Cost of Court is Rising in North Carolina

The cost of going to court in North Carolina has gone up as of July 1st.

There are some significant changes to the costs of family law cases in particular. 

The cost of filing a family law action is now $150.00. 

Whereas the extension of a Summons used to be free, it will now cost $15.00.

The additional fee for an absolute divorce will remain at $75.00.

In the past, filing a motion after the lawsuit was filed was free.  Now, there will be a $20.00 charge for every motion filed in an open family lawsuit.  There are exceptions for some child support enforcement actions and for motions to enforce or modify domestic violence protective orders.

However the biggest change is that now counterclaims (claims by a defendant against a plaintiff) and cross-claims (claims between two defendants) will cost the same ($150.00) as filing a complaint to begin a lawsuit in family court.  Filing counterclaims and cross-claims has historically been free in North Carolina. 

That means that filing a divorce action will cost $225.00.  And, if your spouse counters with claims for property division, financial support or child custody, it will cost them $150.00.  That’s $375.00 just to get into the courthouse!  

So, the cost of court is rising.  And, given the deep budget cuts in North Carolina, it seems obvious that the expense of resolving disputes in court will continue to rise.

The rising cost of court is yet another reason that resolving family law issues through collaborative divorce or mediation makes so much sense.  

Has Divorce Lost Its Shimmer?

This recent article in the New York Times makes the case that women’s views on divorce have changed over the last thirty years.  

While women may have viewed divorce as liberating in the 70’s, according to more recent research, it is now viewed as a failure.  

And, society’s reaction to divorce has changed.  Whereas divorce was once seen as something to be celebrated, it may now be harder for divorcees to discuss their divorce openly.

Further, the article notes that the divorce rate among upper middle class couples has fallen over the last 30+ years.  

The question remains as to whether these changes are a result of better marriages or differing attitudes about divorce.

Semi-Happy Marriage

There’s a new book out about the “Semi-Happy Marriage”.  As profiled on the Today Show this morning, Marriage Confidential explores the life of couples that are roughly satisfied with their marriage, but not ecstatic about it.  

I cannot help but wonder what percentage of these couples will find themselves separated or divorced later.  

Hopefully, they will take the steps to make their marriage fully happy before it comes to that.

Perhaps the book can be a catalyst of positive adjustments in your own marriage.  

Or, perhaps it is just an interesting read.

The Ripple Effects of a Bad Divorce

Unlike almost all other kinds of cases, family law resolutions typically cannot involve a “clean break” between the spouses.

Children, continuing financial payments and other continuing connections prevent most spouses from totally eliminating the other from their life. 

In contrast, two companies in a dispute can simply choose to never do business together again; an injured person and the person that hurt them can simply avoid each other; a lender and a debtor can choose not to borrow or lend from each other in the future.

Families don’t have that choice. 

Therefore, how a family law case is handled makes a huge difference for family law clients.  If two companies that never have to do business with each other again hate each other, they can cut ties.

But, if two parents that are going to be tied by children and financial commitments for years to come hate each other, well, then you have a recipe for long term disaster.

For example, in an adversarial and positional divorce, the following common situations frequently lead to numerous trips to court, unnecessary arguments and ballooning legal fees:

  * Future parenting decisions about schools, medical treatment, religion, etc.…(not to mention the smaller day to day decisions that can lead to problems (TV hours, sports, sleep-overs, discipline, etc.…));

* Decisions about selling a house:  Selling price, repairs to be done, repair concessions, etc.…

* Increases or decreases in financial support payments due to income fluctuations;

* Temporary adjustments to financial support payments due to income fluctuation, increased expenses or major life events;

* Adjustments to co-parenting schedules due to work schedules, new families, new spouses, children’s changing needs, etc.…

* Decisions about who will attend future family events with children and grandchildren.

 

By contrast, in divorces that are handled respectfully, productively, and in an interest-based model, these problems are frequently resolved by simple phone calls or emails.   This is only possible because the spouses saved enough of their dignity and their relationship to communicate with each other after their divorce. 

