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What Happens If a Spouse Does Not Respond to Divorce Papers?

Divorce is something that no married couple ever wants to experience, but when there are irreconcilable differences in the relationship, there is sometimes no other option. What many spouses fail to understand is that, even though marriage requires the consent of both people, divorce requires the consent of only one partner. In some cases, the spouse that gets served thinks they can prevent the divorce simply by ignoring the summons, but this only worsens their situation. 

Whether you’re the spouse serving the divorce papers or the one being served, learn how the process works on both sides and what happens if a spouse does not respond to divorce papers. Having this information will help your divorce to proceed faster and smoother, allowing you to achieve a swift and peaceful resolution so you can heal and move on from your marriage.

What Happens After a Spouse Is Served a Divorce Petition?

Soon after filing for divorce, your spouse will receive a notice, referred to as a summons. This document establishes details about the marriage as well as the grounds for divorce. It informs the recipient of the number of days they have to respond to the summons, known as the “protected period,” which is usually 20 days. During this time frame, the spouse has time to consider how to respond and is free to consult with a lawyer.

What Happens If You Never Get Served Court Papers?

In almost every state, court documents must be delivered to the defendant in person to ensure that he or she has been properly notified. If you try to avoid being served by hiding from the process server, the person will exhaust every available means of contacting you. They may leave the court document with a family member or someone you live with or even publish the notice in a public place. Regardless of what the process server does, hiding from the divorce petition doesn’t make it go away.

 How to Respond to a Divorce Petition

If you’ve been served a summons, the first thing you should do is carefully read every word of it so you understand when your answer is due and what your spouse has claimed. 

Next, you’ll write an answer to the complaint by agreeing or disagreeing with each statement in the notice (you can also state that you had no knowledge of a specific complaint). For example, if the petition states the wedding anniversary incorrectly, you would write, “I deny that the wedding occurred on December 6, 1997. The wedding took place on December 6, 1998.” When you go to court, you’ll have the opportunity to explain yourself in more detail than you were able to in your answer.

After you’ve written your answer addressing all the facts and issues, you should sign and date it and make copies for everyone involved. This includes the plaintiff and his or her lawyer as well as yourself and your own lawyer. You’ll also need to file a copy with the courthouse clerk by the due date stated on the divorce petition. 

Alternatively, rather than agreeing or denying with your spouse’s claim, you could file a divorce counterclaim. A counterclaim allows you to petition the court for relief and address issues not mentioned in the divorce complaint. Child custody is a common issue brought up in counterclaims; in the original divorce petition, for example, the spouse may have requested full custody, but the counterclaim gives you the opportunity to deny the request and ask for full custody. If your spouse did not enumerate assets, you could ask the court to resolve this in a counterclaim as well.

What Happens If You Don’t Respond to Divorce Papers?

Now that you’ve served the divorce papers but received no response, you can move forward with the case once the protected period has elapsed. You’re free to schedule a hearing regardless of whether or not the other person has responded. This is possible with “no-fault” divorces, in which one spouse states their reasoning for wanting to divorce, which could be as simple as incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. If you’ve been served and have chosen to ignore the summons, you can still answer whenever you want after the protected period is over. 

However, if you wait too long, the court will assume that you aren’t participating, and you risk the judge making default judgments without knowing your wishes, your input, or your side of the story. Your spouse may try to prove that there was fault on your side, which means they could end up with more alimony, marital property, or child custody. 

Don’t forfeit your rights. Even if you are against the divorce, file your answer anyway to make sure you get notified about the hearing and have the chance to voice your concerns.

The Importance of Providing an Answer

By providing an answer to a divorce petition, you are getting a chance to state your wishes in the divorce. Without an answer, you could end up with orders against you that never would have happened if you’d answered and showed up at the hearing. These orders can’t be changed down the road, and the divorce process could be longer and more painful if you don’t participate.

Get the Best Outcome From Your Divorce

Although the divorce process will likely be painful, you’re not alone. Whether you’re filing or getting served, Collins Family Law Group has experience on both sides of divorce cases. We’re dedicated to helping you achieve a fair outcome so you can breathe easier post-divorce. Contact us today for a case consultation.

Divorce and Separate Bank Accounts: Is My Money Safe?

Many married couples choose to keep their money in joint bank accounts, which gives each spouse equal access when it comes to paying utility bills, purchasing groceries, and making mortgage payments. Others may keep most of their income in a joint account, but use a separate account for savings and retirement funds. However, some married couples have completely separate bank accounts, which could cause the couple to wonder if their separate funds are solely theirs. But in most divorces, this is not the case. 

In this blog post, we will cover divorce and separate bank accounts, and how assets are divided when a couple does not keep funds in a joint bank account.

Will a Separate Bank Account Protect My Assets?

