Articles Posted in Alimony

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Charlotte Divorce Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “When do you get alimony?”


Ben Affleck’s appearance at San Diego Comic Con this past weekend to promote his upcoming film, Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice, brought back memories of his previous attempt to portray a superhero on screen.  In 2003, Affleck starred as the masked vigilante Daredevil in a movie that was widely panned by critics and fans alike.  Overall, 2003 had to be a tough year for his fans; sitting through Daredevil, Paycheck, and Gigli within a twelve-month span would take its toll on anyone.

Ben_Affleck Charlotte Divorce Lawyer North Carolina Alimony AttorneyFor Affleck, however, Daredevil yielded much more than a terrible movie.  Affleck developed an off-screen romance with Daredevil co-star Jennifer Garner, and the two married in June 2005.  Since marrying Garner in 2005, Affleck’s career has taken off.  Just last year, he starred in the critically acclaimed film Gone Girl.  He has also displayed his “wicked smaht” storytelling in directing recent films such as Argo, The Town, and Gone Baby Gone.

Unfortunately, the romance that started twelve years ago on the set of Daredevil was not meant to last.  On June 30th, Affleck and Garner announced plans to divorce.  The announcement came one day after the pair celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.

The timing of the announcement raised a few eyebrows in the legal community.  Under California divorce law, a ten-year-long marriage is considered a “marriage of long duration.”  Why is this significant?  According to Jessica Levinson, professor of law at Loyola Law School L.A., for marriages lasting less than ten years, “Judges often award spousal support for half the length of the marriage.”  However, because Affleck and Garner’s marriage made it to the ten-year mark, the “half the length of the marriage” alimony formula no longer applies.  A judge could award alimony to the lower-earning spouse (Garner) for an indefinite length of time.  This potentially allows Garner to go after a larger share of Affleck’s reported net worth of $75 million, a figure that is only expected to increase in the coming years.  Big paydays are in line for Affleck as he is set to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in four different movies between now and 2019.

Unlike California, North Carolina divorce law does not single out marriages lasting ten years or more with regards to calculating alimony.  However, the duration of the marriage is still a very important factor in determining how much the dependent spouse will be awarded.  Typically, the longer the duration of marriage, the longer a court will require alimony payments be made to the dependent spouse.

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from the Affleck/Garner split is that children should be the top priority in any divorce action.  The actors have three children:  Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3.  Following the divorce announcement, Affleck and Garner took the children to the Bahamas to get them away from the resulting media frenzy.  In addition, the pair intends to continue living in their 8,800-square-foot Pacific Palisades, California, mansion and co-parenting their children.

If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter, then you need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (855) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A certified Family-Law Specialist, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state and administrative courts in North Carolina, before the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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Charlotte Divorce Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “When do you get alimony?”


Stay-at-home moms are facing a tougher road in divorce courts, as judges and state legislatures move to limit the both the amount of support payments and the period of time during which payments can be doled out.

Alimony Movie Poster Mecklenburg Divorce Lawyer North Carolina Child Custody AttorneyNew York City divorce attorney Morghan Richardson said judges are beginning to view women as having the same opportunities to earn a living as men. This thinking applies to stay-at-home moms—even those who may not have worked in a decade or two.

Just three-percent of persons receiving alimony in 2010 were men. While women made up the vast majority of those receiving alimony, they also outstripped men in many college and professional degrees, in some careers and, in some instances, in compensation.

With three-fourths of women now in the workforce and almost half of families led by a woman wage-earner, more and more attorneys and litigants are seeing homemakers seeking alimony admonished by judges who believe their decision not to seek employment was foolhardy.

Richardson said some stay-at-home moms “sometimes have a real sense of entitlement about the decision to stay home.” She said divorce judges, however, have little sympathy for women who quit their jobs to stay at home and raise a family. Some of those judges, Richardson said, are women who had to put their own children in daycare to work their way up to the bench.

