N.C.G.S. § 50-6 is the statute in North Carolina that addresses absolute divorce. N.C.G.S. § 50-6 provides in part that “Marriages may be dissolved and the parties thereto divorced from the bonds of matrimony on the application of either party, if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart for one year, and the plaintiff or defendant in the suit for divorce has resided in the State for a period of six months. …a divorce under this section shall not affect the rights of a dependent spouse with respect to alimony which have been asserted in the action or any other pending action. Whether there has been a resumption of marital relations during the period of separation shall be determined pursuant to G.S. 52-10.2. Isolated incidents of sexual intercourse between the parties shall not toll the statutory period required for divorce predicated on separation of one year.”
The requirement that one of the parties to an absolute divorce, the plaintiff or the defendant, must have resided in North Carolina for at least six months before the filing of the divorce action is jurisdictional. Thus without one party having lived in North Carolina for the residency requirement of at least six months before filing for the divorce, the court will not have the jurisdiction to consider the divorce. The residency requirement has been defined as meaning one party is actually domiciled in North Carolina with an actual residence and the intent to remain permanently or for an indefinite period of time. The intent of a party to live in North Carolina at some future time is not enough, nor is it enough that a party have a residence in North Carolina – they must actually be domiciled at that North Carolina residence. The fact that a party is not a citizen of the United States is not required either. A party, for example, that is a German national and not a United States citizen, but that lives in North Carolina and intends to remains in North Carolina with no desire or intent to return to Germany, is a resident of North Carolina within the meaning of N.C.G.S. § 50-6.
The requirement that the parties live separate and apart for one year is jurisdictional. Thus if the parties have not actually lived separate and apart for at least one year, the court lacks the jurisdiction to consider the divorce. Living separate and apart meaning actually, physically living separate and apart; not in different rooms within the same residence. The parties must live in different residences for at least one year, and at least one party must intend for the separation to remain permanent.
North Carolina also requires that the divorce complaint be verified. This means that the party filing the action certifies and signs that they have read and understand the complaint, and intend to file the complaint. This is a jurisdictional requirement. Thus if a divorce complaint is not verified by the plaintiff, the court will lack the ability to consider the divorce. The complaint must be verified at the time of filing; it is not sufficient to obtain verification of the complaint before the complaint and summons are served on the defendant. When the plaintiff fails to verify the complaint, the trial court never obtains jurisdiction over the divorce action, and a divorce order entered in the action is void.
So how do I get an absolute divorce from my spouse? As long as you have lived in North Carolina for at least six months with the intent of remaining in North Carolina, and have lived separate and apart with the intent of remaining separate and apart from your spouse for at least a period of one year, you may file a verified complaint seeking an absolute divorce from your spouse. Once the verified complaint is filed, it must be served on your spouse and they have the opportunity to respond. The defendant may respond, and the parties may request that the court enter an judgment of divorce, or if the defendant does not respond, the plaintiff may file a motion for summary judgment with the court and provide the court with a proposed judgment of divorce. The court then may enter the judgment of divorce, and the parties will legally be divorced.
The history of spousal support (and child support), also called alimony or maintenance, can be traced back to the Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian code of law dated back to 1754 BC, that declares that a man must provide sustenance to a woman who has borne him children. The Code provides that “If a man wishes to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children, then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of a field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.”
A similar law can be traced back to the Code of Justinian, which is the codification of Roman law ordered early in the 6th century by Justinian I, who was an Eastern Roman emperor in Constantinople. The Code of Justinian essentially provided that a gift of dowry or a prenuptial donation be held in escrow by the husband for the support of the wife in the event the marriage failed due to no fault of the wife. The law provided that there were five reasons a man could divorce his wife: i. Treason against the government; ii. She plotted against him; iii. Adultery (If there were no children, husband would keep the prenuptial donation and 1/3 of any property that wife possessed. If there were children, the prenuptial donation and property would be held for them when they became adults); iv. She bathed with strangers, or attended banquets, circuses, theaters, etc. against his wishes; or v. Wife remains away from home without husband’s knowledge or permission, unless she was visiting her parents. A wife, on the other hand, could divorce her husband for the following six reasons: i. Treason against the government; ii. He attempted to kill her or not warn her of a murder attempt by others; iii. He seeks to delivery her to another man for the purpose of committing adultery; iv. He accuses her of adultery but fails to prove her case; v. He entertained another woman in his wife’s home or he is frequently with another woman and refuses to stop after being warned by wife’s kinsmen; or vi. Husband is convicted of adultery (If there are children, wife retains prenuptial donation as alimony and gets portion to husband’s property to preserve for ownership of their children. If there are no children, portion of husband’s property to wife and portion of husband’s property to the government).
