Child custody is one of the most emotionally difficult issues that most couples will face in a divorce. It can be difficult, even in the best of circumstances, to arrive at a custody arrangement that works well for your family, even without any complicating factors. One truth about life, though, is that circumstances can change quickly – circumstances that might require changes to even the most ideal of custody arrangements. Today, perhaps more than ever, relocation is one of those circumstances.
There are any number of situations that can prompt one (or both) parents to relocate. Perhaps one parent receives a promotion or a new job offer that’s simply too good to turn down. Maybe one parent falls in love, but the person lives across the country. It could be that a family member unexpectedly gets sick, and one parent decides to relocate to help take care of that person. Regardless of the particular circumstances, the opportunity to relocate arises fairly often. When you have children, and an existing custody arrangement in place, when this circumstance arises, it’s important to think carefully about how to handle it.
As you consider the possibility of relocating, you may wonder – how exactly might it affect the custody arrangement that you have with your co-parent? How accepting (or resistant) might your ex-spouse be regarding your move? What impact will the relocation have on the amount of time you can spend with your children – and on their emotional and mental health? All of these questions are important ones to ask, and as with any circumstances in life, it’s impossible to predict the future. What you can do, however, is try to prepare your children, and work cooperatively with your co-parent toward ensuring that the relocation process goes as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
Practically speaking, then, what does this look like? Certainly, every circumstance will be different, and every family’s custody arrangement is unique. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when one parent decides to relocate. Regardless of your circumstances or arrangement, however, if you want to relocate with your children, or if you want to relocate and have shared custody and/or visitation with your children in your new location, your first step should always be to consult with your ex-spouse.
While this may be a difficult conversation, as with any conversation of this nature, it is important to remain calm, open to questions, and display a willingness to listen and see your ex-spouse’s point of view. Thoroughly explain the reasons for your intended relocation, as well as your desire to remain actively involved in your child’s life. If you are able to do so in a calm and rational way, your ex-spouse may be understanding, and might agree to modify your existing custody agreement in a way that better fits your new circumstances and intended relocation. If you’re both on the same page, you have the freedom to modify any custody arrangement that you voluntarily entered into as you choose, and you may can make new arrangements regarding custody that better suit your lives and circumstances with the relocation in mind.
One generally sound piece of advice that we can also provide is that regardless of the custody arrangement you have, whether it’s an agreement or a court order, you must follow its terms until the other parent agrees to a change, or until the court orders one. Failing to do so is not only disruptive and detrimental to your children – it can also give the other parent an opportunity to argue that you are in violation of your custody agreement or in contempt of a court order. Courts generally frown on both. Following a divorce, you may need the future intervention of the court in any number of ways, and quite simply stated, you do not want the court to view you as someone with a lack of respect for authority and a willingness to follow the rules.
While renegotiating your custody agreement or returning to court to seek a modification might seem time-consuming and tedious, it’s absolutely necessary. All too often, those parents who decide to make a move without the express consent of the co-parent find themselves in contempt of court, and may also find themselves facing an ex parte custody action filed by their co-parent. This is an action in which one parent alleges that the other parent has removed the child from his or her home state without permission. If an order is granted, as a mechanism of enforcing the order, the co-parent would be able to enlist the help of law enforcement to retrieve the child. Needless to say, this is simply not a situation in which you want to find yourself involved.
You may find yourself wondering – what if I talk to my ex-spouse, and he or she simply doesn’t agree to my relocation, or to modifying the custody order? If this is the case, regardless of whether a court made the initial custody determination in your case or not, your only viable option is to file an action asking the court to decide the issue for you. Under no circumstances should you move away with your children if you have not either received the express written agreement of the other parent and a modification of the existing agreement, or unless a court enters an order which gives you the authority to do so.
If relocation is an issue that you are facing, or that you believe you might face in the future, it is always a wise choice to discuss your intended relocation thoroughly with your attorney prior to taking any action that could have long-term effects on your children and on your existing custody arrangement. Without question, jobs, relationships, and ailing family members are important – but as with anything important in life, it’s important to take the right steps to ensure that you’ve addressed all legal consequences that might arise from your move before you make it.
If you need to speak with an experienced child custody lawyer in Huntersville, NC, contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation with a family law attorney.
Beyond deciding on what negotiation and dispute resolution process will likely work out best for your family, it can also be helpful to really spend some time thinking through the nuts and bolts of the agreement itself. You may be wondering any number of things about how to craft, enforce, or change a custody agreement if necessary, and we wanted to address a few of the most common.
What kinds of things should we address in the agreement, and how much detail should we include?
Each family is different and unique from any other. As a result, no custody agreement is going to be exactly like any other. This is, after all, the point of crafting your own custody in agreement in the first place – tailoring it to your unique circumstances. Having said that, there are a few basic building blocks that every custody agreement should include:
These are only a few commonly asked questions of many. Certainly, if you have questions about the content of your particular custody agreement, talking to an attorney is always a wise decision.
If you would like to speak with an experienced child custody attorney in Huntersville, NC, contact Adkins Law to arrange a custody consultation.
If you have recently had friends or family members who have gone through a divorce, it is possible that you may have heard the term “collaborative divorce." If so, this is because it has become a very popular method of resolving divorce issues in recent years. Collaborative divorce is the most recent significant development in divorce resolution, and it is intended to be a way for a couple who is divorcing to work together as a team with trained professionals to resolve their issues together in a positive and cooperative negotiation, without having to go to court.
In a collaborative divorce setting, each spouse has his or her own attorney to provide advice and support, and all parties commit to working together toward agreement on the issues without going to court. In fact, one of the key conditions of a collaborative law negotiation is that if for any reason the collaborative law process fails, the parties will have to obtain new attorneys. The intent is truly that everyone be committed toward resolving the issues in the best and least stressful way possible.
Those attorneys who practice collaborative law receive extensive training in the process. This training includes not only conflict resolution strategies but also practical and legal training in a variety of areas. In addition to the attorneys, other specialists may also be involved in the discussion and negotiation process including financial advisors, child therapists, tax specialists, marriage therapists, and any other professionals at the parties feel would be helpful to thoroughly assessing and resolving their issues.
The essential idea behind collaborative divorce is that parties make the choice to be honest open and committed to resolving their issues with the benefit of legal counsel but without the contentiousness involved in a courtroom setting. Together, the parties enter into a voluntary set of ground rules that everyone agrees to abide by. The exchange of information and ideas is open and honest, and the goal is to work together toward crafting an agreement that is in the best interests of the children and the family as a whole.
Ultimately, if the collaborative law process is successful, the parties will have an agreement that effectively addresses all of the issues before them, and which they can agree to modify in the future if necessary, as their lives and circumstances change. Often, if used successfully, collaborative law can be a very effective method of handling the divorce process.
If you need to speak with an experienced divorce attorney in Huntersville, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a family law consultation.
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.