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Harassment and Substantial Emotional Distress as Domestic Violence

Posted by on Aug 7, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Harassment and Substantial Emotional Distress as Domestic Violence

Harassment and Substantial Emotional Distress as Domestic Violence in North Carolina By Amy A. Edwards What Are the Grounds for DVPOs? There are four different grounds for the granting of a DVPO in North Carolina. One ground for getting a DVPO is any attempt someone makes to cause bodily injury, or intentionally causing bodily injury. Another ground is committing sexual assault against someone. These two grounds are more objective, looking at what any reasonable person would think about what happened. These grounds are sometimes easier to prove than the next two grounds. The court will grant a DVPO is someone places someone “in fear of imminent serious bodily injury . . . that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.” And the last ground for a DVPO is when someone places someone “in fear of continued harassment that rises to such a level as to inflict substantial emotional distress.” [1] These require the court to make a ruling about how the victim specifically feels about what happened, using a subjective standard instead of looking objectively at how any reasonable person in that situation would likely feel. In other words, the court can find that grounds for a DVPO just because the victim was fearful because of what the defendant did even if most reasonable people wouldn’t be fearful. What’s the Legal Definition of Harassment? Our criminal statutes for stalking define harassment as “[k]nowing conduct . . . directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose.” There are many ways someone can commit harassment, including “written or printed communication or transmission, telephone, cellular, or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, pager messages or transmissions, answering machine or voice mail messages or transmissions, and electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions.” [2] What is Substantial Emotional Distress? For the court to enter a DVPO, there has to be harassment but it must also lead to substantial emotional distress to the person allegedly being harassed. The criminal laws define what this means in fuzzy terms: Significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling. [3] What meets the standard of harassment that causes this level distress? Like most legal issues, there’s no clearly defined answer because North Carolina courts look at each situation on a case-by-case basis. In one case, the defendant sent text messages threatening suicide, then that “I invited you to come home time and time again. Take the wrath that comes.” He sent numerous other texts and she feared that he was “coming to kill” her. She became so fearful that it curtailed her ability to work, persuading the Court of Appeals to decide that her case did constitute substantial emotional distress. [4] In another case, the Court of Appeals reminded us that just being harassed isn’t enough. It has to rise to the level of substantial emotional distress. [5] There, the person seeking a DVPO said that the other person made Facebook posts in which “he continues to lie on social media about me[.]” In court, the attorney asked her what the posts had done to her, specifically. She replied that “It’s emotional distress. I can’t live every day wondering what he’s going to do and say on Facebook that’s...

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Deployed Parents Act: Rights of Non-Parents (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by on Jul 23, 2019 in Blog, Child custody, Court, Military families | 0 comments

Deployed Parents Act: Rights of Non-Parents (Part 2 of 2)

Deployed Parents Act: Rights of Non-Parents (Part 2 of 2) Part one of this article discusses the problems military parents faced before the Act, who qualifies for the protections of it, and what the benefits are. This article focuses on third parties (non-parents). Parents can make temporary agreements that allow non-parents to spend time with a child during deployment and ask the court to treat the agreement as a court order. Or, a judge will have a trial on the deploying parent’s request to appoint a non-parent to have temporary legal rights during deployment. Custodial Responsibility The Act uses Custodial Responsibility as a comprehensive term that includes any and all powers and duties relating to a child. The non-parent must be named a party to the lawsuit on a temporary basis during deployment. All types of Custodial Responsibility are available only to non-parents. The non-parent must be family member, including a sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, stepparent, grandparent, or a person “recognized to be in a familial relationship with a child.” If the non-parent isn’t a family member, he or she must be someone with a close and substantial relationship with the child, meaning there is a significant bond between them. Without any formal agreement or a court order awarding Custodial Responsibility, no other person has any rights to visit or communicate with a child while a parent is deployed. Three Types of Custodial Responsibility • Caretaking Authority A court may grant Caretaking Authority to a non-parent only if it is in the child’s best interest to do so. A deploying parent who nominates someone to have Caretaking Authority is asking the court to let that person exercise the right to live with a child and care for that child on a day-to-day basis. It is roughly equal to physical custody and it includes the legal right to visitation, possession of a child for lack of a better word. It also includes the ability to make day-to-day decisions while the child is with that person, including the authority to designate another person to have limited contact with a child. For example, an aunt given Caretaking Authority may legally consent for the child to spend Saturday afternoon with grandparents during her weekend of visitation. Unless the parents agree, Caretaking Authority can’t give the non-parent more time than the deploying parent has in any existing custody order, or more than “the amount of time that the deploying parent habitually cared for the child before being notified of deployment.” • Decision-Making Authority Someone granted Decision-Making Authority has a legal right to make important decisions about a child’s education, religious training, health care, extracurricular activities, and travel, but only if the deploying parent is unable to exercise that authority, and only if it is in the child’s best interest. Decision-Making Authority is roughly the same as legal custody. Contrast this with the right to make day-to-day decisions while a child is with a someone who has Caretaking Authority. An order granting Decision-Making Authority must list the specific decision-making powers that will and will not be granted. • Limited Contact The non-parent given Limited Contact privileges has the right to visit for a limited period of time unless the court finds that doing so isn’t in the child’s best interest. Limited Contact rights are given...

