Get the legal help you need!
(704) 289-3250
Request a Consultation
Contact
Us Today

How to Get a Court Order for Child Support

When you’re going through a divorce or are unmarried with a child, the child support process can be difficult to navigate. Regardless of relationship status, having a court order for child support usually makes the process easier for both parents, and ensures the child or children get the financial support they deserve. 

Rather than face a child support agreement on your own, you can get help from Collins Family Law to help you understand what court-ordered child support is, and how it is accessed. 

What Is Court-Ordered Child Support?

When child support is ordered by the court, it means that a judge from the family court has set specific parameters for child support payments. The judge determines which parent will pay child support, how much they will pay per child or children, and how often payments need to be made. 

If a judge does not finalize a support order, it is not considered court-ordered child support. 

Getting a Court Order for Child Support 

To get a child support order assigned by the court, you’ll need to be in one of two situations: 

  • An unmarried parent seeking support from the other parent 
  • A married couple getting divorced when a child/children (18 or younger) are involved 

Unmarried Parents 

If you are filing for child support as an unmarried parent, you will need to file to establish paternity unless the other parent agrees the child is theirs. From there, you’ll need to file an Application for Support. With that form filled out, you’re ready to take your paperwork to the family court clerk to get the forms filed and the process started. 

Divorcing Parents 

Couples that are going through a divorce usually have their child support case handled in family court as part of the divorce process. This makes it easier to get a child support order, especially when the parents can’t agree on the support arrangements. 

Child Support Agencies 

Keep in mind that the process of getting a child support order may vary from state to state. However, most states have a child support agency that provides services around unpaid child support. These agencies do require a child support order before they can help with non-payment issues, but most will help you get court-ordered child support in order for you to use their services. 

How to Check if You Have an Existing Child Support Order 

In most states, the parent that is being requested to pay child support must be served a notice of the filing, This means that you should be served with a copy of the support request, either from a Sheriff’s deputy or through certified mail, and you’ll have 30 days from receipt to respond with your answer to the court. 

If you think there is a pending child support case against you but you haven’t received the notice yet, you may be able to contact your county clerk’s office to check whether there is a child support case in your name. 

Can You Pay Child Support Without a Court Order 

If you want to pay child support without a court order, you absolutely can. Most courts agree that both parents are responsible for supporting their child, so it is never wrong to pay child support without a court order. 

If you and the other parent can agree to child support terms, including how much to pay and how often, you can most forward without court-ordered support. However, not having a good relationship with the other parent typically makes it more difficult to come to an agreement or make future modifications. Of all the child support cases in the U.S., only 12.9% are done without a court order due to their negotiation difficulty; so, it is better to go with court-ordered child support when possible. 

Use the Collins Family Law Child Support Calculator to help you determine how much you should reasonably expect to pay in North or South Carolina. 

[these buttons should link to the calculator pages we previously wrote]

You can pay child support without a court order, but we always recommend going through family court to make sure the process is fair for both parties and most importantly, that the child/children get the support they need. 

Get Help With a Child Support Order 

If you are dealing with child support issues or need help getting a child support order, the lawyers at Collins Family Law will be happy to take your side. We specialize in child support law and work hard to ensure child support orders are fair, balanced, and put the children first. Contact our lawyers in North or South Carolina to get the child support assistance you need.  

Landmark Decision: Constitutionality of 50B’s Exclusion of Same-Sex Dating Partners

By Rebecca (Becky) Watts 

M.E. v. T.J., decided North Carolina Court of Appeals, December 31, 2020 (Constitutionality of 50B’s exclusion of same-sex dating partners)

