Decisions After the Divorce
Many decisions are made during the divorce process regarding child custody, child support, the division of assets, and spousal support. The entire process can take a considerable amount of time, especially when it relates to decisions regarding the children. Courts in the state of North Carolina always take into consideration what is in the “best interest of the child” regarding any child support or custody matters. However, as time goes on following a divorce, there are certain circumstances that may occur that could make one parent consider changing their child custody or child support. The state of North Carolina will allow parents to make child support modifications and child custody modifications following a divorce under several circumstances. However, child support and child custody are not the only considerations a parent should make following a divorce. If something happens and a parent dies, they should ensure that their child is taken care of by changing their estate planning documents to make their children the beneficiaries of their assets. The following important legal considerations regarding your child may arise following your divorce.Child Custody
If you went through the divorce process, the court likely made a determination regarding both physical and legal custody between both parents. The following are the different types of custody and custody arrangements that a court will determine:
- Physical Custody - This is the time that a parent has the legal right to time with their child, and generally will include overnight visits and the transfer of custody between both parents during the school year, summer vacation, and holidays.
- Legal Custody - Parents have the right to make decisions with respect to education, medical issues, and religion on behalf of their children. Legal custody grants a parent the legal right to make those decisions.
- Joint Custody - Joint custody refers to the arrangement where both parents will have the legal right to either physical custody, legal custody, or both types of custody with respect to their children.
- Sole Custody - Sole custody is when only one parent has either physical custody, legal custody or both.
There are several reasons why one parent may consider a legal modification of existing child support or child custody orders granted by a court within the divorce process, which could include the following:
- One parent has changed physical locations out of state or to a different area
- One parent has developed an alcohol or drug abuse problem
- One parent frequently changes employment or relationships and does not have a stable environment for the child
- One parent has developed a mental illness or shown mental instability
- Physical or emotional abuse of the child
- Failure to allow the other parent visitation according to the legally binding child custody order
- Changes in the academic, physical or emotional needs of the child
Following a divorce, you may also want to ensure that your children are taken care of by making sure that all of your estate planning documents are updated to ensure that your ex-spouse is not listed as a beneficiary or trustee if that is your wish following your death. Also, make sure that your children are taken care of following your death by making sure that all of your trusts or documents list a trustee that you would want to have discretionary control over the assets for your children. Always consider whether your documents (including retirement plans, pension plans, profit-sharing plans, and other benefit plans) all list the correct beneficiaries according to your wishes. Some of the ways to ensure your children (and you) are legally protected following a divorce include the following:
- Make sure to execute all documents correctly, and in writing.
- Check to ensure the beneficiaries, trustees, etc. to all of your documents (including life insurance policies, retirement plans, pension plans, etc.) are correct.
- Consider including estate planning documents that have medical directives if you are incapacitated or disabled.
- Consider establishing a trust for your children in case you happen to die while they are still minors.
- Consider how your estate plan will change with respect to taxes following your divorce.
- Make sure that none of your assets remain titled as joint ownership with rights of survivorship with your ex-spouse.
If you need expert legal advice following your divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704.370.2828 or online today for your initial consultation. We can help ensure that your legal rights and the legal rights of your children are protected.