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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. 

Can a Child Sue a Parent for Back Child Support?

Can a Child Sue a Parent for Back Child Support?

Child support is meant to act as financial support for the custodial parent raising the child. But, sometimes the non-custodial parent doesn’t pay all of the funds they are ordered to pay. As the years pass, those outstanding payments can add up and turn into back child support.  

In some cases, the custodial parent or their child can sue the parent who owes the child support. There are a few different conditions to keep in mind in order to sue someone for back child support. 

What is Back Child Support?

Back child support is the past-due court-ordered payments that a parent failed to pay on time. It is also called child support arrears. Typically, the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support until their child is considered an adult. Any unpaid child support owed to the custodial parent before that time is back child support. 

The age at which a child is no longer considered an adult varies from state to state. It is usually between 18 and 21, or when the child finishes high school. Procedures for handling back child support also vary across state lines. For example, some states have a statute of limitations for back child support. The amount of time for the statute of limitations is different between states. It’s best to contact a local law firm to learn about any limitations on child support in your particular state of residence. 

Can I Sue My Father or Mother for Back Child Support? 

If there are unpaid back child support payments, the custodial parent who was awarded support usually has the right to collect on those payments. This is generally the case even after the child is considered a legal adult. The custodial parent will need to file a court order to collect the outstanding payments, and they will have to meet any legal requirements to be eligible for those payments, including filing within the statute of limitations. 

Even if the non-custodial parent does not have the necessary money for the payments, the court order ensures that the debtor will pay once they earn the money in the future. Some states also pay back child support up-front, and then pursue that the debt is repaid. 

There is one circumstance where a child can sue a parent for back child support. The child must be a court-appointed representative of his or her custodial parent’s estate. This can be the case if the custodial parent passes away and wills their estate to their child. If a child is not a representative of the parent’s estate, they are not able to sue the non-custodial parent for back child support. 

If the child is not a court-appointed representative of their parent’s estate, they will not be able to personally sue for back child support. In some states, any payments that are made directly to an adult child is considered a gift and does not count toward back child support payments. 

Child Support Agreement with a gavel and glasses on a table

Things to Keep in Mind When Suing a Parent for Back Child Support

If a custodial parent intends to sue the other parent for back child support, or the child who is a representative of their parent’s estate sues, there are some steps that must be taken. First, there needs to be a previous court-ordered judgement for child support payments, and there must be outstanding payments. 

The court order for child support needs to be in place before the child becomes an adult or is emancipated. Plus, paternity needs to be established before the child reaches adulthood. Because of the statute of limitations that exist in some states, it is best to file a case for back child support sooner rather than later. 

If you intend to file a lawsuit against a non-custodial parent that is in arrears on child support, it’s best to seek legal help from a professional firm. A family law attorney will be able to prepare your case so you have the best chance at getting the payments you are owed. 

Why Men Struggle So Severely With Divorce

The writing is on the wall and sadly, both spouses concede that their marriage is not able to survive. Who is going to find adapting to life after divorce the most difficult — ex-husband or ex-wife? For a number of reasons, men and women do experience divorce differently. Research indicates life after divorce for men is more traumatic than it is for women, taking a more significant emotional toll as well as sparking physical deterioration. Women file for divorce 70% of the time, and when it’s a shock, with no time to prepare — that has a marked impact on how men handle divorce. 

Women put work into being able to cope with grief

During marriage, women tend to foster more relationships with family and friends based on deep emotional connections than men. Thus, when divorce happens, there is a support network in place to help them grieve and recover. Many men, on the other hand, come to the abrupt realization that it was their spouse who invested the lion’s share of work into maintaining relationships during the marriage — and now those connections are justifiably retained by her and lost to him. 

Men are also notoriously less likely to seek professional help. They bottle their emotions, believing that talking about their feelings or shedding tears makes them somehow “less of a man.” Thirty percent of men who live alone haven’t seen a physician within the past year and 42% don’t have a regular physician. “Toxic masculinity” — a term for harmful stereotypes about what it means to be a man — affects men’s mental, physical, emotional, and relationship health, and often contributes to them being afraid to ask for help from friends, family, physicians, or qualified therapists.

Men don’t get to see their children as often as they’re used to 

A deep-cutting  pain of divorce for men is the inability to see their children each morning, evening, or on weekends as they were accustomed to while married. Usually, the children’s mother is granted primary custody, and the man is granted limited time as part of a custody schedule. The new, dreaded reality is becoming a “weekend dad.” 

The time away from children provides men more time to dwell on the significant changes in their lives, while the responsibility of taking care of the children means mothers are able to be distracted and stay occupied. Anxiety can build in men as they worry about missing out on their children’s events and milestones, and losing the ability to help their children grow up with their dad constantly at their side. 

Men’s health declines after divorce

Divorce impacts men’s health more than women. While women lean on support networks, go to work, and stay busy raising the children as the primary custodian, for men, there is a void they did not see coming. After divorce, there is no longer a partner there to encourage healthy habits or discuss everyday concerns. The aforementioned longer grieving period means men’s day-to-day activities become more sedentary and healthy routines fall by the wayside.