In 1979, the North Carolina General Assembly added a chapter to our General Statutes to “provide remedies for domestic violence.” In these newly created domestic violence statutes, remedies were available to you if an act of domestic violence had been committed upon you by a past or present spouse or by a person of the opposite sex with whom you lived as if married. In other words, relief was available only to those who were or had been in a marital or marriage-like relationship with a member of the opposite sex. In 1995, perhaps recognizing that there were other types of domestic relationships in which violence was a problem, the General Assembly amended N.C.G.S. §50B-1 and provided an avenue for relief for those who suffered acts of domestic violence in situations involving parent/child relationships, grandparent/grandchild relationships, and relationships between parties who were unmarried but had a child together. The qualifying relationships all constituted a type of “familial relationship.” In 1997, the General Assembly again amended N.C.G.S. §50B-1 to expand the categories of relationships that would qualify a person for relief under Chapter 50B. At this point, the qualification of relationship types was changed from “familial relationship” to “personal relationship” so as to include “current or former household members” and “persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or who have been in a dating relationship.” While the addition of dating relationships to the category of relationships qualified you for relief under Chapter 50B, this addition explicitly excluded relief for those in a same-sex dating relationship.

The current codification of N.C.G.S. §50B-1 still limits the dating relationship qualification to members of opposite-sex couples. It’s under this current codification that M.E. sought a protective order against T.J. in 2018. M.E. and T.J., both women, were in a dating relationship, but had never lived together. After the end of the parties’ relationship, M.E. sought a 50B protective order against T.J. In her complaint for 50B relief, M.E. alleged that after she informed T.J. that the relationship was over, T.J. was physically violent toward her and also committed otherwise threatening actions against her. After being informed by the Court that she would not qualify for relief under Chapter 50B, M.E. also filed a complaint seeking relief pursuant to Chapter 50C. After she filed her 50C complaint, M.E. filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of her 50B complaint. At some point after that, the voluntary dismissal form was a stricken through diagonally, and a handwritten note was added saying that M.E. did not actually want to dismiss the 50B action. The amended form was then file stamped again.

At the ex parte hearing, M.E. argued for 50B relief or, in the alternative, for 50C relief; the trial court denied Chapter 50B relief, but granted Chapter 50C relief. In its orders, the trial court noted that the only reason 50B relief was not being granted was that the parties were in a same-sex relationship and so did not qualify under the relationship standard in the statute, but that due to the significant allegations of domestic violence, had the parties met the relationship standard the trial court would have granted 50B relief.

At the return hearing, M.E. again asked for relief under 50B, arguing that the statute’s exclusion of same-sex dating partners is unconstitutional. The trial court dismissed M.E.’s 50B complaint, and in the dismissal order, noted the action was being dismissed because the parties’ relationship did not meet the statutory definition of personal relationship necessary for relief under 50B but that if the relationship did meet the statutory definition, the court would have granted 50B relief. The trial court further noted that the General Assembly had made amendments to Chapter 50B after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, but that they chose not to amend the personal relationship section to add same-sex dating partners. The trial court then entered a 50C order. M.E. appealed from the trial court’s dismissal of her 50B claim.

In a 92-page opinion, the Court of Appeals analyzed the constitutionality of 50B-1(b)(6). In its analysis, the Court stated that the clear intent of the General Assembly was to exclude victims of domestic violence from seeking relief pursuant to Chapter 50B if they and their abusive partners are of the same sex and that a denial of relief solely on the basis of the same-sex nature of the relationship serves no governmental interest. Therefore, the Court held that this provision of the statute is unconstitutional and that, going forward, 50B-1(b)(6) shall be read as stating: “Are persons who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.”

Judge Tyson dissented. In his dissent, Judge Tyson indicated that he did not believe the Court had jurisdiction to hear the appeal because M.E. voluntary dismissed her 50B claim. Judge Tyson further said that the attempt to strike through the dismissal was ineffective and M.E. would have needed to either file a new 50B complaint or file a motion to set aside the voluntary dismissal. Additionally, Judge Tyson noted that Rule 19(d) of our Rules of Civil Procedure require that the Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the N.C. Senate be joined in any action in which the constitutionality of a North Carolina Statute is challenged.

