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Digital Privacy: Does Your Separation Agreement Have It?

Digital Privacy: Does Your Separation Agreement Have It?

Digital Privacy: Does Your Separation Agreement Have It? When negotiating an agreement about your divorce, you think of dividing assets like the cars and the house. But people don’t always think about their digital property and privacy. There probably aren’t lots of “boiler plate” paragraphs in separation agreements but you should ask your attorney to address it. What is Digital Privacy? My definition of digital privacy in divorce cases includes your ability to exercise sole exclusive use and ownership of your personal data, be it by key keypad, smart phone or computer. While there are legitimate and lawful purposes for using each other’s personal data, such as applying for social security benefits or filing tax returns, there are many other uses your ex might want to make of your data, even if it is just being nosey. Protected Information A good separation agreement should define what type of information should be protected. Your ex should be required to maintain the confidentiality of your personal data, such as financial records, legal affairs, medical records (including any substance abuse or mental health records), employment, records, and military or school records. Social security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, passport numbers, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or any other similar identifying information should be held in confidence. Require other identifying information like your online account numbers and passwords, ATM transactions, your credit report, personal identification numbers (PINs), and info for online shopping web sites such as Pay Pal or Amazon to remain confidential. Posting or other sharing embarrassing and/or sexually explicit or sexually suggestive material should likewise be prohibited. Access and Security of Digital Data  By the time you’ve shared a child or a marriage, you can probably guess each other’s passwords or PIN numbers. Your first plan of attack is to change your passwords and other barriers to access. Get a copy of your credit report and close accounts you no longer use. In the agreement, list examples of what is considered a violation. The most common examples are accessing the other party’s Facebook or other social media account, accessing his or her phone, text or voice mail messages, and e-mail messages. Public Embarrassment and Humiliation  The law related to social media and what can or cannot be used or posted is constantly evolving, as is the technology we use. It can be difficult to determine what is, or is not, acceptable because these issues implicate Constitutional freedom of speech and the definition of what is a crime. There are thousands of situations that could...

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Why Are They Doing This? Motives in Family Law Disputes

Why Are They Doing This? Motives in Family Law Disputes

Why Are They Doing This? Motives in Family Law Disputes When they are trying to settle their cases, clients ask why the other parent or spouse is doing certain things. As attorneys, we can’t know exactly what anyone is thinking or tell you the reasons why people do things. But based on our experience, we see some routine reasons people do things when they are dealing with family issues such as a divorce or child custody matter. Unfortunately for many families, the legal system is an adversarial one. When a spouse or parent gets along fairly well with the other, each might intend to reach an agreement without the time and expense of court. They may already have attorneys and the negotiations may be underway but when one decides to take action against the other (often by filing a lawsuit), it can be shocking and very offensive. People have many rights they can exercise, even doing so isn’t necessarily useful or “fair.” It goes against common sense, but the law doesn’t always require reasons for doing things. It is a system, played out on under the fluorescent lights of the courtroom.  The most common time for wondering why the other side does something is when one party decides to file a lawsuit out of the blue. The only way to force someone to do something is to take it to court. Instead of letters going back and forth, a lawsuit means there is immediately a list of deadlines and a trial date. It can mean someone calls a bluff. The other person must then decide if he or she really wants to litigate their case or not.  Another common question is why the other side is lying about something in court documents. First, lying is frequently open to interpretation. Second, people do genuinely misunderstand and/or miscommunicate about their dispute, which probably contributed to their separation or dispute in the first place. By the time you add two attorneys with second-hand information arguing about something, you have four interpretations of the same event or fact. Others are in denial about what really happened. Third, people do lie.  The relationship between the attorney and client offers another piece to the puzzle of figuring out why people do things that don’t seem to be practical when dealing with a dispute. Like any relationship, there are numerous types of the attorney-client relationship. Some clients actively manage...

