When you separate from your spouse and start moving down the path of divorce, there are many logistical matters to address. It is hard to keep track of all of the tasks required to separate yourself financially and legally from your spouse. Today’s post is the first in a five-part series providing straightforward checklists focused on extricating you from intertwined marital interests, accounts, and finalizing any financial obligations remaining from your property settlement.
The checklist is not in any particular order, and you can tackle the tasks in the order you see fit. This list does not address the deeper emotional work that may be required. As you address the mundane logistics of the dissolution of your marriage, a gamut of emotions may arise. Be sure to take care of yourself and take your time. The checklist does not need to be completed immediately. Building your marriage took a significant amount of time and the dissolution of it will take time as well.
Without further ado, here are the main financial tasks you should tackle upon divorce.
1. Meet with a CPA or tax preparer to:
3. Create a monthly budget for yourself.
4. Run a credit report on yourself.
5. Close joint credit cards.
6. Close joint bank accounts.
7. Open individual bank account(s).
8. Use a different PIN number for your debit card(s) linked with your individual bank account(s) than the common PIN numbers you used during marriage.
9. Re-direct any direct deposit income into your individual bank account(s).
10. Stop auto-draft payments for shared bills or transfer auto-drafts for which you are responsible to your new bank account(s).
11. Transfer utility accounts, if necessary.
12. Update beneficiary designations for the following: life insurance, annuities, retirement plans, individual retirement accounts, investment accounts, and transfer-on-death bank accounts.
13. If you need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) to divide your retirement account, follow through with your attorney’s submission to the Plan Administrator, pre-approval by the Plan Administrator, approval of the proposed QDRO, submission to the court for signature by a judge, then final submission to the Plan Administrator for division of the retirement funds. Be sure you have an account set up to roll over and/or receive the funds, if necessary.
14. Keep records of payment or receipt of alimony/spousal support and other support payments made to or received from your former spouse.
Not every item on this checklist will apply to you but consider each task and complete it, if needed. If you are not sure if you need to complete some of these tasks, reach out to our firm to schedule a consultation so that we can assist you as you move down the divorce path.
Be sure to go back and review our first two posts in this three-part series on stay-at-home parents and what to expect upon separation and divorce financially. Today's post will address child custody and child support.
Being a stay-at-home parent and/or the primary parent during the marriage does not necessarily mean that you will continue to be the primary parent for child custody upon separation. Your co-parent and spouse will inevitably step up and do more active parenting than they did during the marriage because they will no longer have the support of a stay-at-home parent. It can be difficult to let go of the primary parent role as a former stay-at-home parent, but it can only benefit your children to have two engaged, active parents contributing to their lives. The standard for determining child custody in court is what is in the best interests of the children. If you are resolving child custody outside of court, that best interest determination will remain the most important consideration in reaching a child custody agreement.
Often, equally sharing physical custody of the children after separation is a great option for kids and families (i.e., alternating full weeks with each parent). However, if one parent has a more demanding job that doesn’t allow for a traditional week on/week off shared parenting arrangement, there are certainly alternatives. Perhaps the parent with the demanding job can accommodate a longer weekend of parenting time from Thursday to Sunday or a mid-week overnight for the kids. Child custody arrangements and schedules are not one-size-fits-all, and you and your spouse can discuss and agree on what will be the best custody schedule for the children and your family long-term. Our firm can educate you on options for child custody schedules if you aren’t sure what would be best for your family.
If upon separation, you are still a stay-at-home parent with primary physical custody of the children and/or you are earning significantly less income than your spouse, your spouse will be required to pay child support to you. When you have children, both parents have a duty to support their children financially whether those children live with you 100% of the time or 0% of the time. Both parents have a responsibility to put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food in their bellies (even if they won’t eat the broccoli you make!), pay for their health insurance and medical care, provide or pay for childcare, and provide for any other necessities. To learn more about the basics of child support in North Carolina or South Carolina, please refer to our past blog post by clicking this link.
Please reach out to our firm to schedule a consultation if you are a stay-at-home parent and need guidance on your child custody schedule and child support obligation. We are very familiar with supporting stay-at-home parents through this transition and can help you, too.
