We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Elizabeth Stephenson of New Direction Family Law in Raleigh, NC. Despite a few technical hiccups, we also recorded the discussion on Facebook Live. We were able to answer a lot of great questions for moms regarding separation, divorce and child custody. A few more questions came in after we were done recording, so we created this recap so families in need will always have a place to find this information. You can read more below, as well as watch the video playback from our discussion. New Direction Family Law also has their own blog, which can be a great resource to you!
Does the judge favor towards the mother?
No, not necessarily, although there are lots of factors to consider in each unique situation. Judges in North Carolina typically aim for joint custody when possible, starting with the concept of 50/50 physical and legal custody, depending on the situation. Parents are encouraged to work out their own custody schedule, keeping in mind what is best for the child or children.
What is the difference between custody types?
Physical custody refers to where the children are physically with the parent.
Legal custody refers to who gets to make the big decisions.
What if one parent wants to change the arrangement?
If one parent is seeking to change a custody arrangement, they will need to prove there is need and benefit to the child to do so. They will then have to go to a judge to have things updated.
What do you do if you want to change your custody?
To change a court order, you have to have a change in circumstances.
What if we already have a separation order in another state?
This will follow you from state to state unless you petition to have it changed. If you have a court order, you need to visit the court to have that court order changed and NC will become the governing state.
When can I file for divorce?
The state of NC requires a 1 year separation prior to petitioning for divorce.
What is a normal custody schedule?
There really is no “normal” custody schedule. It varies from family to family based on the best interests of the children. What is important to you and your family? How will it work long term?
Can your new spouse adopt your child?
Yes, but first you must prove that the biological parent is not supporting the child or they must consent.
What is alternative dispute resolution?
Alternative dispute resolution is another way to try to work out your divorce and custody arrangements through an unbiased 3rd party. Often it is called mediation. In NC, you are mandated to attend a mediation when you file for divorce to see if you can work things out outside of the courtroom. Mediation involves sitting in a room with a professional mediator – if it’s going well, stay there! This can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
How do I find the time and money to afford and meet with an attorney, if I am a stay at home mom or on a fixed income?
It is an expensive process, there is unfortunately no way around that. At New Direction Family Law, we often watch kids in our office if childcare during your appointment is not an option. In our office, we also have the person that is most qualified for the task, but least expensive, complete work on your case, and we suggest things you can do to help minimize fees. Asking the judge to be reimbursed for attorney’s fees may also be an option, depending on your case.
How are finances split up?
This can be contentious. You will get child support and you can also petition for alimony, but you may not get to maintain your lifestyle. Alimony is also not forever, as it is designed to help you get back on your feet post-divorce. Alimony is not guaranteed.
How to divide property?
In North Carolina, in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, property is divided 50/50 for anything that was earned during the marriage, this includes your home. Many times people stay in the house together until it is sold. It just depends on each unique situation.
What if you suspect infidelity?
If you suspect cheating, it is always best if you can provide proof. Having proof of infidelity can improve your situation during divorce proceedings.
Here are our words of wisdom. Separation and divorce are never easy. Come in before you separate. Be informed. Open your own bank account. Get a part time job, get a credit card. Look for bank statements, birth certificates, passports, make copies of important documents.