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Raleigh Divorce Law Blog

Equitable doesn't necessarily mean equal in NC property divisions

There are many general questions individuals here in North Carolina might have about divorce in the state. One such question is: Will marital property be divided equally between the spouses in a divorce in the state?

The answer to this question is the answer that pops up for many legal questions: it depends. 

Could combat deployment lead to divorce and child support issues?

While you, like countless people across the country, may be well-versed in all the ways that military service can affect family life at home, reliable statistics relating to marriage and divorce rates among service members have been limited in the past. Now, however, there is new information on the impact that extended military deployment can have on you and your family.

Understanding the impact of that military service and deployment can have on divorce rates is not only important to coming to terms with some of these difficulties that you may face in your marriage, but can also help you to address child support and custody issues that may arise along the way.

The 'gray divorce' trend doesn't mean lifetime marriage is over

Marriage and divorce rates reflect the social and economic dynamics of the time, and often relate to contemporary issues and trends. Significant shifts in divorce rates among older Americans are believed to be linked to several unique aspects of modern life, prompting the attention of sociologists and family law experts alike. The "gray divorce" trend is also concerning to many, as the phenomenon may lead to an increase in complex and expensive property division disputes.

According to a 2012 study by researchers at the Bowling Green State University Department of Sociology, the face of modern divorce has changed considerably in a relatively short amount of time. Factors like age, education level, and personal finances continue to contribute to the success and failure of marriages all across the country, but previous divorces are having an especially profound impact on divorce rates among married couples 50 years old and older. 

Dos and don'ts of telling your kids your marriage is breaking up

For couples with children, one of the most difficult parts of getting a divorce is how it might affect the kids. That starts right at the beginning, when you have to explain why one of their parents is moving out. Here in North Carolina, you typically can't even file divorce papers until you've been living apart for a year, so the big changes start before you've even considered child custody and visitation arrangements.

There are tangible steps you can take to give your kids what they need to process the announcement. Parenting expert Alyson Schafer wrote an excellent article about this recently, and here are some dos and don'ts:

Dividing retirement accounts in divorce has to be done just right

When people think of their post-divorce lives, they naturally focus on the relationship changes. How will you deal with your ex when it comes to co-parenting? How will your kids deal with the changes?

It really is just as important to consider the financial issues you could be facing, too. If you're considering or are in the midst of a divorce, it's crucial to think these issues through carefully so you can set yourself up for financial stability.

During the property division part of divorce, you'll be dividing up any shared retirement accounts you have, such as 401(k) accounts, pension plans and IRAs. These particular transactions require special care, however, if you are to prevent the loss of valuable retirement funds to unnecessary taxation.

Are alimony and child support taxable income? Can I deduct them?

If you're getting a divorce, you may be in the position where you'll be paying or receiving alimony and child support, and they could make up a big portion of budget. How do you handle them for federal tax purposes?

The easier question is child support. According to the IRS, court-ordered child support is neither considered deductible by the paying parent nor as taxable income for the receiving parent. If you're paying child support, don't try to deduct it. If you're receiving it, it isn't considered part of your gross income. In other words, it's pre-tax income, kind of like contributions to a 401(k) plan.

Can I reopen my own divorce settlement like the McCourts did?

Frank McCourt used to own the Los Angeles Dodgers, where his wife Jamie was president and CEO, for a period of time. In 2004, Frank told Jamie that their Dodger assets might be worth as much as $2 billion. Later, the couple was forced to sell the team and, in 2009, Jamie filed for divorce. The team went into bankruptcy, and Frank told Jamie their total assets, including the Dodgers, were only worth $300 million.

Last year, the couple agreed to a divorce settlement based on those numbers. Jamie received $131 million plus some real estate. Then -- only a couple of weeks later -- the team was sold for $2.15 billion. Based on that price, Jamie says she was shortchanged by $770 million in their property settlement.

Can a man be the recipient of alimony in North Carolina?

Absolutely. In the 1979 case of Orr vs. Orr, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that both men and women must be equally eligible for alimony under state alimony laws; otherwise, the laws would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

North Carolina's family law statutes are intentionally written in non-gender-specific language, and there is no legal difference between men and women when it comes to alimony. As we've discussed before, whether you're eligible for alimony depends on a variety of factors. However, you're not eligible for alimony at all unless you're the "dependent spouse." 

As used in our divorce and alimony statutes, "dependent spouse" is defined as "a spouse, whether husband or wife, who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse." It's also interesting and important to note that being the custodial parent of children is not required for you to get alimony.

How does North Carolina's 'divorce from bed and board' law work?

As we've discussed before, North Carolina law doesn't require specific grounds for divorce, meaning we're considered a "no-fault" divorce state. That said, there's no "quickie" divorce here. Except in very unusual cases, North Carolina couples can only file divorce papers after living apart for a full year with the intention of remaining apart. This period is called legal separation.

Most couples manage the legal separation period just fine. They may simply wait it out, or they may get started on resolving their divorce-related issues right away by developing a legal separation agreement. Such an agreement is very useful for several reasons. First, you may not want to go a whole year with the issues of child custody, visitation and support, alimony, and property division unresolved. Second, separation agreements can work like trial divorce agreements that you can tweak when the time comes. Or, if the separation agreement works well, it can be made part of the final divorce decree.

Judge revokes $2.6 mln in gifts ex-Clippers owner gave mistress

Earlier this week we discussed the effect of adultery on alimony awards, so we thought you might be interested in a celebrity story along the same lines. Although the case took place in California is technically a post-divorce dispute, many of the same issues arose -- and the result in California is probably very similar to what you would get here in North Carolina.

You may already be familiar with the events surrounding the divorce of Donald and Shelly Sterling, former owners of the LA Clippers. Last year, Donald Sterling was caught on tape making racist remarks to his alleged mistress (both 80-year-old Donald and the 32-year-old woman deny having a sexual relationship). He was unable to calm to resulting furor, and the NBA ultimately forced him to sell the Clippers and banned him for life from owning any NBA team.

Firm founder Jonathan Breeden has earned his nickname of "The Bulldog." He takes a direct, straight ahead approach at resolving his client's family law, criminal law, and business related problems. He knows when it's in your best interests to negotiate a resolution or litigate your case in court.
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