During a divorce, there are many outside parties who might need to get involved in order to assist with the financial dissolution of the marriage, the valuation of assets, emotional support, settlement negotiations, or decision-making surrounding the separation and divorce.
Upon separation, you may feel like you need one person in your corner, outside of family and friends and outside of the messy middle of a divorce, who will listen to you and offer feedback on coping with the flood of emotions that come alongside a divorce. You may also think your children could benefit from the same type of person in their corner. If that’s the case, it is great to seek out a qualified therapist. Therapists can be licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), licensed professional counselors (LPCs), psychologists (PhDs or PsyDs), licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs), or psychiatrists (MDs or DOs). The letters behind a therapist’s name are not nearly as important as their personality and fit to your (or your child’s) personality. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or from your attorney for therapists who are trained to support individuals through divorce. You can also utilize an online search method like Psychology Today’s “Find A Therapist” to find one in your local area.
Having an individual therapist allows either the spouse or the child to have a safe place to share thoughts and feelings, be encouraged and empowered with coping skills, and process the grief of divorce.
If your divorce is wrought with arguments and disagreements with your spouse about the smaller details of parenting not included in a custody order and you keep ending up back in court to resolve the disputes about the kids, you might be a family who needs a parenting coordinator.
Parenting coordinators are either trained attorneys or mental health professionals approved and appointed by the court who assist parents in implementing child custody orders. Parenting coordinators are able to be appointed in North Carolina due to North Carolina statutory authority providing for their appointment. In South Carolina custody cases, there is currently no similar statutory authority for the appointment of parenting coordinators. Parenting coordinators are trained to help parents reduce conflict, reach compromises, and improve communication. If, after discussions about a parenting decision with the parenting coordinator, the parents still cannot come to a mutual agreement, a parenting coordinator will weigh each parent’s arguments and make the parenting decision. A parenting coordinator acts as a liaison between the parents, limiting parental interaction, which in turn limits parental conflict.
A parenting coordinator can make decisions for children that are highly important to their lives like what schools they attend, the extracurricular activities in which they may participate, how the child will be disciplined, health care management, or how the child will be transported to and from each parent’s home. These are decisions that should not be delayed by the court system and in typical familial circumstances, parents are able to collaborate together to decide. In high-conflict divorces, however, parents typically cannot collaborate and need the services of a parenting coordinator to avoid constant litigation. If you are in a situation where your co-parent will not make parenting decisions collaboratively, you can ask the court to appoint a parenting coordinator or you and your co-parent can agree to appoint a parenting coordinator to assist you in moving forward in your child custody disagreements.
REAL ESTATE APPRAISERS
Oftentimes, the marital residence is the largest asset that couples have acquired during their marriage. If you want to keep the house in the property settlement, you and your spouse will need to agree on the value of the house so that the spouse not remaining in the home can receive his or her half of the value of the house. If you and your spouse do not agree on the value of the house, you may need to engage the services of a real estate appraiser to determine the fair market value.
A real estate appraiser is a licensed or certified third-party professional who provides an appraisal report that details the value of the home and land and provides a fair market value number based on the report. A real estate appraiser will do an in-person inspection of the house and lot, compare it to other similar homes in the neighborhood, and consider the housing market trends to determine a fair market value for the home. When appraising a property for use in a divorce settlement, it is important to have your appraiser evaluate the value of the property at the date of separation and, if time has passed since the date of separation, the current value of the property. Passive and active increases or decreases in the property value after the date of separation are considered in the overall divorce property settlement.
If you or you and your spouse own a closely held business that is not publicly held and/or easily valued, you will likely need to determine a value in order for the business to be considered in the divorce property settlement. Businesses that are incorporated during a marriage are marital property and can be divided equally upon divorce unless you and your spouse agree otherwise. A business is made up of tangible assets like bank accounts, equipment, buildings, and inventory and intangible assets like goodwill, trademarks, patents, and other intellectual property. If you and your spouse agree on the value of the business and how to divide it, you can avoid the following step. If you do not agree on the value of the business and the value of the business needs to be considered in the divorce property settlement, you may need to hire a business valuator to establish the value of the business.
Business valuators can be Certified Business Appraisers, business valuation analysts, business valuation specialists, or Certified Public Accountants. Business valuators commonly use the fair market value standard, or the market approach, to determine the fair market value of the business. In a divorce settlement, the parties can use the business value to determine how you and your spouse will split the business.
If you and your spouse are generally cordial and want to resolve your divorce outside of court, utilizing a mediator might be a great option for you. It can be difficult to sit down and come to an agreement in a one-on-one conversation with your spouse because of the emotions that surface. A mediator can facilitate the conversation between you and your spouse, keeping it professional and focused, so you and your spouse can come to an agreement about your divorce settlement without the extra cost and headache of going to court.
A mediator is a neutral third party who reviews and helps resolve the issues in a divorce settlement as equitably as possible. Depending on how many issues are outstanding upon the mediation date, mediation can last as little as a few hours, although a mediation session typically lasts for one full day (about 8 hours). A lawyer’s job is to advise his or her individual client during mediation, whereas the mediator’s job is to facilitate negotiations between the spouses and help the spouses move toward compromise. If you and your spouse are amicable, you can agree to mediation on your own, with or without attorneys participating in the process. In North Carolina, a mediator cannot draft the final agreement between the spouses, and you would have to take your list of agreed-upon terms to an attorney to draft into an agreement. In South Carolina, a mediator is permitted to draft the final agreement between the spouses, which is then offered to the court for approval in a final hearing.
If you and your spouse are not able to come to an agreement on your own or with a third-party mediator’s facilitation, but you do not want to subject your personal family and financial matters to a public proceeding in the courtroom, you can choose to utilize an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a neutral third party who acts as a private judge providing a binding decision and order that the spouses must follow. You and your spouse get to choose the arbitrator, the arbitrator’s decision is binding (generally) and cannot be appealed, and you can resolve your marital issues as soon as you can get onto an arbitrator’s schedule without waiting for the court’s backlog. In North Carolina, the Family Law Arbitration Act governs the arbitration proceedings. In North Carolina, spouses can agree to arbitrate any issue that arises out of a marriage, except for the divorce itself, during or after marriage. A couple can agree to submit marital issues to arbitration within a postnuptial agreement or a separation agreement. You can also agree to submit any issue arising out of a marriage, except for child custody, child support, and the divorce itself within a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage.
In South Carolina, the South Carolina Family Law Arbitration Act governs the arbitration proceedings. South Carolina allows for arbitration of all issues arising from a separation or divorce except for the divorce itself, adoptions, termination of parental rights, allegations of child abuse/neglect, allegations of spousal abuse, or criminal or civil contempt sanctions.
Please reach out to our office to discuss your options for support and resolution, both emotionally and legally, and we will be happy to guide you toward the best possible scenario for your individual situation.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC