Articles Posted in Divorce

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Suozzo v. Suozzo, 2022-NCCOA-620.

Facts: Plaintiff wife and Defendant husband entered into a separation agreement wherein Defendant was to pay Plaintiff $200,000 in monthly installments over 240 months. This arrangement began in March 2006 and would terminate in March of 2026. For the first 18-36 months, Defendant made the monthly payment. Sometime in 2008, Defendant stopped making those payments. Plaintiff chose to file a breach of contract claim against Defendant but not until 2019, more than ten years since Defendant stopped paying. The trial court awarded Plaintiff $100,789 in damages, calculated by granting only the missed payments due within three years of the commencement of Plaintiff’s action—as any unpaid installments due prior to February 2016 were barred by the statute of limitations—and the payments that became due while the action was pending through judgment. Defendant appealed. Continue reading →

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Sherri Papini was originally reported missing by her husband in November 2016 after she left their home in Shasta County, California to go for a jog and never returned. Three weeks later on Thanksgiving Day, authorities found Papini on an interstate highway approximately 140 miles from home.  Continue reading →

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Hill v. Durrett, 2022-NCCOA-460.

Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant were married in a friend’s backyard in 2015, and just 14 months later the couple separated. The backyard ceremony was officiated by a Ms. Plante, who was a Reiki master known as Azera Moonhawk. Ms. Plante was Defendant’s friend and was a minister of the Universal Life Church but was not authorized to perform weddings. Plaintiff eventually filed a divorce and equitable distribution action. Plaintiff also sought to have the marriage annulled based on Ms. Plante’s insufficient ordination. Plaintiff did not survive the proceedings and died before they were concluded; his estate carried on with the annulment. Defendant was the one who arranged the entire backyard extravaganza. She was the one who was good friends with Plante/Moonhawk. She was the one who told Plaintiff that Plante was qualified to perform the ceremony. She was the one who confirmed with Plante whether she could perform the ceremony. The trial court annulled. Defendant appealed.

Issue: Was the Plaintiff (his estate) equitably estopped from seeking an annulment?

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Shropshire v. Shropshire, 2022-NCCOA-441.

Facts:

Plaintiff and Defendant separated and initiated a case for Equitable distribution (ED). Pursuant to a pretrial Order, the parties filed affidavits for the ED trial. Both parties listed retirement plans under the “marital property” section of the affidavit. This included the Plaintiff’s 401(k) plan. Furthermore, both parties designated that Plaintiff’s retirement plans had values to be determined for date of separation and “net” value. Under the section of the affidavit marked for “divisible property,” neither party listed any property.

In a hearing in August of 2018, the parties testified about ED. In October 2018, the trial court judge told the parties that evidence was going to be reopened so that evidence could be presented that showed the date of trial values for the retirement plans, as well as value of the marital residence. Plaintiff objected to the reopening and filed a motion to recuse.

The motion was denied in trial court and the reopening was allowed. The information was provided over objections, and a final ED order was entered. Plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

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Wooten v. Wooten, 867 S.E.2d 767 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Wooten v. Wooten came before the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Defendant Husband’s appeal of the trial court’s Summary Judgment ordering specific performance by both parties.

FACTS: The parties married in 1997 and divorced in 2016. When they divorced, they signed a Separation Agreement that stated that Defendant Husband would pay Plaintiff Wife $4000 per month and put $8500 per year into the children’s 529 educational savings plans. Continue reading →

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Aviles v. Vulovic, E076743 (filed June 9, 2022).

Facts: Plaintiff Husband married Defendant Wife in 2011. However, Wife’s previous divorce had not yet finalized. Wife’s first marriage ended in a separation, and in 2006 Wife filed a petition for divorce. Wife believed that a divorce would just materialize automatically six months after the filing of the petition. In 2007, Wife and Husband began dating. They married in Las Vegas in 2011. Wife later appeared for a child support hearing with her former husband, and the presiding judge informed her that she had not yet been divorced. Wife eventually finalized the divorce in 2012. Wife and Husband had two more wedding ceremonies in 2013, however they never received a marriage certificate from the court. Husband and Wife separated in 2020 and were in court for spousal support. Husband claimed that Wife was barred from seeking support because she was in a bigamous marriage. It was the trial court’s finding that Wife was a putative spouse and awarded her temporary spousal support. Husband appealed. Continue reading →

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Huffman v. Huffman, 2022 NCCOA 309 – NC: Court of Appeals 2022

In this day of dating apps, social media, and instant gratification, temptations for the unfaithful are everywhere. But so are ways to cover your tracks: it’s easier to get and delete a text message than intercept a letter, easier to lie about a location when phones are tied to specific places.

This leaves many spouses sure that something is going on, but unable to find definitive proof. Maybe he’s on his phone with a “friend” all the time, maybe he disappears at odd hours, maybe there’s a suspicious dinner for two on a credit card. The NC Court of Appeals has decided that when it comes to proving marital misconduct in court, these suspicious behaviors may be enough.

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Everyone has seen a hearing on TV, but very few people know the process that leads up to that hearing. 95% of family law cases get settled before they even go to trial. Family law cases can be very stressful, but knowing what’s coming next can help lessen that stress. For a few weeks, we will look at the steps of a family law case prior to a hearing. Continue reading →

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Wright v. Wright, 222 N.C. App. 309, 730 S.E.2d 218 (2012)

  • Facts: Plaintiff and Defendant married in 2002 and subsequently separated in 2008. Defendant was a professional football player in the NFL. While playing football, Defendant suffered significant injuries, three of which were sustained while he was married to Plaintiff. Defendant retired in 2008 due to those injuries. Defendant began receiving disability payments because of his retirement from the NFL. He also applied for permanent disability. These benefits are paid to former players. The trial court classified these disability benefits as deferred compensation programs and distributed them in equitable distribution. Defendant appealed.

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Blue v. Bhiro, 2022-NCSC-45 (2022)

In North Carolina, our Rules of Civil Procedure govern many aspects of civil trials. This includes the vast majority of the actions you will see incident to divorce and separation, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution. Under these rules, there are a few preliminary hurdles a complaint may cross before a trial court will hear the matter. Two such hurdles are a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (colloquially called a 12(b)(6) motion), and a motion for summary judgment. Both will dispose of the complaint, albeit for different reasons. Interestingly, because of the effect, sometimes a 12(b)(6) motion can be converted into a motion for summary judgment. Below is a case about one such conversion, or lack of conversion. Continue reading →