Men are more than twice as likely to suffer from post-divorce depression than women. Anxiety and hypertension are common in men after divorce, which can result in substance abuse and in the worst cases, suicide. Ten divorced men commit suicide in the U.S. each day. When poor mental health translates into a lack of will to eat properly and exercise adequately, post-divorce physical health risks can manifest in the form of cardiovascular disease and sometimes cancer.

Men must meet financial obligations 

Meeting strict financial obligations is a primary source of stress for men after divorce. Both ex-spouses take a loss, but typically, men suffer a larger hit to their standard of living than women — between 10 and 40% — due to alimony and child support responsibilities, the need for a separate place to live, an extra set of household furniture and other expenses. And it is worse for men who provided less than 80% of the family’s income. These men have been shown to have a much tougher time making up for lost income. 

Sad unhappy man sitting on the sofa and holding his forehead

New relationships only patch the heartbreak

Divorce grief is dealt with differently by men and women. Women, so often the instigators of divorce, can be more ready for a fresh life. Men’s behavior after divorce can set them up for years of hurt. When despairing men are stunned by recent divorce, it is common for them to be afraid to be alone, and so they rush into new relationships. The hurt from the divorce is never properly or professionally dealt with, causing new “replacement” relationships to subsequently fail

Divorced men: You will never regret reaching out for help

If you are a man who feels intimidated by the concept of divorce and are not sure how to cope or structure your future, we invite you to contact Collins Family Law Group. We know how to provide the assistance you need to transition to a happy and fulfilled life post-marriage.

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting: Pros & Cons

After a divorce or separation from your partner, one of your top priorities is to establish the best parenting situation for your children. Yet, maintaining an amicable relationship with your ex is easier said than done. How do you realistically co-parent when there is tension and conflict between you and the other parent of your child?

If you share custody with your ex-spouse, co-parenting and parallel parenting are two methods that can decrease conflict while providing the best care for children. Understanding the difference between co-parenting vs. parallel parenting can help you make the best decision for you and your child.  

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is when two parents who are no longer in a marriage or romantic relationship choose to raise their child together. Both parents share equal responsibility for the child’s upbringing. The child is encouraged to maintain a relationship with both parents, and usually splits their time with the two parents. 

In co-parenting, parents maintain some sort of cordial relationship. That could be a friendship, or it could just mean that the two parents are civil with each other when communicating about their child. Co-parenting does not necessarily mean that there is no conflict between the two parents, but the conflict should not interfere with the child or the child’s relationship with either parent. 

Benefits of Co-Parenting

Co-parenting is often the preferred parenting style for divorced parents because of the numerous benefits. Pros include:

  • The child builds a positive relationship with both parents.
  • Minimization the risk of parentification, during which a child takes on the role of an adult and assumes responsibility to keep the peace between parents.
  • The child does not feel as if they must choose between the two parents. They are able to spend holidays and special occasions with both parents.
  • There is a sense of stability for the child.

Tips When Co-Parenting

Build the healthiest environment for your child by keeping these tips in mind when co-parenting. 

  • Talk about issues or questions directly with the other parent rather than relying on the child to be the messenger.
  • Maintain a cordial relationship with the other parent. Avoid expressing anger or ill feelings about the other parent in front of the child.
  • Keep essential and duplicate items at each parent’s home so the child doesn’t have to pack as much when switching between homes.
  • Be positive, or at least neutral, about the child’s visit with their other parent.
  • Let the child have some control of the “parenting time,” which is the time they spend with each parent. This is especially important as the child grows older and has other commitments or wants to spend time with friends.
  • Support the child’s time with friends rather than making the child feel guilty. Do not tell them their time with friends is not as important as their time with you. 

When co-parenting, both parents must be supportive and respectful of the other parent’s right to a good relationship with their child. However, this can seem almost impossible for some ex-spouses. In those scenarios, parallel parenting is the next best option.

mother in a car looker at her son with er ex husband.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is similar to co-parenting, but the separated parents limit direct contact. This method works best for high-conflict families where parents are not able to communicate without escalating tension. Many recently divorced parents choose to participate in parallel parenting, although they might switch to a co-parenting model as time passes and conflict subsides between the two parents. 

Under the parallel parenting model, parents usually divide decision-making so they don’t have to meet and discuss the day-to-day aspects of parenting. Parents also have the freedom to make their own rules and parent in their own way. Parallel parenting is an excellent alternative to co-parenting in custody cases where the judge does not have a basis to decide which parent should have primary custody. However, parallel parenting is not appropriate for situations where there is family violence and either the child’s or a parent’s safety is at risk. 

Benefits of Parallel Parenting

There are several reasons divorced parents choose parallel parenting over co-parenting. These are some of the benefits. 

  • Decreases child’s exposure to parental conflict.
  • Each parent can adhere to their own parenting rules.
  • The child can establish healthy relationships with both parents.

