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The United States, as a whole, has only allowed same-sex marriage for just over two and a half years. It is law that same-sex couples have the right to marry in the United States of America, but there are some who still struggle with the question of what exactly that entails. Certainly, same-sex couples can be married now, but are they afforded the same rights as heteronormative marriages? My answer is yes; if same-sex couples can legally marry, they should not have some cheap imitation of it. The law should give them the equal rights to their heteronormative counterparts, including hospital visitation, joint taxes, inheritance, and all other areas of the law. However, there are those who see same-sex marriages as inherently different from heteronormative marriages, and as such, believe they should not be treated the same or offered the same services. One such service, which is still heavily fought over, is the adoption of children.

Our neighboring state, Georgia, has recently had this argument enflamed in the form of Senate Bill 130. The bill would have been a major update to the state’s adoption laws, of which had not been updated in such a manner in 27 years. The bill stalled, neither passing or failing, at the end of last year after a provision was added by their state Senate Judiciary Committee which would allow private adoption agencies, including those that receive public funds, to refuse to place children in homes based on familial, cultural, or religious reasons.

Champions of LGBT+ advocacy argue the provision would allow the private agencies to discriminate against LGBT+ homes and cite any number differences between the children and the potential families. Sponsors of the amendment adversely claim that the added language in the bill would give agencies the power to find what they deem to homes more aligned in the interests of the children. It’s not hard to see both sides of this argument, as there is some truth to both sides. Certainly, agencies should consider the best interests of children, but it is also possible that such a provision could allow agencies to push their private agendas of what they believe families should be like, discriminating against not just LGBT+ families, but any family they do not want to place children with for any familial, cultural, or religious reason, rather than seeking out fit homes for children. A private agency could refuse to place a child in the home of divorcees, single parents, families of different ethnicities than a child, and families of different religions than a child even if the prospective families have the means and desire to care for a child.

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Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., a figure who needs no introduction. Fifty-five years since his famous speech, we are continuing to move towards King’s dream of “a nation where [we] will not be judged by the colour of [our] skin but by the content of [our] character.”

It isn’t just the speech that makes King stand out, however. In addition to being a powerful speaker, King was a champion of nonviolent activism. Tactics such as sit-ins sought to capture the public’s attention and force them to be aware of the discrimination occurring in racially-segregated restaurants. One of the strengths of a non-violent approach is that any retaliatory action on the government’s part just makes the protestors easier to support – they appear as underdogs suffering under the iron fist of big brother. Perhaps the best summary of nonviolent activism is simply Marc Riboud’s photograph of an anti-war protestor offering a flower to a soldier.

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Marc Ribaud, “Jeune fille à la fleur (variante),” October 21, 1967.

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Tip #6 – Exercise boosts your mood. Go for a jog or bike ride when you feel overwhelmed.

Exercise isn’t just for getting in shape – it also can help you to regulate your mood better. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which are chemicals that trigger pleasant feelings in the body and reduce sensations of pain. Endorphins also can help combat depression, anxiety, and stress – all things you may be struggling with after a divorce.

If you’re really exercise-averse, you can find ways to be active that aren’t traditional exercises. Go for a walk downtown, explore a natural park, or try out a dance class.

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Divorce was hard enough, and now alimony tax reform. Do you feel good or bad about alimony? No matter your answer, this alimony tax reform revolutionizes the divorce arena, and you need to know how it may affect you and your clients. Judges need to know how it might affect those whose appear before them as litigants. So let’s dig in.

This article is Part I of three parts. Part I deals with the basics of the alimony taxation changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”), referred to herein as the “new Alimony Statute.” Multiple sections of the Internal Revenue Code related to alimony are changed under the TCJA. The new Alimony Statute is contained in Section 110151 named “Repeal of Deduction for Alimony Payments” in PL 115-97, HR1, December 22, 2017, 131 Stat 2054.  When I refer from now on to the “old Alimony Statute,” I am referring mainly to Internal Revenue Codes Sections 71 and 215 as they existed before the TCJA.

Part II will deal with ancillary federal tax considerations of the new Alimony Statute, of which there are many.  Part III will discuss considerations of the new Alimony Statute under North Carolina domestic relations law and explore creative possibilities for the use of the new Alimony Statute.

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We started our divorce recovery tip series to provide advice in an easily-digestible format, but sometimes we can’t say everything we want to in one image. This blog series will expand on our tips and provide some extra insight into the divorce recovery process.

Tip #1 – Take time each week to pamper yourself.

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After divorce, we don’t often feel great about ourselves. We may wonder why it happened, what we did wrong, or what’s wrong with us. And while we may know that there’s nothing wrong with us, knowing that doesn’t always make us feel better.

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By Carolyn J. Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist

In re Lawson, 570 B.R. 563 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio 2017)

Facts: A husband and wife filed divorce proceedings in Ohio. Among the marital assets was the husband’s defined contribution retirement plan. The parties read into the record in the Ohio action an agreement that awarded the wife 50% of the plan account. The court approved the agreement. No DRO was immediately entered.

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By Carolyn J. Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist

In re Jeffers, No. 14-52328,    B.R., 2017 WL 2838104 (Bankr. N.D. Ohio June 30, 2017)

Facts: A husband and wife divorced in Ohio. The divorce decree awarded the wife an interest in the husband’s retirement benefits.

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By Carolyn J. Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist

Garcia-Tatupu  v.  Bert  Bell/Peter  Rozelle  NFL  Player  Ret.  Plan,  No.  CV 16-11131-DPW,     F. Supp. 3d   , 2017 WL 1398645 (D. Mass. Apr. 18, 2017)

Facts: The husband, a former NFL football player, was divorced from his wife in Massachusetts in 1997. No DRO was entered at the time. The husband died in 2010; he had not remarried. In 2012, the Massachusetts court issued a DRO, nunc pro tunc back to 1997.

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By Carolyn J. Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist

Dullea v. Pension Benefit Guar. Corp., 241 F. Supp. 3d 155 (D.D.C. 2017)

Background: There are two ways in which state courts can make a deferred future division of retirement benefits. The traditional method is the shared interest approach, which awards the nonowning spouse a portion of each future payment received by the owning spouse.

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By Carolyn J. Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist

Patterson v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 845 F.3d 756 (6th Cir. 2017)

Facts: A divorce decree awarded the wife an interest in the husband’s retirement and survivor benefits, expressly ordering him not to elect a survivor beneficiary other than the wife. The wife did not obtain a QDRO.