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Supervised Visitation and Safe Custody Exchanges

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

When family courts enter custody and visitation orders, they do so based on what is in the best interest of the children. This is an open concept that can encompass many different considerations. Sometimes, courts end up hearing evidence that concerns them to the extent that they limit a parent’s custody or visitation. This may include evidence of domestic violence, a criminal activity, substance abuse, child neglect, emotional abuse of a child, or physical abuse of a child. In other words, if the court feels that a parent poses some physical or emotional risk to the child or the other parent, then a court will make decisions it feels necessary to protect them. However, it must also balance the underlying public policy that children should spent time with both parents. …

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How a Criminal History May Play Into Your Divorce

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

North Carolina is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that for a spouse to obtain an “absolute divorce” from another spouse, the spouse does not need to prove the other spouse engaged in any sort of misconduct that resulted in the divorce. Instead, courts may grant a divorce upon a finding that the couple has been separated for a full year. Nevertheless, this does not mean that a spouse’s actions during a marriage have no bearing on the issues relating to a divorce. In fact, many people make mistakes and have some form of criminal history, which makes it important to understand the ways that this history may play into a divorce. Criminal Activity Can Bear on Alimony Judgments One of the significant aspects that a …

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What If I Don’t Want a Divorce?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

The end of a marriage is a sad, and often stunning, change in people’s life circumstances. Their hopes, their expectations, and their sense of normal are thrown into flux. Sometimes, one spouse wants a divorce while the other doesn’t. Whether this is based on hope, personal beliefs, denial, anger, or some other reason, it presents a big dilemma for both spouses. Therefore, a key question in this situation is: What if I don’t want a divorce? North Carolina Is a No Fault State North Carolina is an absolute divorce state. This is a no-fault divorce that a spouse can seek after a married couple has been separated for a period of at least a year. In other words, if two spouses have lived separate and apart for a year, then …

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The Legal Ramifications of Adultery

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Adultery is an incredible breach of marital trust that many marriages simply cannot survive. Beyond the massive emotional toll and the dissolution of a family that can result from adultery, there are very real legal consequences. If your spouse has engaged in this violation or if you are being accused of it, then it is worth your time to explore these legal consequences. Alimony Accounts for Adultery North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, which means to obtain an absolute divorce, a spouse does not need to prove anything other than a year-long separation. However, when it comes to spousal support, courts are not only free to consider adultery, but a judge may be required to consider it. Under the North Carolina General Statutes, the court weighs “illicit sexual behavior” …

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Where Can Our Divorce Be Filed?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

The decision to get a divorce is a difficult one, but it can also be an opportunity to head in a healthier direction with your life. In seeking a divorce, however, finality is critical to moving forward. In other words, you want to have a final, enforceable court order that dissolves your marriage or you will be stuck in legal limbo. This can only happen if the court that enters your final order has jurisdiction to do so. What is Jurisdiction? In essence, only courts with jurisdiction can hear and enter orders regarding your divorce. Jurisdiction is a Latin term that translates to “law speak” or “to speak the law.” It is an important concept, because without jurisdiction over a subject matter and the people involved in a lawsuit, a …

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Teenagers and Child Custody

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

Working through the realities of child custody is challenging for any parent. Even with the most thoughtful, well-intentioned parenting plan agreement or child custody order, and co-parents who communicate well, our life circumstances evolve and our children age. In fact, as children of separated parents become teenagers, new custody challenges can arise that will challenge the best of us. Teenagers Have Their Own Lives A natural part of children’s development is that they are less and less dependent as they grow up. Long gone are the days when they were super-attached and always wanted to be around you. Now they have their friends, they start to date, they have school, they have extracurricular activities, and they have hobbies. In other words they are increasingly busy. Because of their social lives, …

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Equitable Distribution: The Difference Between “Fair” and “Equal”

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Elizabeth Stephenson

When a married couple permanently separates and heads toward a divorce, there are a ton of emotions to unpack and sort through. These emotions are natural and can completely dominate your mental space. However, there are numerous issues that you will eventually need to face head on, including how your marital property is going to be divided. Community Property Versus Equitable Distribution There are numerous “community property” states across this country that consider all property acquired during the course of a marriage to belong equally to both spouses. Thus, this property is considered community property that is split 50-50 when the couple divorces. In fact, a lot of people have a misconception that when you divorce, you will lose (or gain) half of all property. This is not universally true. …

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How a Mortgage May Be Addressed When You Separate

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Besides your retirement accounts, your marital home is likely the most valuable piece of property you own. You’ve likely invested a massive share of your savings and income to build equity in this important investment. When couples separate and divorce, this home becomes one of the big issues in settling the division of marital property. One of the important details, however, when figuring out how the home will be divided is what happens to the mortgage? That’s right. While a house is a giant asset, your home mortgage is one of your biggest monthly expenses. Therefore, it is important to understand the options available to address the mortgage in an equitable distribution proceeding. One Spouse Gets the Home A common scenario is for parties to agree, or for a court …

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Be Kind to Humankind

In Community, Lifestyle, Relationships by Elizabeth Stephenson

We’re living through a rough time in our country. The civil discourse regarding social and political issues has become toxic, with lines drawn in the sand and neither side willing to give an inch to the other. This is really sad, as long term friendships have been tested and fractured as a result. Nevertheless, we should never forget what unites us, which is our humanity and our ultimate desire to leave the world better for our children. “Be Kind to Humankind” is an annual week—celebrated since 1988—that celebrates humanity through exhibiting kindness on a daily basis. This year, it falls on the week of August 25-31, 2018. According to the movement’s official website, each day of the week is designated with its own theme, including: Sunday, August 25th: “Sacrifice Our …

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Fatherhood and Leading by Example

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

    Children learn to socialize, cope, develop relationships, and navigate life based on their observations of the adults in their lives. Amongst the strongest influences in helping children develop into healthy, well-adjusted adults are their parents. This is why as a father, it is so important to approach parenting in a thoughtful, consistent manner. A critical part of this equation is to truly understand that you lead your children with both your words and your actions. In essence, you can positively lead by example when your actions match your words. Healthy Relationships  Children often mimic their parents’ mannerisms in the context of what they see between adults. Just watch them interact with their friends or at the playground, and you may notice them using some very familiar words and …