A question commonly asked by couples enduring divorce is “will a separate bank account protect my assets?” And indeed, some people have kept their finances separate from their spouse for the entire marriage in the hope that it will remain their property. But contrary to what some married couples may believe, just because someone’s name is on a bank account does not mean that all the funds belong solely to them. Even if your name is on the account and your spouse’s money has never touched it, you’re not guaranteed to receive all or any of the money in the account.

Are Separate Bank Accounts Marital Property?

In most states, money in separate bank accounts is considered marital property, or property acquired during a marriage. About 10 states operate under community property laws, meaning that any property — money, cars, houses, etc. — acquired during the marriage belongs to both spouses. But the rest of the country — North Carolina and South Carolina included — abides by equitable distribution laws, meaning that property acquired by a spouse during the marriage is that spouse’s property. 
Equitable distribution law may sound simple, but it can get complicated if the divorce is contested in a court of law. Attorneys will most likely be able to argue that this property should be seen as “marital property” and that it should be split fairly between the spouses. The only way to avoid this is if the couple entered into a prenuptial agreement stating that all property acquired by a spouse during a marriage belongs to that same spouse.

How Are Bank Accounts Split in a Divorce?

If you are considering ending your marriage, you may be wondering how assets get divided in a divorce. When a divorcing couple enters into mediation or if their case is seen by a judge, the focus will be on dividing all assets fairly — though not always equally. The funds held in separate bank accounts are no different. If the bank account was made or used after the marriage began, the funds are often divided between both spouses. This is because of the concept of commingling which happens when assets are used by both spouses. 
For example, even if only one spouse’s name is on the house in which they both live, the couple is commingling that asset because both spouses consider it to be their home. The same concept applies to money. Even if one spouse’s name is on the account, the funds can be used to pay for groceries, mortgage payments, utility bills, or child care. In these cases, attorneys handling the divorce can argue that the funds are commingled and should be divided, or that they should remain separate.

When Are Separate Bank Accounts Considered Separate Property?

Though exceptions may be argued in a court of law, separate bank accounts may be considered separate property in the following cases

  • No money acquired during the marriage was added to the bank account. If any income earned during the marriage is placed in this account, it is considered commingled. 
  • The other spouse’s name was never added to the account and none of their income was deposited.
  • No financial gifts bearing both spouses’ names were deposited in the account. Any gifts or inheritance should bear only the account holder’s name — otherwise, the money is considered commingled.

Contact a Property and Debt Division Lawyer

If you are going through a divorce and are not sure how to divide funds in separate bank accounts, you need the guidance of an experienced marital property and debt division attorney in North or South Carolina. Divorce is marred by emotions, anger, and hurt feelings, and the division of property can sometimes get ugly. With the help of attorneys at Collins Family Law Group, you can better understand your rights and how to navigate the division of assets in your divorce. Call us today at (704) 753-8976 or contact us online to request a case consultation.

Do I Pay Child Support If I’m Unemployed?

Despite being separated from your spouse, you love your children and want to do everything in your power to take care of them. So when you lose your job, it can shake your entire world and make providing for your family a huge source of stress. The reason for this is that child support orders are still effective if you, as the non-custodial parent, become unemployed. 
When these payments start becoming impossible for you to pay, you’ll likely have many questions. Collins Family Law Group is accustomed to resolving confusion surrounding the matter of unemployment and child support. Here are some answers to regularly asked questions and concerns about paying child support when unemployed.

How Does Child Support Work When the Father Has No Job?

It’s common for parents to ask, “Does a father have to pay child support if he is unemployed?” The answer is a firm “yes.” Under-employment and even unemployment do not invalidate a standing child support order; you are still expected to make these payments monthly. If you no longer have a steady flow of income and miss a payment, this payment is still owed and accrues interest. You could also incur fees or jail time, as courts do not consider favorably those who evade their responsibility, whether intentional or not.

Child Support Modification on Imputed Income

You can request an adjustment to your child support order, but the court will base new child support amounts on your opportunity and ability to find similar-paying work using your previous employment as a benchmark for what you may be able to earn in the future. This is what the courts refer to as “imputed income.” In this case, child support payments are based on the parent’s ability, willingness, and opportunity to work as well as their earning capacity (past jobs, education level, skillset, etc.). 

If the unemployed parent can work, has sufficient opportunity, and is earnestly seeking another job, the court can make an educated guess as to what kind of salary the person could earn, and impute the amount. If there’s insufficient evidence to determine how much the parent could potentially earn, the judge may impute the minimum wage. Each case will have a unique outcome based on the parent’s circumstances.

What If the Noncustodial Parent Can’t Afford the Payments?

