Woodruff Family Law Group here in Greensboro, North Carolina concentrates on guiding clients through today's legal, financial and psychological divorce environment to develop creative solutions tailored to your unique situation.
The low conflict divorce might utilize a Bird’s Nest for Child Custody in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is particularly useful if that house won’t sell so no one has money for moving.
I just read about something that might work in my upcoming separation and divorce. I have two children who are ages eight and ten. We have to sell the marital residence for my husband and me to each buy separate residences. Therefore, we have to live together, I suppose, which is frustrating until we can sell the residence. The residence has been on the market and that we aren’t having a lot of lookers. I just heard about a “bird’s nest.” I am wondering what this is and would it work for us. My husband and I both have parents that live nearby with bedrooms each of us could use until our house sells. Can you explain this further?
In North Carolina, should your parenting agreement contain a provision regarding spanking? A hot topic, and sometimes explosive in a “spare the rod, and spoil the child” mentality. So what does the research say?
Finally, we may have the definitive answer regarding spanking. A new research study looks at the negative effects, both short-term and long-term of spanking children. The study can be found in the December 2018 issue of the magazine Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics now takes the position that spanking as a form of discipline is “not only completely counter-productive, it may be potentially damaging.” The study “found that spanking fails to improve negative behavior in young children. Instead, it leads to increased aggression in the long run. Corporal punishment may also affect normal brain development by elevating stress hormones.”
Spanking in North Carolina is legal, provided that the spanking does not leave any mark on the child.
Children aren’t children for long. Tiny humans grow into little people with their own personalities and then into young adults with their own opinions and voice. My daughter is 17 years old and a senior in high school. I’ve watched her develop from a mini-me to a mature, independent young woman. Earlier in her education, I would have to continuously ask her about her homework deadlines, school projects, and follow-up to make sure they were completed on time. But, about two years ago, as a sophomore, she decided that it was time to buckle down and she didn’t need me to do that anymore. College was looming in her future, and her GPA was important to her. Her dad and I weren’t consulted about the classes that she needed to register for, and we did not need to know what type of homework or projects she had or when they were due. McKenzie had matured overnight into a young adult. I had my doubts, but she has managed to handle her classes and grades all by herself and maintain at least a 3.75 unweighted GPA with Honors and AP classes. She decided that she wants to go to UNC-Greensboro to study nursing and will start in the fall.
Sports also used to be a big deal. McKenzie excelled in soccer and softball but discovered travel volleyball at age 11, and our family embarked on a new adventure. After playing for five years on a great team and traveling to many states to play indoor and sand volleyball, she decided she didn’t love it anymore. Once again, she began looking forward and decided that she needed to focus on her future and concentrate on school and felt like volleyball would take too much of her time. She was not interested in playing in college and felt that it was time to move on. She started working part-time and thus began a new phase.
I write all of this because I want parents to know that kids grow up fast. We blinked, and McKenzie has become her own person with her own hopes and dreams. She doesn’t need us as much anymore. I can remember feeling that overwhelming feeling of having young children, trying to work and maintain a home. I would never “catch up” with everything that needed to be done. Now, my youngest is almost grown and will be on her own soon enough. She doesn’t need ME as much anymore. Now, we’re more like friends sometimes than mother and daughter.
Getting divorced is hard enough. BEING divorced and trying to move beyond the past is a whole different ball game. Putting your trust in a new relationship is hard. The thought of sitting through the cliché movie – dinner – coffee dates making idle chit chat and trying to get to know someone new can be daunting and repetitive. Why not try something different? Get out of Greensboro, North Carolina, get out of your comfort zone. Traveling with someone is a great way to figure out how and if you are compatible with them.
Do I recommend a weekend trip to Miami with someone you’ve just met? Of course not. But “traveling” doesn’t have to mean spending hours trapped on a plane suffering the drools and dronings of random strangers. You can get out of dodge right here. There’s plenty of small towns around the Piedmont Triad to explore, and each one has its own distinct personality. You can feel like you’re in another world but still be close to home (close enough to be rescued).
When my boyfriend and I began seeing each other, our first all-day excursion was to Graham, North Carolina. It was one of the greatest days I can remember. Afterward, I was hooked – on him and on Graham, NC. Here are the highlights on what we saw, and what our experiences taught me about Mike:
Can the court terminate a parent’s rights for willful abandonment of the children? Are there steps a parent estranged from his child can take to ensure this doesn’t happen? In a recent North Carolina appellate decision, the court considered willful abandonment and termination of parental rights. The case arose when the parents of two minor kids separated in 2010 just before the second child was born. The mother sued for custody, child support, and alimony. The father didn’t go to the custody proceedings, and the mother was given sole custody of the kids with reasonable visitation for the father who lived in a different state.