Tips When Parallel Parenting

Even if you aren’t on speaking terms with your ex, you can make sure your child has the support and love they deserve as they grow. These are some tips to make parallel parenting work. 

  • Create a very specific initial parenting plan in order to limit direct communication with the other parent.
  • Do not depend on the child to pass information between you and the other parent.
  • Stick to the parenting schedule. If changes are necessary, make sure there is a written agreement. 
  • Use a parent communication notebook so parents can explain the child’s emotions, behaviors, and other important information when the child is in their care.
  • Ask a third party to be present if you need to meet face-to-face with the other parent to discuss important decisions, including school, religion, and medical care.

When comparing co-parenting vs. parallel parenting, it’s important to remember that both require cooperation and communication. Parents need to be able to establish clear boundaries with each other in order to avoid conflict. Studies have shown that conflict between parents causes the most pain for children after their parents separate. 

Parents should also not encourage their child to choose sides. Children that have positive relationships with both parents are more likely to have better psychological and behavioral adjustment. They are also more likely to achieve higher academic performance than children whose parents are constantly in conflict. 

Your local family law attorney can help answer any questions you have about child custody, or help you prepare your case. For more information about child custody, read the article Child Custody: Tips of What to Do.

North Carolina Postnuptial Agreement Laws

North Carolina Postnuptial Agreement Laws

When you’re madly in love with your spouse, you probably aren’t thinking about what you’d do if you parted ways with him or her one day — but you should be. Planning for the future through a postnuptial agreement gives you peace of mind if your relationship turns sour down the road and ensures that you’re both financially protected.

Although postnuptial agreements have a negative stigma attached to them, they are excellent tools that can prevent the bitterness of divorce and help you avoid making decisions in the future out of anger, vengeance, or animosity toward your spouse. Read on to find out how postnuptial agreement laws in NC can protect your assets — and maybe even your marriage — when you’re considering a separation or a divorce.

What Is a Postnuptial Agreement and Who Needs One?

Postnups Versus Prenups and Separation Agreements

It’s likely that you’ve heard of prenuptial and separation agreements before. These documents outline the division of a couple’s assets before they enter into marriage and after they’ve made the decision to separate. A postnuptial agreement is different in that it can be enacted during the marriage while the couple is still living together or has separated and is deciding between divorce and reconciliation. (If the couple has already decided to divorce, they will enter into a separation agreement.) 

Postnups leave the door open for the couple to make amends and clarifies each spouse’s financial rights in case they aren’t able to patch their relationship. When properly drafted, the agreement summarizes property division matters surrounding personal and marital assets as well as spousal support, should the marriage end in divorce.

Everyone Can Benefit From a Postnup

At one point or another, all couples argue about money, especially when a marriage is faced with an abrupt change in financial standing and the two partners have different opinions about how to handle their finances. Nobody enters into a marriage thinking they’re ever going to separate, but it never hurts to have a postnuptial agreement to establish each spouse’s monetary rights after the separation. Having a written and legalized plan to settle financial disputes before they ever arise can reduce the strain on a relationship, increase the speed of divorce proceedings, or even strengthen a marital bond.

What Does a Postnuptial Agreement Do?

Allows for Prenup Revisions

Some couples enter their marriage under the protection of a prenuptial agreement and later experience an influx of wealth — a small inheritance or unexpected success in business, for example. A prenup only accounts for the assets obtained before marriage. In this situation, a postnup can be used to redefine the terms of the prenup to account for this newfound wealth. 

Other couples enter a marriage without any kind of plan for dividing their assets in the event of a separation, and when their financial standing changes, they may choose to draft a postnup to divide up their assets in advance based on their circumstances and to protect themselves from the ugly effects of a potential future divorce and expensive litigation.

Protects From the NC Equitable Distribution Law

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. Under this law, the courts will determine what is considered divisible marital property and split it as they see fit (if a couple does not have a postnuptial agreement in place at the time of their divorce). Postnuptial agreements nullify the equitable distribution law and allow couples to choose how they divide their money and property.

Supports the Victim of Infidelity

Everyone hopes the person they marry will want to be faithful to them forever out of sheer love and loyalty, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always pan out this way. Having a postnuptial agreement makes both spouses more likely to stay loyal to each other. An extra clause in your postnup, detailing financial protection for the wronged spouse and consequences for the cheating husband or wife, will act as a safeguard for both parties if the love fades and the trust is broken through infidelity. 

We know that money can’t fix heartbreak, but having the financial security of a postnuptial agreement after infidelity can save you from further ruin and turmoil. 

Safeguards Against a Spouse’s Crippling Debt

It’s not uncommon for people to get into marriages without a full understanding of their partner’s financial standing. An otherwise blissful marriage can quickly turn into a nightmare when creditors start attempting to seize your assets to pay back your spouse’s debts, but if you have a postnuptial agreement, you can protect yourself from this terrifying scenario. 

Young, well dressed mixed race couple signing a document together with an attorney

Defends Business Interests

When a spouse owns a business, they might wish to keep their commercial ventures distinct from their marriage. A divorce could wreak havoc on a thriving company, so you might consider protecting your business from the start in your postnuptial agreement.

How Much Does a Postnuptial Agreement Cost?

The cost of a postnuptial agreement is an investment in your future. It will vary based on several factors, including the extent to which you disagree with your spouse about asset division, your current financial circumstances, the need for an audit, and whether you choose to use a mediator or a family law attorney. Psychology Today reports that postnuptial agreement costs can range, on average, between $2,500 to $7,000. This might seem like a lot to pay, but if you have significant assets, this amount is trivial compared to how much you’ll save after a divorce.

Postnuptial Agreement Law in North Carolina 

In order for a postnup to be valid and enforceable in the eyes of the law, contracts between husband and wife must be drafted properly according to state and federal laws, and the state of NC has its own requirements to be aware of. You are not required to have a postnup by the state of NC, but if you do have one, there are three conditions that must be met in order for your contract to be enforceable:

  1. The contract has to be written
  2. It cannot contain terms that violate public policy
  3. It must be notarized by an official notary 

In addition to these terms, both parties entering into a postnuptial agreement in NC are required to be fully transparent with each other about their current financial standings. If you’re ready to draft a postnuptial contract, you should work with a qualified and experienced family law attorney to make sure your terms do not violate the law, making your agreement null and void.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Postnup Agreement?

The state of NC governs several facets of family law, especially when it comes to postnups and the division of marital property. These laws dictate what postnuptial agreements can and cannot include, and they usually outline how the terms of the agreement are to be executed. 

By working with a family law attorney, you’ll be able to draft a fair agreement that complies with all NC laws without having to deal with the complexities of legal writing by yourself. At Collins Family Law Group, our dedicated and supportive team can negotiate and write a binding legal document without errors or oversight, so if divorce is on your mind, get in touch with us to make sure your rights are protected. We take pride in crafting postnups that address the needs of both parties, and we listen to our clients to help them find the best options for their situation. 

Call (704) 289-3250 today to request a consultation.

Navigating Divorce During Coronavirus

Navigating Divorce During Coronavirus

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but perhaps the opposite is true of couples in quarantine together. COVID-19 has not necessarily been kind to the couples of the world. Quarantine has added financial and emotional stress to already fragile relationships and pushed some confined couples to a breaking point.

According to a recent Bloomberg Report, the virus’s origin country is already seeing historically high divorce rates with one Shanghai divorce lawyer reporting a 25% increase in his case load reportedly increasing by 25% since lockdown.

At Collins Family Law Group, divorce is not something taken lightly. We understand that families have been affected in every way by the coronavirus and that not being able to proceed with your divorce amid the lockdown brings added heartache and frustration to your life. Below, we provide potential solutions to the legal obstacles you may be facing, to help you navigate your divorce despite the limitations inflicted by a global pandemic. 

Courthouse Closures and Subsequent Backlogs

Divorce litigation is contingent upon the court system, but courthouses across the country are just now reopening after being closed in response to the pandemic in order to protect patrons. Fortunately, technologically adaptable courthouses have been able to adopt video chat in lieu of in-person hearings. If your local courthouse has shut down and has not yet been able to adapt to technology, there’s a good chance of a long backlog upon reopening. (You can check here to see if your courthouse is open and/or operating.)

In such a case, you may consider mediation, also known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or collaborative law, which is a less-formal and more cost-effective divorce negotiation with your spouse mediated by your attorney outside of court. Alternative dispute resolution allows you to bypass the court system and streamline your divorce. It takes a gentler approach to preserve family relationships and both parties are required to cooperate, using a problem-solving mindset. 

A family law attorney can help you decide if this method of resolution is suitable for your family’s circumstances. We are willing and able to conduct these peaceful proceedings over video chat for the health and safety of all those involved. Keeping you out of court if possible is always one of our primary goals.

Financial Difficulties

If you or your spouse have been laid off as a result of coronavirus and are suffering in an unsteady economic climate, divorce negotiations become even more complicated and legal fees harder to pay. Child and/or spousal support payments may need temporary adjustment to accommodate your more urgent need to pay bills. 

If your family’s income has diminished significantly, talk to your spouse and one of our child support attorneys to minimize the economic impact on you and your family. We can work with you and the court to modify child and spousal support payments for the time being. For some relationships, straightforward communication and negotiation is not an option. Individuals in this situation may be able to file a motion with the court directly to modify support payments. Depending on how backlogged your courthouse is, this may not happen immediately, but you will eventually see financial relief.

In the meantime, we’d advise you to seek government benefits under the CARES Act. Work with your spouse as a partnership, if possible, to evaluate your household budget and make the best use of your combined income. Now is also an opportune time to take advantage of all the free skills courses being offered to people in quarantine and develop new skills to bolster your resume. Doing so could make it easier to find employment when the economy bounces back.