Dividing Marital Assets (Equitable Distribution or Apportionment)
Today's post is part two in a three-part series addressing what a stay-at-home parent can expect legally and financially upon separation and divorce. Head back to review our first post before you continue on! Just because the supporting spouse “earned” the income or acquired the marital assets with his or her income does not mean that a stay-at-home parent forfeited any right to half of the value of the acquired assets. Stay-at-home parents are entitled to an equitable distribution of the net marital estate upon divorce. Equitable distribution (or equitable apportionment in South Carolina) means that all marital debts and marital assets will be equally divided (50%/50%) between the spouses.
To learn more about equitable distribution in North Carolina and equitable apportionment in South Carolina, click this link to take you directly to our firm’s blog post devoted to explaining the basics.
Stay-at-home parents do not lose their rights to half of their spouse’s retirement account(s), bank accounts, the marital home, or marital cars when they choose to stay home and support their supporting spouse by caring for the children, house, and other household management tasks. As long as the assets were acquired during the marriage, the assets are considered “marital” and the stay-at-home parent would generally be entitled to 50% of the value of the asset. The same rule applies for any debts or liabilities incurred during the marriage, generally speaking.
Please reach out to our firm to schedule a consultation if you are a stay-at-home parent and need guidance on dividing your marital estate. We are very familiar with supporting stay-at-home parents through this transition and can help you, too.
Today’s post is the first in a three-part series explaining what a stay-at-home parent can expect legally and financially upon separation and divorce. During a marriage, a couple may choose for one parent to stay at home with their children rather than pay the exorbitant cost of childcare or have their children cared for by a caretaker outside of the family. But when a marriage turns sour, unhappy, or unfulfilling, a stay-at-home parent may feel trapped in the marriage because they feel financially dependent on the working parent. If you are a stay-at-home parent feeling stuck in your unhappy marriage, do not fear! You don’t have to stay in an unhappy marriage and there are several paths to lead you towards a happier future. If you are a stay-at-home parent thinking of separating from your spouse, please reach out to our firm to schedule a consultation so we can help you understand to what you are financially entitled if you choose to separate.
Re-Entering the Workforce
Depending on your age, health condition, work experience, and education among other factors, when you and your spouse separate there may be an expectation that you will re-enter the workforce in some form or fashion, to supplement your own income and provide for yourself and your children. The income that your working spouse earned while you shared a household may be stretched very thin when there are two households to financially support upon separation. The best way to ensure financial security for you and your children is to find a way to supplement or increase your income. As a stay-at-home parent, you will likely have some options and entitlement to financial support from your spouse after separation, as outlined below, but you will likely not be able to solely rely on your supporting spouse financially for the rest of your life and will need to reenter the workforce at some point.
Alimony or Post-Separation Support
As a stay-at-home parent, for alimony purposes you are a “dependent” spouse while your spouse is a “supporting” spouse. Alimony is financial support that a supporting spouse pays to a dependent spouse during separation or following divorce. Alimony is not automatically awarded in North or South Carolina, and you must need alimony to maintain the standard of living to which you became accustomed during the course of your marriage in order for you to receive alimony. Additionally, the supporting spouse must have the ability to pay alimony to you.
There is no formula to determine alimony amount and duration in North Carolina and there are sixteen factors to weigh, including: the length of the marriage, the reasonable needs of the spouses, the incomes and earning capacities of the spouses, the reasonable expenses of the spouses, any marital misconduct by either spouse, the ages and health of the spouses, one spouse’s contributions to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse, the extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by serving as the custodian of a minor child, the relative education of the spouses and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the dependent spouse to find employment to meet his or her reasonable economic needs, the contribution of a spouse as a “homemaker,” and several more.