Many non-custodial parents who can’t afford their monthly payments sometimes turn to their ex-spouse to informally arrange to pay what they can, or worse, they do not pay at all. Both of these actions could put you in contempt of court and lead to fines or even litigation. The only safe way to renegotiate these payments is through a court-approved modification of child support. If your situation comes to this, you should speak with a child support attorney to discuss your circumstances. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits, which could help with paying child support when unemployed.

How Do I Pay Child Support on Unemployment Benefits?

To find out if you qualify for unemployment benefits, you should check with the state of NC or SC and get in contact with the unemployment office to show them your outstanding child support payments. For those who are eligible, the state government will deduct these payments from your unemployment wages. If you are ineligible for unemployment benefits because you are intentionally avoiding work or are simply underemployed, the court will defer to the amounts you could be earning, or imputed income, to calculate your payments.

In the meantime, you are strongly advised to be highly proactive about finding a new job and maintaining intensive communication with the court during your search. Once you’ve secured employment, you must continue paying child support with physical checks until the payments can be taken directly from your wages. Be prepared for the payment amounts to increase to account for your time spent unemployed.

Modifications to Child Support Orders in NC and SC

If you’ve found yourself truly unable to make anything work and simply cannot pay your child support, it is your responsibility to notify the court. Your child support order can only be changed upon your request for modification. A lawyer can help you file this promptly so you aren’t late on any payments.

In NC and SC, courts will usually allow you to amend your child support order if there has been a significant change in your financial standing since the order was issued. More specifically, these states require that your ability to pay must be diminished by 15% or more to qualify for child support adjustment. Modifications are usually made through mediation.

Consult With Qualified Child Support Lawyers in NC and SC

In any case, child support is all about your child’s best interests and courts always rule in favor of their needs. When you feel that you are no longer able to meet those needs, talk to one of our experienced attorneys. We’re available to answer your questions and help you with mediation if you qualify for a child support modification in NC or SC. Request a consultation today.

Understanding a Divorce Decree

Around 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. With half of the relationships collapsing this way, it is helpful to understand what goes into the final divorce decree at the dissolution of your marriage. Collins Family Law Group can explain what a divorce decree is, what is included in it, and whether it can be modified. Is it time you discovered what a final divorce decree would mean for the end of your marriage?

What Is a Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is when a judge finalizes and approves the divorce and all the conditions by which it is surrounded. When the judge signs your divorce decree, the marriage is officially over and each party is officially free to move in their own direction.

What Is Included in a Divorce Decree?

You might be wondering what is included in a final divorce decree and Collins Family Law Group is here to help. There are different things that can be included in your divorce decree but they are usually broken down into three main categories: spousal support, child custody/parenting issues, and division of marital assets and debt.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is money paid to from one spouse to the other at the end of a marriage. Alimony is not awarded in every divorce due to state-specific rules that must be met. Additionally, if both partners have similar incomes, a judge may decide that spousal support is not necessary. Determining whether alimony is an option is important in finalizing the divorce decree.

Child Custody/Support

If there are children involved in the divorce, determining child custody and support can be extremely difficult. For a judge to sign the final divorce decree, parents must agree on child support and custody before the divorce is finalized. If an agreement cannot be reached between both parties, the judge can make a final ruling for a set period and move forward with signing the divorce decree.

Division of Marital Assets

North and South Carolina are both equitable property states which means that any property or debt jointly gained during the marriage must be equally split between both spouses. Marital assets include real estate, vehicles, income, and collectibles, and these items must be distributed fairly in the event of a divorce. For a judge to sign the final divorce decree, you’ll need to ensure that everything is fairly divided between you and your ex-spouse.

Can a Divorce Decree be Modified?

While the final divorce decree is the official end of your marriage, it is still possible to file a motion for modification. You may be able to modify different parts of the divorce decree, including: 

  • Child support 
  • Child custody 
  • Visitation orders 
  • Spousal payments 

Keep in mind that unless specifically stated in the original divorce decree, property division cannot be modified once the divorce is final.

Getting a Copy of Your Divorce Decree

If you need to get — or replace — a copy of your divorce decree, your easiest option is to contact the court that handled your divorce in the first place. You’ll usually have to pay a fee and you may have to provide your certified divorce certificate before you can get a copy of your divorce decree.

Your Trusted Divorce Experts

For help navigating the divorce process in North or South Carolina, Collins Family Law Group is your trusted divorce experts. We’ll walk you through every stage of divorce to ensure that when you get to the final divorce decree, you understand exactly what is in it, how it finalizes the end of your marriage, and what to do if you need to make changes to the decree. Contact a member of our legal team to get started on your divorce process.

What Are the Five Stages of Divorce?

The five stages of divorce follow the common five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When a couple is going through a divorce, both people involved experience these stages at different times, in different ways. Understanding how affected people move through divorce grief helps make the process more manageable, although not less difficult.

