Jeff spoke with Evonne Hopkins of Hopkins Law Firm about family law issues. She offered advice on what to do – and what not to do – when thinking about a divorce.
Visit an Attorney BEFORE anyone moves out of the home.
In order to get divorced in North Carolina, the parties need to be separated for a year and a day. That means being physically separated; the couple cannot be living together. I prefer that when they contact me they are still in the house and still together. I can provide a lot of important legal advice BEFORE anyone physically separates, because there are ramifications and implications to actually leaving. Before anyone leaves, it is important to understand criminal trespass, abandonment, each party’s rights and obligations, and which party is considered the dependent and who the supporting spouse. It’s important that they understand all this information so we can guide them from the very, very beginning — because if mistakes occur in the early stages, then I have to do a lot of damage control and try to fix those mistakes.
The two most important things you should never, EVER do if you are considering a divorce…
1) Put your life story on social media. It can be very damaging, as the internet is the first place that divorce attorneys will look to undermine your case. While this seems like a no-brainer, you would be astonished at what people will put on the internet for attorneys to use in court. It can and will be used against you, going directly toward your character.
2) Have an affair. It causes a lot of problems in alimony cases as well as in custody issues, especially if the affair occurred while the parent had custody of the children or the children were in the house. An affair may be considered by the court as potentially damaging to the person’s relationship with the children.
How important is it to have an attorney in the divorce process?
People think they can handle the divorce without legal counsel, coming to my office thinking they have worked out a valid separation agreement by downloading documents off the internet. In actuality, however, they have created a bigger mess that cost them more money down the road simply because they were trying to save money upfront. Again, damage control on my part comes in. And in some cases I cannot get back some rights that they unintentionally gave up. For example, some people mistakenly give up alimony they were entitled to or even primary custody of the children. Another problem with do-it-yourself separation agreements is that people often do not execute it under seal, which has a ten year statute of limitations. The absence of a seal can be a bar for a recovery if one party ends up not doing what was agreed to be done in the initial agreement.
To contact Evonne with any family law questions or for additional information, please call (919) 268-4070 or visit the firm’s website: www.raleighlawfirm.net.