By Jessica S. Bullock, JD – North Carolina Family Law Specialist
Appellate and family law attorneys often find themselves in a battle over wording. In fact, the drafting of certain orders and agreements can be enough to make a family lawyer’s head spin. There are many times when drafting the settlement paperwork or the court order takes just as long as reaching the terms of settlement or receiving a court’s ruling in the first place. Why? Every word matters in legal drafting, especially in family law cases.
We all need to pay close attention to the very recent case out of Orange County, North Carolina, Carpenter v. Carpenter, No. COA 14-1066 (January 19, 2016). In this case, the Court of Appeals centered its discussion regarding an unequal division of the marital estate on the use of the word “presumption.” The trial court’s equitable distribution order contained a finding that “the defendant rebutted the presumption favoring an equal distribution of marital property” in support of its award of an unequal distribution. What the trial court’s order did not do was explain why an equal division was not equitable. To some, this may seem like six of one and one-half dozen of the other, but it appears to have been the very important difference between affirming and remanding on this particular issue.