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What Happens to Child Support When a Special Needs Child Reaches 18?

Posted by on Jun 29, 2019 in Blog, Child support | 0 comments

What Happens to Child Support When a Special Needs Child Reaches 18?

What Happens to Child Support When a Special Needs Child Reaches 18? By Amy A. Edwards Before 1979, North Carolina parents had a legal obligation to support their child if he or she was mentally or physically incapable of self-support upon reaching age 18, the age of majority. There was considerable debate about whether to keep parents’ responsibility in place or end support at age 18. Now, although there aren’t any specific child support laws for children who have special needs, support can be extended to a maximum age of 20 in certain circumstances. Support can’t be ordered past age 20 unless the parent signs a contract saying so. Child Support Law In North Carolina, unless there’s a contract that says otherwise, child support continues after age 18 if “the child is still in primary or secondary school when the child reaches age 18.” In that event, support continues until “the child graduates. . . ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first.” NC Gen. Stat. §50-13.4. Non-Traditional Progress In 2001, forty years after repealing the statute that required parents to support their child if he or she was incapable of self-support, our Court of Appeals made a small step towards helping special needs children when it clarified that special needs children aren’t penalized just because they are not in a traditional high school. John Hendricks had Down Syndrome and attended a special program in a high school that taught “vocabulary and activities of daily living such as how to count money.” When he reached the age of 18, his mom asked the court to end her child support obligation because he wasn’t making satisfactory academic progress towards graduation. He wouldn’t receive a traditional high school diploma. But John’s teacher and school counselor testified that “John’s attendance at school is in his best interests, [and] that he would continue to benefit in the future from the curriculum.” The Court of Appeals held that John was making satisfactory academic progress toward a non-traditional graduation, and it was equivalent to a traditional graduation. Child support would remain in place up to age 20 so long as John made progress in his program. The Court wrote: If John were not mentally disabled but instead was enrolled in a traditional high school curriculum, it is clear support would be continued. To treat a mentally disabled child any differently than a mainstream child in terms of support obligations would be patently unfair, against public policy and not in keeping with the legislative directive. Enforceable Agreements If a parent agrees in an enforceable contract to support a child past the age of majority, the court will enforce it. This is most commonly found in separation agreements when a parent agrees to pay some share of college expenses. A court can’t order a parent to pay for college expenses because the child is an adult but when parents agree to share college expenses in a contract, it will be upheld. It is the same when parents agree to pay support until a certain age. If a parent relocates to North Carolina from another state where 21 is the age of majority, for example, their separation agreement that requires paying until the...

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Overwhelmed: Where Do I Begin?

Posted by on Jun 21, 2019 in Blog, Working with your lawyer | 0 comments

Overwhelmed: Where Do I Begin?

