Articles Posted in Post Separation Support

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Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How are military divorces different from a regular divorce?”

It’s rare that spousal support cases make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices are usually grappling with weighty issues involving constitutional rights, but occasionally make time for less headline-grabbing matters. Recently, that’s exactly what the Court did, hearing and then deciding a small case with an even smaller amount of money on the line. Though the ruling won’t go down in history, it does clarify an area of confusion in the law and will bring certainty to a number of other military divorces.

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Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How is the amount of child support decided in North Carolina?”

Most people know that it’s important to have health insurance. Same thing with car insurance or life insurance or homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance. We rely on insurance, in all its many forms, to protect us when things go badly and we encounter some financial setbacks that we aren’t able to cover on our own. It’s based on this premise that an insurance company recently announced it would begin offering divorce insurance, adding to the long list of insurance that a person could consider paying for.

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Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “How are military divorces different from a regular divorce?”

When you think of Supreme Court cases, you typically imagine the big ones, cases like Brown v. Board of Education or Miranda v. Arizona. Though it’s true that the Supremes usually only involve themselves in the bigger disputes, there are times when they choose to wade into more run-of-the-mill matters. A recent case argued before the court illustrates just that and concerns principles of equitable division; more specifically, how pension payments are divided during a divorce.

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Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “When do you get alimony?”

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune discussed the sad case of the divorce of the founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He and his wife have been embroiled in a dispute for more than eight years now and continue to fight about what share of the marital estate his wife is entitled to. The woman is asking for more than $400,000 a month in spousal maintenance, an astronomical sum to most people. One of her arguments supporting such a figure is the idea that taxes take a big bite out of what she’s already received and she needs more to comfortably pay her bills.

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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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Divorce Law Firms in Charlotte Mecklenburg County NC.jpgThankfully, many divorcing couples are on the same page about wanting to get a divorce. The fights or problems communicating have been obvious to both parties for a while and the decision to divorce was a long time coming. However, there are times when the parties aren’t in such perfect agreement.

Sometimes one spouse wants the divorce and the other spouse does not, other times one spouse is caught by surprise, unaware that there were ever any issues. In these situations, the spouse who does not want the divorce may stall or refuse to do anything to keep the divorce moving toward a resolution. This can be extremely frustrating for the person seeking the divorce because it means more time and money spent on the process.

In all North Carolina divorces, the first step after filing the Complaint for Absolute Divorce is that the respondent must be formally served with a copy of the Complaint. In many amicable divorces, the person who files the Complaint (petitioner) can simply give their spouse (the respondent) a copy as an alternative to being personally served with the divorce papers by a sheriff or private process server.

If the respondent refuses to cooperate, however, he or she will have to be personally served. If the respondent goes out of their way to evade service, the petitioner will likely have to use a private process server, who will request additional information about the respondent’s schedule and whereabouts before tracking them down. This option is more expensive than having the sheriff do the service, but has a better chance of success.

If your spouse desperately does not want the divorce they may refuse to attend mediation sessions or a settlement conference. If that’s the case, the petitioner will have to request a final hearing to obtain a Final Decree of Divorce. As long as the respondent is properly notified of the hearing date, the court can grant the divorce, even if the respondent chooses not to attend.

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Divorce Lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina.jpgAs discussed in a recent article on PsychologyToday.com, there are several things you should NOT do during your divorce. As many people know, divorcing can be a stressful and exhausting experience. However, there are actions that can and should be taken to make the process easier and there are also things that can be avoided to ensure you don’t make a bad situation even worse.

The following are some of the things (though there are many, many more) that you should avoid doing in the interest of having a more peaceful divorce.

1) Don’t Lie To The Judge: Though this seems to go without saying, always tell the truth. Whether you’re testifying in court or in a deposition, credibility is key. If people start to doubt you then things go end up very badly. Make sure to confide in your attorney if there is a certain subject you want to avoid discussing, but outright lying is never a good plan.

2) Don’t Lie to Your Attorney: Your lawyer can’t help you if they don’t know all the facts. You should be honest with your attorney so they can accurately analyze your case for strengths and weaknesses. All the facts are important and your attorney needs to know everything to help you get the best possible outcome.

3) Don’t Take Legal Advice From Friends and/or Family: It’s important to remember that just because someone gives you advice, it doesn’t mean they are correct. The law varies wildly based on specific circumstances of your case so a friend or family that went through a divorce may have had an entirely different experience than you. Listen to your attorney and ask questions as they arise. It’s wise to avoid talking about specifics of your case with friends and family.

4) Don’t Hide Property: Hiding property to avoid equitable division in a divorce is quite simply a terrible idea. If you do so and it’s discovered then you will lose all credibility in front of the judge and the other side, likely making your situation much, much worse.

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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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Couple on Benches.jpgAccording to a recent Wall Street Journal article, as couples deal with the difficulties inherent in every relationship it is sometimes hard to know when a fight is just a fight or the beginning of the end.
According to research from the Gottman Institute, couples typically wait an average six years in a less-than-happy marriage before seeking help. Deciding whether and when to call it quits is an obviously difficult and sad process.

A new type of therapy, called “discernment counseling,” offers a new approach. Discernment counseling, pioneered by Bill Doherty, a professor in the family social science department at the University of Minnesota, sets out to help couples decide whether to divorce or remain married. Doherty thought up the idea after a local family court judge mentioned that he was surprised by the number of people divorcing that seemed to get along so well that he was confused why they were splitting up.

In a recent study of divorcing couples published in the Family Court Review, the results showed that about 30% of individuals who were divorcing said they would seriously consider a reconciliation service if it was offered by the court. Further exploration of the numbers showed that after comparing responses of both spouses, about 10% of couples had both partners interested in reconciliation.
Doherty has decided that in 30% of couples headed for divorce one spouse is what is described as “leaning out,” or wanting to go, while the other is “leaning in,” or wanting to stay. In discernment counseling, he helps the leaning-out spouse decide if leaving is the best answer and helps the leaning-in spouse cope with the final decision without worsening the situation. After working through their issues, he lays out three alternatives: marriage as it has been, divorce, or a six-month reconciliation with marriage therapy. Of the 25 couples that have gone through the process 40% decided to try the reconciliation.

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