opposed to full custody. In that situation, parents continue to have the paramount authority with respect to the care and well-being of their children. Accordingly, unless certain elements of proof are met, it is unlikely that a court will order a parent to allow visitation with their grandchildren. While grandparents do have a right to file a motion to intervene in an ongoing custody action between the parents to seek visitation, this does not mean that the request will be granted. Generally, and absent extraordinary and extenuating circumstances, courts feel that the parents are best suited to make this determination on their own.
 North Carolina law does recognize two situations in which a non-parent has standing to seek custody of a child, including when: (1)The non-parent has a parent-like relationship with the child (when the person has assumed parental duties and has an emotional attachment to the child similar to that of a parent; or (2)The non-parent has a biological or adoptive relationship with the child, and there are allegations of abuse, neglect, or unfitness against the child’s parent(s).
If you need to speak with an experienced Huntersville custody attorney regarding grandparent visitation and child custody, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation. One of our experienced Huntersville child custody lawyers can arrange a consultation with you to discuss your grandparent visitation rights in detail.
Divorce is a complex process. After all, untangling two lives that have become intertwined over many years isn’t easy. There are many decisions you’ll have to make during the divorce process. As you prepare to make those decisions – decisions regarding the division of property (including your assets and debts), the potential sale of your home, the updating of your legal and insurance documents, and other important matters, gathering information pertaining to those matters ahead of time will help to simplify matters to some degree.
It is also unfortunate to say, but important to be aware, that in a divorce, relationships can become extremely strained. Often, people can become so emotional that they act in unpredictable ways which are completely out of character. It is not unusual for a spouse to take paperwork without the other spouse’s knowledge, or even to destroy important paperwork in anger, or out of a desire for revenge. Even if you may not expect that sort of behavior from your spouse, it is still a wise precaution to save copies of important documentation and information while you still have access to it.
Certainly, the information needed will vary depending upon your unique circumstances. However, information that is usually helpful to gather includes:
With respect to any documentation you may gather, it is always best to collect at least three to five years’ worth of information if possible, or more if you have been in a long-term marriage. Although gathering this information may be time-consuming and tedious, it is a worthwhile effort in the long run in order to save yourself time, expense, and headache down the road.
If you need to speak with an experienced Huntersville divorce attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation. One of our Huntersville divorce lawyers can arrange a consultation with you to discuss your family law matter in detail.
We live in a “do-it-yourself” age, and the practice of law is no exception. There is, after all, so much information available online, that many make the assumption that they can learn all they need to know, and handle the divorce process for themselves. While it is understandable that some might make this assumption, it is an assumption that comes with many hidden costs and pitfalls. Often, people go into a do-it-yourself divorce process assuming they will save money and time, when in fact, doing so ends up costing them more of both. Even if your case may seem “simple” and as if you and your spouse may agree on many issues, it is far too easy to make mistakes that may come back to haunt you down the road. Some of the more common pitfalls of do-it-yourself divorce include:
Ultimately, even if you feel that your divorce is “simple” in nature, and that you and your spouse agree upon all important issues, seeking the advice of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney will help to ensure that the process ultimately goes smoothly, and that you do not encounter any unexpected (and potentially costly) issues in the future. You may lose rights to valuable property and assets you would otherwise be entitled to, or end up paying more or getting less in alimony or support than you otherwise would, or losing a substantial amount of parenting time with your children – and those are only a few possibilities of many.
An attorney who is qualified and experienced in the practice of family law will be able to identify any issues you may have overlooked, point out any potential negative consequences of certain decisions, and advise you of what to expect throughout the divorce process. Contact Adkins Law to arrange a family law consultation with an experienced Huntersville divorce attorney.