 Couple sitting on a couch upset and facing away from each other. She is crossing her arms on the left and he is crossing his legs on the right

Child Health and Custody Arrangements

Now that kids are home at all hours of the day, divorced parents are not only juggling the new challenge of online learning but also the new dynamic of co-parenting arrangements in a time of quarantine. Local jurisdictions are encouraging parents to maintain regular parent schedules and to act in the best interests of their children, practicing good judgment and avoiding unnecessary travel wherever possible. 

Be proactive and have a plan in place in the event that you or your ex gets coronavirus. This will save you worry and heartache later. You should also prepare proactively in case one of your children contracts the coronavirus. Discuss with your ex where your child will stay if this happens. Consider that, if you have multiple children, it may be wise to quarantine the sick child away from where the other children are living, and from high-risk family members. If your spouse is uncooperative, speak with one of our attorneys to find out how local regulations could impact your child custody arrangement. 

If you find yourself in conflict with your spouse on matters pertaining to coronavirus, defer to your child custody agreement and review what it says on how to handle sick children or school closures. From a legal standpoint, you must honor your co-parenting agreement, even in extenuating circumstances, unless the court modifies the agreement. If you feel that it needs to be amended, bring up your concerns with your ex and speak with our attorneys. 

While you may harbor animosity toward your ex-spouse, this is a critical time to put those negative feelings behind you and work together to keep your family healthy. If you are the custodial parent or if you are still living under the same roof with your spouse pending divorce, take the opportunity to invest in your kids and create positive memories for them before their household becomes two.  

If you’re worried about how to keep your child healthy while maintaining a normal schedule, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts has established guidelines for mindful co-parenting throughout COVID-19. 

Request Individualized Support Today

As you navigate the divorce process itself or the uncertain aftermath of a recent divorce finalization, especially during this pandemic, it is common to have extra questions and concerns along the way. Take comfort knowing that Collins Family Law Group is here for you. Call us today for one-on-one support or professional advice regarding divorce proceedings, child support and custody, or anything else pertaining to family law.

Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist

Signs You’re Married to a Narcissist

Narcissism is a personality trait that can make it difficult to sustain a healthy and loving relationship. Wedlock has innate challenges, which are only compounded when one spouse displays narcissistic behavior in a marriage. In fact, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can lead to severe control issues, self-centeredness, and a preoccupation with praise, leaving the other spouse feeling unloved, unsafe, or unfulfilled in their other needs. 

If you suspect that you are married to a narcissist, learn the signs of this personality disorder as well as where your spouse may fall on the spectrum, how you can handle it, and whether it is time to leave.

What Narcissism Looks Like

It’s easy to slap the narcissist label on a spouse’s frustrating behaviors, but how do you know if you’re dealing with a narcissist or just a plain old jerk? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that only 0.5% to 1% of the population has been diagnosed with NPD, which suggests that true narcissists are not as common as we may think they are. The Mayo Clinic has said that a diagnosed narcissist is characterized by:

  • A severe inability to cope with stress and change
  • Extreme difficulty handling emotions
  • The need to belittle others to feel superior
  • A lack of patience without special treatment
  • Feelings of total frustration with their imperfections

Narcissistic individuals tend to fall on a spectrum, meaning that it’s usually less a matter of whether or not a person has NPD and more a matter of the extent to which they have it. Some people can be “normal” for the most part, displaying only minor traits of narcissism, while others can have clinical NPD that makes them insufferable to everyone around them. The level to which a person has the disorder may depend on their current circumstances, major life changes, and time. The major points in the spectrum are as follows.

Healthy Narcissism

People with a few narcissistic personality traits can usually still function as healthy individuals. They can empathize with others and adapt to hard situations, but they still have times when they push the boundaries and can be insensitive, self-centered, or aggressive. In a way, this describes pretty much all of us — we all have our bad days.

Narcissistic Personality Type

In the middle of the spectrum are people with a narcissistic personality type — slightly more extreme than healthy narcissism. While it isn’t yet considered a disorder at this point, people on the middle of the spectrum come off as entitled, superior, and show a lack of regard for others’ feelings. 

A selfish woman with a crown and a crowd opposite her on the scales of justice.

Clinical NPD

NPD is at the far end of the spectrum and requires professional evaluation and diagnosis. In order for a person to be officially diagnosed, they must exhibit at least five or more of the narcissistic traits listed below. If you’ve been married to a clinical narcissist for any amount of time, you know that your spouse will always put himself or herself first, and you’ll see at least five of the following hurtful behaviors on a regular and consistent basis.

  • Feels that he/she is truly extraordinary
  • Always dominates conversations
  • Shows little concern for the feelings of others
  • Always offering unsolicited advice
  • Manipulates to get what they want at all costs
  • Looks out for his/her own needs and no one else’s
  • Makes others feel like they’re never enough
  • Responds poorly to criticism
  • Justifies his/her own behavior no matter how harmful
  • Gaslights others to prove a point
  • Always feeling entitled
  • Never accepts blame
  • Holds grudges
  • Lacks patience

How to Handle a Narcissistic Spouse

Those with healthy narcissism tend to be more reasonable, and you can usually talk out your relationship problems with him or her and a professional marriage therapist when needed. Those with narcissistic personality type or NPD, however, are not as easy to negotiate with. These people have a harder time owning up to their mistakes and flaws and will usually blame you for any marital issues that have arisen between you. 