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Attorney Matthew R. Arnold answering the question: “How long does getting a divorce take?”

Though almost all couples exchange vows promising they will remain together ’til death do us part, many assume that divorce ends the eternal commitment. Sadly, in a number of states where permanent alimony laws remain on the books that is simply not the case.

A recent survey by US News and World Report found that permanent alimony laws still exist in several states, including New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, West Virginia, Florida and right here in North Carolina. Thankfully a number of those states, including New Jersey and Florida, are currently considering some much needed alimony reform.
Charlotte Divorce Separation Lawyer Attorney Charlotte North Carolina 2.jpgIn fact, the Florida Senate recently passed a measure backed by the group known as Floridians for Alimony Reform, which would end permanent alimony. The measure not only ends the practice of permanent alimony, but would also allow for long divorced couples to reopen their divorce settlements and change long established financial arrangements.

The measure, which passed last month by wide margins, puts a cap on the amount of alimony that can be paid based on a person’s income. It also would allow the spouse paying the support to file a petition with a court to terminate or lower alimony payments when the paying spouse reaches retirement age. The law also includes protection in some exceptional cases where the spouse receiving the alimony is not able to support themselves due to some serious handicaps.

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Alimony Lawyers and Attorneys in Charlotte NC North Carolina.jpgEveryone knows that the world has changed a lot over the last several decades. One of those ways is the increasing earning power and presence of women in the workplace. Today, women make up almost half of the American workforce. Despite this big change in terms of financial empowerment, alimony laws across the country have remained fairly static. The fact that spousal support laws don’t appear to be keeping up with the times have prompted some to push for changes to the law to ensure that alimony laws reflect the economic realities of today’s job market.

Some groups, especially advocates for men, believe that the existing support laws are outdated and in desperate need of revision. After all, many of the laws were first passed in the 1960s and 1970s. The laws were initially meant to offer support to the spouse earning the least amount of money, almost invariably women. Today, such payments can seem anachronistic, especially given the opportunities for women to start high-earning careers.

These frustrations with alimony laws have led legislators in several states to try and place limits on existing laws or rewrite old ones. Legislatures in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Oklahoma are considering putting time limits on alimony awards and even legislating against alimony in cases where both spouses are on relatively equal financial footing. An article in the Wall Street Journal even mentioned a similar push here in North Carolina to alter some provisions of the states alimony laws.

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Alimony Lawyers in Charlotte, NC.jpgThe family law practice area has seen the current economic climate lead to a huge increase in the number of modifications for existing child support and alimony awards. People are losing jobs, losing homes, taking pay cuts, losing bonuses and other compensation that was previously used to determine such financial support awards. This can be an especially big problem in cases where one party has received an alimony award and relies on those monthly payments to meet their basic living expenses.

If someone retires, gets injured, loses their job or is otherwise unable to make alimony payments, and your alimony is not designated as “non-modifiable” you may very well receive a discounted alimony payment on an ongoing basis or it may be eliminated all together. Even if the alimony award is non-modifiable, if the person responsible for making alimony payments loses a job and has no assets or means to pay, your chances of being able to hold someone in contempt for non-payment of alimony are slim. Given those potential concerns and the current state of our economy, those who are entitled to any form of alimony really should consider the idea of “lump sum” upfront payments so that they can avoid the issue of an alimony award being terminated or reduced based upon unfortunate circumstances arising in the future.

If there are assets, especially cash assets, available during the initial divorce proceeding it makes sense to at least consider how much of those assets could be distributed to you in a settlement in exchange for a reduced alimony payment. No one knows what the future holds and getting your money up front is a way to reduce potential risk down the road. Lump sum alimony does come with the responsibility of being smart with the money you get up front and making sure the lump sum lasts. This requires you being savvy and meeting with a financial planner or other adviser to manage your money properly.

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Army Seal.pngA disabled veteran has filed a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to decide whether states can instruct divorce courts to count a veteran’s disability benefits when determining spousal support. Peter James Barclay, an Air Force veteran, also asked the Court to determine whether federal law prevents states from considering VA disability benefits communal property to be divided like other joint marital assets.

