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Wilmington Legal Issues Blog

Moving forward from an unfavorable custody decision

Divorce can introduce many challenges, from financial concerns over alimony to property division and adjusting one’s life in all sorts of ways. However, divorce issues involving children are often especially stressful and these cases can have a significant impact on a child’s future as well as their parents’ emotions. Unfortunately, bitter custody disputes are not uncommon, and some parents feel gutted in the wake of an unfavorable custody decision. If you are in this position, it is imperative to do your best to stay positive and continue exploring your options.

Whether custody is not awarded in the way you wished, or you are upset because you will not be able to see your child very often, we know how devastating an unfavorable custody outcome can be. Even though this can be a very difficult time, you should continue to look into some of the legal strategies that may be beneficial. For example, if your former partner lied in order to gain the upper hand in a custody dispute, you may want to take further action in court.

Divorce and your child’s emotions

For married couples, divorce can be extremely challenging when it comes to emotions. Stress, depression and anger, in some instances, can make the process harder to work through. However, the way in which a divorce can impact children should not be overlooked either. For kids, it can be difficult when their parents split up, and some children feel very unsure about their future during this time. Some kids may respond to their parents’ divorce differently depending on their age or other issues they are dealing with, and it is vital for parents to do everything they can to protect their child’s emotional health during this time.

If you have uncertainty regarding child custody, or you currently live with your child and they are asking you questions that you may not have answers for, it is imperative to carefully examine the details surrounding your divorce and do what you can to put their mind at ease. You can reassure your child that you will continue to love them and try to provide them with a sense of peace and happiness. For example, it may be helpful to participate in outdoor activities with them and look for other ways to help them work through some of the emotional difficulties they may be facing in a healthy manner.

The importance of having an escape plan

At The Law Office of L. Bryan Smith, P.C., we know that leaving an abusive marriage is a serious matter. You and other North Carolina residents who are in a relationship that is emotionally or physically violent can feel hopelessly trapped. Escaping abuse is often complex and can even be dangerous. This is why you need an escape plan before you leave.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline warns that the most dangerous time for an abuse victim is often when he or she attempts to escape. It is essential to plan your moves carefully and to involve people you can trust to help you get to a safe place. You may include the following in your escape plan:

  • Tell someone you trust, such as a family member or best friend, that you are being abused and ask for their support.
  • Find a safe place your abuser does not know about to store emergency cash, birth certificates, personal items, clothing and other possessions you want to take with you when you escape.
  • Learn the locations and phone numbers of abuse shelters and police stations.
  • Gather evidence that you are an abuse victim, such as photos of injuries, emergency room documentation, police reports and screenshots of abusive text messages and emails.
  • Learn how to apply for a protective order when you are ready to leave.

Is electronic communication with your kids allowed?

As a parent in Wilmington, you no doubt want to be constantly plugged into your kids' lives. That can become much more difficult if you and your spouse choose to divorce. You may have your own dedicated custodial time in which to talk to them, but what about then they are with your ex-spouse? You may view calling them on the phone or sending them an email in such situations is perfectly harmless, yet your ex-spouse may not. Indeed, they may see it as you infringing on their custodial time. This may prompt the question of whether that state has guidelines for communication with your kids in this scenario. 

Indeed it does. Section 50-13.2 of North Carolina's General Statutes says that electronic visitation is allowed provided the court authorizes it first. In determining whether you can contact your kids electronically when they are with their other parent (and vice versa), the court considers the following factors: 

  • Whether allowing such communication is in your kids' best interests 
  • Whether the equipment needed to facilitate such communication is readily available to both you and your ex-spouse
  • Any other relevant factors the court deems necessary to consider before allowing such communication

Traffic violations, points and your future

While it may seem obvious to you to avoid committing felony acts such as murder or robbery, you may not realize how much minor violations can affect your life. Misdemeanors and traffic offenses can lead to unexpected complications involving your career, your family and your future encounters with law enforcement.

North Carolina, like most states, assigns points in addition to fines and other penalties for certain traffic violations. If you reach 12 points within three years, the state will suspend your driver's license. Think about your current job and your family obligations, and imagine trying to accomplish them without the use of your driver's license.

Examining North Carolina's self-defense law

Like most in Wilmington, you likely believe yourself capable of resolving any situation you are faced with in a calm, collected manner. While that may indeed be true in most cases, there may also be times where you fell compelled to act (forcefully even) to avoid danger to yourself and others. You have probably heard people describe situations where they claim to have encountered just such a situation and been skeptical of their claims, yet your disbelief will likely disappear when faced with a similar scenario. The question then becomes the same that many have asked us here at The Law Office of L. Brian Smith, P.C.: were you justified in your actions? 

The answer depends on how you reacted to the situation you encountered. Section 14-51.3 of North Carolina's General Statutes says that you are justified in using force against another when you believe that there is imminent danger of such force being used against you (or someone else). In this context, however, you must stop short of using deadly force. The justifiable use of deadly force is only warranted if a reasonable person in the same situation would have felt that death o serious bodily injury would to themselves or others would have been the likely result of inaction. 

How do I ensure financial stability when divorcing after 50?

Divorcing later in life is not uncommon in North Carolina. However, for divorcees who had planned a stable future ahead with their spouse, it may feel that way. Nevertheless, a happy and healthy life as a divorced man or woman over 50 is certainly possible.

It all starts with how well you hold your finances together. The reason for this may be obvious. The last thing you want to be worrying about so close to retirement is your financial stability. Here are a few recommendations for protecting your money in a silver divorce.

Don't think of divorce in terms of winners and losers

When your marriage comes to an end in North Carolina, it can prompt a lot of complicated emotions, including shock, resentment and anger. It may be second nature to try to "win" at the divorce by coming out of it better than your spouse, but we at The Law Office of L. Bryan Smith regard this as an attitude that is both unhealthy and counterproductive. According to Forbes, divorce is not a matter of winners or losers. Even if it were, most people who go through a divorce would probably say that their ex got the better end of the deal. 

Instead of trying to win at the divorce, now is the time to take even more responsibility for the success of the process. There are three important steps you can do to accomplish this.

Hospital locked down due to custody dispute

Most in Wilmington might say that child custody disputes are private family matters in which outside parties have to right to become involved in. Yet what happens if a custody battle spills outside of the walls of the home and ends up inadvertently involving others? Feuding parents might even look for opportunities outside of the home to confront each other or even abduct their children from their other parent. Schools, shopping centers and other public venues may often provide the perfect forum for such incidents. 

Hospitals are also a common place where parents may attempt to gain unauthorized access to their kids. Such appears to have been the case in an incident which prompted the lockdown of a hospital in Indiana. A child who had been admitted to the hospital was taken from it by his father prior to the nurse being given the complete discharge instructions by the nurse who was handling his case. The father has visitation rights, and thus was not barred from visiting him throughout his stay. Authorities ultimately lifted the lockdown without finding the father, though no further action was taken as the case was deemed to be a custody matter. 

Don't forget about retirement plans in your divorce settlement

You may already feel as though you are living in chaos as you progress through the divorce process. Your future remains uncertain, and you struggle to figure out which way to turn. Even in an amicable divorce, the emotional and physical changes happening are often unnerving.

In this state, you may forget to address certain issues such as what happens to the retirement plan one of you has through your employment. This account often represents one of the largest assets of a couple, along with the family home. As you enter into negotiations regarding your property settlement, the plan may require division as well. Simply dividing it up is not enough, however.

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The Law Office of L. Bryan Smith, P.C.
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Wilmington, NC 28403

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