Episode 56 – Facebook Legal Advice Fails: The Not-So-Fine Print

  1. Podcast
  2. Episode 56 – Facebook Legal Advice Fails: The Not-So-Fine Print
A person scrolling through social media in front of a computer and cup of coffee.

Ex-It Strategy
Podcast Episode 56

Listen Now

Apple | Spotify | YouTube


Elizabeth Stephenson and Jen Bordeaux

Elizabeth: Hi everyone. It’s Elizabeth Stephenson, family law attorney with New Direction Family Law, and my sidekick— 

Jen: Jen Bordeaux, not an attorney with New Direction Family Law, but all things marketing and beyond. 

Elizabeth: Yes, so Jen’s here today because my law partner Sarah Jane Hink is under the weather.

Jen: Yeah. So she is combining illness, mom life, and trial prep. 

Elizabeth: So we could probably give her a break today. Now I think we have something really fun and interesting today. 

Jen: Yeah. So, you know, Facebook started a while ago and it had a lot of good attributes to it. I remember wondering if you had to be affiliated with a university whenever it first came out. Now the whole world and spammers can be on there and have accounts too. And it helps you stay connected, but it also permeates some bad stuff out there. And what we see a lot in the different groups you can be in folks. Asking folks, asking questions about family law issues. And you know what, it turns out that Facebook apparently has a lot of attorneys. 

Elizabeth: They do magically, I guess they get their JD from Google or Facebook.

Jen: And so we thought that we would share some real examples that we have come across and we’ve had some team members in the office that have been screenshotted me stuff as they see it as well. Just to address, because whether what you’re saying or the advice you’re sharing is correct or not. Elizabeth, I’ll ask you, being the attorney in the room, should you be giving legal advice if you’re not an attorney? 

Elizabeth: Well, I would say no. And sometimes attorneys should not be giving legal advice on forms such as this, and this is not to make fun of anybody who’s out, these are legitimate questions that people have about separation and divorce, custody and all of that. But just because this happened with your friend or your sister, or whoever. Doesn’t mean that the same thing’s gonna happen for you or fall the same way, or you’re gonna get the same judge, or the law applies to you in the same way and you couldn’t lose a lot of rights by doing certain things or certain things that we cannot go back and undo. And so I, I honestly don’t know how, if you, if somebody writes a question and somebody answers. I just cringe sometimes and pray that they are not taking this advice because it is bad advice.

Jen: And I will say we’re not gonna say any names associated with this. We, I’ve paraphrased actually a lot of what these questions are. And like Elizabeth said, they are very important questions that are important to ask and to find out, but, and some folks do chime in to say, please speak with an attorney. You really need to speak to an attorney, and I praise those people. Because I will read these responses and I just start boiling inside and we’ll just say, you know, I’ve, in the years of working in family law, I’m not an attorney, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned is everybody’s situation is unique and some of the smallest differences can make the biggest difference.

Elizabeth: In an initial consultation, there are attorneys who do them for free, who do them for a flat fee like we do. It’s an hour, hour and a half of your time for, I, I say not a lot of money, but it’s probably a lot of money to some people, but it could save you so much time and money in the long run that you gotta think of it as an investment in your future, in your children’s future if children are involved. 

Jen: And the confidence of knowing, equipping you with the tools. As I say to so many people, you know there’s no pressure during an initial consultation. It doesn’t mean that we are engaged as your attorney of record. It also doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to separate. Like you’re just putting more tools in your tool bag to help you make the best decision for you and your family moving forward. 

Elizabeth: What’s our philosophy? Education is power. The more you know the better you’re gonna be. 

Joe: I have a question about the initial consultation. Does that mean that you guys are, what you say and what you share cannot be shared? Is that attorney-client privilege? 

Elizabeth: There is attorney-client privilege there. And if you, if I meet with you and your spouse calls, then we’re conflicted out that we can’t meet with them, and we never tell anyone you’ve come by nothing. 

Joe: Oh, is that why you see on TV shows that some people go around and talk to every lawyer? 

Elizabeth: Absolutely. 

Joe: It’s like a plot point.