In such situations, walk away from the unconstructive conversation so it doesn’t continue to escalate. Set boundaries between you and your partner and give yourself time to cool off. During this time, don’t respond to their calls or texts, and make it clear that you will respond when you are ready, which gives you back some control and prevents them from further domination. 

A partner that doesn’t respect boundaries and continues to find ways to manipulate and control requires a marriage therapist to intervene, but a therapist can only do so much for a person who doesn’t see a problem with his or her behavior.

When You Need to Consider Divorce

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you’re dealing with a real narcissist or just a jerk. What matters is that you protect yourself from a toxic spouse’s damaging personality traits — and sometimes, the only way to do that is to leave. 

If you feel that you’ve exhausted all other options, licensed clinical social worker and author Shannon Thomas advises that you don’t immediately tell your spouse that you’re ending the marriage. In most cases, the narcissist will either try to manipulate into staying or retaliate by emotionally abusing you even further. She recommends that you should first build a community of support among your friends and family so that you have people to fall back on financially and emotionally if your partner seeks to keep you emotionally trapped or becomes even more toxic. 

When you’re ready to start the divorce process, we’re here for you. Divorce isn’t something Collins Family Law Group takes lightly, and our team will treat you with the utmost care and respect as we help you navigate your difficult circumstances. Call us today for a case consultation to reclaim your life from a narcissistic spouse.

Is COVID-19 Causing an Increase in Divorce Filings?

Is COVID-19 Causing an Increase in Divorce Filings? 

As the world has hunkered down and stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have moved to working from home instead of the office to help maintain health safety. The result of being home? Couples are now spending more time together than ever before without the separation of work, activities, and other life events. For many of them, the reality of 24/7 interaction with the same person in a high-stress situation is harmful to their marriage. 

Problems on the Rise

While the virus itself isn’t the problem, the global ramifications have been. Schools have closed, many people are out of jobs, and thousands of businesses have shut their doors for the foreseeable future, which means that many people are confined at home with no reprieve in sight.

Due to constant contact and heightened stress, many problems that may have been ignored before are coming to the forefront of relationships. 

Parenting Differences 

With children permanently at home until the pandemic is over, parents are struggling to figure out homeschooling in addition to everything else they have to do. In some households, one parent takes a more lax approach to home learning, while the other parent does not support that mentality. Additionally, in regards to the pandemic, if mom or dad isn’t taking precautions seriously and working to keep the family safe, the other parent can find this unforgivable — possibly even grounds for divorce. 

Little girl looking over the back of the couch with parents fighting in the background blurred

Financial Struggles 

With roughly 36.5 million Americans experiencing job loss during COVID-19, the lack of income and resulting financial struggles can significantly strain a marriage. Additionally, if one spouse loses their job and the other doesn’t, resentment and insecurities can arise, further degrading the relationship and leading to a divorce. 

Infidelity

If a spouse was cheating before the pandemic, it may be harder to hide an extra-marital relationship during stay-at-home orders. Text messages and phone calls that were concealed before are harder to hide since there is no distance from your spouse. Experts believe that as social restrictions continue, many people are going to resort to digital forensics to gather evidence of infidelity for their divorce proceedings. 

Domestic Abuse

Perhaps the biggest issue leading to divorce during COVID-19 is the rise of domestic abuse, not only in the United States but around the globe. Tensions can run high, stress builds up, and many people don’t have the coping skills to adequately deal with everything they are experiencing. In some cases this can lead to physical and verbal abuse between spouses, or spouse and family. Calls to abuse hotlines have markedly increased as couples are confined together at home and the issue is becoming one of 

the concerns of the pandemic. Lawyers are commonly reporting that most of their calls about divorce are partially related to domestic abuse. 

Lawyers Reporting Increased Number of Calls

Across the country, and globally, lawyers have been reporting an increase in calls to discuss divorce. A law firm in California has reported that they are getting around 500 calls a week to discuss divorce options and many firms throughout the U.S. are reporting similar numbers. Most lawyers agree that these numbers are likely to hold steady or even rise as the pandemic continues. 

Things to Know About Divorce During COVID-19 

Currently, most courts are just reopening and are backlogged. While it may be a while before a divorce can progress and be finalized, there are a few things you can get started on now if you want a divorce, and waiting will only put you further back in line. Your first step is to contact a lawyer and set up a consultation

Once you have met with your lawyer — over the phone, via video chat, email, or in person once restrictions ease — they will advise you on steps to take to prepare for filing. These could include

  • Gathering documentation such as financial records
  • Setting up a secure email for lawyer-client communication
  • Paying your retainer fee 
  • And more

An experienced and professional lawyer can guide you through the entire process and what to expect while filing for a divorce during COVID-19. If you are looking for a lawyer in North or South Carolina, Collins Family Law Group is here to help. 

