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What Happens to Debt When I Divorce?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When most people think about property division and divorce, they usually think about money, houses, investments, business interests, retirement, and personal property. This is natural, as the title is “property division” and the ultimate question is: who walks away with what? Despite the focus on property, another critical question that must be resolved when dividing property is: what happens to debt? North Carolina is an Equitable Distribution State Property division in North Carolina is referred to as “equitable distribution.” This means that all property deemed “marital” property is divided in an “equitable” manner—which generally starts off as a split down the middle, followed by the court making adjustments based on numerous statutory factors that make the division fairer. While people don’t like thinking about debt, it is an issue that …

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Is There an Alimony Calculation?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When couples decide to divorce in North Carolina, one of the issues that can arise is that of spousal support. This is an entirely separate issue from property division (also known as equitable distribution) and from child support. If a spousal support agreement cannot be reached, a spouse can file a lawsuit asking a judge to award postseparation support or alimony. In our years of experience, alimony proceedings can be a harsh and bitter fight. If you are considering a divorce or are separated with the intention of divorcing, it is a good idea to begin mentally preparing for the issues of alimony. We frequently hear the following questions: How much should I expect to pay or receive in alimony? Is there an alimony calculation that courts implement? Unlike child …

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Anti Stalking Laws in North Carolina

In Domestic Violence, Relationships by Elizabeth Stephenson

Stalking is terrifying, dangerous, and sometimes deadly for victims. Beyond the invasion of privacy, stalking creates a virtual prison and constant threat for a victim—possibly leaving lasting psychological damage. Because of the emotional trauma, extreme danger, and the “strong connections” between stalking and domestic violence and sexual assault, stalking is a crime in North Carolina. The Crime of Stalking Specifically, under North Carolina General Statute § 14-277.3A, a person commits the crime of stalking if: the person “willfully on more than one occasion harasses another person without legal purpose or willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person without legal purpose”; and the person “knows or should know that the harassment or the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to” fear for their safety …

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The Implications of Divorce and Remarriage

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Getting remarried after a divorce is common. We only live once and there is no rational basis to swear off relationships. Instead, it is often natural that we move on with our lives and pursue new love. There are, however, legal considerations and consequences that come with it. Absolute Divorce After One Year of Separation A common question that we hear regarding remarriage is whether there is a waiting period to remarry. Before answering this question, you must first understand how divorce works in North Carolina. Our state is an absolute divorce state, which allows a couple to obtain a no-fault divorce after being separated for a full year. This means that to get the divorce, a couple must wait a year—while living separate and apart from one another. Neither …

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Making the Most of Your Visitation

In Child Custody by Elizabeth Stephenson

Children really grow up fast. Not too long ago, you were watching them learn to walk. The next thing you know, they’re potty trained. Then, you blink and find yourself having complete conversations with them and fear that they may already be smarter than you. The journey is a real blessing. Unfortunately, life tends to throw many distractions our way, which limits our time with our children and prevents us from being as present as we want to be. This is particularly true when you are in the midst of a child custody dispute, or if an agreement or custody order don’t provide you as much visitation with your children as you want. Some parents also have trouble getting past their conflict with the other parent, that they allow it …

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Can a Prenuptial Agreement be Amended?

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Prior to a marriage, some couples choose to enter into a prenuptial agreement. This is an agreement that can preemptively address matters like property division, the classification of present or future property or assets as separate (instead of marital) property, spousal support and alimony, how debt will be paid, and many others. These agreements are meant to provide certainty in case the couple separates or divorces, so that the spouses do not get caught up in long and expensive litigation if the marriage ends. A prenuptial agreement is a contract that takes effect upon the couple’s marriage. Therefore, if it meets all of the technical requirements, the contract becomes legally enforceable, and if either spouse does not follow its provisions in the future, the other party can file a lawsuit …

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The “Summer Slide” and Proactive Parenting

In Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

The summer with your children can feature a combination of fun events interspersed between long bouts of monotony. Even if you have a daily routine and activities, or if the children are in summer camps, there are still hours of the day when they sit around watching television, playing videogames, or disappearing into their Instagram and social media personas. Simply put, during the summer, children’s minds miss out on the seven hours of school and the level of social interaction they have during the school year. The academic deterioration of what they learned throughout the year is sometimes referred to as the “summer slide”. In fact, research has shown that children’s math and reading skills are particularly hard hit during the summer months. Limiting the Summer Slide As parents, we …

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International Day of Friendship

In Relationships by Elizabeth Stephenson

Whatever side of the political aisle you sit, it is hard to deny that we are living in an incredibly divisive time. It seems like every time we look at the news, there are three new national stories that seem to fuel peoples’ passions and widen the divide. For the sake of our Country and for the sake of our own mental health, it is important to occasionally step back to look at what we have in common, instead of focusing on our differences. For example, even if we have fundamental disagreements, we should not doubt that every one of us wants to leave the world a better place for our children. With that in mind, July 30th is the International Day of Friendship. Initiated by the United Nations in …

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Blending Your Family: When Your Kids Have Different Moms

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

The tender years doctrine was a century-old legal principal that presumed children should be in their mother’s custody. That doctrine was replaced with the best interest of the child standard, which drops the maternal presumption and gives a trial court a broad scope what evidence it can consider when reaching its findings. As a result, fathers more frequently find themselves on the receiving end of custody or ample overnight visits with their children. It is therefore increasingly common for fathers to have opportunities at a blended family with children from prior relationships and children from their current relationship. These children get the chance to know each other, to grow up together, and to truly develop a sibling bond. As sibling relationships are the longest relationships we have in our lives, …

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Batterer Intervention Programs in North Carolina

In Domestic Violence by Elizabeth Stephenson

The impact of domestic violence on victims and on children cannot be overstated. Not only do violence and abuse create a risk of serious injury or death for everyone involved, they also can create lasting emotional damage. For example, children who witness domestic violence run a risk of becoming batterers themselves or becoming involved in bad relationships in the future. Because of the volatile and unpredictable nature of domestic violence—especially when one spouse tries to separate from the other—it sometimes becomes necessary to involve law enforcement or family courts when matters escalate. Domestic violence is a real problem that family courts and law enforcement take very seriously. It sometimes takes law enforcement to arrest and charge a batterer with a domestic violence offense, or a victim to obtain a domestic …