Jen: Well, and that is a thing. We’ve had folks call us and say, well, the case is located in Johnston County, but I need a Raleigh attorney because my spouse has met with so many attorneys in Johnston County. Right. Which is, you know, a smaller county. So. Joe, I thought you were gonna say, “oh, is that why I’ve called all these firms and they can’t meet?”

Joe: I was like, whoa, no one will talk to me. It’s the weirdest thing. 

Jen: And we, you know, and we do have to run a conflict check with every single person that calls in interested in services. And we do. And we also, if someone has met with us, we can’t confirm that to the other person. So if we do a conflict check, and I don’t feel like I’m showing anything under the radar here, but if we do speak with someone and we do determine there is a conflict and there can be a conflict for more than one reason. We are all, we just say, you know, I’m sorry we can’t assist you, you with your case right now, but we’re happy to refer you to another family law attorney. Some people read between the lines, some people push and want an exact answer, in which case we turn into robots and just repeat the same thing over and over and over again with different inflections in our voice. Because we’re not gonna tiptoe that ethical line by any means. 

Elizabeth: All right. So let’s jump into it.

Jen: Yes, absolutely. So this first one brings in some immigration issues as well, which we do not practice law in that class, so that would be different. But, you know, they started reaching out with, “Hi, this will be long, so bear with me.” I’m not reading the whole thing. “Mom of a 6-year-old. I’ve been in a rough marriage for the past four years, hoping and pushing through and praying things will get better, but I’ve finally had enough and decided I need to separate asap. Being on a dependent visa, I couldn’t work for the first few years when I moved to the US and when I finally got work authorization, my child was still very small. So I decided to wait until school starts. I have a green card now so I can work for anyone and don’t need any sponsorship.” And this is where I’m paraphrasing ’cause it was a pretty lengthy post. But this particular person went on to talk about, you know, how this was a very verbally abusive relationship and narcissistic. Hopefully in the truest sense, sometimes that word gets thrown around, right? Right. But living with a narcissistic spouse, not knowing anything about her spouse’s finances, which we see so many times on both sides suffering mentally and emotionally and asking for help, finding a job first and foremost and giving her background and then asking for family lawyer recommendations. And there were several responses. Very positive, uplifting. And that’s another piece too, is that you never know who’s responding and who’s saying what and what their emotional intelligence. 

Elizabeth: Or what they’re going through personally too. But I love the response.

Jen: This one response just right away caught my attention. Because the first line is that, “Lawyers are largely worthless. Get a private detective, not a lawyer. Research the private detective before you get them. Like heavily. Ask the police who they recommend.” Now, Elizabeth, if I came to you as a consultation, I was like, “Well, I called the police to recommend who I should work with.” What do you think that police officer response is gonna be?

Elizabeth: I don’t know. Probably not very helpful, but hey, I have nothing against private detectives. They can be very helpful, but private detectives are not attorneys. They are not family law attorneys. They are not licensed. They do not know the statutes, but they can help you in, in your case for sure. So that part of the advice is not bad. And we’ve had a private investigator on here before to talk about different things. We have great relationships with them. 

Jen: They can be really, really helpful. Let’s see. “Have the PI check out the lawyer that you ultimately use. 

Elizabeth: Well, that’s fair. I don’t have a problem with that. 

Jen: Two. That was the first part of the response. The second part was, “This is going to be the year you grocery shop a lot and make your husband fall in love with you. The sad thing is he’ll be a different person when you leave him and make him lots of his favorite dishes.

He, he, um, be a different person.” Let’s see. “He wants you. He wants to think you’re dumb. Let him never argue. Be so dumb. You’re right. I’m the dumb girl. What would you like for dinner, baby boo.” So I’m just like, where’s this person at? What’s going on in their life? Oh my goodness. I’m just not even gonna read all that.

Elizabeth: Well now I’ll say, this is good. This is not bad advice. Go to the grocery store, especially if there’s some financial abuse or you’re not working. Go to the grocery store almost every day and get cash back from his account. And I will say that’s something we do tell people is open your own bank account. Stash it. I don’t care if it’s $5 here, $10 here. It can add up so you can sort of parse some things outta here, but open new accounts and get all the advantages and points and flyers and hotels. I mean, there’s, there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not law. No, that’s not telling you what you can do if you leave, what your consequences may be. So please, please, please. Be careful when you read these things. 