Speak With a Lawyer

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of American life, including marriages. If the strain of the pandemic has led you to consider divorce, get in touch with the divorce lawyers at Collins Family Law Group. We understand how difficult divorce can be and have already 

experienced how this global virus has complicated the process. Let our lawyers assist you with filing for divorce during COVID-19 by giving Collins Family Law a call today. 

How to Prove You Are the Best Parent in NC and SC Courts

How to Prove You Are the Best Parent in a North or South Carolina Court

In divorce or separation proceedings, one of the most difficult things to face, if you have kids, is the issue of child custody. Ideally, both parents would be able to work together for the sake of the child or children and reach a balanced agreement that is in the best interest of the child. Sometimes, however, there is a need or desire for one parent to have sole custody of children. 

In North Carolina and South Carolina, courts uphold the standard of doing things that are in the best interest of the child. This includes not wanting to diminish a parent’s role in their child’s life unless it is absolutely necessary. Therefore, if one parent is hoping to gain sole custody, they will have to prove to the court the custody arrangement would be best for the child, and that they are the best parent for the child. 

There are a few things that the courts look at when determining the best interests of the child, including: 

  • Stability 
  • Child care arrangements 
  • Primary caretaker 
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Mental health of each parent 
  • Physical health of each parent 
  • Spousal abuse 
  • Abuse, neglect, and abandonment 
  • Interference with visitation rights 
  • Child’s preference
  • Finances of each parent
  • And more

The court will not automatically assume one parent is the best choice and will do their due diligence in looking at every aspect of the situation to determine the safest, healthiest place for a child. 

How to Begin 

If you hope to gain sole custody of your child or children, there are a few things you need to do to show the court that you are the best parent for sole custody. 

Gather Documentation 

To help support your case, you should gather documentation that proves the child does better, or will do better, in your home under your care. If there is a current custody agreement or a living arrangement in place, you should provide phone records to show calls between the child and the other parent as well as a visitation agreement or records of how often visits are happening, if at all.  

Other documentation you should consider would be records pertaining to your child, whether they are medical or academic. If the child is having a lot of injuries or their grades are dropping while with the other parent, you can show that their home might not be the best environment. 

arms rested on top of a table signing a document

Enlist Witnesses 

If you have friends, family, or professionals that can vouch for your parenting abilities or your role as a caregiver, you should ask if they would be willing to provide a witness statement on your behalf. Consider reaching out to teachers, child care providers, or anyone that has seen you raising your child and can verify that you are doing the best for the child. 

Moving Forward 

While you are in the process of proving you are the best parent, always remember to focus on yourself and what is best for your child. If you enter the court and verbally attack the other parent, a judge is not going to look at you as the best parent. Highlight why your home, your parenting style, and your relationship with the child make you the best choice for sole custody. When you take the high ground and focus on facts and the best interest of your child, you have a better chance of achieving a favorable outcome in court. 

Additionally, if you show you are amiable to helping your child maintain a relationship with the other parent, the cooperation will look good as well. 

Consider an Attorney 

Child custody cases tend to be difficult for everyone involved, and things can quickly turn ugly when parents become pitted against each other. To ensure that you can put your best foot forward and not succumb to mudslinging tactics, consider hiring a child custody attorney in North or South Carolina. The attorney will be able to help you navigate the entire process and give you expert advice in proving you are the best parent. 

Navigating North and South Carolina Custody Courts 

No matter if your child custody case is the result of a divorce, separation, or you are just looking to modify an existing agreement, the legal team at Collins Family Law Group is here to help. With more than 85 years of combined legal expertise, we have helped parents in North and South Carolina with child custody agreements, child support cases, divorces, and more. Our team will guide you through the whole process of a child custody case and help you prove that you are the best parent in court. 

Get in touch with our attorneys today to discuss your child custody case or any other legal issues you may have. 

What You Need to Know About Alienation of Affection in North Carolina

What You Need to Know About Alienation of Affection in North Carolina

When a marriage is ruined by the interference of a third party, often through an extramarital affair, some states will hear a lawsuit against the third party. North Carolina is one of only seven states that accepts two different types of claims filed by the affected spouse: alienation of affection and criminal conversation. Read on to learn more about criminal conversation and alienation of affection in North Carolina.  

What Is Alienation of Affection in North Carolina?

Alienation of affection is a lawsuit filed by a married person, or someone who was previously married, alleging that a third party’s actions destroyed the love and affection in their marriage. This lawsuit is typically filed against a third party, also called a paramour, who negatively affected the marriage in some way.

Alienation of affection is not caused by a natural decline of happiness between two people, but by a purposeful action that ruined a good marriage. For example, a spouse could file an alienation of affection lawsuit if their spouse had an affair that caused a decline of marital love and affection and eventually led to divorce.

But an alienation of affection lawsuit does not always reference sexual infidelity. A plaintiff can file a lawsuit against any person whose influence destroyed the love and affection in their marriage. This could be an in-law or friend who shattered a marriage through their negative actions or influence. 