When Barclay divorced his wife in 2010 the divorce court judge considered the value of his VA benefits when awarding his wife $1,000 per month in alimony. His only income at the time was the $4,400 per month he received from the VA and Social Security. Barclay remains on disability due to post-traumatic stress related to his job as first responder to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. He witnessed the full horror of the attack, having to cart away dead and wounded. As a result, he’s unemployable and able to draw federal benefits.

His attorney is now attempting to have the United States Supreme Court decide whether Title 38 U.S. Code, Section 5301(a), which says that VA disability benefits are immune from “taxation”, claims of creditors, attachment, levy and seizure,” doesn’t also prevent them from being included in alimony calculations.

Barclay’s attorney readily admits that most states follow the example set by the divorce court judge in his case. This is based on the Supreme Court’s Rose decision which says that VA benefits are payments intended to compensate both the veteran and his family. Barclay disagrees; in his petition he claims that his disability pay is meant to compensate him for his loss of income. Barclay makes the reasonable point that if a veteran has a spouse the VA compensation tables award a higher disability payment and if the veteran gets divorced the extra payment stops. This mean the spouse should not be able to claim the base amount which remains unchanged regardless of marital status.

Barclay’s attorney also points out that Arizona recently passed a law shielding veterans’ disability benefits from alimony calculations. His petition mentions the two other states – Texas and Vermont – where VA disability benefits paid in lieu of retirement are not subject to division as property or to alimony calculations.

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Money Bag.jpgWhen North Carolina couples are confronted with the possibility of divorce once the emotional pain subsides, many begin to think about their financial wellbeing. There are some things you can do to help ensure that your assets are protected as divorce looms. Lynette Khalfani-Cox, a financial expert with AARP, gives the following suggestions:

Get the right family law attorney. Going through the phone book or randomly calling numbers will cast too wide of a net. Referrals from friends and family members are a good place to start and, given the high divorce rate, it’s likely you’ll know someone who’s been through the process.

Once you’ve reached out to an attorney it’s a good idea to have an in person meeting. Meet with them to make sure everything feels right; that they understand your particular needs and concerns and are skilled enough to do the work you need accomplished. If you trust them then listen to your instincts, if you get a bad vibe then it’s time to move on.

Don’t rely on mediation. Ms. Khalfani-Cox says that mediation is a good first step but that it should only be considered early on, to help get a feel for the tenor of the divorce. Making nice is what many women are prone to try to do and mediating your way out may not be the best way to protect your interests. A mediator’s job is to reach a resolution, not necessarily one that’s right for you.

Khalfani-Cox says the agreed upon settlement can be very one-sided and the mediator may not intervene. Only a good attorney can help tell you what’s reasonable and customary and what to realistically expect.

Set up separate accounts. One of the first things on the agenda should be shutting down the credit cards. No one needs to worry about one party going on a shopping spree and leaving the other with a hefty bill to pay.

Mortgages can’t be simply split up, there’s a process that must be gone through. Bank accounts can and should be divided right away. Also don’t forget that both parties are liable for credit card debt if they signed for the card, regardless of what agreement you have with your ex. If you were on the card and your ex doesn’t pay the company will come knocking on your door.
Know your assets and debts. Sit down and make sure you understand where you’re at financially. Calculate assets and debts. Take special attention when going through retirement accounts, pension, deferred compensation plans, etc. Things can get confusing and you’ll want to make sure nothing is missed. Information is power and you don’t want to be the party unaware of what assets are up for grabs when settlement time rolls around.

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Piggy Bank.jpgA recent article in the Huffington Post discusses clues that should set off alarm bells about whether one spouse is hiding money in preparation for a divorce.

People have special motivation to hide income and assets during a divorce in an attempt to avoid paying higher child support or alimony. One positive note is that hidden income can always be uncovered and the spouse who’s been kept out of the loop can eventually reclaim his or her rightful share.