Several years after that, the mother sued to terminate the father’s parental rights based on abandonment. The lower court had a hearing and decided to terminate the father’s parental rights. It waited almost a year to enter its written order. However, the father appealed the written order.
On appeal, the father argued: (1) the lower court hadn’t entered the written order in a timely way, (2) there wasn’t enough evidence to show abandonment, and (3) termination of his parental rights wasn’t in the kids’ best interests.
The appellate court explained that vacating a trial court’s order as untimely was barred by case law even though Section 7B-1110 of the General Statutes provided it should have been written and entered within 30 days of the termination of parental rights hearing.
The appellate court explained that termination of parental rights is only appropriate where the lower court finds by clear and convincing proof a parent willfully abandoned a child for last 6 months in a row immediately before a petition or motion was filed. In this case, the lower court’s findings were supported by clear and convincing evidence. It explained that abandonment has to show up as a willful determination to forgo all parental duties and give up all parental claims to a child. Findings need to show a parent’s actions are completely inconsistent with a desire to keep custody of a child.
Factors to be considered include a parent’s financial support and emotional contributions to a child. In this case, the father hadn’t tried to visit his kids or ask for visits with them or to contact them or even to ask how they were doing. He didn’t even send birthday or Christmas cards of emails to the kids. Both were under the age of 6, and the younger child had zero memory of the father. The older child’s only memory of the father was that the father ignored him when the mother took the kids to their paternal grandfather’s funeral. The older child took this as a rejection and needed therapy to address it.
The father doesn’t challenge those findings. He instead argued that these findings didn’t include the fact that his attorneys had tried to contact the mother to talk about a custody arrangement in 2014, before she tried to terminate his parental rights. The appellate court disagreed noting that legal action didn’t undermine the father’s decision not to have a parental relationship with his kids in 2 1/2 years.
The appellate court also found that the lower court had made thorough findings of fact and made a reasoned decision about the children’s best interests, and that it had not abused its discretion. It affirmed the lower court’s decision.
Usually courts consider it important for a child to continue building a relationship with both parents. However, where a parent willfully abandons his children, his parental rights may be terminated. It is important for parents who want to continue to have parental rights to nurture their relationships with their kids, even if the kids live with an ex-spouse. If you are concerned about a North Carolina child custody matter, you should consult skillful family law attorneys. Contact the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or via our online form.
Can a lower court restrict your use of your passport in a North Carolina child custody order? In a recent North Carolina case, the defendant appealed from the court’s denial of his motion for reconsideration and relief from a 2015 child custody and support order. The defendant was a Poland-born American citizen. He and his wife had one minor child. They separated in 2013 and were divorced in a 2014 judgment.
The plaintiff filed a complaint asking for custody of their child, child support, alimony, post-separation support, equitable distribution and attorneys’ fees. After a hearing, the lower court awarded primary physical custody to the mother, with the parents getting joint legal custody. The lower court also established a visitation order and child support obligations. The lower court included a provision stating that the father couldn’t seek or be allowed to have a passport for the couple’s minor child.
The order gave the mother sole authority and decision-making with regard to any passport applications and in case a passport was issued to or for a child, the mother would have exclusive authority not only over the passport but any foreign travel. The father was not allowed to take the minor child out of the continental United States, except where the court provided written authority to do so. His passport had to be surrendered to the clerk and he had to apply to the court if he needed to travel with his passport.
The defendant didn’t appeal the custody order, but instead his attorney filed a motion to reconsider the part of the order that granted joint legal custody to him and the mother. Almost a year later, he filed an amended motion for reconsideration of the custody order. He argued that the mother hadn’t asked for anything related to his passports and that his own attorney asked for the provision about his own passport without his knowledge or consent. He also argued that the court’s requirement that he surrender his passports was a mistake based on lack of jurisdiction under N.C. Gen. Stat. section 1A-1 over the issue of holding passports, particularly a Polish passport.
At a hearing, the defendant also raised the issue that there were no factual findings related to his passport or the child’s passport. He argued that the child custody hearing was not about him, and so the court didn’t have jurisdiction over his passport. The mother argued that the passport limitations were reasonable and the lower court was authorized to stop the defendant from using passports to travel with the child out of the country. The lower court corrected certain clerical errors but denied the motion for reconsideration. The judge felt confident that the order as it related to the passport was warranted under the law. The order specified that the father had engaged in secretive actions and made false statements to the mother about his own mother and his travel, which led to valid concerns about his intentions.
The father appealed. He argued that only the United States Department of State had the authority to impose restrictions on his passport and that the lower court had to show an appropriate exception to the general immunity of the Polish state from the jurisdiction of United States courts.
