Straight Tips From a Charlotte Divorce Lawyer
Divorce proceedings do not have to be tumultuous affairs. Parties who were married, assumedly who once loved one-another enough to be married in the first place, can proceed in a civil fashion such as in “collaborative divorce.” And yet, emotions too often get the best of people, especially when it involves a cheating spouse, domestic violence issues, or when the divorce involves children and a dispute over child custody.
In those instances, it seems like the gloves come off. Family law matters can turn into rancorous legal battles, where the litigants may literally spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees just to make a point or settle an emotional score. Much of anxiety associated with divorce, separation, child custody, and support is related to not knowing what to do or who to trust.
Here are some Straight Tips from a Charlotte Divorce Lawyer and courtroom advocate, Bill Powers.The Judge Decides. The Judge Always Decides. What They Say Goes
While lawyers may focus on the nuances of certain court rulings or unique aspects of Chapter 50 (the family law statute in North Carolina), there is one truth that cannot be ignored: The Judge Decides.
The amount of discretion given to family court judges in North Carolina is nothing less than monumental in its scope and breadth. It’s extremely important not to lose sight of that fact. While there may be certain exceptions to the rule, generally speaking, as long as the Court justifies its rulings with sufficient Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Court Order is not going to be overturned.
While there is often a fair amount of emotion between the parties, even in an amicable separation and divorce, Judges focus on equity and equitable remedies. They are granted tremendous power by the North Carolina General Assembly, backed up by rulings of our appellate courts, to take into consideration a wide range of factors.
For example, one of the more complicated aspects of divorce law in North Carolina involves something called “Equitable Distribution.” It has to with marital property and basically, “who gets what after a divorce.” Family court judges are required to classify property, determining whether it is “separate property,” “marital property” or “divisible property.”
Divorce lawyers expend a great amount of effort looking at the bottom line. Even modest marital estates (the number of assets and wealth the parties have accumulated during the marriage) can have figures with multiple zeros when you consider things like who gets the house after a divorce, retirement accounts, cars, and savings.
“Frankly, even for divorce lawyers, running the numbers can be a complicated, if not a confusing process. There are a lot of moving parts. In fact, I believe that’s one of the reasons there are so many appeals to the Court of Appeals. The laws in North Carolina are not always crystal clear. There is room for a certain amount of subjective interpretation.”
– Bill Powers, Charlotte Divorce Attorney
That may not seem entirely fair. Still, one reason there may be questions about how assets are distributed following a divorce is that each case is different. (Another reason is that sometimes litigants are unreasonable, focusing on inflicting mental anguish on others.)
There cannot be a “bright line” rule, without consideration of the totality of circumstances. Judges are granted broad discretion because life is complicated. No two marriages are exactly alike. There are a tremendous amount of varying factors to consider.
It is therefore important to perpetually remind yourself, Reasonable Minds Can Differ. Even very smart, hard-working, and ethical divorce lawyers can and do disagree during settlement negotiations about what a particular judge may or may not do. Given the dollars involved and the motivations of clients, it can be easy to lose sight of this very simple precept:What the Judge Says Goes
Legal advice, predicated on years of courtroom experience and professional reputation, is imperative. Divorce law or divorce lawyers, in their daily practice, handle an incredibly varied different number of legal issues. In one case the legal issue may involve complicated work-life balance issues, child custody, and visitation and “who gets the kids” questions.
And the next case in the door may be complicated by the interaction of criminal charges for Domestic Violence, assault charges, and a DVPO Domestic Violence Protective Order. Still, other legal matters in divorce court may center on marital assets, business valuation, and ED (Equitable Distribution).
As such, an overall understanding of the rules of evidence, courtroom presence, the ability to think quickly on one’s feet, and knowing when to try a family law case and importantly when NOT to take a matter to trial, are valuable assets.
Rule 1 for Charlotte Divorce: Always Consider Your Audience
“Whether it’s a complicated criminal defense, domestic violence issue or a legal issue focused on alientation of affection, I believe the losses are more important than the wins in teaching lessons and giving an accurate framework to provide professional legal advice. In searching out a Charlotte Divorce Attorney, I encourage clients to focus on the big picture.”
– Bill Powers, Divorce Attorney in Charlotte NC
Just like any other legal issue to be litigated, experienced divorce lawyers understand how important it is to consider your audience. Divorce cases in North Carolina are “tried” in District Court, in front of a District Court Judge.
Juries don’t decide who gets the house after a divorce or how much is child support. The Judge does. ** And in Charlotte family court, the rule is “One Divorce, One Family, One Judge.” That means the preference is, in order to ensure consistency and hopefully afford a certain level of institutional memory, is to have the same family law judge rule on all the legal issues involving a separation and divorce, post-separation support (PSS), and even issues involving allegations of domestic violence.
** Alienation of Affection and Criminal Conversation trials are generally handled in Civil Superior Court and are often tried by a Jury. While technically often related to divorce cases, it is a separate legal filing against a third party who has interfered with the marriage and/or had sexual relations with a married spouse during the period of marriage. If you have questions about the proper legal forum in which to file a lawsuit, please call our divorce lawyers now at: 704-342-4357.
Judges aren’t frankly interested in settling petty arguments between the litigants. Court time is extraordinarily limited and therefore valuable. And while they will generally allow litigants to “try your case,” they aren’t there to right the wrongs of life like a six-grade teacher. Indeed, except for criminal charges, there really isn’t much discussion about “punishment.”
“We spend a fair amount of time explaining to clients that the family court judge doesn’t punish the person who cheated on you. In family court, the Judge is concerned with things like the best interests of the children, equitable distribution of marital assets, and setting child support under the NC family law guidelines. Too many battles in court focus on the wrong thing: ego. The sooner the client understands the mechanics of separation and divorce, the better.”
– Bill Powers