Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: ” I’m considering separating from my spouse; what actions should I refrain from doing?”
We have all heard the fairytales – boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl get married, boy and girl live happily ever after. Life is not a fairytale, and more and more couples are choosing to postpone marriage and instead live together as if they were a married couple – sharing financial responsibility, purchasing a home together, etc. There is nothing wrong with postponing marriage, but there are some financial considerations that couples must think about to avoid problems in the future. When unmarried couples do not have defined financial plans, or responsibilities, it can often result in financial harm.
In North Carolina, married couples have different protections afforded to them by law. The law is clear on what happens to property that an individual owns before marriage, during, and then what happens should the marriage end. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the property that is found to be marital property is subject to equitable distribution between the spouses should they choose to divorce. There are further protections available for those who have children, in the form of legal remedies for collecting alimony and child support. Finally, married couples often enjoy tax benefits. These are all great protections and guidelines, but none are available to unmarried couples.
Some states recognize common law marriage. Common law marriage is when a couple has not purchased a license or participated in a marriage ceremony, but the law nonetheless recognizes them as a married couple. Usually, this is by the time a couple has been together and how they hold themselves out to the world. North Carolina does not recognize common law marriage. Therefore, couples need to have a plan for what they will do in the event of a breakup or other issues.
One of the biggest issues that arise is when one, or both, parties purchase a home in which the couple lives together. When both parties are on the mortgage, it is clear that both bear the responsibility of paying for the home and upkeep. What happens when only one person is on the mortgage? Or when one person just decides they do not want to pay for anything surrounding the home anymore? In these situations, it is imperative for a couple to have a plan in place. One of the best protections available to unmarried couples is entering into a contract. Common contracts are a Property Ownership Agreement or Domestic Partnership Agreement. These are legally binding documents that outline responsibilities of each party and a plan for division or property.
The family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help you, whether you are married or unmarried. We can help you protect your assets and reach agreements with your partner to try and avoid financial problems in the future. Not everyone wants to jump right into marriage. That is perfectly fine, but does not negate the need to have a plan. Contact us today for a consultation. If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter and need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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