Jen: Yeah. And and you know, and this one was still paraphrased too, but my, my biggest red flag here was all those things. You’re, you know, saying to the fact that that could be, but it also could be, you know, situation specific. So if a person is in an emotional state where they’re looking for help for these answers and they take this, you know, word for word, who knows how the spouse might react. Like, is there, is it, has it just been verbal abuse? Is there physical abuse too? What are those risk factors? 

Elizabeth: Right. And what if he finds out, “Oh, you’re taking, wait. Here’s a grocery bill and where’d the $28 go?” That could put you in a safety situation. May not think that way, but it could, you know, in some ways.

Jen: You know, and just looking for other avenues. If you are, if your finances, if you don’t know anything about his finances, you know, but do you have access, you know, finding out your rights to the money that’s in bank accounts and your access to all of those. So that was a big piece about that one, like I love the support of the response that.

Elizabeth: But you know, you gotta think about what your situation is and not all of that is correct. 

Jen: Yeah, definitely. So that was the first one. Anything else to add to that, Joe? Anything over there?

Joe: I can’t wrap my mind around how, it’s just not in my marriage, like how people can be so controlling with money that you gotta sneak money. Like it’s just, it should just be your money, you know?

Elizabeth: Well, that’s what you would hope, but that’s not the way most marriage is. It’s sad work and especially in a domestic violence situation that does not, that’s very much a form of abuse and control people know how to do. 

Jen: Yeah, absolutely. And some, sometimes you can see it in, in different cultures as well.

Elizabeth: And you can see this, this is a different culture. She’s got a green card, she’s in a very precarious situation at some point. 

Jen: Yeah. And thankfully she had gotten to the point of, you know, being where she could work here and wasn’t dependent on that status with her spouse to be able to get employment and be able to stand on her own two feet. So I do love that part of her comment of wanting to take control of that piece. 

Elizabeth: I do too. 

Jen: Okay, next we’re moving on to a prenup, postnup situation. Boom. “He gave me an ultimatum today to sign a prenup. I left my job to take care of our child a couple months ago, and I take care of the house. I clean every week. Bring him coffee every morning, cut the lawn, make him lunch and dinner, do laundry, and take care of our child.” I have my own thoughts about that, but I’ll leave that for a Facebook response, I guess, housewife stuff. “But I enjoy it because I love him and taking care of a house. I don’t know if I’m going crazy or if this is completely manipulative, or if all of it is the trauma of his upbringing and his dad being a shifty, vengeful person and trying to protect himself. I wanna keep my family together, but something feels so wrong in my gut about signing a postnup. Our counselor recommends against a prenup or postnup in a relationship as you’re setting the relationship up to fail.” So I think that’s, and I’ve actually talked to my therapist about this and other folks that we, you know, that we refer to about this line and who knows maybe what the therapist actually said and how the person, this person interpreted it. But every therapist immediately was like, “That’s outside of their scope of practice.” They, you know, need to refer to an attorney to talk about, you know, what a prenup postnup is. But to say that you’re dooming your relationship is a personal opinion.

Elizabeth: Correct. And not necessarily true, and I’m not quite sure what the, I don’t know if it’s a prenup or postnup. So prenup is when you sign an agreement about who’s gonna do what and finances prior to getting married. So I’m not sure if these people are married or not, or if they’ve been married. Then a postnup is, you can make contracts about finances when you’re married. So I’m not quite sure what this is, but then the response is, this one is hard. “Do not leave the house unless it’s a safety risk leaving the house and NC is considered abandonment. And you will get nothing without a major fight from a good attorney.” But I would say first, well, and do not leave, and not for that reason necessarily. People always talk about abandonment, but abandonment really means nothing any more. It has to do with maybe alimony, but as we’ve talked about before, if you leave the house, you don’t have a right to come back. So there’s a curl of truth in there, but not necessarily for sure. And then. We’re talking about starting to move sentimental items again, grocery shop, take the money, which has nothing to do with the question. It’s like the person who’s answering is either in the throes of getting separated, or got in a bad separation. And so this is what I did. So you do this, and again, please don’t take that advice. 

Jen: And then the next response is, “I’m confused. What does a postnup say? Also, not sure, but I thought, I heard prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are no longer valid in North Carolina. But either way, I would not have more children with him and I would not sign shit.”  

