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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 …

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Finding a Mental Health Provider

In Health, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Coping with the stress, anxiety, loss, sadness, and anger that come with the end of a marriage is a lot for anyone to handle. No matter how strong you are, or how you have faced prior adversity, there is no telling what emotional impact a divorce can have until you are actually staring it in the face. Mental health counselors exist for a reason. Contrary to outdated stigmas regarding therapy and psychological help, it is incredibly common for people to seek help when they need it. In fact, it takes strength to ask for help. This strength directly benefits you and your ability to find the tools to move forward. It helps your children, as they look to you for guidance and leadership. Therefore, we encourage you to seek a …

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How Child Emancipation Works

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

While all parents take pride in supporting their children and fulfilling their parental duties, sometimes circumstances dictate that the these roles end earlier than we expect. While the age of adulthood is traditionally 18 years old, it is possible for a child to legally become an adult before then. Emancipation is the legally recognized mechanism in which a sixteen or seventeen year old minor can become an adult in the eyes of the law. In order to be emancipated and treated like an adult, a minor must demonstrate the ability to provide for himself like an adult, particularly in terms of financial independence. To qualify, a child must be 16 or 17 years old and have resided in North Carolina for at least six months prior to filing their petition …

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Separation and Your Child’s School

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

A separation is not only hard for you, but it represents a significant event in the life and development of your children. This is not lost on family courts or on child development experts, who recommend parents create as safe, stable, and amicable a situation for their children as possible. With this in mind, it is critical to address how to create normalcy for your children when it comes to the place they spend the majority of their week—their school. Communicate With Your Child’s School One of the tough aspects of a separation or divorce is that you have no control over the rumor mill. It is not much different for children in school, as they deal with other children who spread information or rumors about each other. When it …

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Frequently Asked Questions: Equitable Distribution

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When it comes to the end of a marriage, couples have to find a resolution about their children and their money. Naturally, these issues can be sources of incredible tension and conflict. If you are considering a divorce, then it is of great importance that you take an informed, smart approach before agreeing to anything. Otherwise, you may be leaving a considerable amount of money on the table or waiving important legal rights. Therefore, we recommend that you contact an attorney and review some of our most frequently asked questions. What Property Will I Get When I Divorce?  The answer essentially depends on when the property was acquired. If it was acquired or earned prior to your date of marriage, then you will likely take it with you when your …

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Is it Possible to Get Attorney’s Fees For Divorce Proceedings?

In Child Custody, Child Support, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

It is exceedingly common for a financial imbalance to exist between couples that are divorcing. This can lead to fundamentally unfair situations where the spouse with greater resources can afford to retain an attorney while the other spouse cannot. This can create inequitable outcomes to critical legal issues like child custody, property division, alimony, and child support. To address this imbalance and to offer both sides an opportunity to a just resolution, the legislature has made it possible for a dependent spouse to obtain attorneys fees in certain situations. Post-Separation Support and Alimony — The North Carolina legislature has given the court the discretion to award attorneys fees in alimony and post-separation support suits. This makes logical sense as a spouse who is financially dependent on the other spouse probably …

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What Healthy Self-Care Looks Like When You Separate

In Health, Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

It is hard to feel like yourself when you separate from your spouse. This is a completely natural consequence of the end of a significant relationship, the complete disruption in your daily routine, and the process of coming to terms with these major life changes. While separation and divorce are fairly common, it is also unfortunately common to see people fail to properly take care of themselves during this time of need. It is worth taking care of yourself during a difficult separation. In the future, when you are in a better place and look back at these times, you will not regret it. Proper self-care includes stepping back and considering the combination of your mind, body, and soul. Mind — Separations are a traumatic experience. It is important to …