If you’re afraid that your spouse may be hiding money consult with an experienced alimony lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina to make sure that a search would be worth your time and expense. After all, forensic accountants can be quite costly so you’ll have to weigh whether the amount is worth chasing after.

Some important warning signs to watch for include the following:

1. If your spouse is self-employed and more knowledgeable about the family finances than you are and has expressed strong feelings about not involving lawyers or financial planners in your divorce.

2. Compare your lifestyle with your reported income. If there is a mismatch, further investigation is likely needed.

3. Look at the ratio of living expenses to income. If a mortgage payment is 75 percent of the reported income, it’s a good bet that there is hidden income floating around somewhere.

4. Pay attention to whether a business owner has multiple tax entities that do not seem to be necessary.

5. Are there any unusual business expenses? If a business is showing expenses that have nothing to do with the work they do it might be time to more fully analyze the books.

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dollar bills.jpgDivorce is a difficult process, emotionally and financially. Before you blindly step into the mess, there are steps you can take to empower yourself by getting your finances in order. Taking the following steps can help make things run more smoothly and even lower your eventual legal bills by being ready for what’s to come. According to a recent FoxBusiness article, the following five tips are some that every soon-to-be-divorced couple should pay attention to for help making it through the process:

1. Evaluate your assets
The house is the biggest asset that most couples possess but there are still usually many more that qualify as marital assets that will need to be divided. People often forget about pensions from past jobs or stock options and deferred compensation plans. Such assets have values that are paid out in the future, not always simple divisions today.

2. Weigh your debt
To begin, prepare a summary of the last 12 months of all credit card and utility bills as well as personal and jointly held loans. Such a history will help you decide who should take on which debts. It’s important not to take on responsibility for debt associated with property you don’t control. For instance, if you are responsible for paying the car loan, you should be the one driving the car. This helps eliminate a lot risk and being liable for the actions of a soon-to-be former spouse.

3. Run a credit check and history
Everyone should conduct an annual credit check with all three agencies. Knowing where your credit stands prior to divorce can help prevent headaches down the line. It’s possible that you’ll discover a credit card or line of credit that you never knew existed, correcting inaccuracies (or preventing fraud) is important.

4. Track how much you spend
Taking stock of your spending habits and creating a realistic budget for your post-divorce life is crucial. Understanding that your old income will now be used to support two households is important. The same amount of money is now going to pay two rents or two mortgage payments, thus lifestyle adjustments will need to be made. People often underestimate how much they spend and putting everything down on paper forces couples to face the hard truth.

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empty chairs.jpgAccording to a recent CNBC article, a divorce expo called “Start Over Smart,” took place in New York over the weekend and was much like a bridal expo, only with lawyers instead of white gowns.

The expo was the idea of Francine Baras and Nicole Baras Feuer, a mother-daughter team who have both been through the painful process. “Bridal magazines are all over the place. There’s no divorce magazine, no divorce community, so a lot of people just rely on information from their attorney,” said Baras Feuer. The mother-daughter duo heard about a similar expo in Paris and decided to try their hand at one closer to home.

The divorce expo was a two-day extravaganza that included a wide variety of panel discussions, from guidelines for parents and divorce for Baby Boomers to how to get back in the dating game after divorce.

Approximately 40 exhibitors set up shop and included lawyers, financial advisers, therapists, life coaches, dieticians, anti-aging companies, a hair stylist and even a matchmaker. Major wealth management firm Morgan Stanley was represented as was a woman who offered to perform a “divorce ceremony” where you write words that remind you of your former spouse and set them on fire. “People often don’t know the questions to ask about finances when they get a divorce,” said Mark Seruya, financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. “People wind up getting referrals from parents or friends. Your father’s financial adviser might not be the right fit,” he said. “It’s a fragmented market. We want to be one of the go-to teams in the divorce industry.”

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