Elizabeth: Okay, well that is not bad advice (laughing). But, that is not true. You can have postnups and prenups in North Carolina. There’s some rules around them. But yes, they are valid contracts between people. 

Jen: Which, you know, and I think some other people chimed in to say “No, I’m pretty sure that they are valid in North Carolina.” But again, not an attorney. How are you gonna know? So there’s 100% false information that was given there.

Joe: Is there another way to think about it? Like what’s the harm in talking about a postnup? You don’t have to sign it. Like, what, what could possibly go wrong? 

Elizabeth: Well, I think a lot of people talking about getting a postnup have the same thought that the counselor had. “Well, if you talk about that means you’re setting yourself up for divorce.” No. You’re just setting yourself up in the event something happens. It’s not gonna tear your family apart and cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Joe: I could see framing it up as like trying to make sure the other person is taken care of if something goes wrong.

Elizabeth: Or, or getting a booster shot or virus, you know whatever. 

Jen: Or even if maybe the relationship is maybe a little rocky and you guys aren’t really ready to go down the separation route, but you’re at least communicating on the level that you can maybe discuss this and put this in place, right, so that if it does get there. I think that’s also a misnomer in that prenups only, or prenups, or postnup are only benefiting one person. Like if, if they’re, if your spouse is bringing this to you, then they’re trying to get something over on you. 

Elizabeth: No, that may be, but not necessarily true. That’s why you take it to an attorney. 

Joe: But you don’t have to, you don’t have to sign it though. That’s my point, right? Like if you go through the process and it’s terrible for you, you could be like, no, this is terrible for me. Yeah. I’m not signing it.

Elizabeth: You know, and then they say, okay, well we’re not getting married. Well then that’s not a free will contract, you know, at that point. And it may not be valid anyway. 

Jen: Is there? Because with that, we’ve had some folks that’ll call us on a Wednesday, and they’re getting married on Saturday and they’ve been given a prenup to sign, you know, in that time span. Is there a specific timeframe that has to be allowed before signing a prenup? 

Elizabeth: No. I mean case law is really short on the timeframe. You just have to show that you, that you weren’t coerced in any way. That it’s not so lopsided that it’s unethical or against public policy that you read it. You know, you don’t have to have an attorney that you did it of your free will and you understood the terms. And if you can show all that, then, then it’s a valid contract. Yeah. That’s all.

Jen: I think they’re a great idea, but again, I work in family law. 

Elizabeth: I do too. 

Jen: Okay, here we go. This one. Whew. And, Elizabeth will obviously speak to the gravity of this one more, but somebody reached out and said, “Can anyone explain to me what an order to show cause is? I have a child support court today, or I had a child support court today and it came out that my ex went to file one on Monday, but I had no idea what it was.” And the responses here, Elizabeth, I report more show, put these here for you. But one particular person had obviously had experience with this as a, you know, plaintiff in it. And for years and went on to try to describe the difference between the two, and then kind of got into a little debate back and forth about what they were and jail time and things like this. And so I put this here if you can see it, but I think the overriding thing is, is that going back to what I said earlier, if some of what you’re saying is true, there’s also some larger penalties and rights here as far as like jail time and getting arrested and potentially and what some of these are. And I think one outright, was just talking about, “An order for contempt is a motion to appear and show cause I just looked it up on my own to confirm.” Elizabeth, can you confirm or deny that the order for contempt is a motion?

Elizabeth: Yes, it is. We call it a motion for contempt. Generally, it’s called a motion to show cause and then if the judge reads it, nobody else is there. If he thinks there’s enough allegations that you violated the order, they’ll, they’ll sign and enter an order to show cause. And it orders you to come and show cause why you should not be held in contempt. That’s why it’s called a show cause and they’re, I’m not gonna get into the details of that. They’re civil and criminal, but even if it’s civil, you can go to jail. So if you are served, you have to be served. It can’t just be mailed to, you have to be served. But if you are served, you need to show up because if you don’t, they can issue an order for your arrest and they will come and get you. And you need to, I would say. Very actual, actually actual, actually go talk to an attorney. You may be able to talk to legal aid if you can’t afford one. But there’s very big consequences with contempt and show cause. So don’t just show up at court and think that things are gonna go your way because, “Oh, I couldn’t pay my child support because I don’t have a job.” The court might say, sir, you can go get a job and I’m gonna throw you in jail until you purge yourself for the $3,000 you’re owed in child support. Just be careful. Yeah. 