Grief Is Unique

Each person reacts to the loss of their marriage differently and it’s important to remember that grief and healing are completely individualized processes. Although divorce grief stages present in a specific order, it is unlikely that someone will move through the stages one after the other. It is common to move through stages simultaneously or circle back to a previous stage at any time. 

The majority of divorcees find that the cycling process gets easier and shorter as they move toward healing.

Denial

In denial, the spouse being left — called the levee — fails to grasp the reality of the situation. They often try to rationalize the divorce filing by believing their spouse is suffering a midlife crisis or other personal turmoil. Common thoughts could be “they are just upset” or “this will all blow over soon.”

The leavee may operate on autopilot, choosing to pretend everything is still fine while seemingly ignoring thoughts of divorce. Denying that one is facing the end of their marriage is a common coping mechanism as leavees numb all emotions to survive the situation.

Anger

As the numbness of denial begins to wear off, the leavee feels a variety of emotions. Anger tends to mask all other emotions and it’s usually directed toward the spouse who filed — known as the leaver. 

Unlike the denial stage where the leaver is seen as struggling or just needing time, the anger stage paints the leaver as the worst. The worst parent, lover, friend, and human on the plant — the list is endless in the midst of anger. These feelings are normal — and needed — to help people move through the grief process of divorce. 

Feel as much anger as you need, but remember to keep it away from any children involved. You can hate the leaver but a child should not have to.

Bargaining

Bargaining during the divorce process is usually an attempt to salvage the former relationship or pinpoint exactly what went wrong. The leavee may offer to change many things about themselves, make grand promises, or agree to certain requests in an attempt to stop the divorce. 

This stage can be helpful if there is a chance the relationship can be saved. The leaver could change their mind at this point and agree to work things out. But this is not guaranteed and most divorces still proceed.

Depression

The weight of denial, anger, and bargaining, combined with the sobering reality that a marriage is over causes the most difficult stage of all — depression. People find that depression tends to last longer than the other stages and is typically harder to overcome. 

Feelings of depression are completely normal during a divorce and affect both the leavee and the leaver. Many people report intrusive thoughts such as “I’ll never find love again,” or “relationships aren’t worth it.” These thoughts are not reality and they typically pass over time. It is common for divorcees to seek professional help during such a difficult time.

Acceptance

When a person reaches the acceptance stage, they often feel a sense of relief. But finally accepting the divorce doesn’t completely end the grief process; it is normal to jump around and cycle through previous stages after one has come to terms with the situation. 

In acceptance, people find the strength to move on and reclaim their lives without letting divorce define them. Ultimately, though one may still feel different stages of grief, they reach a point where they can live with those feelings and continue their life.

Tips for Coping With Divorce Grief

Neither the leavee nor the leaver experiences divorce grief the same way but there are different tips that can make the process more bearable.

Allow All Feelings

Every emotion that comes up during the divorce process is valid and brings a person one step closer to healing. Negative and upsetting feelings do lessen with time as a person learns to find their new normal.

Build a Support Group

The loss of a life partner due to divorce makes people feel intensely lonely and isolated. This makes having a support group of close family and friends invaluable in the healing process.

Take Time to Heal

The relationship wasn’t built overnight and healing from divorce won’t happen immediately either. Divorcees need time to work through all their emotions and rediscover who they are without being in a marriage. There is no set timeline for grief and as long as people continue to move forward, they should take all the time they need.

Are You Facing a Divorce?

No matter if you are the leavee or leaver, you’ll need a lawyer on your side to get through the process. Collins Family Law Group has dedicated, compassionate lawyers ready to help you with every aspect of the divorce process, including custody and child support. We work throughout North and South Carolina so contact us today about your divorce situation.

How Do I Get My License Back If I Owe Child Support?

How Far Behind in Child Support Before They Suspend Your License?

Did you know you can lose one, or even all, of a variety of licenses when you fail to pay child support? After a divorce, many parents find themselves splitting child custody with their ex-spouse. The parent who does not have full custody of the children is often mandated to pay child support each month. But what happens when a parent can’t make these payments? All 50 states have laws requiring license suspension if a parent falls behind on child support payments. 

Depending on the state, the obligor (the parent who owes child support) may have one or several of the following licenses revoked should they fail to pay child support:

  • Driver’s license
  • Occupational license
  • Professional license 
  • Business license
  • Recreational license (hunting, fishing, etc.)

In North Carolina, the obligor may lose their driver’s license, occupational license, professional license, recreational license, and business license. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.12, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 110-142 through 110-142.2)

In South Carolina, the obligor may lose all of the above, as well as their commercial license. South Carolina does have one exception, though: The obligor may obtain a route-restricted driver’s license so they can drive to work. (S.C. Code § 56-1-171, S.C. Code § 63-17-1020 through § 63-17-1070)

Child support and license suspension may not seem to be related, especially when it comes to things like driving a car, working, or fishing. But courts revoke licenses in the hope that it will incentivize the obligor to catch up on outstanding child support payments. Without these funds, the obligor’s child or children may not receive the financial support they need for food, clothing, and schooling.