Overwhelmed: Where Do I Begin? By Amy A. Edwards First: The Consultation A consultation is not the same thing as hiring an attorney. It is simply a meeting with an attorney, who should then give you legal advice and tell you what the cost is to hire that attorney. After the consult, it is the client’s decision whether to hire the attorney. The client might choose to do nothing at all after a consult. In fact, a number of people having problems with their relationship have consults because they want to know what their options are if the relationship deteriorates in the future.  The meeting is a chance for you to bring a list of questions you have so that you can get the answers you need to make serious decisions in your life. It can be helpful to do some research to get a general information about the process, but the attorney gives you legal advice based on your specific situation. After a consult, it is common for clients to say that they feel so much better knowing what the real issues are, and what the possible solutions are. They’re sometimes surprised to discover that threats or information from the other parent or spouse is not accurate or even feasible, which can be a big relief. Second: After the Consult Once you have a few answers, you can then decide whether you are ready to move forward with the separation, custody case or other important legal matter. However, if you have been served with a lawsuit or motion, that first decision is made for you. To begin working on your case, our office requires an advance of funds to be placed in your account. Sometimes, people refer to this as a retainer. If money remains in your account at the end of your case, our office returns it to you. More often, things take longer than anticipated. This is partly because it is difficult to tell how much the other party will truly dispute. If the dispute ends up in litigation, we cannot control the court system and whether there are trial dates, civil discovery, and other litigation events. The attorney your ex hires can also make a big difference, including whether he or she is willing to make any good faith efforts to settle the case before there is a trial.  Third: Relief of Sharing the Burden The next phase after your decision to hire us is to put it in our hands. People in family law cases are already dealing with a crisis in their lives. There are numerous decisions you will need to make. But relying on an experienced attorney to guide you through the decision-making process gives you the support that you need to transition from one phase of your life to the next. Different clients have different comfort levels of involvement in their case, which they usually determine after working with us for a little while. Clients can always ask questions and discuss concerns with us, but the default mode is for us to take over the case and follow up with you as needed.     Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC. She is certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only...

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The Deployed Parents Act: Protecting Parents (Part 1 of 2)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2019 in Blog, Military families | 0 comments

The Deployed Parents Act: Protecting Parents (Part 1 of 2)

The Deployed Parents Act: Protecting Parents (Part 1 of 2) By Amy A. Edwards In North Carolina, we’re fortunate to have the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, which helps military parents balance their military duties while they are deployed and their desire to maintain their bond with their children. Not only that, but the Act allows the child to preserve the relationship with deployed parent’s side of the family, or even an unrelated non-parent that the deploying parent nominates. Parents who reach an agreement about what will happen between the child and the non-parent during deployment can have the agreement treated as a court order if they take certain legal steps. But the Act also protects the military parent when there is no agreement. It also requires the court to offer an expedited trial to take place before a parent deploys. What the Act Does: Parental Rights Before the Act, if a parent temporarily surrendered custody as the military often required, his or her parental rights were seriously compromised from the viewpoint of the North Carolina courts. Surrendering custody before the Act put a parent at risk for losing permanent custody to the non-parent. Giving someone else custody of your child could be seen as acting inconsistently with your constitutional rights as a parent. Our state law simply didn’t have any solution to the problem. Now, the Act allows judges to enter temporary custody orders for the sole purpose of protecting military parents while they perform their military duties. The deploying parent can nominate a third party who is a non-parent, such as a grandparent or even a close family friend, to have limited rights in his or her place while that parent is gone. What the Act Does: Special Problems Military deployment isn’t convenient for anyone, including judges who may not deal with military parents very often. Judges make custody orders detailed and specific with exact dates, exact times, transportation arrangements and other things that are likely to be disputed. The more details a custody order has, the harder it is for a parent to “interpret” it when there is a question. For judges, it can be complicated to figure out how the parent and child can remain close while he or she may not even be on the same continent, in a situation where no one necessarily knows the important details surrounding the deployment. The Act generally requires these temporary orders to “provide for liberal communication” between the child and parent while the parent is deployed, specifically including electronic communication such as FaceTime. It also allows the parent, or witness who isn’t reasonably available, the right to testify by phone or electronically. The temporary order must also “provide for liberal contact” between the child and parent while the parent is on leave or otherwise is available to see the child. This compliments our state child custody law which prohibits a court from looking at a parent’s past deployment or possible future deployment as the only basis in deciding what is in a child’s best interest. Instead, the court may consider deployment as one of multiple factors in deciding what is in a child’s best interest. Who is Eligible for the Protections of the Act? There are a number of requirements to qualify for the protections of...

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Does North Carolina Recognize Quickie Divorces?