Jen: Well and I think even the semantics here, ’cause this particular response says the order for contempt is a motion to appear and show cause. And technically a motion and an order are two separate things.

Elizabeth: A motion is something that an attorney files or a pro se files, and an order is something that only a judge, the judge signs orders you to come to court. So it’s very serious at that point. 

Jen: I know it sounds like nuanced little things, but they’re two completely different documents. So obviously important to, to, but to get that squared away with your attorney and find out. 

Elizabeth: But I mean, the best advice I can give you is don’t ask questions. I mean, I mean, you can, but don’t put questions like they’re out there on, on forums like this because you’re, you’re more than likely not gonna get good advice. Just pick up the phone and call an attorney, family law attorney and ask them, you know, if you can have a consultation and find out what your rights and options are. 

Joe: Let’s start with Wikipedia. When you wanna know the definition for something, don’t go to Facebook. 

Jen: Well, I mean, and even another person you know with their response, paraphrasing it. You know, it says if a judge granted that order, then you or your attorney had 10 days to comply with that order. That’s absolutely not true. That’s not a standard.

Elizabeth: No. That would be like an emergency. And then the remedy for civil court is fines only. That’s absolutely not true. Absolutely not true. You can go to jail even if it is civil contempt. So. I just don’t do it. 

Joe: I feel like going on Facebook and asking legal questions is like going on WebMD when you feel like a stuffy nose. Yeah. Well Matt, the answer’s always gonna be terrible. 

Jen: Right? But then you go to WebMD and then you’re like, oh my gosh, you went in for a stuffy nose and now you’ve got cancer.

Elizabeth: Absolutely. You go down the rabbit hole, so, but yes. 

Jen: Yeah, absolutely. I do love this one person though at the end of their comment when they were trying to put it out there, their explanation of contempt in this last sentence was, “We might very well see Trump thrown in contempt of court.”

Elizabeth: But I like this, the judge could do just about anything for contempt. That is a true statement. That’s absolutely true.

Jen: There is one of our most recent podcast episodes where you and Sarah discussed, you know, what you can do if somebody’s not following a separation agreement. Which is a different document than a court order. And you guys went into way more detail about contempt and not following an order. And on both sides of that, if you’re the person that hasn’t been following it or the person that’s pursuing the motion to show. 

Elizabeth: I guess a little bit of knowledge’s gonna be dangerous.

Jen: Yeah. And some people think they have way more than they do. Okay, the next one is related to custody and kind of some relocation stuff. Let’s see. “I’m trying to file for legal custody of my children. My ex and I have joint custody of the children. We have been out of the town/country for the past three months and more than two months in a row. I am the primary caretaker. Yet he has control over giving consent when we want to travel, and usually that depends on his mood. I don’t wanna have to deal with this until the children are 18. I want legal custody so I can be able to do things like renew passports or make an emergency medical decision when he can’t be reached. My question is, is there such a process and if so, what does that look like?” So I have a few responses. The first one, “Legal aid is free and will help greatly. You just need to take him to court and show why you deserve full custody.” So, I don’t know if you know all the parameters around legal aid, but just sending them for custody, because I’ve largely gotten feedback that unless it’s involved with— 

Elizabeth: Domestic violence, crime, emergency and violence, right? Yeah. They’re not more than likely not gonna help you and you don’t just take him to court and show why you are in custody. And this is what this one let’s see. Somebody has an idea. I mean, I will say that we’re sort of pro, we’re not pro father, but very much they start with the premise a lot of times with 50-50 custody. Mm-Hmm. But then, the other step is, it is in the best interest of the child. So it’s not a given, but it’s as far as I’d say, and then it takes. “The parent has to be absent for six months, no contact other than NC. You can try to get a hundred percent custody when it comes to that decision. But again, a six month law might come into play.”

Jen: What is the six month law they’re speaking of? 

Elizabeth: I don’t know. But that is really, really bad advice. And these are your children that you’re talking about again.