There is no formula for the calculation of alimony amount or duration in South Carolina, either. There are four types of alimony in South Carolina: permanent periodic (typical monthly payments), rehabilitative, reimbursement, or lump sum. As a stay-at-home parent, you may be entitled to permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, or lump sum alimony, depending upon your situation, what you and your spouse agree to outside of court, or what the court orders. If you were a stay-at-home parent to young children prior to separation, take note of rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony is meant to “rehabilitate” a spouse in acquiring higher income earning power, training, or education in order for that spouse to become financially self-sufficient. Rehabilitative alimony might be paid to a stay-at-home parent for a limited time until young children enter school, or until that parent can complete additional education to reenter the workforce.
Alimony can be awarded within a separation agreement by you and your spouse agreeing that your spouse will pay you alimony, or it can be ordered by a court. At Dasher Law, we assist clients in obtaining their best outcomes outside of court and can assist you in obtaining alimony, or understanding if you are entitled to alimony, if you were a stay-at-home parent prior to separation. Please reach out to our firm to schedule a consultation if you are a stay-at-home parent and need guidance. We are very familiar with supporting stay-at-home parents through this transition and can help you, too. Come back next week to learn about the division of marital assets and how that might occur as a stay-at-home parent.
This is the second of a two-part series about parenting time refusal. Please read the first part of the series to understand the reasoning behind why many children are resistant to a new custody arrangement and then return here to find out what you can do about parenting time refusal within the confines of the law and with respect to your child and your co-parent.
Do I have to require my child to see his or her parent?
Many parents ask if they must “force” their child to visit with the other parent. If you are using the word “force,” I would suggest that you reframe your thought-process around your child’s time with the other parent. “Force” suggests that you don’t want to require the child to go with the other parent or that you are supportive of the child’s refusal to see the other parent. As a primary parent, you need to support your child’s relationship with your co-parent. Your child benefits from both parents’ involvement and engagement in his or her life.
If there is a formal custody order (either a Consent Order entered into by the parties and then signed by a judge or a custody order entered following a custody hearing or trial), then yes, you need to require your child to see the other parent and make all attempts to follow the custody order. Refusing to do so is a violation of a court order and you could be held in contempt of court for failing to follow it. If there are no concerns for your child’s safety while they are with the other parent, you should encourage your child to enjoy their time with the other parent, bringing up positive attributes of the other parent, and casting your child’s time with the other parent in a positive light. Think about parenting time like you do other mandatory events. Your child must go to school, and they also must go to see the other parent. Does your child always want to go to school? No, but you require them to attend. Similarly, your child might not always want to go to the other parent, but they need to and must go.
Should I require my child to spend time with me?
As a parent, you must weigh the options and decide if requiring your child to come to spend time with you is worth the potential fallout. If the primary parent is a co-parenting advocate and your child is on the younger side, then generally, I would advise that you continue requiring your child to spend time with you. Your child will benefit from having a relationship with both parents and it is usually best for the child to continue having time with you. If a child is a teenager, you must consider the impact of requiring parenting time on your long-term relationship with your child. Forcing parenting time upon an older teenager may not be worth the negative impact it will have on your long-term relationship. Consider engaging in family therapy sessions with your resistant child. Listen to the therapist on how to engage and support your child through this rough patch. If you play the long game with your kids, keep showing up, supporting, and loving them through this minor hiccup in your parent-child relationship, usually they will come around.
How old does a child have to be to refuse to see a parent?
There is no set age in North Carolina or South Carolina when a child is permitted to decide whether or not they spend time with either parent.
What do I do if visitation is truly harming my child?
If there is concern for abuse, you should contact law enforcement or the Department of Social Services (“DSS”) and make a report. This should only be done if there is a true, major concern of abuse. Including law enforcement or DSS in your family members' lives is not something to do lightly and definitely not something to be used as a manipulative tool to stop parenting time with the other parent. If there is any concern of abuse, immediately connect your child with a qualified therapist.
Separation and divorce are tough on the adults involved, so be kind and understanding that it is also difficult for your children. Your children are less equipped with the ability to regulate their emotions and process them. They may blame one parent or struggle with the transition between households. If you need help navigating this process, reach out to our office and connect you or your child with a qualified therapist. If you are unsure how to navigate this challenge in your parenting time schedule, please reach out to us to schedule a consultation.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC