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 family law attorney to arrange a consultation.
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 family law attorney regarding your child custody arrangement, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
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 divorce attorney regarding grandparent visitation and custody, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
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 divorce attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
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.
Criminal Conversation and Alienation of Affection Lawsuits
For those contemplating an affair, or who suspect that their spouse might be, it is important to realize that North Carolina law not only lists adultery as a criminal offense, but also has civil causes of action which can be brought against those who engage in affairs. These lawsuits are called “criminal conversation” or “alienation of affection” actions, and allow one spouse to sue for damages based on allegations of emotional harm caused to the marital relationship by a third party. These suits are usually brought by one spouse against the lover of the other spouse who had an affair, and in North Carolina, juries have awarded millions of dollars as a result of these lawsuits.
Understandably, it can often be difficult to prove that sexual intercourse actually occurred. As a result, in many of these situations, circumstantial evidence is accepted as proof. This essentially means proving that the spouse being charged with adultery had the opportunity and desire to engage in it. One example of this might consist of proving that the spouse being charged and the third party booked a hotel room and spent several hours there together alone without the other spouse’s knowledge. Though it is not actual proof that intercourse occurred, circumstantially, it might be considered sufficient.
It is important to take the possibility of such lawsuits seriously. Though they can be complex and require meeting a certain burden of proof, if successful, it is not unheard of for plaintiffs to receive jury awards in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are contemplating an affair, or believe that your spouse might be, this is certainly important information to know and to keep in mind.
If you are considering cheating on your spouse, the possibility of your spouse bringing one of these lawsuits should the affair be discovered should give you pause. If a relationship is meant to be, it ultimately will be – but waiting for the proper timing is best. Rushing into something that could not only have significant financial consequences, but that could also be used against you in a custody or alimony determination is simply not the best course of action.
On the other side of the coin, if you believe that your spouse had, or continues to have an affair, consulting with an attorney as to whether a lawsuit for criminal conversation might be an option in your circumstances a is wise decision. It is certainly understandable to be hurt and angry if you feel that you have been betrayed by someone you love and who you believed loved you.
Depending on the circumstances, however, it may not be worth the time, effort, and emotional expenditure that filing a lawsuit of this nature might require. In many cases, defendants in these lawsuits are ultimately unable to pay the significant damages assessed against them – they simply don’t have the financial means. In those situations, a spouse who feels hurt will have to decide if obtaining a judgement that will have little or no financial benefit is ultimately worth it. Consulting with an attorney can be very helpful in making that decision, and is always advised.
If you need to speak with a family law attorney to learn more about separation, divorce, alienation of affection, and criminal conversation, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
 Only six other states – Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah also have laws allowing a spouse to sue for damages on the basis of emotional harm caused by a third party to the marriage.
Finding yourself in a difficult place in your marriage can be extremely difficult from an emotional perspective, particularly if you have been experiencing those difficulties for some time. Depending upon the nature of your relationship and your troubles, it is entirely understandable that you might feel lonely, frustrated, and without true companionship. No one wants to feel that way, and trying to get through the day while struggling with those feelings can understandably be stressful, draining, and discouraging. It is in these situations, where one or both spouses are struggling with emotional emptiness, that some find themselves more susceptible to becoming involved in affairs, or conversely, discover that their spouse is having an affair.
While affairs are ill-advised for any number of reasons, in North Carolina, they have very real and significant consequences from a legal perspective. In North Carolina, adultery is actually a misdemeanor offense under the criminal code, though it is highly unlikely that a prosecutor would bring criminal charges for an affair. What is far more likely, however, is that adultery, if proven, could significantly impact many aspects of a divorce case – not only from a financial perspective, but also with respect to child custody and other matters of great importance to the parties, not to mention the fact that the spouse harmed by the affair could potentially bring a lawsuit for significant damages under North Carolina law.
How Evidence of an Affair Can Impact Your Divorce Case
Ultimately, evidence of adultery can impact your divorce case in a variety of ways. Some of the most significant include:
If you need to speak with an experienced divorce attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
Its an unfortunate reality that domestic abuse exists in some relationships and marriages. In these situations, safety should be your first and foremost priority. If you are in circumstances that are threatening and abusive, remaining in the marital home while you contemplate the divorce process is not only ill-advised – it is potentially very dangerous, for you and for your children. Always trust your instincts, and if you feel that you need to leave immediately, you should do so.
In a situation involving domestic abuse, it is critical to act first and contemplate matters later. If you are a victim of domestic abuse and are considering divorce, it can be very helpful to make a safety plan if you have the ability to do so. If you are in imminent danger, of course you should leave immediately. If you have time, however, taking the following steps can be helpful to protect yourself and your children:
Gathering this documentation can give you peace of mind, not to mention that it could be very helpful in a divorce case in the future.
If you find yourself in a situation involving domestic abuse, after securing your safety and the safety of your children, it can be helpful to think about how you might approach the divorce process itself. Throughout this guide, we try to advocate cooperative divorce resolution methods – typically, the process proceeds more smoothly and is easier for all involved with the parties can work together toward solutions that are satisfactory for everyone.