In the United States, modern alimony traces its roots back to feudal times in England where title and control of a woman’s property vested with her husband upon their marriage. In exchange for taking and controlling her property, the husband became responsible for support the wife for the rest of her life. This obligation to provide support continued even if the parties divorced, unless the divorce was the fault of the wife. If the wife’s bad conduct or infidelity was the cause of the divorce, the wife would not be entitled to support from the husband. Over time, the law evolved to require the wife to prove that husband’s misconduct or infidelity was the cause of the divorce, and thus entitle her to alimony.
The law in North Carolina before 1995 reflected this common law principal: that a dependent spouse seeking alimony must prove that the supporting spouse, whether husband or wife, committed marital fault before a court could consider their request for financial support. Additionally, then, regardless of whether the supporting spouse cheated, infidelity on behalf of the dependent spouse, before or after the date of separation, was a complete bar to receiving support.
The current spousal support laws of postseparation support (temporary alimony) and alimony in North Carolina were enacted in 1995. The current laws have diminished the role of marital fault in spousal support and focus more on economic need. Postseparation support is support that a dependent spouse is entitled to if the court determines that the dependent spouse’s resources are not adequate to meet his or her reasonable needs, and the support spouse has the ability to pay. While a court may consider marital misconduct in making a determination of postseparation support, the impact of any marital misconduct on a potential postseparation support award is within the discretion of the judge. Infidelity, for example, does not automatically serve as a bar for a dependent spouse seeking postseparation support; rather it is a factor for a judge to consider in determining whether to grant an award of postseparation support. An award of postseparation support will continue until: i. the date specified in the postseparation support order; ii. the entry of an order awarding or denying alimony; iii. the dismissal of an alimony claim; iv. the entry of a judgment of absolute divorce if no claim of alimony is pending at the time the judgment of absolute divorce is entered; or v. modification of an order for postseparation support. It is important to understand that postseparation support is primarily designed to function as a means of securing temporary support for a dependent spouse in an expedited manner.
The current alimony laws in North Carolina replaced a fault-based approach in making an award of alimony with a needs-based approach. With the exception of illicit sexual behavior, marital misconduct is one of many factors a judge may consider in determining whether alimony should be awarded, the amount of alimony, and the duration of the alimony award. As mentioned above, fault does control an award of alimony when there has been illicit sexual behavior. North Carolina defines illicit sexual behavior as acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual crimes voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse. In at least one case, by way of example, penetration of a vagina by a finger was determined to be an act of illicit sexual behavior. See Romulus v. Romulus, 215 N.C. App. 495 (2011).
Illicit sexual behavior impacts alimony in North Carolina as follows:
Thus while the law is shifting away from fault in determining alimony, in North Carolina, illicit sexual behavior may serve as a bar or guarantee of an award of alimony. If you need to speak with an experienced spousal support attorney, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
A premarital agreement, also known as a prenuptial agreement or prenup, is a written contract created by a (sometimes engaged) couple before they are set to be married. The contract typically outlines all of the property owned by each person; this can include cars, stock accounts, bank accounts, etc.. All items are specified in the written contract so that each person can determine what is to happen to that property, if the marriage were to ever end with divorce.
North Carolina has adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). The UPAA allows parties to contract with respect to:
1. Division of Property - the division of property during marriage and upon divorce.
2. Alimony - Alimony and the waiver of alimony. Waiver of alimony agreements will be upheld unless doing so will cause the disadvantaged spouse to be eligible for public assistance.
3. Child Support - Child support arrangements will be upheld as long as they provide for the reasonable needs of the child(ren).
There are some people that believe the rich and famous are the only ones to create prenups BUT this is not true. Prenups are merely used to protect the assets of each individual, avoid conflict in the event of divorce, avoid your significant others debts, as well as clarify finances with your significant other. Without a prenup the property is split as martial property in a divorce judgement.
If you are thinking about creating a prenup with you and your significant other we can help to draft the document for you. Keep in mind that an attorney is not needed to create a valid pre-marital agreement. Failing to hire a family law attorney may, however, affect whether the agreement is fair, valid, and enforceable.
