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.
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.
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.
The term alimony comes from the Scottish legal concept of aliment, which required a husband to provide for his wife her lodging, food, clothing, and necessities in the event they divorced. In North Carolina, alimony has evolved into monetary payments that may be paid from a supporting spouse to a dependent spouse. To have a valid claim for alimony, you must have a supporting / dependent relationship.
A supporting spouse is defined as a spouse upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent for maintenance and support or from whom such spouse is substantially in need of maintenance and support. A dependent spouse is defined as a spouse who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse. A wife, for example, who earns $150,000.00 per year, would be a supporting spouse over a husband who stays at home to keep the children. A husband, for example, who earns $175,000.00 per year would be a supporting spouse over a wife who earns $40,000.00 per year.
It is important to note that affairs play into alimony by either barring or guaranteeing that alimony is awarded. If a dependent spouse participates in an act of illicit sexual behavior (sleeps with someone other than their spouse) during the period of marriage, the dependent spouse is barred from being awarded alimony. If the supporting spouse participates in an act of illicit sexual behavior during the period of marriage, the court shall order that alimony be paid to the dependent spouse. If both parties participated in illicit sexual behavior, alimony shall either be denied or awarded at the discretion of the court after consideration of all the circumstances. Sexual acts that occur a day after the date of separation are not acts that would bar or guarantee alimony.
How much alimony am I entitled to? How long will I receive alimony? Unlike child support, there is no calculator to determine an alimony amount or duration in North Carolina. Instead, the court considers a number of factors including the length of marriage, the reasonable needs of the spouses, the ability of one spouse to pay alimony, the dependent spouse’s standard of living, the dependent spouse’s educational background, and whether there was any marital misconduct during the marriage. Generally, longer marriages result in alimony award of longer durations; people who are high income earners will usually pay a higher amount than people with modest incomes.
If you would like to speak to an experienced family law attorney regarding alimony, please contact Adkins Law and we can arrange a consultation.
As children grown and as life circumstances change, children’s needs may change too. In some cases, one parent or the other loses a job. In other cases, unanticipated medical expenses arise, making it difficult to make ends meet. In still other cases, a child may be diagnosed with a learning disability that requires special education at a private school. Ultimately, one of life’s truths is that we should expect the unexpected. In those circumstances, one of the parties, or both parties, may wish to modify the existing support obligation.
If the parties have agreed upon a support obligation as part of their separation agreement, then they may modify the agreement as they wish, provided that both parties are on the same page, and are willing to do so. In that circumstance, the parties would simply need to revise and redraft the agreement to fit their current needs, and have both parties sign the updated copy.
When a modification of existing court-ordered child support is sought, however, the court must order the modification as well. In those instances, the party seeking the modification must show that a substantial change in circumstance has occurred which warrants the modification. Typically, if three years have passed and the child support guidelines have been modified based on cost of living to indicate an increase in the amount due, a substantial change in circumstances is presumed.
When less than three years have passed, however, either child support services or the court must verify that a change of circumstance for either parent occurred of a nature sufficient to render the case eligible for review. Examples of those changed circumstances might include:
o Changes in the physical custody arrangement of the children;
o Changes in the children’s needs;
o Significant and substantial changes in a parent’s income.
If a party is able to prevent evidence of these changes, they may qualify for review of the current support obligation and modification as warranted. Whether or not a particular change in circumstances may warrant modification is a matter to be discussed with qualified and experienced counsel, who will be able to best advise you as to your particular circumstances.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, please contact Adkins Law to arrange a consultation.
Where child support is concerned, typically, both parents are in agreement that their children should continue to be supported and nurtured to every extent possible. While parents may disagree on exact dollar figures, generally, the desire to support the child is there. Alimony, however, can be quite a different scenario. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the idea of paying money to continue to support a spouse after the marriage relationship has ended can be an emotionally difficult concept for some. After all, if a marriage has ended, there are more than likely some bitter feelings on one level or another. On the other side of the coin, if your marriage has ended and you are the spouse who is seeking support, you may feel resentful, after giving up your career to stay at home and raise children, that your ex-spouse seems not to understand that sacrifice and willingly pay support. All of these feelings are understandable.
