Monthly Archives: September 2016

Domestic violence and child custody issues

North Carolina parents who are getting a divorce and who are also dealing with domestic violence might want to consider some myths that surround abuse and child custody. For example, a separation does not always result in a child being safe from domestic violence.

One expert says she has often seen a parent try to use the child as a pawn to manipulate the other parent. She also feels that very young children should not have overnight visits with the noncustodial parent because it disturbs their sense of stability and security.

One myth about child custody is that the parent who is not abusive will automatically get full custody. This is not the case with all victims. One problem is that the victim may suffer from psychological problems or may be unable to obtain steady, well-paying employment. The courts, siding with the best interests of the child, might award custody to the other parent on the grounds that the abused parent appears to be unfit to care for the child.

Parents who are concerned about issues such as abuse, another parent with alcohol or drug problems or similar scenarios might want to discuss these issues with their attorney. Since these are probably not issues that can be worked out through negotiation or mediation, it might be necessary to go straight to litigation and present a judge with the reasons the other parent should not have custody. Some courts believe that in most cases, a child benefits from time with both parents, so the parent seeking custody might want to work out a strategy to use in court in hopes of getting a satisfying outcome.

 

Dividing retirement savings in a divorce

The National Center for Family & Marriage Research reports that twice as many adults over the age of 50 got divorced in 2014 compared to 1990, and the divorce rate for adults over 65 tripled. A survey also found that pensions and retirement accounts are among the most contested for this generation of divorcing spouses. Baby boomers in North Carolina who are ending their marriages will certainly want to protect those assets.

Retirement benefits accumulated during a marriage will in most cases be split during property division unless the couple otherwise agrees. The funds that go to into a retirement account are intended to run a single household. When a couple divorces, the funds are divided by the court because they have to run two households. Due to this, it is important for couples to review or modify the beneficiary designations when their marriages end to confirm that their wishes are reflected.

Divorcing spouses should also check the current and future values of their retirement accounts. The government taxes individuals when they withdraw from retirement accounts such as traditional IRAs, pensions and 401(k)s. However, contributions to Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s come out of income that has already been taxed, making withdrawals tax-free. This makes it more financially sensible to divide traditional retirement accounts according to their after-tax values.

Additionally, divorcing spouses should avoid trading retirement benefits for the family home or other assets. A home, for instance, is usually expensive to maintain. Retirement benefits, however, increase in value, so keeping them and giving up the family home is typically a better financial decision for divorcing spouses in their 50s and 60s.

The laws regarding property division in a divorce might be too complex for some older couples to understand. Their respective family law attorneys may answer all of their questions and walk them through the entire process.

Electronic entertainment an uncertain factor in family law

It is not unusual for divorced parents in North Carolina to have divergent ideas about the best way to raise their children. In this modern era of constant electronic stimulation, that can mean the two parents have different conceptions of how much internet time is appropriate and how many video games a child should be allowed play. There is an absence of compelling scientific evidence proving that this new media is either harmful or helpful, so one parent has very little ability to compel the other parent to comply with their ideas about appropriate electronic entertainment usage.

The recent craze for Pokemon Go can be an instructive example. Many children spend hours a day playing the new game, and there is as yet no clear consensus as to whether this is positive or negative for child development.

The main standards that the court should use to evaluate the behavior of the parent are the safety and the best interests of the child. Unless the child’s use of video games is so overwhelmingly negative that it represents a clear and present danger to their well-being, the law is unlikely to get involved in regulating their use.

Although there may be wide latitude for discussion and negotiation, after the parenting plan has been set down by the court, it will have the force of law. Both parents must comply with it and the court must be consulted before changing any part of it. An attorney can be helpful to those who wish to revisit or modify a parenting plan. They may be able to advocate for a preferred outcome for their client and to represent them in any negotiations with other parties or the court.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Pok√©mon Go…ne! Can Divorced Co-Parents Protect Kids from Excessive Screen Time?”, Bari Weinberger, Aug. 24, 2016