Posted by on May 30, 2019 in Blog, Court, divorce, Family Law | 0 comments

Does North Carolina Recognize Quickie Divorces?

Does North Carolina Recognize Quickie Divorces? By Amy A. Edwards In North Carolina, parties seeking a divorce must show that at least one of the spouses has resided in the state for at least six months when either spouse files for the divorce. As of the date that a spouse files a claim for divorce, the parties must be separated for at least twelve months. When they separated, at least one of the spouses had to intend for the separation to be permanent. Why Do People Want Quickie Divorces? Besides the obvious desire to be legally single and/or remarry, there are several other reasons people get quickie divorces. There are those who want to get a divorce without the one-year separation, or those who haven’t lived in North Carolina for at least six months at the time the divorce is filed. Another incentive for quickie divorces is the payment of alimony. The deadline for filing an alimony claim in North Carolina is the entry of the divorce decree. If there isn’t an alimony claim already pending when the divorce decree is granted, it permanently expires and can’t be filed again. In other words, someone might try to slide the divorce past the other spouse with the hope that he or she won’t have time to file for alimony. The U.S. Constitution Our Constitution protects citizens with the right to due process of law. The courts only have the right to make rulings (i.e., legal authority) if they have jurisdiction. Without it, the court can’t issue valid court orders or decrees. A party to a lawsuit is entitled to legal notice and an opportunity to be heard and defend himself or herself. This usually occurs by service of the summons and complaint, when a sheriff hands a copy of the paperwork to the defendant, or the defendant signs to accept certified mail. Divorces by Other States When one U.S. state enters a decree, another state must generally accept it as valid. The Constitution requires one state to recognize it, giving it what is called full faith and credit. There are exceptions. North Carolina or any state can reject a decree of another state if that decree was fraudulent or the court did not have jurisdiction (i.e., the defendant wasn’t served with a copy of the paperwork). In other words, if it wasn’t valid in the state that issued it, then it isn’t valid here. Divorces Granted by Foreign Countries North Carolina can refuse to recognize a decree from another country if it was obtained by fraud or the court lacked jurisdiction. The Constitution doesn’t apply to other countries, so there’s no automatic recognition of their divorce decrees. Instead, a state court voluntarily chooses whether to recognize a divorce decree from another country. If it is recognized, North Carolina extends the courtesy of recognition by what is called comity, instead of giving it full faith and credit that would apply to decrees from other states. The first question is whether the divorce is valid where it was entered. This includes the basics of a lawsuit like legitimate domicile, meaning that the person actually lives in a place and the court has jurisdiction. In one North Carolina case, a wife traveled to the Dominican Republic for five days for the sole purpose...

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Is it Time to Change Your Child Support?

Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Blog, Child support, Family Law | 0 comments

Is it Time to Change Your Child Support?

Is it Time to Change Your Child Support? By Amy A. Edwards Unless you have a child support agreement or order for older teenagers, you will probably ask the question of whether and when child support (CS) can be changed. Any time parents can reach an agreement instead of have a trial, CS can be changed so long as the legal documents are properly prepared. But more importantly, if there is no agreement to change CS, what are the grounds a parent can use to ask that the amount be changed? This article looks at that question in the broadest terms and doesn’t get into the many exceptions to the rules or other unique situations. CS is only permanent until a parent files court documents to change or modify it. Until a child is eighteen or graduates from high school, the court has the authority to change the amount, increasing it or decreasing it, as may be necessary over the years. Court Orders: 3 Years or Changed Circumstances? The courts almost always calculate CS by using a formula set out by the NC Child Support Guidelines, which generally use only the gross income of each parents, work-related child-care cost, the number of children each parent has, and the out-of-pocket cost for each child’s health insurance. If you have a court order or a separation agreement that was converted into a court order, either parent may file a motion to modify CS if three years have passed since the last CS order was entered. The law assumes that after three years, it is time to review CS, which will be changed if there is at least 15% difference between the old amount of CS and the new amount of CS based on the current Guidelines. If three years haven’t passed since the CS order was entered, then a parent must show there has been a significant change in circumstances since the date that the last CS order was entered. What Counts as Changed Circumstances? The general rule is that a change in circumstances related to the child (or children) is enough to change child support. If a parent changes jobs and the child’s health insurance cost increases by $300 per month, for example, the change in circumstances merits a change in child support. Another fairly straight-forward change in circumstances is when a parent has a significant and involuntary drop in income. In other words, if you pay CS and your income decreases for reasons beyond your control, you can reasonably ask for a reduction in CS. If a factory lays off employees, that is considered involuntary, and it would be a change in circumstances that would justify changing CS. On the other hand, if a parent reduces his or her income voluntarily, the court looks at the motive. If the parent is fired for stealing from an employer or quits a job to get out of paying CS, that is considered to be an act done in bad faith. When a voluntary decrease in income is done in bad faith, that parent can’t seek a new CS order based on changed circumstances. Separation Agreements: Is CS Unreasonable Now? If your child support was agreed upon in a separation agreement that was converted into a court order, the court assumes that...

