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What if a Spouse Dies While Separated?

In Separation & Divorce by Carly Baker

In North Carolina, couples must live separate and apart for a full, consecutive year before they can obtain a divorce decree. A lot can happen in that year. Further, some married couples are separated for years without seeking an actual divorce. Unfortunately, we have seen the unexpected death of a spouse during the separation period. What then, are the implications if a spouse dies while a couple is separated? Equitable Distribution If a spouse dies while a couple is living separate and apart, North Carolina’s equitable distribution laws state that “a claim for equitable distribution, whether an action is filed or not, survives the death of a spouse…” In other words, regardless of whether an equitable distribution has been filed, the death of a spouse does not prevent the surviving …

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Identifying and Protecting Marital Property when You Separate

In Separation & Divorce by Christopher R. Hicks

The end of a marriage can cause people to act well outside of their character. The combination of anger, denial, guilt, and sadness can manifest itself into bad decisions. One of the places we have seen this arise is marital property. Specifically, we have seen spouses destroy, hide, transfer, or waste property when it becomes clear that divorce is in the cards. It is therefore critical that you enter your separation both informed and ready to protect your own property interests. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which entitles each spouse an “equitable” share of all marital property. This is property and income that the couple earned or acquired between their date of marriage and their date of separation. To identify and protect your marital property, you should consider …

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Defending Against a Spouse Seeking Alimony

In Separation & Divorce by Sarah Hink

The end of a marriage can often be turbulent as couples try to sort out what their lives are going to look like apart. One of the issues that can create conflict is alimony, which is already a sore subject because it involves one spouse paying either a lump sum or continuous payments to support the other spouse following their divorce. Making matters worse is that alimony is one of the few areas of family law where North Carolina allows courts to consider the “marital misconduct” of a spouse when ordering alimony. Why is this a big deal? Because North Carolina is an absolute divorce state, which is a form of no-fault divorce that allows courts to grant a divorce based on the length of the couple’s separation, rather than …

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A Primer on Equitable Distribution

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

Property division is a critical issue that married couples must address when they decide to end their marriage. Beyond receiving a fair share of their hard work and contributions to the marriage, spouses need to address property to preserve their long-term financial interests. If you find yourself considering a divorce, then you should speak with a lawyer to understand and preserve your legal rights. North Carolina is an Equitable Distribution State North Carolina handles the division of property through a mechanism called equitable distribution. To determine what each spouse walks away with, courts must conduct a multi-step analysis. Step 1: Classification of Property The first step that a court must take in an equitable distribution case is to classify property as “separate” or “marital” property. Marital property is all property …

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Summer Family Fun on a Budget

In Parenting by Carly Baker

The school year is pretty predictable when budgeting for your children’s education. If your child is in public school, the tuition is paid for by your taxes, while you know you will be responsible for supplies, food, extracurricular activities, and some technology. If your child is in private school, you know what to expect there as well with tuition. The summer is different. Instead of the consistency of knowing that your child is in school for a certain amount of hours each day—and how much that costs—you are faced with a plethora of options of summer camps and child care for three months. Further, each of these camps varies greatly in cost, in drop-off and pick-up times, and camp dates. Some parents have to create complex charts to keep it …

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What You Need to Know About Reconciliation

In Separation & Divorce by Christopher R. Hicks

In North Carolina, couples can obtain a divorce decree from a court if they have been separated for a year. Known as an “absolute divorce,” couples who divorce in this state enjoy the advantage of a “no-fault” divorce that focuses solely on the year-long separation rather than the sometimes-messy reasons underlying the divorce. Some couples that separate find that a lot can happen in a year. Long-term relationships are never easy to quit, and regardless of the reasons for the separation, there are a lot of reasons that people change their minds and get back together. This includes love, comfort, routines, and children. In short, what we want one day can easily change the next. At New Direction Family Law, we believe that couples should make every effort to rebuild …

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Parental Custody and Special Occasions

In Child Custody by Sarah Hink

When a marriage ends, one of the hardest realities that parents must face is that they will see their child less than before. A child has a finite amount of time, which must now be split between two parents living in different homes, instead of shared time as a family. In reaching determinations regarding how visitation and access to the children will work, courts consider each child’s best interest. This is a broad concept which does not lend itself to a specific definition. Instead, courts can consider a variety of factors including the wishes of the child, the parents’ work schedules, the child’s school schedule, and the distance that separates the parents’ homes. And of course, public policy dictates that it is best for children to spend an ample amount …

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Looking Backward to Step Forward

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

While many recently divorced individuals try to put on a brave face, the truth is that divorce hurts on a level that parallels few other traumas. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to make you feel better, to erase your memories, or to allow you to move forward like a new person. In our experience, professionals would recommend that instead of avoiding or resisting the end of your relationship, to face it with the thoughtful goal of accepting and actualizing it. In fact, there is an old saying that the “past often serves as prologue”, meaning that our patterns of decisions from the past tend to inform how we are going to act in the future. While this is often used in the negative to infer bad future conduct based …

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Taking a Case to Trial: Expectation Versus Reality

In Separation & Divorce by Carly Baker

When a marriage ends badly, anger is a completely natural feeling. Sometimes, this anger manifests into a desire to wage a legal war, to draw things out, and to get your day in court so that vicious truths can see the light of day. Other times, the urge to go to trial is removed from emotion, and is actually based in a belief that trial will leave them with a better outcome than an agreement. Despite the fact that trial may feel like a good idea, the reality of trial must be respected and understood. Expectation: Trial is Vengeance, Which Will Feel Great Let us dispel this expectation first. There is very little that feels great about going to trial. Trial is intimidating, formal, and can be stressful and overwhelming …

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What Happens to Investments When a Marriage Ends?

In Separation & Divorce by Christopher R. Hicks

When a marriage ends in North Carolina, property rights between the couple are settled through a method called “equitable distribution.” In essence, a court tasked with making these decisions must undergo a multi-step process in which it: While this summary may sound straight forward, the reality is that lawyers spend years learning and mastering the nuances of protecting their client’s rights by properly classifying property and appraising property.  It makes sense that often times the more assets and wealth that a couple has, the more complex the resolution. Identifying All Investment Property For married couples with wealth, the division of investment property is high on the list of priority issues. Stocks, business interests, and real estate are a culmination of hard work and a representation of financial security. So when …