Articles Posted in Today’s Divorce Climate

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Leesa M. Poag, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group

In recent legal news, the Mississippi state Senate has passed new legislation that will have citizens of Greensboro and divorce attorneys alike glad that we live in North Carolina.

Unlike North Carolina, Mississippi law recognizes both fault-based and no-fault divorces. If the requirements are not met for a no-fault divorce, you must prove to a judge that your spouse has committed one of the fault grounds enumerated by the Court in order to be granted your divorce.  The new legislation has added two additional grounds for a fault-based divorce.

The only ground permitted for a no-fault divorce in Mississippi is irreconcilable differences. For the Court to grant this no-fault divorce, both parties must agree that there are irreconcilable differences between the parties that prevent them from continuing their relationship as husband and wife, and both parties must agree to seek the divorce.

If the parties don’t agree that they should divorce, the only way for a party to be granted a divorce is by proving to the court that their spouse has committed one of the fault grounds. One side must prove to the court that the other has committed some fault that should allow the party to be granted a divorce.  The most common grounds of fault are typically adultery and desertion.

The new legislation passed by the Senate seeks to add two more grounds – separation and domestic violence.  The separation ground would require that the parties have lived separate and apart for at least two years without the intention to resume the marital relationship.  The domestic violence ground would allow a person to seek a divorce if their spouse has perpetrated cruel and inhumane treatment towards them, including spousal domestic abuse.

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by Benjamin Neece, Attorney

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, love is in the air and it is a great time to express it to those who you care about most.  It is important that during this festive season that you remember that your children are the ones who need your love the most and we are here to help with some creative ideas on how to make the most of your time with them.  When it comes to time with your children, it is important to remember the deliberate nature in which you must approach each moment you have with them.  Visitation must become more than simply being together; it is of the utmost importance to engage your children, take part in new and exciting experiences with them, and create lasting memories that you can share together for years to come.  Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to express and grow the love between you and your children and it never hurts to have a few ideas in your back pocket to make your time together special.

For younger children Valentine’s Day is a big deal; a good way to keep within the spirit of the holiday is to set aside time for fun and celebration.  A trip to Charlotte, NC provides many options to accomplish this.  Charlotte is home to the Discovery Place Museum- a childhood utopia that is sure to keep everyone entertained while engaging in interactive learning.  Afterwards, crafting valentines to exchange with each other and even take home is a great way for kids to express their love to both parents in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Continue reading →

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Leesa M. Poag, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group

Boy meets girl. They fall in love.  Before you know it, he’s down on one knee with an expensive diamond ring in his hand.  With Valentines Day quickly approaching, it is a scene that is sure to play out all across the Triad.  But what happens when the relationship ends before the wedding bells have even had a chance to ring?  When instead of meeting with a wedding planner, the couple is turning to a family law attorney for advice.

As difficult as a broken engagement can be on a couple, the heartache and hard feelings only grow more intense when the formerly-engaged couple cannot agree on who should keep that shiny souvenir of the marriage that was never meant to be. When the plan changes from walking down the aisle to walking away, there is still that lingering question that must be answered – who gets to keep the engagement ring?

Under the early common law, Courts allowed these jilted fiancés to recover monetary damages when the wedding was called off under a claim of breach of promise to marry.  Though the legal system seems to have realized that you can’t put a price tag on a broken heart and distanced itself from these types of claims, the question of the engagement ring is still a remarkably common dispute facing the courts today.

Should the person who initially purchased the ring be entitled to its return?  If it was given as a gift, should the recipient be allowed to keep it?  The majority of courts have held that the answer to those questions comes down to the intention of the giver.

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Dana M. Horlick, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group13062458_1042739802458603_2436945721037467362_n-214x300

 

Directly after the holidays happens to be one of the busiest times of the year for divorce attorneys when it comes to divorce filings. The increase in divorce filings is a trend that is seen nationwide, including here in Greensboro, North Carolina. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, there is typically a spike of 25% to 30% in divorce filings every year in January. There is a similar trend in the United Kingdom, where one in five couples plan to divorce after the holidays.

Now when you think about it, this trend makes sense, given the nature of the holidays themselves and the sometimes adversarial nature of the divorce filings themselves. There are several factors at play when it comes to the uptick in divorce filings right after the holidays and at the start of the new year.

One thread deals with the holidays as a precipitating factor towards a divorce filing. The holidays may be a stressful time for couples, especially when there are already difficulties in the marriage. There is the financial stress of getting through the holidays and purchasing the presents. There is also the factor of spending time with your in-laws or just having an increased amount of family time. You might be in the house with your partner for an extended period. If there are problems already present in the marriage this can become an issue; even without pre-existing problems, this may place a strain on the relationship. Having to put on a happy face for your relatives and your children can also be very stressful.

