College Tuition in NC Child Support Cases

Allen, Lee (Thumb)

Under North Carolina law, college tuition and expenses are not something that a
Court can make a parent pay on behalf of the child. They simply are not available
in a child support case. However, where the parents agree to pay college tuition
and expenses in a proper written document, then that agreement is enforceable as a
contract, or, if incorporated into a Divorce Judgment, then it is enforceable as an
Order of the Court via the Court’s contempt power.

You should talk with an experienced family law practitioner about any issues
related to college expenses before you sign or agree to anything. Contact Lee Allen
at 252-321-2020 to discuss your child support questions.


Child Custody Q&A

Allen, Lee (Thumb)

A Primer on Child Custody

My spouse and I have separated. When can I see my child?

If you and the other parent can agree, then you can be as creative and flexible as you like. In addition, an agreement gives both parents some input into a custodial schedule.

What happens if we cannot agree?

If the parents cannot agree, litigation becomes necessary. Ultimately, a Judge will decide on the issue of custody (assuming the parents remain unable to reach an agreement) and the parents will have much more limited input into what the custodial schedule looks like.

How do Judges decide the issue of child custody?

 Under North Carolina law, a Judge will base his or her decision about child custody on what the Judge believes is in the child’s best interest. Therefore, the Judge has a great deal of discretion. Typically, the history of parental involvement plays a great role in determining the custodial arrangement. In addition, judgment, maturity, and the ability and willingness of one parent to set aside differences with the other parent in order to do what is right and best for the child.

What is “joint custody?”

 When both parents have authority and responsibility to make major, important decisions for the child, such as medical/dental care and education, they are said to have “joint legal custody.” It is not unusual for both parents to be awarded joint legal custody, with one parent having primary physical custody of the child. ”Primary physical custody” refers to the rights and responsibilities of the parent with whom the child primarily resides. This would include a good deal of decision-making with regard to the more mundane, every day decisions. “Visitation” refers to the right of a parent to spend time with a child. This is sometimes referred to as “secondary physical custody.”

How are holidays dealt with after parents separate?

Holidays are most often shared in some fashion. Holidays can be divided equally, or they can be rotated from year to year. That is, one parent might have, for example, Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years, and the other parent would enjoy time with the child at Thanksgiving in even-numbered years; while the parent having the first part of the Christmas holiday one year would have the second part of Christmas the following year. Creativity and flexibility are especially important when dealing with holiday time.


Electronically Stored Information and Litigation

Allen, Lee (Thumb)

Electronically Stored Information (“ESI”) is prevalent in today’s world. We encounter it constantly with the increased use of e-mail, text messaging, social media, blogs, etc. We use it both at home and work. It is everywhere in our personal lives, our professional lives, and on our computers, smart phones, and tablets.

In a litigation context, ESI can be particularly troubling. It can be changed, modified, or deleted more easily than traditional physical documents. It can also be accessed and copied at any time by multiple people – often without the necessity of reporting it to anyone. Such acts can expose litigants to the possibility of sanctions ranging from admonishment or reprimand to dismissal of claims or default judgment.

This is particularly frightening for employers. Therefore, it is critical for employers to be mindful of this potential minefield and implement a Records Management Policy and Retention Schedule. Adhering to these may provide a safe harbor from sanctions related to loss or destruction of ESI that may be needed during litigation.

A proper ESI policy will establish procedures to preserve, catalog, find, and produce ESI that may be relevant to a dispute. In addition, the proper system will allow for a more efficient and less expensive search for ESI.

If an employer outsources any functions, such as accounting, payroll, web hosting, etc., this will have to be considered when developing ESI policies. In addition, any other entity (customers, suppliers, etc.) with which ESI is shared must also be included in the ESI management policies.

When litigation is anticipated or commenced, a party must take reasonable steps to preserve relevant ESI. An investigation is such an event. During this time, the ESI management policy and deletion schedule must be suspended and all relevant or potentially relevant ESI must be preserved.

As soon as a party becomes aware of an investigation, claim, lawsuit, or incident that could lead to such, it should also put in place a “litigation hold.” A litigation hold is a communication to all appropriate and entitled persons to preserve relevant ESI. This communication should be in writing.

An ounce of prevention being worth much more than a pound of cure, consult with a litigation attorney to implement an ESI management policy and to implement or respond to a litigation hold.

For help with family law questions or other civil litigation issues, call Lee Allen, Attorney and Certified Family Financial Mediator, at 252-321-2020.