Does South Carolina Recognize Alienation of Affection Lawsuits? 

South Carolina courts do not recognize alienation of affection lawsuits or criminal conversation lawsuits. In 1992, the South Carolina Supreme Court voted to abolish alienation of affection and criminal conversation lawsuits because they “foster bitterness.” In fact, only seven states recognize these lawsuits: North Carolina, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah. However, adultery is still recognized in South Carolina courts as grounds for divorce, alimony claims, and child custody and visitation. 

What Must Be Proven in an Alienation of Affection Lawsuit? 

In order to file an alienation of affection lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove these three things about their marriage: 

  1. The marriage was happy, and there was genuine love and affection between the partners
  2. The genuine love and affection that once existed has been alienated or destroyed 
  3. The love and affection was alienated or destroyed because of the defendant’s malicious and wrongful actions

How to Prove Love and Affection Once Existed 

A number of things can prove the existence of love and affection in a marriage, such as cards, text messages, social media posts, or notes that demonstrate love. The plaintiff can also make a list of the ways their spouse showed love before alienation of affection occurred, like bringing them flowers, cooking them a special meal, or surprising them with gifts. The plaintiff can also ask friends and family members to attest to the love and affection they previously saw in the marriage. 

Silhouette of a angry woman and man facing away from  each other with in a field with an orange background

How to Prove Alienation of Affection

Alienation of affection is difficult to prove in most situations. It’s extremely hard to know, from the outside looking in, what’s going on in a relationship. And it’s even more difficult when both parties are involved in a lawsuit. Feelings that were once tender and positive become hostile and cold. That’s what makes alienation of affection cases so difficult to navigate. Not everything is black and white, yet these lawsuits must be based on clear-cut facts. 

There are so many reasons a marriage could fail, but alienation of affection refers to a very specific reason: a person interfered in and effectively destroyed a marriage. If this act had never occurred, the plaintiff and spouse would still be together in a marriage full of love and affection. 

In order to successfully file a lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to prove that a malicious, wrongful action occurred. In the case of an affair, for example, the plaintiff must prove that sexual intercourse occurred, as this is almost always considered to be a malicious action. The plaintiff can prove this with evidence of intimate text messages, long phone calls, or secret meetings between their spouse and a third party.

It’s important to remember that the defendant, or person who interfered in the plaintiff’s marriage, can defend themselves using various tactics. They could claim they didn’t realize the adulterous spouse was married throughout the affair, or that there was no love or affection in the marriage when the affair started. They could also claim that the plaintiff was having an affair, or that they consented to their spouse’s affair with a third party. 

What Is Criminal Conversation in North Carolina? 

Criminal conversation is a civil claim that alleges the defendant had sexual intercourse with the plaintiff’s spouse during their marriage. The plaintiff must prove three things in this claim:

  1. The plaintiff and the alleged adulterous spouse were legally married
  2.  Sexual intercourse occurred between the alleged adulterous spouse and a third party during the marriage
  3. This sexual intercourse occurred before the plaintiff and their spouse were separated

Alienation of affection and criminal conversation are similar, but there are a couple important distinctions: 

  • The plaintiff MUST be able to prove that sexual intercouse occurred between their spouse and the defendant in a criminal conversation lawsuit. This proof is not always required in an alienation of affection case. 
  • It doesn’t matter if there was love and affection in a marriage at the time of the malicious act. It could be an unhappy marriage, but the main point is that the plaintiff and the adulterous spouse were legally married and not separated when the act occurred. 

Things to Keep In Mind

If a marriage has “love and affection,” it’s not always perfect and free of fighting or disagreements. Every marriage has its ups and downs, but these ups and downs don’t always constitute alienation of affection. 

Being married doesn’t automatically mean that there is love and affection between spouses. In fact, a lack of love or affection from the beginning of a marriage can be used to counter an assertion of alienation of affection. So if a marriage was unhappy to begin with and completely barren of love and affection, the defendant could claim that there was no love and affection to be destroyed in the first place. 

The plaintiff isn’t required to show that the defendant committed an act with the intention of destroying the love and affection in their marriage. That rarely happens. Instead, they can prove that the defendant intentionally committed an act — like an affair — that effectively destroyed all love and affection. It’s less about the intentions behind the act, and more about the effects of the intentional act. 

An alienation of affection lawsuit cannot stand if a sexual affair with a third party occurred after a separation. If the defendant can prove that the plaintiff and their spouse were separated at the time of the affair, and that they intended to stay separated, the case won’t hold up in court.

Finding a Family Attorney in North Carolina 

At Collins Family Law Group, we are dedicated to finding positive solutions for our clients, especially in stressful cases that involve alienation of affection or criminal conversation. Our team will work with you to ensure your case is as strong as possible, and that you have the proper representation you need. Contact our North Carolina alienation of affection and criminal conversation attorneys today or call us at (704) 753-8976 for more information.