Adkins Law is able to provide you with advice and assistance with the creation of a valid premarital agreement. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.
Often times, when parents separate, they are able to agree to a parenting arrangement that is in their child’s best interests and works well for the parents. In many cases, flexible schedules between the parents work well without conflict until the child is an adult. This is, however, not always the case.
In situations where parents cannot agree to the custody schedule, they need a child custody order. A child custody order sets out the plan for making decisions for the minor child and for determining when and where the child spends time with each parent. For parents who conflict with each other, this is an absolute necessity.
To obtain a child custody order, a parent must file an action with the court for child custody. After filing the action, the other party must be served with the lawsuit and afforded the opportunity to respond. In custody actions, after filing, the parents are almost always required to attend a court ordered mediation in the hopes of resolving their differences and working out a custody schedule. Attorneys may be but are often not included in these mediations. If resolution is reached in mediation, an order dictating the custody arrangement and schedule will be issued by a judge, which resolves the matter.
In the event that the parties are unable to come to an agreement during mediation, and are unable to negotiate their custody schedule, they require a judge to determine their parenting schedule and end up in litigation. In litigation, the parties become adversaries and lose their ability to control and determine their parenting arrangement through negotiation. The conflict is resolved by the judge upon the presentation of evidence to determine what parenting arrangement is in the best interests of the minor child.
The primary issues to be determined by the judge are legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody concerns decision-making for the minor child. Where the child goes to school, the doctor, therapy, dentist, for example, include matters of legal custody. Physical custody, on the other hand, concerns where the child spends the night and how much time each parent is going to spend with the minor child.
Once a child custody order is issued, it is enforceable by the court through the power of contempt. What does this mean? Basically, in a nutshell, if a party violates the custody order, the court has the power to punish the violating party. The court may have a number of options in punishing the offending party including fines, probation, jail time, and attorney’s fees.
If you need to speak with a family law attorney concerning child custody issues, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
Make sure you have planned ahead for your family by setting up an Estate Plan. Contact us today to schedule your Estate Planning consultation, 704-274-5677.
A living will is a legal document that guides your doctors, and health care agents (selected by you) regarding your wishes for medical treatment in the following situations:
The living will gives you the ability to tell your physicians and doctors your wishes when it comes to life-prolonging measures in these situations listed above. The living will is an essential piece of a person’s estate plan because we never truly know when we might be faced with a life threatening situation, where a living will is necessary.
A health care power of attorney is a legal document that names a person, and sometimes an alternate person who you authorize to make these health care decisions for you, in the instance you are unable to do so by yourself.
By planning ahead, you can make clear to others what type of treatment you want in most medical situations, this makes it easier for your family to make decisions during moments of grief and crisis. By creating and signing these documents it is a way to initiate a conversation with your loved ones about your wishes and is a way to be able to control what happens at the end of your life. We know it may be hard to think about moments where you are unable to make decisions for your health, but that is why it is most important.
A living will and healthcare power of attorney document is part of Adkins Law PLLC Estate Planning packages. Contact us today to find out what packages we offer for Estate Planning, and which is better for your family. Call us or text us to schedule an appointment.
by: Jacqueline Keenan
Do you feel that you are being threatened?
In North Carolina, it is illegal to try to stop a witness from testifying through threats or intimidation. Intimidation under this law can include threats of bodily harm or violence, cursing, vulgarity, or threatening language given the context of the statements as a whole.
These statements can be explicit, like “if you testify I’m going to break your arm,” or can contain language that implies a threat, like “I’ll give you a taste of your own medicine”, or “I’ll make you regret this”.
Threats made against a witness are a Class G Felony. In North Carolina, a Class G Felony alone can lead to a sentence of 8-31 months in prison. This is a serious crime!
Who is affected by this law?
The witness intimidation law protects any person who has been “summoned” or is “acting as a witness”.
It punishes any person who threatens, intimidates, attempts to intimidate, or prevents the attendance of a witness from any North Carolina state court.
The law also pertains to defendants in a criminal proceeding who threaten a witness in their case with the assertion or denial of parental rights.
What to do if you’re being threatened
If you are a witness and feel you are being threatened, it is important that you report the threat to the police or an attorney on the case, so they can take appropriate action.
If you’re interested in more information about witness intimidation, contact Adkins Law!
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