If you’ve fallen behind on child support payments, or if you’ve even reached the point where your license has been suspended, there are ways to get it back. Below is important information on license suspension laws, how much notice you have before license suspension, and what to do if you lose your license. 

How Far Behind in Child Support Before They Suspend Your License?

Your license will be suspended if you fall behind on child support payments, and the exact amount of money in arrears — or the delinquency threshold — depends on the laws of each state. In North Carolina and South Carolina, the delinquency thresholds are defined as follows:

  • North Carolina: Arrears of one month (one month of unpaid child support), or failure to comply with a subpoena 
  • South Carolina: Arrears of $500, and the obligor has not paid in 60 days 

Your license may also be suspended if you pay on time, but only make part of your agreed-upon payment. You can find laws for other states here.

What Happens If My License Is Suspended for Child Support Arrears?

If you know you have fallen behind on child support payments, you may be worrying: “When is the exact moment that my license suspension kicks in?” The suspension doesn’t happen until the county government has provided ample notice, which may follow the following process: 

  • Your county’s Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) contacts that Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to report child support arrears. 
  • The DMV sends you a letter warning you of the “intent to suspend” your license. 
  • Once you receive this letter, you have a set number of days to contact DCSS and catch up on child support payments before your license suspension. This could range anywhere from 10 to 150 days. In North Carolina, you have 14 days, and in South Carolina, you have 45 days.
  • If you do not contact DCSS and do not catch up on payments, your license will be suspended once your grace period ends.

The process above will happen for the suspension of a driver’s, professional, recreational, occupational, and business license. 

How Do I Get My License Back If I Owe Child Support?

The way to have your license reinstated is to catch up on child support payments. Once you’ve done that, contact DCSS and prove that you are up to date. One DCSS confirms that you are no longer in arrears, your license will be reinstated. 

If for some reason you cannot catch up on child support payments, you still need to contact DCSS and notify them of your extenuating circumstances. The court will review your case and determine if your child support agreement should be modified, or if you should enter into a payment agreement.

Get Help From Family Attorneys

There are many reasons why a non-custodial parent may fall behind on child support payments, such as losing a job or experiencing financial hardship. Situations like these may be further complicated by losing your license, making it harder to look for jobs or commute to work. No matter your situation, the compassionate family law attorneys at Collins Family Law Group are on your side. 
Our lawyers have extensive experience helping families navigate custody arrangements and everything that comes with them. If you’re unsure what to do once your license is suspended, our team can offer you legal counsel to help you get through any challenging situation. Contact Collins Family Law Group today to schedule a consultation.

Why People Have Emotional Affairs

With technology making it increasingly easy to connect and communicate with others discreetly, emotional affairs are on the rise in the United States. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy reports that 35% of women and 45% of men admit to having had an emotional affair before. In our fast-paced world where it’s easy to overlook what’s most important, neglected spouses turn to people outside of their marriage to fulfill unmet emotional needs. 

If you’re concerned that you or your spouse has become entangled in an emotional affair, use the information below to understand what’s going on and what you can do to save your marriage from divorce. Our compassionate attorneys at Collins Family Law Group can offer reliable legal advice and answer any questions you may have about complicated marital situations such as these.

What Is an Emotional Affair?

Many couples have different ideas about what constitutes an affair. Emotional affairs are a little easier to define, however, because they always involve a close, secret friendship outside of the marriage and the exchange of sensitive information. These elements are the distinguishing factors between an emotional affair and a platonic friendship. Once an individual starts giving and receiving more emotional support from a friend than from his or her spouse, that’s when it becomes an emotional affair. 

Emotional affairs aren’t inherently sexual in nature, but they can create romantic feelings that weren’t there before. These relationships usually start out innocently as a friendship, but the growing emotional intimacy can diminish the intimacy of the marriage and lead to physical infidelity, which happens more often than not — especially when a mutual attraction is also a factor in the friendship.

Warning Signs of an Emotional Affair

Emotional affairs can leave many heartbroken spouses feeling blindsided, but if you know what to look for in your spouse and in yourself, you can confront the problem earlier on, take steps to fix your relationship, and possibly avoid further heartache.