Joe: On Facebook. On Facebook. Now kids don’t go on Facebook. 

Elizabeth: Yeah, I mean, I understand that you’re hurting and you have questions. But it’s sort of like this, this will probably get me in trouble, but when you’re in some of the groups with parents and they have a child that has something on their face or a bite or something. “What is this?” It’s like, stop and take that child to the pediatrician. Do not put it out on Facebook and ask, what is this? It’s sort of like the same mindset to me. 

Jen: Yeah. It’s, you know, and I think that, and you guys have talked about, we’ve had Chris on here from our firm talking of our boobs versus dude episode that I highly recommend for a good laugh as well. You know, you mentioned it’s a 50-50 state and very pro father. So to me those are a bit. They don’t line up, up, line up. They kind butt heads there to say 50-50. Why would you, I mean, if it’s, like you said, if it is in the best interest of the kids, why would you not want both parents to be involved? So that doesn’t really seem to line up there. But yeah, this one really, in most divorces, cheating doesn’t matter. North Carolina is a no fault state. Only way it does is if it causes harm to the children. Does cheating come into play in any other areas of family law? 

Elizabeth: Well, no. It. I mean, unless you’re out at three o’clock in the morning and leaving your children alone, going out and screwing somebody else, it’s not a custody issue. I mean, it’s not gonna matter. That’s true. You gotta show some nexus to the child. This person is absolutely correct. We are a no-fault state when it comes to divorce getting divorced so that you can remarry someone else. Cheating has nothing to do with that. Doesn’t matter how bad it was, you’re still gonna get your divorce and it has, even if you harm the children, you’re still gonna get your divorce.

Jen: Or, or maybe let me rephrase this so that I’m not misrepresenting it’s non-attorney. Is there any other claim in family law where cheating can come into play?

Elizabeth: Yeah for alimony. I mean, if it’s, if you can show that you committed adultery or had sexual relations with someone, sounds like Bill Clinton, sorry, sorry about that. Never about sexual relations, um, then, then you will pay alimony. If you’re a supporting spouse, you can’t get out of it if you’re a supporting spouse. So yes, it’s very important in alimony. And then we have this archaic alienation of affection law where you can go and sue the Paramore. But the Paramore is there. They also say it’s also a good way to get your house too. 

Jen: Well this, this particular response was if you can prove he’s cheating, you can sue the third party for alienation of affection, which the third party is the Paramore term Elizabeth just used. It could be a way to get your house too. So, and correct me if I’m wrong, whether alienation of affection. It’s not just the cheating aspect that you show for alienation of affection.

Elizabeth: No. You gotta show that person, that you had a loving and kind, you had a loving marriage, this person came in and destroyed that love, and they just, and then you can sue them for that because you, they, you’ve lost your marriage because of this person. And that is not an easy thing to shoot for. I know that when you find out that someone is cheating you, don’t you want to blame that other person? Third party. Mm-Hmm. And, but a lot of times if once people step back and they understand that this person is not the bad person. It takes two to tango and, and both people hold responsibility in that. And so that’s kind of why one alienation, infection, treats, spouses like property. Yeah. Like, you’re mine. You know, you, you came in and soiled this and I’m gonna sue you for this money. I think it’s just really ridiculous. 

Jen: And I think there’s a misrepresentation a lot at face value when people learn about alienation of affection or they hear comments like this. And that they automatically just think that that’s what that’s for. If your spouse is cheating, you can go sue somebody else for it. Right. But I think then we’ve had several folks come in for consultations with that idea in mind once they find out. What you do have to prove right. And what all of that looks like and the headache around it and everything that’s gonna have to come to light in trying to prove that, a lot of times, I mean, I guess we’ve seen Chris do a jury trial for it.

Elizabeth: I mean, there’s criminal conversation where all you have to prove is that they had sex. I mean, that’s, that’s easy. So that’s sort of a slam dunk if you’ve got the evidence for that.

Jen: But I’d imagine it’s so hard to prove that if it was not for that person, that your relationship would be loving and happy because. We’ve had one of our very first podcast episodes, we had a therapist talking about why people cheat. And if you take a step back and you look at the marriage, you know, there’s another, she was like, it’s generally never just to cheat. There’s another reason that that person has then gone on to cheat to fill some other void, whether it’s substance use, financial issues, gambling, like whatever it is, right. And so it seems like that’s a bigger relationship issue, not the third party. 