In the midst of all of these emotions, it can be helpful to try and focus on the facts – what the law requires, and when those laws apply. Doing so can often help reduce the emotional angst you may feel over the situation, and may help you to take a more practical look at your reality. It is not at all unusual to feel uncertain about how much alimony might be awarded in your particular case, or for how long the payments might be expected to last. This, too, is understandable. Gaining a basic understanding of the law and working closely with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney that you trust will go a long way toward relieving the stress and anxiety that you may feel over this aspect of your divorce.
Typically, there are two types of alimony awards – temporary and permanent. Temporary alimony awards are often referred to as “post-separation support” and are a temporary, no-fault form of support that is usually awarded from the date of separation until either the entry of a final alimony award, or the dismissal of the alimony claim.
As is the case with child support, the parties can agree to alimony amounts outside of court as part of their separation agreement. For many couples, if they are able to work cooperatively and amicably and agree on the terms of support, this is often preferable to a long, public, contentious court battle. In some cases, however, coming to an agreement on spousal support simply isn’t a realistic option, and in those cases, the court can make the determination if necessary.
Unlike some states, North Carolina residents are not automatically entitled to alimony, nor is there a set formula for determining the exact amount of alimony that should be awarded. In North Carolina, the court must first make a determination as to whether one spouse is “substantially dependent” upon the other for his or her “maintenance and support”. Alimony might be awarded indefinitely, or for a specified period of time. It is typically, though not always the case, that if a marriage has lasted less than ten years, an alimony award will last for no more than the equivalent of half of the duration of the marriage. The court may also provide that alimony terminates in a variety of ways – either at the expiration of a predetermined time limit, when one party begins to cohabit with another, when one party remarries, or by resumption of marital relations. Ultimately, this, too, is in the discretion of the court.
In determining the amount and duration of alimony payments, the court may consider evidence of several factors, including:
Generally, a court will have broad discretion in making an alimony determination, and may consider any factor “relevant to the economic circumstances” of the parties that it wishes. When it issues the alimony award (or declines to issue an award), the court must provide the parties with specific written reasons for its decision. Either spouse will have the opportunity to appeal the award if they wish, and if a dependent spouse is ultimately awarded alimony, they may seek recovery of their attorney fees.
When alimony is awarded, the parties should be aware that it is typically deductible by the spouse who is paying, and reportable as income to the spouse who is receiving payments. When an alimony award is entered, the state which enters the award will usually have continuing jurisdiction over the award, and as a result, any modifications sought or enforcement efforts needed will be brought in that state as well.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, please 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.
In North Carolina, when you separate from your child’s other parent, there are a lot of things to consider and plan for. In most cases, it is best to have a consent order entered as to your child custody arrangement, and any child support obligations. A custody order is required to enforce any agreements as to child custody.
In North Carolina, there are two kinds of child custody: legal child custody, and physical child custody. Legal child custody concerns decision making, and what parent is making such decisions as to where the minor child is attending school, what doctor and dental treatments the minor child will have, what religious practices the child will adhere to, and what extracurricular activities and events the child will participate in. Physical custody, on the other hand, concerns what parenting time each parent will spend with the minor children.
Most cases involving child custody are resolved by direct negotiations with the opposing party, and the remainder are resolved through the process of mediation. Most jurisdictions require the parties to attend a mandatory mediation before they may present their child custody case in front of a judge. Mediation is often successful as it gives the parties the ability to maintain a sense of control in resolving and settling their matter. In the event your spouse or partner is unreasonable, and unwilling to settle, your case may be forced into litigation, where the judge determines a child custody arrangement dependent upon the best interests of the minor child.
If you need to speak with a child custody attorney regarding a child custody matter, please contact Adkins Law. We are located in Huntersville NC and are happy to be of service.
You have to file a complaint (lawsuit) asking for a divorce. You cannot file a divorce complaint until after you and you spouse have been separated for one year. You have to serve your spouse with the complaint. Service is usually accomplished by certified mail or Sheriff. Then you will need a hearing in front of a judge. You may or may not have to be present at this hearing depending on what county you file in, and whether you are represented by an attorney. The judge has to enter a Judgment declaring you are divorced. You are not divorced until the judge signs a Judgment and the clerk file stamps it.