Unfortunately, however, in situations involving domestic violence, this sort of cooperative negotiation is simply not possible. Throughout the divorce process, your primary emphasis should be on your safety, and on protecting your interests and those of your children. Often, spouses who are controlling and abusive are difficult to negotiate with, and attempt to use the divorce process as a way to punish or prolong their control over the abused spouse.
In those situations, it is important to retain the services of an attorney who understands some of the psychology involved in abusive relationships, and who can advocate for you in a way that will ultimately be effective in pursuing and protecting your interests. This may mean that methods of negotiation like mediation, or collaborative law may not work well in your particular set of circumstances – and that’s okay. Allowing a court to resolve your issues may very well be the best solution, because it will provide the formal distance between you and your spouse that is necessary for your safety and for you to assert your rights without fear of manipulation or verbal abuse. Regardless of how you choose to proceed with resolving the issues between you, it is important to have the services of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side.
As a few final reminders on the subject of domestic abuse, before any other considerations, safety should come first. As a victim of abuse, you should know that you are entitled to feel safe and to live a life free of intimidation and fear. This may mean involving the authorities, if necessary. If you, or your children are suffering from domestic abuse, do not hesitate to call the police if necessary. You may need to file criminal assault charges, or obtain an emergency protective order or a restraining order. Doing so is your right under the law, and it may be necessary. Never hesitate to do what you need to do in order to best protect yourself and those you love. This should always be your first priority.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney regarding domestic violence, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
For many, when contemplating divorce, it is only natural to focus on the emotions you may be feeling, particularly if you have been having difficulty in your marriage for some time. While this is understandable, it’s also important not to focus entirely on your emotions during this time. It’s also important to really think through the practical ways that life might change after a divorce. For many, this means making a thorough, honest assessment of your family’s financial situation.
A simple truth in today’s society is that many middle-class families spend as much, or in some cases, even a little more than they earn each month. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for a large portion of our population – and if you find yourself in that situation, you are certainly not alone. Divorce can have a significant effect on a family’s financial situation, as when a couple divorces, their expenses understandably increase. Beyond the cost of the divorce process itself, it is important to consider the fact that during separation and after divorce, instead of maintaining one household, the family is now maintaining two. Two mortgages, two sets of utility bills, two sets of property insurance bills- all of these things add up quickly – and though expenses have increased, the salary of each spouse often remains the same.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that divorce is the wrong choice for your family, it is certainly worth considering all of its implications. It may mean downsizing to a smaller home, reducing costly leisure activities, or that a stay-at-home spouse returns to work in order to make ends meet. Prior to deciding upon divorce, thinking these matters through is important. If you find yourself genuinely contemplating divorce, it is important to try your best to be financially savvy about the choices you make leading up to, and throughout the divorce process. Some of those steps can include:
Tracking your expenses, obtaining important financial documentation, and understanding your overall financial picture will be helpful in anticipating future expenses as you think of moving from one household to two. It could also serve as a helpful way for your attorney, and potentially a judge, to decide how best to divide assets and debts your divorce case, as well as to make important determinations on matters like alimony and child support, among others.
It should also be noted that the financial aspects of the divorce process can be among the most stressful and the most contentious. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for one spouse, out of anger or a desire for revenge to try to hurt or control the other financially. Even though it may seem highly unlikely to you that your spouse might ever behave in these ways, it is important to keep in mind that divorce can cause people to act in very uncharacteristic ways. Some spouses try to restrict the other spouse’s access to funds, empty bank accounts, or make expensive purchases that they would not otherwise make in an attempt to harm the other spouse. As a result, it is important to be prepared for this possibility, and to make sure that you have adequate access to funds prior to and throughout the divorce process, should you need them.
Even if you have not definitively made the decision to proceed with divorce, it would still be a wise step to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney regarding how divorce might affect your financial situation, and how you can adequately prepare financially prior to beginning the process. If you suspect that your spouse may hide or deplete marital assets or otherwise try to control you from a financial perspective, it is important to also mention this to your attorney if you have one.
Your attorney should be able to help advise you as to measures you can take to protect yourself financially during this time. Some people also choose to consult with a certified divorce financial analyst. These professionals specialize in reviewing a couple’s finances during the divorce process. A qualified analyst can help you to gain a more realistic picture of your expenses and your budget, in addition to planning for what your financial future might look like.
If you would like to speak with a family law attorney regarding separation and divorce, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
It’s a simple truth that divorce is one of the biggest life decisions that one can make. While we are here to help families through divorce, and while divorce absolutely is the best decision for some families, we also believe that it is not a decision to be taken lightly. Those who are contemplating divorce should take the time to do exactly that – truly contemplate it. Explore your emotions, think through your feelings, and envision your future as it might be post-divorce. Carefully assess the implications of your decision, and make sure you have made the efforts you feel that you should make to save your marriage. Doing so ultimately provides far more peace of mind than making a spontaneous decision, regardless of which path you choose. In that spirit, we offer some guidance on what to contemplate when you’re contemplating divorce.