Elizabeth: Not necessarily that. And this one I love, it’s like if you choose to stay. Guess this person asked about moving out. She says, if you choose to stay in NC I don’t think he can legally take the kids to another state without your consent. You can, but you can get ’em back. But yes, there’s more to this. It’s like you got a little bit of it right, but you need a little bit more.

Jen: Yeah. And this, this particular comment was talking about they were supposed to move to a different state and they were closing on a new house in a few days. And now the husband has expressed that he wants a divorce, which is a poor time to serve, but I feel like maybe we’re having those thoughts before he decides to buy a new house in a new state. And then the wife’s job and the kids were established in North Carolina and she wanted to stay here. He’s a good dad, which is good for her to admit. Absolutely. Because a lot of people have a hard time admitting that I don’t wanna keep the kids from him, but I wanna stay in nc. And 

Elizabeth: She would more than likely be able to do that, you know? Or if she feels like he’s leaving and gonna take the kids, you could get an emergency custody order. There are all sorts of ways to do this. So if he did get up and pick up the kids and go. That’s a big issue and you can get those kids back. Because clearly you know where he is going ’cause you’re closing down the house.

Jen: But, but if there’s nothing in place, there’s nothing stopping him from originally taking the kids?

Elizabeth: He’s the parent. I mean, there, yeah. I mean, it’s a court order then. Yeah, absolutely. You can get an order for rest and get him back.

Jen: The second part of this came down to the property in the same scenario. She said, I commingled my inheritance money for a down payment for the new house that they were about to close on. And the other state and we both use retirement accounts, but mine was a larger portion and somebody responded back with, “You must be separated for one year before divorce is granted. But if you sleep with him in that year, it will start over. You will get child support, you will get your inheritance money back. You can also put in your divorce that he planned all of this and had all intentions to trick you to move.” 

Elizabeth: All of that is wrong. Every word of that is wrong. That makes no sense so sorry, I don’t mean to laugh. I know her, that is a complicated scenario. I’m just telling you, nobody can, this is really, truly, it depends. Yep. There is no right or wrong answer on this. It could go a lot of ways. So I hope that person did not take that advice.

Jen: I hope not as well. You will get child support.

Joe: What exactly does commingled mean? 

Elizabeth: I mean, like, if you, like if I got an inheritance, that’s my separate money, even if I got it during the marriage. And then if I use my separate money and we go and buy a house and you’re on the deed, I’ve commingled my separate property with marital property. Which then became house wise only in houses, it now becomes marital money and I can’t get my down payment back if we separate. 

Joe: Also, you said that alienation of affection is an outdated law and you mentioned that it’s ’cause it treats a spouse like property. Are there any other things that feel outdated about it other than obviously that’s a very outdated principle?

Elizabeth: I just think in principle it’s awful.

Jen: I just think that, I mean, I understand that, you know, being cheated on is hard, and you want some sort of, but honestly, it’s an emotional journey that you have to go through. 

Elizabeth: It’s not gonna get, it’s not gonna make you whole in any way. 

Jen: No. And it’s expensive. Expensive. 

Elizabeth: And it just heats things up in a horrible way to help people get through the divorce. Mm-Hmm. It’s just not good. 

Joe: It sounds like the way you’re describing it, alienation of affection probably happens very, very rarely. Like somebody with sneaky intent is like, I’m gonna bust up this marriage. 

Elizabeth: Oh, a mother-in-law or business could come in. I mean, you can sue. It’s not about having sex. It’s about coming in, insinuating yourself within that relationship. 

Joe: Has a dog ever been sued for alienation protection? Yeah. 

Elizabeth: You’d have a hard time recovering on that. 

Jen: Yeah, I think I’ve seen comments on Facebook about dogs in custody as well, and Elizabeth, are dogs in custody a thing no matter how bad we want them to be, but legally, are they?

Elizabeth: Absolutely.

Jen: But is there a statute around dogs in a custody agreement? Yes, it’s a, 

Elizabeth: I put dogs in separation agreements all the time. Right, but that’s 

Jen: Right but that’s personal property, but not custody like a child. There’s no custody. 