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When Will the Judge Make a Ruling in my Case?

Posted by on Apr 19, 2019 in Blog, Court | 0 comments

When Will the Judge Make a Ruling in my Case?

When Will the Judge Make a Ruling in my Case? By Amy A. Edwards This question comes up all the time. The short answer is that the judge makes a decision in your case whenever he or she makes a decision in your case. Attorneys don’t have the authority to push judges to make decisions in cases. The judges are in control of what happens in court, which includes the time it takes to do things. After a trial, the judge makes a decision on what is disputed in your case, which is called a ruling. The judge signs a written order and the clerk of court “enters” it with an ink stamp that reflects the date. On that date, it becomes legally effective or entered. In the Beginning During your trial, also known as a hearing, the judge probably took notes and/or admitted trial exhibits into evidence. Typical evidence in a child support case for a self-employed person includes three years of personal and corporate tax returns, bank records, credit card statements, invoices and other documents that prove what the monthly business and personal expenses. Then, consider the stack of evidence the judge has from all of the trials that particular week or two, and you can begin to understand why the judge’s ruling may take so long. After the trial is over, the judge will also need to review his or her notes and sometimes obtain a recording of the trial if it was complex or if enough time has passed that it is no longer fresh in the judge’s mind.  Behind the Scenes The judge’s day job is to sit in court listing to trials, which leaves only limited unscheduled time to work on a ruling in your case. Judges have a few random days of office time that is scheduled, but not many. Often, the free time a judge might have to work on your case is when some other case that was scheduled for a trial settles or gets continued to a later date. If a two-day trial was scheduled and the parties sign an agreement three hours into it, the rest of the two days might be available to work on your case. Or, the rest of that time might be used to hear a trial that had been scheduled on the waiting list as a “backup” case so no court time is wasted. There is a severe shortage of judges, and the state (and funding) prioritizes court time for judges over office time.  When the Magic Happens After spending the time to thoroughly review the evidence, the next task for the judge is making a ruling in your case. This phase might involve numerous math calculations. In an alimony cases, or in child support cases if a parent is self-employed, the judge is required to decide whether each party’s living expenses are reasonable, line by line, using each party’s detailed budget. If a particular expense is unreasonable, the judge must decide what a reasonable amount would be, and that amount is used to calculate the amount of alimony to be paid. Each line item of living expenses must then be included in the order. Deadlines: Local Rules In Pitt County, we have local rules concerning the procedural matters in family law cases. In Pitt County, the rules give judges deadlines of 14 to 45 days to...

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Keeping Secrets: the Attorney Client Privilege in North Carolina