Update #1: On January 11, 2021, the defendant-appellee filed a notice of appeal with the N.C. Supreme Court based upon the dissent, so they will now determine whether the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

Update #2: On January 28, 2021, House Bill 33 was introduced. This Bill amends 50B-1(b)(2) and 50B-1(b)(6) to remove the “opposite sex” language from the statute.  You can keep up with the status of this Bill here: https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2021/H33FEBRUARY 11, 2021/

Five Mistakes to Avoid in Life After Divorce for Men

Five Mistakes to Avoid in Life After Divorce for Men

Sometimes, divorce is a much-needed relief from a toxic relationship. Other times, it can be a life-altering catastrophe that ends in heartbreak. Movies tend to portray women as the ones who experience most of the emotional distress, while men are often depicted as being hardened and unphased by the ending of the marriage. The reality is that women initiate 69% of divorces, according to a sociologist at Stanford University, and the pain of divorce for men is often worse than it is for women. 

How men handle divorce affects the course of the rest of their lives. Here, we’ll talk about life after divorce for men and how they can avoid common mistakes that lead to suffering during an important recovery period.

Mistake #1: Going Into Isolation

Mens’ behavior after divorce can be self-destructive. Without their wives to lean on, many men find it difficult to know who to turn to for love and support. They tend to push away their friends and family members to save face and protect their pride, opting to isolate themselves and lick their wounds in private. In doing so, they cause themselves needless feelings of depression and loneliness that can lead to substance abuse disorders. 

Instead of being alone, a newly-divorced man should immerse himself in the company of good people. This is the opportune time to reconnect with long-lost friends, return to college, join support groups, participate in community activities, join fitness clubs, and expand one’s professional network. 

Spend plenty of time with your family — whether it be your parents, siblings, grandparents or children or whoever else you feel comfortable with. These people don’t expect you to act or put on a brave face and they have already seen you at your worst. They are your biggest cheerleaders, and they will build you up during this trying time in your life.

Mistake #2: Reentering the Dating Game Too Soon

One of the most common coping mechanisms used by men after divorce to heal from a painful divorce is to find new companionship. You thought you were done forever with dating, so it can be exciting to jump back into the world of dating again. 

Sadly, divorcees often find that replacing a lost relationship with casual dating isn’t nearly as fulfilling as their marriage was. A rebound relationship can be fun for a time, but eventually the thrill wears off and you’re left wanting something deeper — and thinking of the relationship from which you haven’t healed. Worse, you could end up compounding your pain by marrying again too soon, only to end up divorcing faster than you did the first time.

Instead of rushing into the dating scene, give yourself time to grieve. As with all wounds, your heartache will heal with time. Find a therapist to help you work through the five stages of grief until you find yourself feeling at peace. Look for other ways to engage your mind as you work through the hardship. This could mean taking up a hobby you gave up when you got married, spending more time with your children, throwing yourself into your job, or whatever else helps you pass the time.

Mistake #3: Avoiding Court Orders and Alimony Payments

Some men try to wish away reality by ignoring court orders and avoiding alimony payments. Doing this doesn’t help you heal. Instead, it puts you in contempt of court, which could mean big trouble — usually in the form of fines or even jail time. Ignoring court orders also causes you to lose any input you might otherwise have had in your divorce. 

Even though it hurts, you must respond to court orders and pay alimony and/or child support payments. If you have a change of circumstance, such as a significant loss of income, there’s a good chance that you may be able to work with the court to modify the agreement.

Mistake #4: Following the Same Routine as You Did While Married

When you get divorced, your entire life changes, and you will need to adapt accordingly. But at the same time, your protective instincts will also kick in, and you’ll probably be inclined to keep your lifestyle the same as it was when you were married, in an attempt to maintain some sense of normalcy. Not only is this not helpful — it also keeps you from healing and progressing. 

You need to start changing your life immediately for the sake of your sanity. Changes can be as simple as getting a new haircut to symbolize a new life, or finding a nice apartment for yourself. Eventually, you’ll also need to adjust your budget to accommodate a new lifestyle and arrange a visitation schedule with your children, if you aren’t the custodial parent.

