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.
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.
If you have thought it through and have ultimately decided that divorce is the best path forward for your family and your future, then you will soon have many decisions to make as you pursue this decision. From telling your spouse and children to choosing an attorney and gathering important documents that will be necessary as your case proceeds, planning ahead is important. While planning ahead will certainly not make your divorce proceedings stress-free, it will go a long way toward making them less stressful than they would otherwise be. Planning ahead helps to you feel and be more prepared in many life situations, and divorce is no different.
BREAKING THE NEWS: TELLING YOUR SPOUSE AND CHILDREN
Telling Your Spouse
It goes without saying that there is no “easy” way to tell your spouse that you want a divorce – but there are certainly some ways to approach this conversation to make it better than it otherwise might be. First, it should be said that prior to having this conversation with your spouse, you should be very certain that it is a conversation you want to have. Sometimes, without truly thinking it through, one spouse might tell the other that they want a divorce as a way of getting their attention, or persuading their spouse to do something, or to stop doing something. We would caution against this. It is harmful to your relationship if it is not what you truly want, and it may also damage your credibility in the future, when you truly do feel that divorce is the best option.
Once you have officially made the decision to proceed with divorce however, and you are certain that it is what you want, it is worth making every effort to ensure that a conversation which has the potential to be very uncomfortable and painful goes as smoothly as it possibly can. Of course, every relationship, and every set of circumstances leading up to this conversation will be unique. Ultimately, you know your spouse best, as well as the best time, place, and manner in which to have this conversation. Keeping that in mind, here are some helpful guidelines for making a difficult conversation slightly less so:
While you will not entirely eliminate any emotional stress during a divorce conversation by taking these steps, they will make a difference in the overall tone of the conversation, and should help to make a painful situation more manageable for you, and for your spouse. After telling your spouse, the two of you will want to decide, together, when and how it is best to tell your children.
Telling Your Children About Divorce
While divorce is certainly difficult for everyone, perhaps one of the hardest aspects is worrying about how it might affect your children. Without question, a certain amount of pain and heartache is inevitable – any time that a family splits apart, this will be the case. However, how you handle these matters with your children – both in the way that you talk to and interact with them, and in the way that you choose to interact with your spouse in the future – can make a significant difference in whether the overall impact of the divorce is negative or positive.
With that in mind, you and your spouse will of course need to decide together how you plan to approach the first conversation with your children when you tell them about your decision to divorce. Of course, each family is unique. You know your own children best, and are in the best position to determine how to break the news to them in a way that will be as emotionally healthy as possible. Some guidelines to consider when doing so include:
While telling your children about your divorce will certainly not be easy, the manner in which you do so is very important. Take the time necessary to have a thorough conversation, and put ample thought into that conversation beforehand. Stay calm, and make sure that both parents stay on the same page and remain committed to putting their emotional issues aside for the sake of their children’s well-being during this time. Doing so will make the divorce process easier for your entire family.
If you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney, 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.
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.
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.