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The Top Five Reasons a Divorce Matters in North Carolina

The Top Five Reasons a Divorce Matters in North Carolina

The Top Five Reasons a Divorce Matters in North Carolina By Amy A. Edwards In North Carolina, a spouse can file a claim for divorce only a separation of at least twelve months. Besides the ability to allow someone to remarry, a divorce is important for a number of reasons. This article isn’t legal advice, and it does not cover all of the reasons. But it highlights a few examples of why someone who is served with a complaint absolutely needs to contact a lawyer immediately. Reason #1 – Marital Property Married people who separate can file a claim for equitable distribution, asking the court to divide marital property equally (instead of just relying on which name is on the title or deed). Our state creates a deadline for filing those claims, and the clock starts ticking when a divorce complaint is filed. Failure to properly file for marital property division within the correct time period means it is permanently lost. Reason #2 – Health Insurance Family plans that cover both spouses and any children change the moment a divorce decree is entered. As of that moment, a spouse is no longer “related” for purposes of a family plan because they are no longer a family member. Children of the person who provides health insurance remain on a family plan after a divorce. Reason #3 – Estate Rights Inheritance rights between spouses are completely different from those of non-spouses. This is a very complicated area of the law that can be related to whether a claim for marital property. Examples of potential rights upon the death of a spouse include an allowance of money, the right to a share of the assets if there is no will, and the right to contests a will. Designation as a spouse or former spouse can involve Social Security benefits, military benefits and other survivor’s benefits. Reason #4 – Liens Against the House Married people are sometimes protected from creditors if only one of them created a debt in his or her sole name. For example, the innocent spouse who did not sign a credit card application is usually, but not always, protected from money judgments that would otherwise become a lien against the marital residence. The moment the innocent spouse becomes an ex-spouse, this can trigger a lien against the property even if the debt (such as credit card debt) is not...

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How a Contract Magically Becomes a Court Order: Incorporation

How a Contract Magically Becomes a Court Order: Incorporation

How a Contract Magically Becomes a Court Order: Incorporation  In the world of family law in North Carolina, there are three ways to address agreements: contracts, court orders and incorporation. Contracts Contracts are agreements signed by the parties, such as a separation agreement. If someone violates the contract, it is called breach of contract. A contract is enforced by a “specific performance” lawsuit, asking the court for an order requiring him or her to perform the specifics of the contract, such as signing a deed, refinancing a mortgage obligation, etc. A contract generally can’t be changed by the court. However, the court always has the authority to change anything related to child custody and support until a child is 18 years of age, regardless of what the parties set out in a contract. Court Orders Court orders are only available after a lawsuit has been filed, and they must be signed by a judge to be valid. The best part about a court order is the remedy. A party who violates the court order is subject to being held in contempt of court for failure to obey the court order. The contempt power of the court gives the judge discretion to do whatever he or she sees fit to enforce the order, depending on the circumstances presented. Although they don’t usually do so until after someone demonstrates they will remain obstinate, judges have the authority to incarcerate someone who continues to disobey court order. Orders can be registered in any state to be enforced with the full faith and credit of another state. Incorporation Our state has what is called incorporation, a special process by which a separation agreement “magically” becomes a court order once a judge signs it. But a judge cannot sign anything until there has been a lawsuit filed. Incorporation is done only by agreement, which is usually mentioned in a separation agreement. After a full year of separation has passed, either spouse can file for a divorce. When the judge signs a divorce decree, he or she also has the authority to incorporate it into the decree, permanently making it an order of the...

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Can My Underage Daughter Get an Abortion Without Me Knowing?

Can My Underage Daughter Get an Abortion Without Me Knowing?

Can My Underage Daughter Get an Abortion Without Me Knowing? By Amy A. Edwards This question is equivalent to asking whether your underage daughter has the right to consent to an abortion independently of parents. Nothing in the law is absolute. The answer to this question is maybe yes, and maybe no. In North Carolina, the law on abortion is the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which defines it as: “The use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or other substance or device intentionally to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant.” Termination is lawful to “preserve the life or health of the child” or to “remove a dead, unborn child who died as the result of . . . natural causes . . . accidental trauma, or . . . a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child which causes the premature termination of the pregnancy.” Abortion is legal during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Information and Consent of the Female A medical professional must get any woman’s voluntary and informed consent, whether she is a minor (under 18) or an adult, at least 3 days before an abortion. The professional must provide information on a number of topics to her, including information about the medical risks of both an abortion and carrying a child to term, resources and available options, including adoption, public assistance for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care. She is also informed that “the father is liable to assist in the support of the child, even if the father has offered to pay for the abortion.” The law requires the state to create and maintain a web site of the information. Although there is not a certain age when a minor is capable of giving consent to an abortion, she must have the legal capacity to understand her health status and options, and be able to make decisions about them. For example, if a girl is 15 years old, does she truly understand the real consequences of being pregnant, let alone those of having an abortion? A pregnant minor cannot be forced to have an abortion. Adult Consent In the more general statutes, a minor who is not emancipated has the right to consent to certain medical treatment without a parent’s consent. Any minor may give effective consent to “medical health services for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment...

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