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Why Annulments are Rare

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

When most of us think “annulment”, we think of ill-advised and impulsive Las Vegas weddings. Or maybe we think of quick celebrity marriages, like when Renee Zellweger and Kenney Chesney got married, then annulled their marriage a few months later. Essentially, there is a common belief that annulments are a quick way of ending a short marriage; or, that an annulment is not the same thing as a divorce, creating less of a stigma and making them more desirable than divorce. It may surprise you that annulments are incredibly rare, especially in North Carolina, where there are very limited circumstances in which one can be obtained. Grounds for Annulment The North Carolina legislature has set forth the limited circumstances in which a couple’s marriage may be “void” or “voidable”. The …

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Inheritance and Division of Marital Property

In Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

When a married couple separates and divorces in North Carolina, the law calls for the court to divide the couple’s marital property in an “equitable” manner. On the other hand, each partner’s separate property stays with them and is not subject to equitable distribution. This makes the classification of a couple’s property as marital or separate a complex and hard-fought source of litigation when a marriage ends. Essentially, the partner with more money or resources will generally fight to hold on to their money, while the partner with less will seek more. For some people, inheritance signifies a great source of personal wealth. This is why if a spouse inherited property during a marriage, a natural question becomes: is the inheritance separate or marital property? Inheritance is Generally Separate Property …

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The Most Dangerous Time in a Domestic Violence Relationship

In Domestic Violence by Elizabeth Stephenson

If you ask a domestic violence advocate or survivor about the most dangerous periods of time in a domestic violence relationship, you will probably get a similar answer from everyone: during a separation. It isn’t difficult to understand why. Abusers behave in a manner designed to gain power and control over their victims. The threats, the isolation, the emotional and physical abuse, the blaming, and the economic abuse are all for naught when a victim leaves. This brings about a potentially unhinged level of desperation in which an abuser will do anything necessary to retain their control. If these escalating attempts to regain control are unsuccessful, there is grave potential for an abuser to try to end everything. At New Direction Family Law, we have seen what domestic violence looks …

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The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

Child custody disputes can bring out the worst in human nature. The joy, care, and responsibility of parenthood are a blessing, yet when parental rights or access to children are subject to limitation, people can make incredibly foolish and destructive decisions. Born out of some combination of anger, possessiveness, jealousy, fear, and sadness, some parents chose to abscond with their children. One of several laws to address this problem is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA). The PKPA Was Designed to Create Clarity In 1980, the U.S. legislature enacted the PKPA, which is a set of laws designed to combat parents who take their children from the other parent with the intention of shopping for a more advantageous court in another state. Prior to 1980, there was not a consistent …

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Co-Parenting During the Holidays

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

Depending on your circumstances, holidays can be a strange mix of wonderful and terrible. They are great in that we have time off to spend with our families and loved ones. But they can also be times of loneliness and family conflict. Even for intact families, there are in-laws that battle over valuable time. When parents are separated or divorced, holiday visitation isn’t easy on anyone and these battles only intensify. This is why it is important to know what to expect during the holidays and to take the appropriate steps to foster an emotionally healthy holiday season for yourself, your children, and even your former partner. The holidays will not be smooth or easy, and that is normal. Following a separation, everyone is adjusting to their new normal. It …

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Changing Your Child’s Name

In Child Custody, Parenting, Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

Our names are very important to us. They are a reflection of our families, of our heritage, of our marriages. There are times, however, when it is necessary or desirable to change one’s name. This is true of adults and children alike. North Carolina law therefore allows for legal name changes if certain conditions are met. Changing A Child’s Legal Name If a child is a product of marriage, or if the biological father is on the child’s birth certificate, the child will almost always take the father’s last name. However, a child’s parent, legal guardian, or court appointed guardian ad litem can file a petition to change the name of the child. The general rule is that an application to change a child’s name must be consented to by …

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Debt and Divorce

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

In a division of property upon divorce, North Carolina courts are tasked with determining an equitable division of marital property. Marital property is generally any property acquired during the marriage, with a few defined exceptions. Classifying property as marital or separate can be a hotly contested matter as separate property is not subject to a division. Like with property, debt is also a source of controversy when a court divides property. Unfortunately, the laws regarding marital and separate debt can be trickier to sort out. This is because unlike marital property, debt assumed during a marriage does not necessarily constitute marital debt. Instead, only debt that is assumed for the joint benefit of the married couple is considered marital debt that is subject to division. When determining whether a debt …

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What Are You Thankful For?

In Health, Lifestyle, Uncategorized by Sarah Hink

Although Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, it is never too late to reflect. This has been a turbulent year. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall, no one can dispute that deep ideological divisions have been exposed in this country. To make matters worse, it feels like the national dialogue is deteriorating to the point that people seem unwilling to work toward unity or constructive conversation. While negative forces and events seem to grab and keep our attention, it is important for our mental health not to lose sight of the positive. We need a chance to reflect on the good in our lives and now is a great opportunity to do so. Please heed the following advice when celebrating this holiday season. Make a list …

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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

In Community by Elizabeth Stephenson

November is National Native American Heritage Month! To commemorate this month, New Direction Family Law would like to recognize this state’s significant Native American populations, its Tribes, and its organizations. In fact, did you know that North Carolina has the country’s largest Native American population east of the Mississippi river? According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 99,551 Native Americans reported living in the state. State Recognized Native American Tribes North Carolina recognizes a total of 8 Native American tribes and 4 organizations. The state-recognized tribes include: Coharie Indian Tribe. 910-564-6909 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 828-497-2771 Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe. 252-586-4017 Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. 910-521-7861 Meherrin Indian Nation–People of the Water. 252-209-0934 Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. 336-421-1317 Waccamaw Siouan – People of the Fallen Star. 910-655-8778 Of …

World AIDS Day

In Health by Sarah Hink

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Since 1988, this day has served as a global opportunity to bring awareness and attention to the ongoing fight against AIDS, to remember those who have died, and to support people living with AIDS. New Direction Family Law would like to acknowledge this day, urge you to wear a red ribbon, and to encourage you to learn more about AIDS and the fight against AIDS. What is HIV/AIDS? Human Immunodeficiency Virus (or HIV) is a virus that attacks and compromises a person’s immune system, which leaves the person more susceptible to infections and diseases, since the person’s body struggles to defend itself. If caught early enough, there are treatments available that can allow people living with HIV to lead a full, healthy life. Experts …