Signs That You Are Having an Emotional Affair

Sometimes, people end up in emotional affairs without even realizing it. You may be, too, if you meet two or more of the following criteria:

  • You believe that your friend knows you better than your spouse
  • Your friendship is a secret
  • You look forward to talking to them
  • You’re starting to spend less and less time with your spouse
  • You’re losing interest in intimacy with your partner
  • You daydream about them
  • You share your feelings with your friend more than with your spouse
  • You get defensive about the friendship when asked about it
  • You’ve given your friend gifts 
  • You’re withdrawing entirely from your husband/wife

Signs That Your Spouse May Be Having an Emotional Affair

Perhaps your spouse is the one you’re worried about being in an emotional affair. Don’t ignore these suspicions if your spouse:

  • Is more critical of you than usual
  • Tries to hide their phone or computer around you
  • Seems to be working longer hours than normal
  • Mentions their friend frequently
  • Starts to adopt the hobbies or opinions of the friend
  • Is withdrawing from you
  • Gets defensive or gaslights you when you confront them

Why Men and Women Have Emotional Affairs

Finding out about an emotional affair is devastating, but identifying the reason that it happened could potentially help you and your spouse to reverse the damage before your marriage is irreparable. Here are some of the reasons that people seek emotional affairs.

  • One spouse felt undervalued, overlooked, or not good enough for the other

A husband or wife could start to feel unappreciated for many reasons. Perhaps their spouse chooses work or other hobbies over spending time together. Maybe one spouse stops expressing appreciation for everything the other one does. Whatever the reason, humans have an innate need to be validated and listened to. If they aren’t getting that from their marriage, they may gravitate toward coworkers, neighbors, social media friends, or other people who are more freely giving of their attention.

  • One spouse feels sexually rejected by the other

Marriage therapists believe that physical intimacy goes hand-in-hand with emotional intimacy when it comes to healthy relationships. Once one spouse starts turning down sex, the other may feel deprived and/or rejected and begin to look in other places to fulfill the desire. The messages that were once innocent and friendly with the emotional affair may turn flirtatious and alluring, getting another step closer to a physical affair. 

  • The spouse in the emotional affair becomes bored with the marriage

Boredom in marriage happens due to emotional detachment, which can happen when one spouse is emotionally unavailable — whether busy with the kids, housework, other commitments, or mental health challenges — while the emotional affair is always there as a shoulder to cry on. 

How to Protect Your Marriage

Of course, every marriage is different, but all require open communication, trust, and honesty to work. Protect your marriage by doing a health check on your relationship regularly. What’s going well? What needs improvement? Do both spouses feel loved and appreciated and if not, why? How can the problem be solved? With regards to the “how,” many couples benefit from couple’s therapy. 

M. Gary Neuman, a licensed family counselor, wrote a book entitled Emotional Infidelity: How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship. In it, he suggests that married men and women avoid befriending individuals of the opposite sex. This could work in your marriage if it’s something to which you both agree, but many couples find this isolating. If this is the case for you and your partner, work extra hard on strengthening your own relationship.

In addition to marriage counseling, make time for a date night at least twice a month to keep your relationship alive. Engage in activities that you both love, to foster discussion, laughter, and joy — and don’t leave out the romance at the end of the night. Find time to talk daily and learn, if you haven’t already, how to best deal with marital conflict. Whatever the case may be for your marriage, do what feels good and right for the both of you.

When Divorce Is the Only Option

Sadly, some people become so deeply involved in their emotional affairs that they no longer have a desire to fix the marriage. If you feel that divorce is your only option, take it slowly and avoid rushing into a big decision that you might both regret later on. Talk out your feelings together and discuss whether anything can be done to salvage the marriage. 

If nothing can be done, Collins Family Law Group is here to help you work through the divorce process as quickly and painlessly as possible. Call us today for a consultation.

New Age Nesting

By Megan S. White

After seven years of marriage, Kristin Cavallari from the reality show, Very Cavallari, and former NFL quarterback, Jay Cutler announced their split in April. Kristin and Jay have three minor children: Camden (age 7), Jaxon (age 5), and Saylor (age 4). Originally, sources noted that the couple were arguing about where Kristin Cavallari would live after the split. Allegedly, Kristin had been looking at a 5-million-dollar estate since November of 2019 and the parties finally agreed for her to move forward with purchasing the home in exchange for splitting time with the children on a one week on and one week off basis.i The children will remain in the former marital residence while Kristin and Jay rotate in and out weekly. While this may seem a bit unusual, it is a growing trend in family law. 

“Nesting” is the idea that the minor children remain in the former marital residence while the parents alternate moving in and out of the house on a weekly or other basis. Many newly separated parents are opting to do this for several reasons including stability, familiarity, and consistency.

Parents are opting for this new idea of “nesting” to allow their children to feel more stable during the divorce. Historically, when parents divorced, children moved back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s house. While packing a bag for summer camp may be exciting, the idea of “packing up” each week becomes increasingly difficult when school, extracurricular activities, and life becomes involved. Alternating households can create extra stress on a child trying to remember to bring the math book, soccer cleats, and stuffed animal to Dad’s house. Many adults can handle the movement stress much better than their children and opt to take on that weight rather than their children carrying an additional burden. 