Mistake #5: Trying to Handle the Divorce By Yourself

Now that you’re single again, you have to look out for your best interests because your spouse is no longer going to do that for you. The best way to make sure your interests are protected is to hire a divorce lawyer. A divorce attorney can help you navigate the complexities of divorce and help you move on with life. Contact our experienced and compassionate team at Collins Family Law Group for a case consultation today and start living again after your divorce.

The Stages of Emotional Affairs

It is commonly accepted that, when it comes to extramarital affairs, there are two main kinds of cheating: physical cheating and emotional cheating. The word “cheating” makes most people assume that sexual relations occurred, but emotional cheating can be even more damaging to a marriage than sex. It’s common for people who have fallen into an emotional affair to have difficulty recognizing their infidelity, or to use the lack of a physical relationship to excuse their actions.


In this article, we will discuss why women and men have emotional affairs, the stages of emotional affairs, and what makes them so damaging. We hope that this information will help you and your spouse avoid unnecessary heartache.

Defining an Emotional Affair

Before we discuss how it all begins, we first need to establish what an emotional affair is. Emotional affairs are characterized by a strong emotional bond between two people who hide their relationship for fear of hurting their spouse or partner. While emotional affairs don’t begin with a physical aspect, they can certainly become physical over time. 

Emotional affairs are very intimate in nature. They involve a great deal of trust, companionship, intimacy, and support from someone who is not your partner, which is why these affairs can be much harder for your spouse to forgive than a physical affair. But do emotional affairs ever stop? The reality is that those who choose not to nurture their marriage will not likely be able to sustain a long-term relationship with their affair partner, either, and that relationship will also meet its demise. 

Today, emotional affairs are much more common than they once were, due to the wide availability of social media and the rise in wireless communications. This is why marital partners must be all the more vigilant in protecting their bond.

Read on to find out how marriages can go downhill due to emotional affairs.

Stage 1 — You realize something is missing between you and your spouse.

The majority of emotional affairs begin when one spouse feels underappreciated or inadequate, whether it’s because the two of you are arguing more frequently, spending less time together, or simply not providing each other with enough validation. Whatever the case, this makes the other person feel the need to gain this validation elsewhere. 

If you or your spouse has a friend at work or at the gym, the emotional affair might begin when you start talking to them more regularly and begin confiding in this person about your marital relationship. It may seem innocent enough at first, but eventually, you may notice yourself getting butterflies when that friend makes flattering comments or wants to start talking more regularly over text or social media. This leads into stage two.

Stage 2 — You become dependent on your extramarital friendship and hide it from your spouse.

By this point, you rely on your new friendship to get through the day. You look forward to your encounters and text conversations with this person and start placing this friendship above your marriage. It’s now more important to you to maintain this friendship than it does to work on your marriage, and so you start to hide it. You start justifying it to yourself with lines like, “We’re just talking. We aren’t doing anything wrong.”  But once you’ve started to deceive your spouse and change your priorities, your emotional affair has begun, whether you accept it as such or not.

Stage 3 — You feel guilty and start to realize you’re doing something wrong.

At stage three, your desire to keep your emotional affair alive is met with equal desire not to hurt your partner. You start feeling guilty, which causes the emotional affair to feel threatened by the prospect of you returning to your marriage. They start making desperate attempts to keep you from going back to your spouse, whether it’s a proposal of sex or attempting to establish a relationship with your husband or wife. 

At this point, you either break down and come clean to your partner and reconcile, or you give into the emotional affair, which then becomes a full-blown affair. If you’ve chosen the latter, the emotional partner is now so attached and invested in your relationship that they probably won’t be satisfied with being your secret anymore. They will then pressure you to divorce your partner in order to be with them.

What to Do If You’re Considering Divorce

This is a delicate time that will determine the course of your future, so it’s critical to deeply reflect on what’s important to you, and what your role was in the disintegration of your relationship. 

By now, it’s likely been a long time since you’ve taken the time to talk openly and honestly with your partner about your feelings and what has gone wrong. Did you make an adequate effort to find out why your spouse was less interested in intimacy? Was there perhaps an emotional need that you were not filling that caused this disconnect? 