The appellate court reasoned that the custody order wasn’t void as a matter of law, and therefore affirmed the lower court’s order denying his motion for relief. It also reasoned that the defendant hadn’t argued the lower court’s decision to stay proceedings on his passport application affected a substantial right. The defendant didn’t identify a particular material right he’d lose if the order weren’t reviewed prior to final judgment or how he’d be injured if the order weren’t immediately reviewed.
North Carolina child custody disputes can have particularly unique challenges if one parent has strong ties to another country. If you are concerned about child custody issues, you should consult dedicated family law attorneys. Contact the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or via our online form.
In North Carolina, a law that imposes a cooling off period can present a difficult problem if one spouse is being battered. Recently, Woman’s Day ran a piece about domestic violence and the difficulties of being an abused spouse who needs to get a North Carolina divorce. The article led off with the story of a 33-year-old woman who had enough proof of her estranged spouse’s violence to warrant getting a restraining order. Her proof included bruises. Yet, because she lives in North Carolina, she was subject to the state’s cooling off period of one year and one day from the date of separation before obtaining a divorce.
During the year and day, she had to keep paying for her husband’s health insurance until she couldn’t afford it. She suffered various health problems and needed a medical leave, during which time she lost her health coverage. When she returned to the job, she discovered that her spouse (who was also a former coworker) had been rehired, even though she had a protection order against him — and her employer was aware of it.
In November, she petitioned the governor, state attorney general, and the North Carolina General Assembly via Change.org, requesting an amendment to G.S. 50-6. This is the law that requires a cooling off period. In her petition she argued that if there is proof and an order, the victim should be able to file for divorce within 60-90 days because the existing law puts survivors of domestic abuse through unnecessary trauma and difficulty.
The petition garnered more than 65,000 signatures. A.J. Walton, a spokesman for Change.org, stated that women who suffer from sexual assault or domestic violence often organize online in order to share their tales and ask for alterations in policy. Walton noted the petitioner’s bravery in trying to transform suffering into positive action. Some elected officials expressed that they were interested in supporting her.
In 2015, Senator Jeff Jackson proposed a bill to get rid of the one-year cooling off period in the case of felony conviction of one spouse, but it didn’t even get a hearing in committee. He’d modeled the bill after a 2014 law from another state that made domestic abuse an exception to its waiting period, allowing victims to obtain an immediate divorce. The senator noted that if someone is convicted of stabbing his wife, the wife shouldn’t have to wait a year for a divorce.
The article also commented that North Carolina is culturally conservative and, in 1993, was one of the last two states to recognize marital rape as a crime. It is one of 17 states that has a waiting period of at least six months. States with two-year waiting periods for divorces that aren’t mutually consented-to are Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Illinois.
The magazine noted that there are comparisons to be drawn between North Carolina’s failure to protect domestic violence victims and laws in places like Russia, where President Putin approved a law that reduced domestic assaults that don’t cause substantial bodily harm from a crime to an administrative infraction.
The petitioner explained that she hid the petition from friends and that it wasn’t a personal attack on her spouse or about her individual circumstances. Rather, she wants the law for anyone who has to suffer from domestic violence at the hands of their spouse.
North Carolina divorces can be especially challenging when there are domestic violence issues involved. If you are hoping to get a divorce, you should consult skillful family law attorneys. Contact the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or via our online form.
Recently, Fox 8 reported about cities across the country where divorce is on the rise. Journalist Mary Kay Blakely compared the psychological toll of divorce to a triple coronary bypass. The article noted that divorce was not only expensive, but also complicated and connected to various medical problems. Thousands of people divorce each year. Around 50% of all marriages in the country conclude in a divorce. The United States ranks twelfth in the world for percentages of marriages that terminate in divorce. If you’re considering separating from your spouse, it’s worthwhile to speak to a North Caroline divorce lawyer to know your options.
The composition of our country’s divorced population has transformed over time. Certain cities have seen a huge increase in divorce. A leading genealogy research website called MooseRoots conducted a study of the percentage change of populations in various cities. In its calculation of this change in each state’s divorced population between 1970-2010, three North Carolina cities appeared on list of the top 25 cities.
The North Carolina city that was highest on the list came in at number 4 of all cities listed. It was Greensboro, North Carolina. The percent of those who divorced in 1970 was 3.02. The percentage of divorced couples in 2010 was 10.83. The percentage change between those years was 260.
Recently, Kiplinger’s reported on “gray divorce,” or divorce among couples that have been married for 30-plus years. It pointed out the emotional and financial drains of a divorce, even when couples are older and presumed to have more security. Couples may find divorce tough if they’ve been married for so long that their assets and future plans are tied together. Often both spouses wind up living on half of the income they anticipated but many of the same expenses when they have a late-in-life divorce.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state in which the court divides a couple’s property in a way that is equitable or fair, but this does not necessarily mean property is divided evenly in half. The court starts by presuming a 50-50 division is fair, but either party can submit evidence to rebut this presumption.