Elizabeth: No, but it’s still, we put in a visit. I mean, but under those provisions you can put in visitation. They can have, some of, you could put in the same provisions for a dog as you can for custody. We just don’t call it custody. 

Jen: But that’s why you should get a prenup because then you can do all that when you’re in a good mood and you don’t hate each other. Or you can just go adopt one of the thousands of other loving dogs.

Elizabeth: Don’t put the dog in the middle of all this screaming. Yeah. Right. See, I imagine a dog, he’s sitting in the stand in court. 

Jen: Yeah, so there, there, there’s a lot there.

Elizabeth: And the last one I wanna say is, “I need to separate from my husband for many reasons. The house in both our names. How do I separate a run to run roof? He threatened that he will not pay child support.” What’s the answer, Jen? What did I say?

Jen: Because he’ll have to pay the mortgage and their response is, “You can be separated and living in the same dwelling. I learned that when I went through the process.” You learned wrong.

Elizabeth: I want your, I wanna see your separation agreement. I wanna see your court file. Because that is absolutely not true. Well, now there is a, there is some law that says like if you’re in a house and there’s a separate entrance to a fully furnished basement. And you, it’s like a separate address. Like a separate entrance then that may be considered that, but y’all just can’t be sleeping in two separate bedrooms to be separated. That’s not how you’re legally separated. 

Jen: Yeah. No. I love whenever people call me like, and we ask them, where are you currently separated? Well. I’ve been sleeping in the basement and they’ve been sleeping, you know, in the other bedroom. I’m like, all right, cool. So, no. So, there are a plethora of these. These are just examples. Those are all the examples that I have that we see stuff on Facebook all the time, and it just makes me cringe and my heart goes out to these people. Honestly, they’re asking these questions because they’re real people going through these real problems and wanting, and whenever you’re going through stuff like this, you want your answers so quickly because you’re just in a spiral of uncertainty and fear and hurt, and you want those answers. Facebook is not the place to get ’em.

Elizabeth: It’s not. I mean, if you wanna go out there and say, “Hey, I’m going through this, I’m hurting, you know, here’s my experience.” That’s fine. That’s not legal advice. That’s like looking for your cohorts or your, you know, your tribe to say, who else is going through this and who can help me? That’s different. But I really, really implore people to take it with a grain of salt and talk to an attorney. Doesn’t have to be me. Yeah. Doesn’t have to be a New Direction. But truly pick up the phone and get a consultation somewhere. It will benefit you tremendously. 

Jen: And it’s you know, other factors of like, where is the case located?

Elizabeth: That’s right. 

Jen: Where are you versus where are the kids? 

Elizabeth: That’s right. Because even the statutes are the same, but every county interprets them differently. That makes a really big difference. 

Jen: And go on Facebook and ask for a recommendation for an attorney. You’ll get all kinds of responses there as well.

Elizabeth: And I think that’s fair. Because people, people are very honest, and they should be. I agree. You know, and not everybody likes me for sure. But you know, and that’s fine. I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, but you know, at least. Well, I would say, why don’t you ask people, you know, and trust if they know someone, that might be the better way to do that. 

Jen: And there’s, you know, Google reviews, those always help. Lord knows I look at reviews for anything I buy or anything I go and do. And you, you said something on a previous podcast that has just stuck with me. We were talking about, I think it was one of our FAQ episodes. And we were talking about the DIY legal services, you know, and you were like, it just baffles me because why would you leave the most important things in your life, your children, your finances, your property, you know, at the hands of a template that is not specific to your situation? And why would you also leave it in the hands of Facebookers? 

Elizabeth: Because that’s what, I mean, I just think that’s society nowadays, for the most part. Yeah, but I digress. 

Jen: I don’t fault these folks for wanting to get answers to their questions by any means, and especially where maybe financial resources are limited. You’re hoping to get some answers, but I just, we can’t caution you enough because they can oftentimes be the wrong answers.

Elizabeth: So just be careful. Yeah. That’s what we can say. 

Jen: Yeah. Right. Be wary of Facebook. 

Elizabeth: That’s right.


Previous Post
When to Get a Divorce Lawyer