Let’s address an issue that faces many of our clients, often months and many times years after the family court judge issues a custody order—petitions for custody modification. Custody can be established either by negotiations by separation agreement or by order of the court after a custody hearing.
Today, let’s talk about how getting divorced at the age of 50 or older, often referred to in the media as “gray divorce,” which can hold a different set of challenges when compared to younger couples divorcing. While divorcing can take an emotional toll at any age, gray divorce does present a different set of complexities to tackle with your divorce attorney (and also your accountant and financial planner, as applicable).
One of our core practice areas at Warren Family Law involves representing divorcing spouses in child custody matters, whether establishing the initial custody arrangement or modifying the original agreement at a later date. We are often asked to define the terms “sole custody” and “joint custody.”
You probably read about or saw TV news coverage of a now infamous case currently before the family courts right here in Mecklenburg County. The headlines, generated as clickbait to gain readers and spark outrage, were usually along the lines of “Mother Jailed for Baptizing Child.”
People look for family lawyers for a few main reasons, each a very important use of our services. Most common, perhaps, are those who reach out to us for help as they consider separation. Also among the more common reasons for contacting a family lawyer is when folks need to know their rights regarding child custody and support.
Regardless of your situation, you should know that our services—like those of attorneys in different practice areas—are both proactive and reactive in nature. With our proactive services, people are taking the initiative and working on a plan with us, while with our reactive services, we help people respond to situations that arise in the context of family life.
Part of our practice at Warren Family Law is devoted to helping families proactively plan for the events of separation and divorce, in the hope that these events never come to bear. We help clients execute what are called prenuptial (you’ll often hear “prenup” as short-hand) and post-nuptial agreements. As their names imply, we execute the former in advance of the wedding, while the latter occurs after the wedding.There are several reasons, however, that these agreements don’t always hold up when it comes time to enforce them within the framework of a separation and divorce. Let’s take a look at a few of these reasons why prenups and post-nuptial agreements may sometimes fail.
Unless you’ve been separated or divorced before, or you’re a divorce attorney, it’s likely that you don’t know what’s involved in the process of leaving your spouse and ending your marriage. And if you’re in a situation now where you’re contemplating the end of our marriage, you probably find this ignorance of the separation and divorce process more than a little scary.
Some of the most frequent questions we receive at Warren Family Law, especially in the context of separation and divorce, surround the concept of abandonment. The concept of abandonment is applicable when one spouse leaves the other, and the act is unjustified, without the other spouse’s content, or is done with the intent of renewing cohabitation.
In North Carolina, couples who separate and cannot settle their property matters on their own are subject to statutes governing equitable distribution of marital property, divisible property, and marital debts.
ere are some words to the wise: don’t act unilaterally on big issues when you have joint custody. I’ve seen many things happen to disrupt otherwise peaceful, amicable co-parenting arrangements, especially when one parent makes a decision—without consulting the other parent—on matters related to the child’s well-being.
i’ve learned many lessons during the time I’ve practiced before the family court judges of Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. One of these lessons is that you should never try to fool a judge. The following case is a good example (we’ve changed some of the circumstances to hide the identities of the participants).
While judges have wide discretion in certain matters of divorce and family law, such as amounts of alimony to award dependent spouses or awarding custody as to the best interests of the children, child support is often more straightforward element.
Today, heart-balm actions are still allowed in only nine states. North Carolina, where we exclusively practice at Warren Family Law, is one of those nine. These types of lawsuits are meant to provide cause of action against a person who pursued an affair with a married person; in a heart-balm suit, a person is able to sue his or her spouse’s lover for monetary damages under a pair of statutes called alienation of affection—a subject we’ve written about here on the Family Matters blog, and criminal conversation.
By Jim Warren
Spousal support, according to North Carolina family statute, is another term for alimony. In family court proceedings, judges typically award two types of spousal support: post-separation support while the divorce proceedings take place (this can be weeks, months, or even years, depending on factors like the complexity of the couple’s asset division and how combative spouses are in areas like child custody and spousal support amounts) and support for after the court issues a final order on the issue of alimony.
Spousal support can take the form of installment payments (usually on a monthly basis) or a lump sum. Judges consider a variety of factors when issuing orders for alimony, and these factors help them determine both the amount of the award and its duration.
The court takes into account multiple economic factors. Of course, judges review the income of each spouse, their future earning potential (and potential for advancement), insurance, benefits, debts and assets (including those brought into the marriage by each spouse), and they take a close look at the couple’s standard of living pre-separation. In addition, the courts may look at other financial investments, such as one spouse’s contribution to the other’s education, or how a spouse may be impacted economically by receiving custody of the children.
Finally, judges may also take into account tax repercussions of alimony awards and even a spousal contribution to the marriage as a homemaker. The list goes on, to include any factor that the court deems proper to consider economically.
There are also several non-economic factors that the courts consider. Marital misconduct is a consideration. While most people think of adulterous behavior straightaway, marital misconduct may also include financial dealings, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental cruelty. Sexual misconduct is in the popular consciousness because any evidence of adultery often has dire consequences for a spouse seeking support. In fact, they often get nothing.
In addition to misconduct, judges factor in the duration of the marriage (how long the two became accustomed to their married lifestyle), and the physical, mental, and emotional condition of each spouse after the separation.
Many people come to us asking if there’s a formula for calculating spousal support. Several states dictate that judges use a formula of some kind as the basis for an alimony award. But here in North Carolina, judges are given wide discretion for spousal support considerations. This leeway allows judges to carefully consider scenarios. If a person of wealth has a relatively short marriage to a person of more meager means, that doesn’t have to result in the wealthier spouse paying alimony in a large sum. Likewise, if a spouse invests years as a homemaker in a marriage, enabling the other spouse to earn advanced professional education and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, judges are able to ensure that the career homemaker is well cared-for in the dissolution of the marriage.
At Warren Family Law, we will put more than 30 years of negotiating and litigating divorces, achieving fair outcomes for hundreds of clients, in your service. Contact us today to get started, and get the peace of mind and strategy you need to protect your interests and those of your children.
North Carolina is one of a very few states that allow litigation of matters regarding alienation of affection and criminal conversation, the so called “heart balm” lawsuit. These causes of action are meant to address the interference in the marriage by a third party.
Coming to grips with the end of your marriage is no small feat. In more than 30 years of practice as a family law attorney in Charlotte, I’ve seen folks prepare for separation and divorce the right way, and I’ve sure seen it done lots of wrong ways, too.
Some aspects of family law are fairly black-and-white, such as the formula used by North Carolina Child Support Enforcement to determine child support obligations, while in other areas, judges are granted wide discretion under statute to determine matters as they see fit. In a recent article, we outlined how the courts consider multiple factors when determining alimony awards.
But in matters of more limited scope, such as child support determination and enforcement, can attorneys be affordable? While the answer to this is obviously relative to your income and assets on hand, the answer from a value standpoint is certainly “yes.”
If you are a grandparent of children of a marriage that’s ending, it’s important to know that you have limited rights and a limited window to protect those rights in many cases. However, if properly pursued by grandparents, courts can have the opportunity to consider the positive role that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren when making decisions about the children’s custody and visitation during separation and divorce.
Nearly everyone has heard of prenuptial agreements, but very few people understand them or know people who have them. As with any contract, it’s important to know when prenuptial agreements may be a good option and to understand how they work.