The thirteen factors the court may consider when deciding whether to deviate from an even split are: each spouse’s income and debts, support obligations in earlier marriages, how long the marriage was and the ages of the spouses, parent’s needs with the custody of a child and use of marital home, whether pension and retirement benefits are expected and whether they will be separate property, each spouse’s contributions to acquiring the marital estate, contributions made by one spouse to the other’s career or education, contributions that increased the value of the separate property, whether the divisible property was liquid or non-liquid, the difficulty of assessing interest in assets or business, each party’s tax consequences, actions by either party that increased, wasted or devalued assets, and other factors the court believes are property and just.
You and your spouse can hire attorneys to negotiate and craft a settlement that you both believe is fair. Or you can let the court decide what property division and settlement would be equitable. There are a number of considerations that both spouses should keep in mind once they decide to separate.
Kiplinger’s pointed out that there are six things to consider at the end of a marriage. The first is that emotions shouldn’t compromise your financial decisions. Often people want to keep up appearances and may spend money on items they can’t afford even before a divorce is final. It makes more sense to be cautious about spending and determine what will be needed both in the present and in the future before shopping for the future.
Kiplinger’s also suggested that spouses straighten out their paperwork. Each spouse should obtain copies of tax returns for the past three years, credit card statements, bank statements, insurance documents, car registration paperwork, retirement account statements, and receipts that might affect taxes for the year of the divorce. If a settlement is negotiated, the lower earner should take pretax investments since the lower-earner’s future tax bill will be less, as long as they don’t need income from the IRS or other investment before age 59 1/2. There are alternatives, whereby a lower earner can take highly appreciated holdings. When retirement income pushes a person into a higher tax bracket in the future, he or she should speak to an accountant or other financial professional about converting certain accounts for purposes of a lowered tax burden.
Both spouses should try to maximize retirement income. Social Security payments aren’t community property but you’ll need to decide how to file after divorce. It’s important to speak to an advisor about rules for filing. It can also be important to talk about filing options for pension plans, catch-up contributions, and ownership of life insurance policies. Sometimes an ex-spouse that receives spousal support may need to own a life insurance policy on the ex spouse who earned a higher income in case that higher earning spouse passes away.
If you are concerned about the kinds of issues that come up in a grey divorce, you should contact the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or via our online form.
Alimony is also known as spousal support and it refers to payments made by one spouse to support the other after separation or divorce. The payments may be lump sum payments or ongoing payments. Generally, post-separation alimony lasts until the divorce is concluded. However, a court may also award alimony after a divorce is finalized. In North Carolina, most spouses that were married 10 years or less don’t get awarded alimony for longer than half the marriage. Recent changes to the tax consequences of alimony under federal tax law will have a major impact in how alimony is negotiated in North Carolina.
Historically, alimony has been tax deductible for the paying spouse and had to be reported as income on the recipient’s tax return. In North Carolina, the payment had to be made pursuant to a written separation agreement or court order to be tax deductible and it also had to be in cash. The payment had to be made once the payer and recipient were not part of the same household. The alimony had to be paid within the year the payer was taking the deduction. The deduction could be taken regardless of whether the payer itemized deductions on his or her tax return. The former spouse’s social security number had to be included in the tax return or the deduction could be disallowed.
New federal tax laws will eliminate the spousal support deduction starting on January 1, 2019. Attorneys and judges have had to hurry to finalize accelerated divorces that were filed to beat the December 31 deadline. If you file before this deadline those who expect to pay spousal support will be able to deduct money from their taxable income each year, which can result in thousands in savings for higher-income tax filers.
This change will affect both payers and recipients of alimony. A payer will want to negotiate a smaller payment because he or she won’t be able to deduct it. However, recipients of spousal support are also incentivized to beat the deadline. It’s expected that judges will award smaller spousal support payments next year when the lost tax deduction reduces what those who earn a lot can afford. Those who receive alimony after 2018 won’t need to report alimony payments as income and the money will accrue to the person being paid without tax liability.
The expectation is that people will be trying to hurry to get their divorces finalized by December. An agreement had to be filed with the court by the first of October to get the agreement processed prior to the new tax law becoming effective. There is a process known as bifurcation that allows a couple to agree regarding the spousal support provisions of the settlement and obtain judicial approval, even if the rest of the divorce is not settled.
The old code allowed a household income to obtain tax relief during a divorce because the higher-income spouse would transfer income to a lower-income spouse who had a lower tax rate. However, the new law is anticipated to reduce alimony payments by up to 30%. The impact of the law on child support isn’t yet clear.
If you are concerned about the tax consequences of the new federal law and the impact on alimony and other aspects of your divorce, you should contact the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or via our online form.