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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
As most of us well know, we live in a high-tech, digital world – a world which is becoming increasingly more so with each moment. It is a world full of “smart” devices – smart phones, smart cars, smart televisions, even smart homes. In so many ways, technology adds to our world. We are more connected than ever, the pace of business moves faster, and we can receive our news and updates from family and friends across the globe in an instant. All of these things are wonderful. As with all wonderful things, however, there are downsides. One of the downsides of technology, insofar as family law is concerned, is that it gives us the capacity to spy and eavesdrop on one another with greater ease than ever before. While people have always been able to spy on one another with more traditional methods like tracing, wiretapping, or hiring a private investigator, today’s technology makes it easier than ever before – and this can ultimately cause a number of problems for everyone involved.
Particularly in marriages that are already troubled, spying can be quite a temptation. It’s natural to what to know what we don’t know, and this can be a particularly strong urge when we suspect that our spouse may be having an affair or hiding a bad habit from us. This desire is entirely understandable. It is natural to hope to disprove our suspicions, or to be able to plan how we should take action if we find out that they are true.
While these feelings are understandable, and it is important to know that they should be resisted – for many reasons. Choosing to spy on your spouse is not only an unhealthy behavior that encourages mistrust – in many cases, it is also illegal. Many spouses who are emotionally stressed and desperate to find out the truth about their spouse so they can determine how to move forward unfortunately do not realize this or take it into account until it’s too late.
If you suspect that your spouse is, or may soon attempt to spy on you, or, alternatively, if you are thinking of spying on your spouse, you should contact an attorney immediately. Engaging in illegal methods of spying could not only be devastating from an emotional standpoint – it could also expose you to serious legal liability, which is the last thing you need as you contemplate divorce.
What the Law Says About Spying
Legally, from both a federal and state perspective, spying on your spouse is simply not a good idea. Indeed, both federal laws, and the laws of the state of North Carolina prohibit many commonly used methods of spying on one’s spouse. It is important to have a basic understanding of these laws in order to know what activities could potentially expose you – or your spouse – to liability.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Wire and Electronic Communications Act are federal laws that apply to spying, and which are commonly referred to jointly as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Initially enacted in 1968, these laws were created to ban wiretapping of telephone line, but have continually evolved with changing times. Today, the law applies to such varied methods of digital communication as emails, cell phones, voicemails, text messaging, online chats, voiceover IP, and more.
Broadly speaking, the ECPA makes it illegal to record or eavesdrop on communications that your spouse makes without his or her consent. This would include wiretapping phone lines, installing spyware on a spouse’s computer without their knowledge, “hacking” into your spouse’s email account, and other similar activities taken without the spouse’s knowledge for the purpose of intercepting their communications.
Certainly, if your spouse authorizes you to read or listen to their communications then legality is not a concern. Unfortunately, however, what constitutes “authorization” can be somewhat of a gray area. These matters are best discussed with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who understands the law and how it might apply to your particular circumstances, as courts decide these matters on a case-by-case basis. Generally, however, to determine whether your access to your spouse’s communications is likely to be considered “authorized” or not, is to ask yourself whether the actions you’re taking feel like an invasion of your spouse’s privacy. If the answer is yes, it would be best to avoid taking them.
North Carolina has its own act that addresses the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications, known as the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act. This act addresses much of the same information as its federal counterpart, and makes it illegal to intercept your spouse’s communications – whether over the phone or electronically – without their consent.
In addition to these laws, those who are considering spousal spying should also be aware that North Carolina recognizes several tort claims that are also applicable to activities like spying. These causes of action are intended to protect privacy. One of those is known as “Intrusion upon Seclusion,” which essentially means that invasion of privacy is recognized in North Carolina as grounds for a lawsuit. In such a lawsuit, one spouse would assert that the other intentionally intruded into their private affairs, and that a reasonable person would find the intrusion highly offensive.
In order for such a claim to be successful, the intrusion does not necessarily have to be a physical intrusion – certainly, it could include hacking into an email account or bugging a phone. Physical intrusions qualify as well, however – placing a GPS tracking on a car without knowledge or permission, for example, might suffice to bring this type of claim as well.
North Carolina also recognizes other torts that could apply depending on the details of the situation, and consultation with an attorney to better understand the details of those laws would be a wise course of action.
Seek Legal Advice Before Spying
Without question, spying on a spouse can be tempting – particularly if you suspect your spouse of hiding hurtful or harmful behaviors. If you have reached a point in your marriage where you are seriously contemplating divorce, it is understandable to want to obtain information that will confirm or disprove your suspicions. Certainly, in some situations, evidence of inappropriate behavior can be helpful to your case during divorce proceedings, as we’ll discuss later in this guide. It is important to collect that information in the right way, though, and an attorney who understands the law can advise you as to how best to go about doing that in a legal manner. Consulting an attorney prior to taking any action that might be questionable or reflect poorly on you in a future divorce proceeding is always a wise decision, and we would encourage anyone contemplating spying to take that important step first.
In essence, after all of the foregoing factors are considered, our advice to those who are contemplating divorce would be this: Truly take the time you need to think through your decision in the most thorough manner possible. Divorce is a life-changing decision. That’s not to say that it might not be the right one, but it is a decision that certainly should not be made in haste, or from a place of intense emotion that might later subside. Truly think through your emotions, envision your future, and consider the practical realities of what divorce means. As you’re doing so, be careful not to take other actions – spying, having affairs, or engaging in other behaviors – that might be detrimental to you in future divorce proceedings. Doing so puts you on the best footing to go forward down whatever path you ultimately decide is best.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
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.
Beyond simply contemplating and envisioning life as it would be after a divorce, some couples who are having ongoing difficulties in their marriage consider separating on a trial basis to actually try it out and experience that reality for themselves. A trial separation is a decision made by couples to take some time apart prior to making the decision to divorce. We would note that importantly, this is different from a legal separation, which is a decision made after a couple has definitively decided to divorce.
Often, it is difficult for some to envision what life might be like after a divorce, and a trial separation is a way to briefly experience that reality prior to definitively making a determination as to whether or not divorce is the best choice. Some couples may also see it as a helpful way to have some space from one another to reduce the intensity of the conflict between them while they work with a counselor in an attempt to decide whether to remain married or pursue a divorce.
While trial separations are a nice idea in theory, we would note that in the majority of situations, couples do not get back together after separating. This may be because one person in the couple feels such a relief in their stress levels after separating that they don’t want to return to difficult emotional circumstances. In other cases, couples who are already facing challenges in improving their relationship may find that they face even more challenges in doing so when they are apart. After separating, couples may only see each other at counseling, and it is difficult to apply the skills and advice from counseling sessions when you are living apart.
Occasionally, some attorneys will suggest that a client who wants a divorce suggest a “trial separation” to the spouse that does not want the divorce as a way of making it easier to ultimately move forward with the divorce process. While this may ultimately be effective in some circumstances, we believe and advise our clients that honesty is best. Being deceitful at the outset of the divorce process sets a bad precedent, and can hurt your credibility for future negotiations with your spouse on important issues that matter.
For those couples who do decide that going forward with a trial separation is best, and if both spouses agree, it can be a wise decision to put into writing the terms of your separation. Consider matters like:
While putting your plans into writing is certainly not required for a legal separation, doing so can nevertheless be helpful in avoiding any issues that may potentially arise.
If you would like to discuss separation and divorce with a family law attorney, 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.