Posted by on Apr 11, 2019 in Blog, Working with your lawyer | 0 comments

Keeping Secrets: the Attorney Client Privilege in North Carolina

Keeping Secrets: the Attorney Client Privilege in NC By Amy A. Edwards When someone is served with a subpoena to testify in court, he or she generally must go to the courthouse and testify in open court at the risk of being held in contempt of court, i.e., incarcerated, for failure to do so. And the witness must answer all of the questions from the attorneys while on the witness stand. There are only a handful of times when the court says a witness can’t be forced to testify, or when a witness may testify only about certain things. One of these times is when you tell your lawyer something that qualifies as attorney-client privilege (ACP). A privilege is a special right, the ability to avoid testifying, or testifying about a certain subject. North Carolina Privilege North Carolina has privileges for communications with physicians, nurses, clergy, psychologists, school counselors, licensed marital and family therapists, social workers, counselors, optometrists, peer support group counselors, agents of rape crisis centers and domestic violence programs and limited protection for journalists and spouses. [1] One case explains that the ACP is “. . . an established rule . . . that confidential communications made to an attorney in his professional capacity by his client are privileged, and the attorney cannot be compelled to testify to them unless his client consents.” [2] The Policy Behind It ACP fosters crucial trust between the client and the attorney. It is a time-honored tradition that encourages people to be honest with their attorneys so that the attorney can effectively protect that person’s civil rights. Otherwise, the attorney would potentially have to testify about conversations with his or her client. This is particularly important when a client who is accused of a crime faces the threat of incarceration or even death if there are pending capital murder charges. What’s Required to be ACP? There are five requirements for communication to be protected by ACP. [3] The first is that the attorney must have the relationship of attorney and client when the communication is made. If you are talking with your cousin, who happens to be an attorney, about your other cousin’s new boyfriend, that is not a privileged communication. Second, the conversation must be made in confidence. Generally, the only people who can be present during the conversation are the attorney and the client. Someone else’s presence while communicating with your attorney can break ACP. The third requirement is that the conversation has to be about the issue you are seeking legal advice about in the first place. Fourth, the conversation must take place in the course of giving or seeking legal advice for a proper purpose to qualify for ACP. In other words, the client needs to be seeking legal advice. If you see your lawyer at your daughter’s basketball game, and you have a discussion about the game, politics, the coach or other similar topic, there is no ACP. There’s no requirement for a lawsuit to be filed to have the benefit of ACP. But the proper purpose means the ACP doesn’t apply for a client and lawyer who are discussing things for an improper or illegal purpose, such as helping the client commit fraud. Fifth, only the client can waive ACP, and to keep it, he...

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Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again: Breach of Contract

Posted by on Mar 26, 2019 in Blog, Family Law | 0 comments

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again: Breach of Contract

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again: Breach of Contract By Amy A. Edwards When they separate after being in a relationship, people who are or were married usually resolve their disputes one of two ways, by obtaining a court order or by a contract usually but not always called a separation agreement. Breach of Contract Failure to do what was promised in a contract is a violation of it, called a breach of contract. This article assumes a valid contract has actually been made, and it doesn’t look at what defenses someone might have if he or she is sued for breach of contract. If you enter into a contract, you are legally obligated to perform accordingly. Contracts are usually enforced by money damages. Like Humpty Dumpty, the court tries to make the innocent party “whole” again, restored to the position they were in before the other person breached the contract. The law gives the person a legal remedy, they are then finished with the matter, and both are off to live happily ever after. No Adequate Remedy at Law Now consider the person in a family law situation. If you are entitled to child support but your ex won’t pay, a legal remedy to enforce the contract would mean that each month after no payment is made, you would sue your ex, have a trial to get a judge to make a ruling, and execute on a judgment for money owed. Needless to say, this legal remedy would be repetitive, expensive and time-consuming. The entire point of child support is to make sure the child is given shelter, food, transportation, etc. Going to court every month would give a completely opposite result. This means the law is substituted with what is called equity. Remedy at Equity When the legal remedy isn’t enough to make you whole again, the law is supplemented by equity. Family law is one of the few times when the court has the ability to rely on equity, which is based on justice and what is right and wrong, instead of relying just on a written statute. The distinction between the law and equity is also noticeable when you see it used as an attorney at law. Property claims for marital property are courts at equity because the judge must divide marital property equally “unless the court determines that an equal division is not equitable.” NC Gen. Stat. §50-20. In fact, the division of marital property is called equitable distribution. In several matters related to family law, a judge’s discretion is used, based on what is just and fair. Family Law: Specific Performance If the court doesn’t use financial damages to remedy the problem, what does it use? The answer is specific performance, enforcing a contractual obligation to act or perform in a specific way. Besides continuing and repetitive money paid every month, a family law contract may involve obligations such as signing a deed, returning family photos to the other spouse by a certain deadline, filing joint tax returns or naming someone as a beneficiary of life insurance. Money doesn’t fix those types of problems. These are examples of a promise to act or perform in a certain way.  In these instances, a judge will enter a decree of specific performance, ordering the other party...

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