If you have reached a place in your marriage and your life where you are seriously contemplating divorce, chances are high that you are likely under some amount of emotional stress. This is understandable. The decision to get married is one of the most momentous decisions in life, and the decision to divorce, almost equally so. During this time, be patient with yourself. Don’t rush into any hasty decisions, and be kind and compassionate with yourself, and with your spouse. Take all the time that you need to really think through your decisions. Take a long, hard look at your marriage – not only its difficulties, but its positive attributes as well. Look toward the future, and really try to envision what it might be like after your marriage ends – financially, emotionally, and practically.
Stepping back from the stress of the moment and taking a thorough emotional inventory can be immensely helpful. It can be understandable, when you find yourself in an unhappy place in your marriage to assume that you have only two choices – stay unhappy, or obtain a divorce. In fact, however, there are viable alternatives. A simple truth is that while divorce may remove some stresses, it does create others. There may be added financial stressors, conflicts over child custody, and other difficulties that arise during and after the divorce process that are worth thoroughly considering. After doing so, some people decide that despite feelings of disappointment or anger, their marriage is worth saving. Only you and your spouse can ultimately make that determination, but it is very important to thoroughly think through your feelings before doing so.
If you are contemplating divorce, it can also be helpful to truly take the necessary time to envision your future and what it might be like without your spouse. Certainly, divorce will have many effects, not only for you and for your spouse personally, but also on your lifestyle, and certainly for your children. Major life changes can be difficult for all of us, but this is often especially the case for children. Think through what this change might mean for everyone – from an emotional and a practical perspective. How might it change your day-to-day routines? How might it affect where you live, and where your children go to school? Will you be able to remain in the marital home, or will you need to downsize? What might this mean from a practical perspective for your children and their day-to-day activities? Do you have a strong support network of friends, or family that might be able to help you when needed? While these considerations should certainly not serve as the sole basis for any decision you make, they are certainly important to think about as you’re trying to look objectively at the whole picture.
Having an objective realistic long-term view of what might be best in your particular situation can be difficult when you are in the midst of emotional turmoil and feel particularly sad or angry. For this reason, it is vital to take the time that you need to truly contemplate divorce and what it means, as well as your marriage, and whether or not you believe it can be saved. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling, or assistance from supportive family and friends as you work through your feelings and think through what you need and want for your future. Doing so is worth your time, and likely to result in a feeling of greater peace about whatever decision you ultimately make.
Why Marriage Counseling?
Some marriage counseling statistics indicate that only 10% of couples seek marriage counseling prior to making the decision to divorce. We believe that this number should be much, much higher. Marriage counseling is often extremely helpful to couples who want to find healthy ways to work through their issues and difficulties in a safe space. Sometimes, even when we have the best of intentions toward resolving a problem or issue in an amicable way, our emotions can get the best of us, and it can be difficult to remain objective. A marriage counselor often provides couples with a place to safely address the problems they are facing with the help of an objective third party who can listen and, ideally, offer practical advice and potential solutions.
Certainly, most of us realize that counseling is not some sort of easy, magical solution to all of our problems, and the reality is that not every couple who goes to counseling will ultimately save their marriage. Nevertheless, there are still a number of good reasons to give counseling a fair try. These include:
For these reasons and many others, marriage counseling can be immensely helpful for those contemplating divorce. Choosing the right therapist to guide you through that process is, therefore, very important.
How to Choose a Marital Therapist
It goes without saying that making the decision as to whether or not you will ultimately seek a divorce is one of the most important decisions you will make. Understandably, then, if you have decided to pursue marriage counseling prior to making that decision, you want to find a marriage therapist who is well-qualified and a good fit to help you work through your feelings. How can you go about doing this? A few helpful guidelines for making this important decision include the following:
In addition to taking these important steps, getting a head-start at looking through lists of qualified therapists online can also be helpful. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the most well-known professional association for marriage therapists. Membership requires a minimum of a master’s degree, as well as specific graduate training in marriage and family therapy under the supervision of qualified and experienced therapists. Those who are looking for a credentialed therapist can look on the AAMFT website (https://www.aamft.org), as well as asking friends, family members, or their attorney for recommendations of qualified professionals in their area.
While all of these steps are important in selecting a therapist that is a good fit for your needs, looking at practical information is important too. Don’t hesitate to ask potential therapists about their fees, what insurance they accept, and the average length of therapy. Knowing these facts is also important to making an informed decision.
In the end, it is most important to trust your instincts when choosing a counselor. Choose someone with whom you feel that you and your spouse can openly share your thoughts and feelings, and to whom you can speak honestly and frankly. Additionally, make a commitment to give therapy a fair effort. Many couples who commit to going to therapy for a specific number of sessions often have more success than those who do not. It is also important to commit to fully focusing on your marriage during this time. Don’t begin new relationships, or make other decisions that may cause added stress to your marriage. Be fully present, and fully involved. If you are making the investment in counseling, commit to doing the necessary work to making your investment count.
If are considering divorce and need to speak to a family law attorney to understand your rights and options, please contact Adkins Law PLLC.