Often parents cite their reason for nesting as familiarity for their children. Notably, if a child has grown up in a certain home, the home can hold a significant place in that child’s heart. Anyone whose been around children will tell you that children become attached to their surroundings. Moving to a new house or apartment can be strenuous for a child while Mom and Dad go through a divorce. As you can imagine, divorce comes with a lot of change. Many parents elect to provide their child a secure and familiar place, while the parents seek other living arrangements. By nesting, the child or children can remain in their room and their neighborhood which many parents feel is the best option for their child or children’s needs. 

The final reason that parents are trying out this new method is consistency. Certainly, all parties and children are familiar with the former home and can keep a similar routine while working through the legal process. Many separated parents express concern about the lack of consistency their child is now experiencing due to the divorce. By allowing the children to remain in the home, parents feel that this allows consistency for their children. For example, the distance to school remains the same, the route to gymnastics class is the same, and the same neighbors live next door. The small things often establish a routine for children and can potentially help them navigate their parents’ divorce. 

Is nesting right for everyone? Absolutely not! Every family law attorney will tell you that each case is different and unique. We rarely ever get two cases that are alike. While nesting might be right for some families, for others… it simply doesn’t work. First, the expense of separating is financially difficult for many families. Turning one household into two creates a financial burden for many so imagine making that three households: mom’s, dad’s, and children’s. You very likely would be paying for your new home and part of the former martial residence. As a celebrity and athlete, Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler have the finances to make this work for them while the average American family would find this financially troublesome.  

Likewise, nesting may be a temporary solution for a family. In the long term, many parents can find that with work, family, and life – it’s difficult to move back and forth. Specifically, depending on your work schedule, it may not be feasible to operate with a nesting schedule especially if one parent travels or has varying hours. While Kristin and Jay are not working your typical 9-5 schedule, they likely have much more flexibility to operate on this schedule for their children. 

Finally, both parents have to be seriously committed to the nesting plan and have a strong co-parenting relationship for nesting to be successful. Imagine continuing to “share” a home with the person you have separated from because they are messy, inconsistent, or non-existent in general. Continuing to “share” a home may create more conflict and tension leaving both parties frustrated and overwhelmed. Presumably, this type of arrangement would not work for parties who have those issues.  

If you are separating or thinking of separating, nesting might be an option for you and your family just like the Cavallari/Cutler household. While this trend continues to grow in North Carolina, many families are finding it to be a viable option for their family. While there are certainly factors to consider, it may just be the new age of nesting.


i Kristin Cavallari, Jay Cutler reach custody agreement in ongoing divorce proceedings, report says
https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/kristin-cavallari-jay-cutler-custody-agreement-divorce

Do Empty Nesters Get Divorced?

Many parents eagerly await the day their last child moves out and they can refocus on themselves and each other. While this becomes a reality for many couples, “gray divorce” is on the rise. Divorce rates for people over 50 have doubled since 1990 and tripled for those over 65. With divorce rates on the rise, here are some of the reasons empty nesters are choosing to end their marriages. 

Reasons for Divorce Among Empty Nesters

Empty Nest Syndrome 

While it’s not a clinical diagnosis, empty nest syndrome is a common reality for many parents. You’ve raised your children to be independent adults and may even be excited about the idea of letting them “fly the coop.” But when the time comes, you may feel extreme sadness and a profound loss as your last child leaves the family home. 

Empty nest syndrome can be characterized by intense feelings of loss that can lead parents to further issues such as depression, alcoholism, identity crisis, and marital conflicts. Parents struggle to accept this new phase in their lives and tend to withdraw from friends, loved ones, and even their spouses. Since both parents don’t experience empty nest syndrome the same way — one parent may not experience it at all — this can drive a wedge into the marriage and lead to divorce. 

If you think you are dealing with symptoms of empty nest syndrome, there are a few things you can do to overcome this challenging time, including: 

  • Maintain strong contact with your children
  • Lean on other family and friends for support
  • Maintaining self-care
  • Focusing on your own hopes and dreams for the future 

Financial Issues 

Financial issues cause a big strain on any marriage, especially as we age since there is less time to recover from monetary misuse. Another problem arises as a result of one parent having stayed home with the children for years while the other parent was the main breadwinner. This situation causes a divide between spouses when it comes to spending and saving money, which can cause contention and lead to divorce. 