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CarolynCarolyn Woodruff, a North Carolina CPA and Family Law Specialist, frequently is faced in sending a divorce client in the right direction after receiving a retirement plan in a divorce settlement.   Here are her thoughts on the subject:

The recipient may be receiving generally one or more of three types of retirement funds: (1) IRA; (2) 401k; and/or (3) defined benefit plan. Each type of plan should be evaluated as each has unique characteristics discussed hereafter.

Overall, there are four questions the divorcee should ask immediately post-divorce: (1) Age: What is my age now and at what age do I expect to retire? (2) Debt: What is my debt? Do I owe credit cards? Car debt? Is my home paid for? (3) Advisor: Do I need a financial planner or advisor, or am I competent to make investments myself? If the divorcee can do some basic investment herself, she can save administrative costs with mutual funds such as Vanguard. (4) Goal:  How much will I need for retirement adjusted for inflation? The goal is to develop a plan that achieves the goal with moderate or low-risk investments.

Hypothetical: A 40- year-old divorcee would like to retire at 67, which means she has 27 years to plan for retirement. Let’s say she has a 20-year mortgage on her newly acquired home, so this should be paid for before retirement, and perhaps available for a reverse mortgage at some point after retirement if needed. The availability of a reverse mortgage might be the source for medical bills in retirement.  However, she still has school debt, credit card debt and a car payment. She thinks that she will want $4000 per month in retirement after inflation adjustments are made. Let’s say she receives $100,000 in a 401k at the divorce, $20,000 in an IRA, and a small defined benefit plan that will pay $250 a month for her life when she is 67. Her predicted social security is $1500. So with social security at $1500 and the defined benefit plan at $250, she has $1750 of the needed $4000, so she has to make up $2,250 per month or $27,000 per year.. Let’s say her life expectancy is 88, but quite frankly it is good to plan for 100 so you do not out live your money. So that means the money needs to last for 33 years in retirement. The question is how does the divorcee plan for $27,000 per year for the 33 years? What is the amount of savings she will need to make up the $27,000.  At a planned withdrawal rate of  5 percent in retirement, this divorcee is going to need around $540,000  in retirement to meet her goal. At a planned withdrawal rate at retirement of 4 percent, she will need a nest egg of $675,000.  While a financial planner could do some allegedly precise calculations, here’s generally how the discussion will go. (I say allegedly because no one can be sure what inflation will be and what investment rate of return will be. Conservatively, the IRA should grow to at least $150,000 in 33 years. The $100,000 in the 401k should grow to make up the remainder of the needed money. So, the focus should be on investment vehicles that will turn the $20,000 in the IRA and the $100,000 in the 401k into $675,000 between now and retirement.

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By Sarah Andrew, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

s.andrew headshotWhen I think of Friendsgiving, I think of my first attempt at baking pumpkin muffins. I remember my joy at having an excuse to try out my roommate’s fancy stand mixer, my panic at using so much butter at once, the brisk three-block walk to my friend’s apartment, in ill-advised boots, with the warm bowl nestled between my gloves. Steam rising from homemade food is such a cozy thing, even when you’re not jaunting about in the cold.

Maybe you’re feeling more cold than cozy this year. It’s the first major holiday since your divorce, or it’s your ex’s turn to celebrate Thanksgiving with the kids. You could visit your parents and extended family, but you have a news feed’s worth of evidence that dinner will devolve into a political knock-down-drag-out before you can even request the salt. Here’s the beautiful thing about Friendsgiving: Friends. Sanity. Casual, low-stakes discourse over a meal everyone makes together, in one kitchen or in several. If someone gets too mouthy, you can kick him out without worrying that you’ll be left out of the will.

So how do you plan for the ideal Friendsgiving?

First, start a group chat with a few people in your same—or a similar—boat. Suggest a menu with the basics, from the bird to veggies to dessert, and let everyone choose what they’d like to contribute. Maybe everyone wants to cook together at your place. Maybe they’ll cook at home and carry their dishes over. Maybe they’ll secretly buy a pie from Harris Teeter and transfer it to their great-grandmother’s china. Great! If you tend to be a perfectionist, stop and take a deep breath. It’s okay if every item isn’t vegan and gluten-free. Make sure people are aware of potential allergens—and you eliminate cross-contamination by shared utensils— and they’ll eat what they can eat, until they physically can’t anymore.

Have games and icebreakers ready. Perhaps you’re lucky enough that the members of your various social circles already know each other. Even if that’s the case, who doesn’t love games? Go around and let people share their favorite Thanksgiving memory, or funniest-in-retrospect Thanksgiving argument. Have a few games at your disposal, too: Trivial Pursuit, Last Word, and of course Apples to Apples are always popular choices. Continue reading →

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              By Carolyn Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist, CPA, and CVACarolyn

I am constantly amazed at how people going through a divorce “fight” over “stuff” like a tea cup, a train set, a doll, or a stuffed animal. Generally, when I am using the word “stuff”, I mean personal property like tables and chairs, jewelry, or sentimental items from childhood.  The items have very little monetary value usually (some jewelry and collectibles excepted).  Sometimes the items have great sentimental value.  So, why the fight?