The point is this:  Allowing your divorce to take on an adversarial, positional, contentious tone will not solve your problems or effectively resolve the legal issues of your divorce. Rather, it will set you and your family up for future court battles, legal fees and destruction.  These ripple effects can haunt families for years and even decades after the actual divorce.

Choosing processes like Collaborative Divorce and mediation offer the chance to avoid these negative ripple effects in the future. 

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

Collaborative Divorce: Getting Down to Business

The longer I practice collaborative divorce, the more benefits of the process I discover.

Case in point:  I recently helped a client who owned her own small business.  She had owned the business for a decade or more when the couple decided to divorce. 

The looming divorce forced her to analyze her cash flow needs for the future when she would be supporting herself.  The problem was that she had not kept a tight handle on the company’s finances in the past.  She didn’t know if the income from her business would support her in the future and help support the children.

Fortunately, she was in the multidisciplinary collaborative divorce process.  So, she and her husband hired a neutral financial specialist to help them with the financial planning of their divorce in the collaborative process. 

Thus, my client was able to spend time with the financial specialist getting a handle on her business’s finances.  And, she did not have to do it under the pressure and stress of subpoenas, discovery demands and other litigation tactics.

Once that was done, my client had good solid numbers to analyze for her business.  That enabled her to make financial decisions in the collaborative process that she did not feel comfortable making earlier. 

That ability to make decisions was of great benefit to her spouse, who had a need to make decisions and move forward. 

My client came out of the process with a separation agreement, co-parenting plan and financial plan that worked for her, her spouse and her business. 

And, as an added benefit, she came away with a much better understanding of the financial picture of her business.

This case is just one great example of the many “value-added” benefits of collaborative family law and highlights why small business owners benefit from the collaborative divorce process.

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

 

$30 Million Alienation of Affection Judgment in Wake County

A Wake County judge recently handed down another huge judgment in an alienation of affection and criminal conversation case in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The award to the ex-wife against her Husband’s paramour totaled $30 million dollars.

$10 million of that amount was to compensate the ex-wife for actual losses suffered as a result of the paramour’s “stealing” her husband’s love and affection.  The other $20 million was awarded to punish the paramour for her acts.  That is some expensive lovin’.  

This story will surely draw headlines all over the country.  North Carolina has become famous (or infamous) for these kinds of cases.

However, it is important to note that the paramour apparently did not even appear to defend herself.  So, this case is not reflective of the true “value” of alienation of affection cases in North Carolina.  It appears that the judge awarded the ex-wife what she claimed she was entitled to receive, and since it was not contested, she essentially got to “pick her number.” 

I suspect that the paramour does not have $30 million sitting around.  In fact, she may have nothing (other than her apparent charms).  As is typical in these “super-verdict” cases, the ex-wife will likely not even collect one percent of that award (that would still be $300,000).  And, the husband doesn’t have to pay a penny of the judgment.  So, the amount of the award is largely irrelevant.

Nonetheless, there are two very important lessons to take away from this story:  First, don’t fool around with married people in North Carolina; second, be prepared to defend yourself if you do. 

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

Spending Your Marriage Away

As a divorce attorney, I see a lot of marriages that suffer from financial stressors.  It has been a matter of simple observation that debt creates marital stress and sometimes lead to divorce.

In his short article “Bank on It: Thrifty Couples are the Happiest”  Professor Jeffrey Dew explores the impact that spending habits and financial issues have on marriage from a scientific perspective.  He points out that consumer debt has a negative impact on marital happiness.  According to Dew’s review, the “research indicates that consumer debt (e.g. credit card debt) plays a powerful role in eroding the quality of marital life.” In fact, he goes so far as to conclude that “…couples who are wise enough to steer clear of materialism and consumer debt are much more likely to enjoy connubial bliss.”  

While debt is may not be the main or only cause of any divorce, it is worth considering the impact of debt on your marriage.  It may be far wiser to pay off your credit cards and save your marriage than to pay a lawyer to handle your divorce.

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.