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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic can add another disturbing statistic: domestic violence incidents have increased in North Carolina. Isolation and lockdowns likely have exacerbated conditions that may have been already present in a rocky relationship. Financial woes and job loss have only increased the stress. For some, these circumstances amounted to the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Continue reading →

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By: S. Dean Michaux, JD

One form of domestic violence occurring between current or former dating partners or spouses is intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence (IPV), according to the CDC, affects one out of every four women and one out of every seven men. IPV includes psychological or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or stalking. Many victims of IPV experience sexual and/or physical violence or stalking before age 18. Continue reading →

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October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Although many find comfort and sanctuary within their own home, others do not because of physical violence by a partner. By U.S. Department of Justice estimates, approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men endure physical violence by the action of a partner every year. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an outstanding resource for individuals to call for help and guidance if they are experiencing domestic abuse. Continue reading →

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By: Hannah E. Smith, JD

Divorce is no stranger among the stars and starlets in Hollywood. Lately, it appears that celebrity couples are finding difficulty navigating the unknowns brought about by COVID-19. Divorce rates in the U.S. have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic as couples find themselves together at home around the clock with nowhere to go. The added stress of unemployment, illness, and homeschooling of children has created a significant strain on relationships—especially those that are frequently under the microscope of public scrutiny. Continue reading →

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Doyle v. Doyle, 176 N.C. App. 547 (2006)

Sometimes, what kicks off a divorce is not a slow descent into a frustrating marriage, but instead a jarring and violent incident that cannot be reconciled. Domestic Violence Protective Orders (DVPO) can be granted to spouses that fear for their or their minor children’s safety. A DVPO plays a major role in a divorce case that includes claims for child custody. In North Carolina, our laws require that judges in child custody proceedings consider acts of domestic violence and safety of the child when making determinations. Is it fair for a judge in custody to allow new arguments for a settled case? Below, we discuss the implications of such a DVPO on child support through the lens of a legal doctrine called collateral estoppel.

(a) Facts: Plaintiff husband and Defendant wife married in 2001 and had one child together. They separated in 2003 and a complaint for child custody and support was filed in 2004. During this period, the parties alternated custody of the minor child on their own accord. On one such exchange, Plaintiff was at Defendant’s home to pick up the child when Defendant tried to prevent them leaving by trying to remove the child from Plaintiff’s arms. Defendant struck Plaintiff’s groin, and Plaintiff responded with his own use of force. Police were called and Defendant filed for a DVPO. Plaintiff filed a counterclaim for the same. Temporary custody was awarded to Defendant. In the DVPO hearing, the trial court Judge Mull found that Defendant had initiated the altercation, thus dismissing Defendant’s complaint and granting Plaintiff’s. In 2004, a hearing was conducted for the issues of child custody and support. At that hearing, trial court Judge Sigmon disagreed with Judge Mull, and ordered Defendant have primary physical custody. Plaintiff appealed.

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By: Y. Michael Yin, JD

Rolls v. Rolls, 706 S.E.2d 842 (2010) (unpublished)

In North Carolina, Equitable Distribution can be settled without ever needing to step into the courthouse. Separation Agreements and Property Settlements are common ways to resolve the issues incident to a divorce. They are the will of the parties in a separation, distilled onto paper. They are contracts, and there are very precise rules for formation and enforcement of contracts. As we see below, a separation agreement may have been faulty, but it was the actions of a party that doomed his own arguments.

(a) Facts: Plaintiff wife and Defendant husband married in 1980 and separated in 2007. The parties filed a separation agreement in 2007, where they waived equitable distribution and acknowledged that both parties made full disclosure of all assets and debts. However, during the absolute divorce portion of their case, Defendant pled that there was in fact not a full disclosure of facts, and he requested equitable distribution in a counterclaim. In 2009, the trial court entered a Domestic Relations Order whereby half of Plaintiff’s IRA would be transferred to Defendant in accordance with the 2007 separation agreement. Plaintiff then filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the counterclaim, which was granted. Defendant appealed.

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In North Carolina, Equitable Distribution (ED) is how property is divided in divorce proceedings. ED can be a complicated process, and much of it relies on timelines and tracing funds. When people get married, a typical occurence is that separate bank accounts are converted to joint accounts. What happens in a divorce proceeding when one spouse claims that the account is not joint but still separate, despite the addition of the other spouse’s name? Continue reading →

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By: S. Dean Michaux, JD

The doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents courts from entering findings of facts or conclusions of law contrary to previous litigation. The issues must be the same. The issue must be raised and litigated. The issues must be material and relevant to the disposition of the prior action, and determination of the issues must be necessary and essential to the resulting judgment. Read on to see what happens when the trial court enters an order contrary to the previous findings of facts and the conclusions of law. Continue reading →

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Stowe v. Stowe, ___ N.C. App. ___ (2020).

In North Carolina, Equitable Distribution (ED) is one of the mechanisms by which former spouses separate their personal and real property. What if the during the marriage one party opens a business? Unlike other forms of property, businesses have reputations that are carefully cultivated, as well as patrons and other intangibles that make the business more valuable than what can be accounted for on paper. Courts call this factor Goodwill. In the case below, we explore how one court handled Goodwill for an insurance company. Continue reading →

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Montague v. Montague, 767 S.E.2d 71 (N.C. App. 2014)

Equitable Distribution (ED) is one of the mechanisms by which former spouses separate their personal and real property. What if the during the marriage one party opens a small business? Businesses are subject to ED, and valuation of a business can be very complex. In the case below, we encounter one issue where a family law specialist with experience in Equitable Distribution can be valuable. Continue reading →