The columnists “Soapbox” in the Sunday magazine Wall Street Journal inspired me to contemplate personal property and its role in our lives.  Jay Leno was one of the columnists, and he talked about his one hundred and fifty cars and one hundred and seventeen motorcycles, all in working condition.  He likes the story behind his cars.  Pat Cleveland considers expensive items “meaningful” and indicia of success, perhaps why so many like Louis Vuitton purses.  Someone commented on behalf of Barbie, the Mattel doll, who states her accessories of a Corvette or outfits create imagination.

In a divorce, anger and striking out at the other side frequently takes the form of snatching and holding hostage a special, sentimental item.  So as a boy, perhaps you collected fishing lures.  The lures bring back memories of special travel and times, but have no monetary value.  There is the pink trout lure that grandma bought you when she took you to the Colorado mountains to fly fish for trout.  Priceless!  And in your divorce, your ex-wife wants to make it an earring.  Oh boy!  Continue reading →

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

If you have been in court all morning and you need something to give you an energy boost during lunch, there are several great lunch spots in Winston-Salem that is just a few steps away from the courthouse.

Kabobs On Fourth: Just a five-minute walk from the courthouse, Kabobs on Fourth offers healthy lunch options to get you ready for your afternoon court session. Homemade naan is baked daily, and their tzatziki sauce is fresh, which you can tell when you enjoy it on your chicken or lamb kabobs. They have a special lunch menu from 11:00am-3:00 pm that will get you in and out in no time.

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

I know it is a bit strange, a divorce party? They are currently trending in popularity, but think about it. Different major events in your life, graduations, birthday, weddings, and retirements are all celebrated. If you went through a messy divorce, wouldn’t you want a chance to celebrate surviving and coming out a better person? A friend of mine had a “Celebration of a New Chapter” party a few years ago. It was after a divorce from her husband of 5 years who she found out was cheating on her with her close friend. It tore her apart emotionally and financially, but she now realizes how much better off she is now that she is isn’t with someone who could break their marriage vows. She had a simple celebration, pot luck style with her closest friends. She even had a cake that she cut and served to everyone. It made her feel like she could surround herself with her true friends and family and celebrate the new chapter in her life. It was a success!

Not everyone could hold a divorce party. Sometimes it is not appropriate or it just might be too painful. Here are some fun ideas for those who want to have an extravagant event, or for those who want to have a simple and personal celebration.

Go Fancy! Go big or go home and celebrate YOU! Choose a venue space, colors, a theme and dinner. It’s almost like preparing for a wedding, but instead you get to make the decisions without the nagging of your ex-mother in law. Get a DJ to dance the night away, have a bartender make fun theme inspired cocktails and go all out. Invite your closest friends who got you through this divorce as well as your family. Most of the time families need to celebrate your divorce because they were just as close to your ex as you were. It would be very inappropriate to invite your children. Plan the party around a weekend the kids are with your ex and just celebrate you!

Girls Weekend! We all have been to a bachelorette/bachelor party to celebrate the soon to be Mr. & Mrs.’s last night out as a single person. Why not celebrate officially being single and ready to mingle? Go bar hopping around town with a limo, spend a weekend at a winery in the mountains or head to the beach. You can always stay close to home and have a good old fashion sleepover with your friends and watch chick flicks, eat popcorn and gossip all night. Your best friends know how to have fun, so they will enjoy celebrating your new change in life. Continue reading →

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By Carolyn J. Woodruff, JD, CPA, CVACarolyn

I’d like to bring a family member or friend to my meeting with my attorneys – can I do this?  It Is common for a North Carolina divorce client to want to bring a close friend or a close family member to a meeting with an attorney.  Let’s face it, divorce (even the most amicable) are emotionally charged and devastating.  Let’s also face it—a meeting with a professional like a doctor or lawyer can be daunting, and it is hard to remember everything that is said.  Having a friend handy can help claim the client down and provide a second set of ears regarding the advice or the instructions.

Attorney-Client privilege in North Carolina is something the client shouldn’t generally waive.  Attorney-client privilege means you do not have to discuss what you talked with your attorney about.  The attorney-client privilege is truly the strongest privilege in the United States, and is much stronger that the physician-patient privilege and HIPPA or the psychologist/therapist privilege, which all have many more exceptions.

So you arrive in my office with your friend and/or family member for the meeting with me.  What does that do to attorney-client privilege?  Does it destroy it?  Common wisdom has been, yes—having that third party “comfort” in the meeting does destroy the privilege.  That being said, it is rare that the opposing counsel seeks to find out what happened in an attorney-client meeting from a third party friend or family member.  On a rare occasion, I have seen this happen, however, in high dollar, highly contested cases

So, what do I recommend?

Luckily, we have a new North Carolina case from our esteemed Court of Appeals in Raleigh that provides a lot of helpful guidance. The case is Berens v. Berens.

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