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Five Facts About Alimony

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Elizabeth Stephenson

When couples divorce, one of the issues that often generates the most contention is alimony. For a spouse seeking spousal support, these payments are seen as essential, as he or she does not make sufficient income to meet his or her financial needs or to maintain the standard of living that was normal during the marriage. In some cases, that spouse may also want alimony as a form of justice against a spouse who wronged them. On the other side is a spouse who has to make alimony payments, which can be a significant amount of money every month. No one really wants to pay alimony, as it is a continuing and sometimes expensive connection to a marriage that did not work out. As you can imagine, these conflicting positions …

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What Happens When a Separation Agreement is Breached

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

A separation agreement is a formal written agreement that couples create when they separate and often have the intent to divorce. Because couples must live separately and wait for a full year prior to filing for a divorce in North Carolina, these agreements serve to bridge that gap by spelling out the terms of property division, living arrangements, expenses, spousal support, child custody, and child support. For couples and their children facing a new normal in their lives, these agreements create certainty and stability. However, there are times that people are unwilling or unable to comply with all of the terms of their separation agreement. Couples who have signed a separation agreement must therefore understand what happens when a separation agreement is breached. Breach of Contract    A critical feature …

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What are the Legal Impacts of a Termination of Parental Rights?

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

Your rights as a parent are no small matter. These precious rights have constitutional implications. The Supreme Court has stated that a parent has a constitutional interest in “the companionship, care, custody, and management” of their children. However, these rights are not without their limits. There are circumstances in which a parent can commit acts or omissions that can result in the termination of parental rights. Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights Under North Carolina law, a court can terminate parental rights if the person or agency seeking termination can prove one or more of the “Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights”. This must be proven by “clear and convincing evidence”, which is the highest burden of proof available in civil law cases. Some of the bases of terminating a parent’s …

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When is Police Intervention Appropriate for a Family Law Dispute?

In Domestic Violence, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When you are having a really difficult time with your spouse during the midst of a separation, you may find yourself in situations where you feel scared or powerless. Some people contact relatives and friends for support, while others call their lawyers to pursue their legal options. Further, it is not unusual for law enforcement to become involved in domestic disturbances. The choice whether to call 911 for a family law dispute is truly a personal one that depends on your circumstances.   It is important to balance the following information if you are in a position to make that choice due to a family dispute. Law Enforcement Does Not Exist to Micromanage Your Relationships Law enforcement officers have a tough job and are required to respond to many calls every …

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Finding Ways to Engage with Your Children With Limited Visitation

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

Family courts in North Carolina are tasked with making child custody orders with children’s best interest in mind. Generally, the law presumes that children are best served when they have ample access and contact with both of their parents. However, there are times that courts limit parental access and visitation. This limitation can come from a variety of factors, like the lack of an existing relationship, substance abuse, abandonment, neglect, child abuse, or domestic violence. It can also come from an agreement of the parents that the child needs time to transition into a fuller visitation schedule. Whatever the reason for limited visitation, it is critical for parents with limited access to their children to make the most of their time. This requires commitment, consistency, and thoughtfulness: Consistently visit your …

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Five Key Steps to Planning Your Separation

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

The decision to end a marriage is a big deal. The life you are accustomed to will be disrupted, as will the lives of your children. But you are probably aware of this, which is why you are taking the responsible step of searching the internet for guidance. With that in mind, here are some key steps that can help you prepare for the 12-month separation period required to obtain a divorce in North Carolina. Consult with an attorney. You have significant legal rights when it comes to dividing marital property, spousal support, child custody, and child support. It is critical that you consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand your legal rights as they apply to your circumstances. If you enter into an agreement without knowing your …

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To Appeal or Not to Appeal?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

If you have been in the process of a divorce or child custody dispute that went before a judge, there are probably times that you think the judge got it wrong. When this happens, you should speak with your attorney in order to better understand the process of an appeal. An appeal is the process in which a party to a lawsuit challenges a judge or jury’s order to North Carolina’s Court of Appeals—which is comprise of 15 judges who hear cases as 3-judge panels. In appealing an order, the party appealing must present legal authority, records from the trial court, and argument to demonstrate why the order should be reversed, revised, or the case dismissed entirely. Why Do People Appeal? People appeal a court’s judgment because they have a …

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Does a Supporting Spouse Have Control Over How Child Support is Spent?

In Child Support by Elizabeth Stephenson

If you are paying child support, you understand the pain of knowing that your paycheck is significantly less every month than before your child support order existed. But you can tolerate this pain, knowing that you are doing right by your child and providing financial support. Nevertheless, it is natural to wonder how that money is being spent. In fact, the thought has probably occurred to you that maybe it isn’t all going directly toward the benefit of your children. Therefore, you might wonder if you have any control over how child support is spent. Unfortunately, the answer is that you have little to no say about how the parent receiving the support spends it. Simply put, court dockets are already stressed and overwhelmed, and the last thing the courts …

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How are Trust Funds Treated During Equitable Distribution Proceedings?

In Separation & Divorce, Wealth by Elizabeth Stephenson

Trust funds are a financial mechanism in which money or property are legally owned by a separate entity (a trust), and proceeds are distributed in accordance with the intentions of whoever created the trust. Trusts are one way that families distribute wealth amongst younger generations. If you are the beneficiary of a trust, or your spouse is a beneficiary of a trust, then the following question may interest you greatly: How are trust funds treated during equitable distribution proceedings? Trust Funds are Generally the Separate Property of the Beneficiary Spouse Generally speaking, the answer is that trust funds are considered the separate property of the beneficiary. Under North Carolina’s laws of Equitable Distribution, “separate property” is defined as “all real and personal property acquired by a spouse before marriage or …

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Creating an Emergency Plan for Your Family

In Health, Lifestyle by Elizabeth Stephenson

While it is unpleasant to think about, we are sometimes faced with dangers that are out of our control, such as natural disasters, car accidents, medical emergencies, property damage, or crime. The entire idea of an emergency is that it occurs when we don’t expect it to. Nevertheless, there are affirmative steps that people can take to preemptively plan for emergencies should they arise. While it is possible to go overboard (i.e., building a fallout shelter) when emergency planning, these suggestions offer a more realistic and balanced approach. Develop a plan with your family so that everyone is on the same page. No matter the size of disaster, it is important to have a conversation that addresses what to do, where to go, where to meet, who to call, and …