Even if the dissolution of your marriage wasn’t your fault, it’s worth putting in the effort to reconcile with the person for whom you took vows. The solution to your marital problems could be quite simple, so consider seeking counseling and avoid ultimatums with your spouse. 

What to Do If You Cannot Reconcile

Unfortunately, some people are simply not meant to be together with their whole lives — and that’s okay. It’s often better for you to be apart when this is the case. Whether you’re separating because your spouse cannot forgive the affair, or because of irreconcilable differences, you need the services of a skilled divorce lawyer. An attorney can remove the emotional burden from the situation so you can heal and move on with life.

Collins Family Law Group has years of experience handling painful divorce situations. We know what it takes to reach a peaceful resolution and minimize the heartache for everyone involved. Contact us today for a consultation to find out how we can help you proceed with your divorce swiftly and with as little anguish as possible.

How to Tell Your Kids You’re Getting a Divorce

The thought of telling your kids about your impending divorce may be gut-wrenching, but it’s a conversation that must happen. Be assured — if you handle the conversation tactfully, you can minimize the pain for everyone involved. Having been instrumental in many divorce cases, Collins Family Law Group knows the strategies that work best with children. Here, we share our advice on how to tell kids about divorce.

Make Sure They Hear The News From You

If you don’t know how to tell your children about your divorce, it can be tempting to turn the responsibility over to someone else, such as a counselor, close friend, or family member. Resist this urge; it is imperative that you and/or your ex personally deliver the news of your separation or divorce to your kids. If they overhear it from someone else, you lose control over the narrative and miss out on a critical trust-building opportunity.

Plan What You’re Going to Say

Start with a script of what you plan to tell the kids and sit down together as a family. It is not necessary to tell your children the details about why you are separating, and they probably won’t even remember what you told them anyway. What they will remember, however, is how you reacted during this conversation and how you made them feel.

Eliminate the Blame From the Narrative

If betrayal is the cause of your divorce, it can be overwhelmingly tempting to assign blame to the other parent and explain to the children that the divorce is their mother or father’s fault. While you might want to tell your children the truth about what happened, it’s not healthy to poison your kids against your ex. They will feel caught in a loyalty bind between the two of you, which will create unnecessary heartache. 

You can still tell them the truth of the situation, but try to opt for broader phrases that omit the details, such as, “We aren’t happy together,” or, “We haven’t been able to sort out our differences.” This eliminates the hostile narrative and keeps the peace among family members.

Be Upfront About What’s Happening and How Things Will Change

Once you deliver the news, it’s likely that your children will have a multitude of questions. Kids thrive on schedules and consistency, so it is important for them to know exactly what will remain the same and what they can expect to change. They will want to know who will be leaving the home, when they will get to see each parent, and so on. 

Be transparent with your kids about what these changes will look like for their lives. No matter what happens or who lives where, your children need to know that one thing will always remain the same — they are loved and adored by both of their parents.

Remind Them That It’s Not Their Fault

Remind your kids that being a human is inherently hard and messy. Help them understand that people aren’t perfect and that sometimes, couples are not meant to be together forever. Most importantly, you should emphasize that, while there will be some big upcoming changes for everyone, the divorce does not mean you love your kids any less, or that they could have done anything to prevent your separation.

Lend Support, Love, and Reassurance

There is no right or wrong way to react to the news of a divorce. The lives of your children are about to change drastically, and with those big changes come monumental emotions. At the end of your conversation, let your kids know they are loved and that their feelings are normal and valid. Talk to them about how it’s okay to feel sad, mad, heartbroken, confused, and scared; but also reassure them that you will still support one another as a family.

Understand That Kids Are Resilient

Finally, take a deep breath and trust in the resilience of your children. As long as they are loved by you, there is nothing they can’t handle. While it feels like your worlds are falling apart, you and your kids will eventually establish a new normal, with new routines, new favorite ice cream shops, new favorite activities — all the good things in life. While you may not all live under the same roof anymore, you can always be a team.

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.