Growing Apart 

Empty Nest Divorce

After decades of caring for and raising children, you may find that you’ve grown apart from your spouse. Child-rearing takes a lot of time and focus and oftentimes parents stop putting effort into the marriage because the children take precedence. This is usually not intentional on either side but it becomes a problem when the children are gone and you feel like you’re living with a stranger

The feeling of growing apart is further exacerbated by empty nest syndrome, especially if one parent doesn’t seem to be affected by the situation. The sadness from an empty nest can also lead to depression, which can cause withdrawal and separation from the relationship. 

Lack of Common Interests 

If you struggled to nurture and maintain your marriage outside of raising children, you may find that you don’t have anything in common with your spouse anymore. The activities and hobbies you enjoyed together before kids may not be the same or might not be feasible with age. If spouses find they have nothing in common anymore, they often see little reason to stay together and choose to end the marriage instead of staying with someone they can’t connect to anymore. 

Staying for the Kids 

Staying in a marriage for the kids isn’t always the best option but divorce is hard on every member of the family, which is why many parents choose to stick it out for the sake of the children. Once the kids move out and the couple finds themselves alone again, many parents decide it is finally time to end the marriage. Without the joint effort of raising children and maintaining the family home, empty nesters are likely to head for divorce in their later years. 

Rise in Infidelity 

No kids in the home, a lack of common interests, and growing apart can all lead to infidelity after parents become empty nesters. In fact, reports from Ashley Madison, an online dating app for people already married or in relationships, indicated that roughly 50% of their members joined the site after one or more children moved out. The drastic change from a full house to an empty nest can lead people to seek comfort and excitement outside the marriage and — when revealed — increases divorce rates in empty nesters. 

Are You Facing an Empty Nest Divorce? 

If your children have flown the coop and you’ve realized your marriage won’t last, Collins Family Law Group can help you with the divorce process. Our legal professionals have extensive experience with divorce, property and debt division, spousal support, and more. You’ve spent decades raising your children and you deserve to make your golden years the best they can be. Get in touch with Collins Family Law Group in North and South Carolina today to start discussing your empty nester divorce options. 

The Right Fit

By Megan S. White

One of my new addictions on Netflix is “Selling Sunset” which is based in sunny California. If you’ve never tuned in, the show is based on an all-female real estate agency that sells million dollar mansions in Los Angeles to the rich and famous. It’s addicting if you aren’t careful-so be warned! One of the most interesting episodes is when a client interviews two real estate agents and then picks the one she feels would best suit her needs in finding the perfect L.A. hide-a-way on the Sunset Strip. The episode made me think about how imperative it is to find the best attorney and team to meet your legal needs. 

On Selling Sunset, the “client” asked both real estate agents what their style was for selling homes which was a very thought-provoking question and eventually helped her choose the perfect real estate agent. Asking your potential attorney a similar question can help you identify what your attorney values as vital and how they can lead and counsel you during the divorce or custody action. During our consultations at Collins Family Law Group, you have the opportunity to ask questions and speak directly to your potential attorney. Often you will also meet our staff members and paralegals so you know who your support team is during the process. 

Additionally, when you retain an attorney, you will likely sign an agreement with the firm or attorney you hire. It is imperative to read through the agreement and ask any questions you may have because you have very likely never hired at attorney before. Each firm operates differently so knowing what each firm requires can help you navigate what firm is the right one for you. Understanding filing fees, payment, billable hours, etc. can further help you understand how the process works and the financial aspect to your case. During your consultation, you will have the opportunity to ask these questions and read through the agreement prior to hiring the firm. 

It is so critical to be comfortable with your attorney because let’s be honest, divorce and custody can be messy and vulnerable at times. You want to be able to speak freely and openly with your attorney about any concerns or issues you are facing. We are on your side and want to help you work through it. Collins Family Law Group provides you with email and phone access to your attorney, paralegal, and staff members so you have the ability to contact them when needs or controversy arises. Feeling a connection to your attorney and team will make you feel much more serene while working through your case. Our goal as attorneys is to help you understand the law and relieve some of the stress that inevitably comes with a life change. Much like the real estate world, you want to feel comfortable with your attorney and plans moving forward. 

Finally, you want an attorney who is professional. On another episode of Selling Sunset, one agent wasn’t prepared for a showing which created a lot of television drama, as you can imagine. However, it is a crucial point to highlight. You want your attorney to act and conduct themselves in a professional manner as they are speaking on your behalf, especially before a Judge. Sadly, I’ve been in Court and watched other attorney’s clients look embarrassed as their attorney speaks out of turn to a Judge or is late to a hearing. Trust your gut on this one. Professionalism shines through in your attorney and the firm they represent. So, choose carefully. 

Selecting an attorney to handle your needs can be a daunting process but it doesn’t have to be. With the right attorney and firm, you can move confidently to help resolve your case. So, whether you are buying a million dollar house on Sunset Strip or navigating your way through the legal system, make sure you have the right guide.