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A (Very Brief) History of Women Separation and Necessaries

A (Very Brief) History of Women Separation and Necessaries

A (Very Brief) History of Women Separation and Necessaries  By Amy A. Edwards Did you ever wonder why “they might come after me” if the bill collector can’t find your ex? It is because North Carolina uses the doctrine of necessaries. When you hear about a duty of support, you think of alimony but that applies only between spouses. But when a third-party, such as a doctor or hospital, provides necessary services to a spouse, that third-party has the right to seek payment from the other spouse in certain circumstances, based on the doctrine of necessaries. This arises in both services (medical and non-medical) and goods but necessaries are frequently disputed in the context of medical care. Those services are usually expensive enough to merit the time and cost of litigating them in court. The general rule is that a third-party who provides medical services that were necessary for health and well-being of the husband or wife may seek payment from the other spouse. [FN1] The Exception to the Rule: Separation and Notice North Carolina recognizes a quirky exception to the general rule. If you and your spouse are separated when he or she receives the medical care and the provider has actual notice that you are separated, you have a defense. [FN1] In other words, current law says that just being separated isn’t legally adequate to get you off the hook for your spouse’s medical bill. The third-party provider must be put on notice that you are separated. As you might imagine, most people won’t go to the hospital and elect to mention that their spouse shouldn’t be liable for payment of the bill. People can avoid being at the mercy of the law by making their own agreement. Usually, separation agreements address this by agreeing the person who receives care must reimburse the other spouse if he or she is forced to pay it. Early Law: Wife’s Expenses The colonies brought with them British law, which at the time said that unless the wife left her husband for an unjustified reason, he was responsible for her necessary expenses, i.e., her necessaries. Technically, if a husband failed to provide for her, a wife was legally entitled to obtain what was necessary, at which time he would owe the provider of goods or services on her behalf. This assumes she was in a position to enforce those rights. But unlike a single woman,...

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What Do Judges Consider in Alimony Cases?

What Do Judges Consider in Alimony Cases?

What Do Judges Consider in Alimony Cases? By Amy A. Edwards The factors guide judges in reminding them of the most important things. Either spouse may seek alimony if he or she earns less than the other in North Carolina, although there’s no specific dollar amount that determines by how much less. While we have guidelines in child support cases that compute an amount based on incomes and certain child-related expenses, we don’t have anything of that nature for alimony. Each party prepares a budget as a trial exhibit, which includes income and living expenses. If the judge awards it, the amount of alimony and how long it will be paid is discretionary. Alimony Factors: Incomes/Benefits NC judges must consider a list of factors in alimony cases. The first factor to consider is how much income each spouse has, and sometimes what a spouse has the capacity to earn. Also considered is unearned income, which is not shown on a W-2 statement, such as dividends, rents, retirement payments, disability, social security payments and employment benefits such as medical insurance (and/or dental and vision insurance), retirement benefits, and marital property and debts. Alimony Factors: Each Person’s Situation The court considers each spouse’s individual circumstance, education, age, physical and mental abilities, and emotional conditions. For example, a 25-year-old spouse and a 60-year-old spouse will be treated differently based on medical conditions and the ability to work. Their needs and expectations, such as the anticipated date of retirement or going back to school, also vary. Marital misconduct of either spouse may also be considered. Alimony Factors: History of the Marriage The court also looks at the standard of living that the parties established during the marriage. How long the parties were married and the contribution by one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other spouse are other factors. One party might have kept the home-fires burning for the last ten years, caring for the children while the other devoted his or her energy to obtaining a degree or advance in a profession, improving the family income. In fact, the statute also requires the judge to consider the “extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.” Alimony Factors: Miscellaneous The court looks at family obligations, such as paying child...

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New Case: Was the Marriage Worth the Paper it was Printed On?

New Case: Was the Marriage Worth the Paper it was Printed On?

New Case: Was the Marriage Worth the Paper it was Printed On? The late Richard Peacock and his wife Bernadine were married in 1993, had three children together, and divorced in 2007. The remarkable part of the story of their lives is that they reconciled after the divorce. Five years later, in 2012, Bernadine moved back into the home. The couple regularly attended church together and told their reverend about their divorce, their renewed relationship and their intent to remarry although there was no “solid date.” Richard faced serious medical problems, and Bernadine became his caretaker. Their reverend was a frequent visitor and they told her to marry them right there at the hospital. The ceremony took place on December 18, 2013, but there was no marriage license issued. Richard passed away the very next day, on December 19, 2013. The Problem: No Marriage License When Bernadine began addressing the matter of his estate at the courthouse, the Clerk of Court told her she was not his wife because no marriage license was ever issued. Therefore, she was not a widow and his only legal heirs were his children because he failed to leave a will. The matter was then heard in court by a judge. The reverend testified that the couple knew there was no license, and that “we all knew that there was not a wedding, a marriage license. So, this was a pastoral and a sacramental…act.” Bernadine testified Richard was not well enough to go to the courthouse, and that “we didn’t really think about a marriage license, we just were happy to finally get married.” The trial court ruled against her. The Ruling On appeal, it turns out the marriage actually was worth the paper it was printed on despite the fact that there was no paper. On June 21, 2016, the NC Court of Appeals ruled the marriage was valid. Bernadine is now deemed to be the surviving spouse and entitled to a share of Richard’s estate along with his children. Although an official is legally required to have the license signed by the Register of Deeds before performing a ceremony, the consequence of failing to do so falls only on the official, who is fined $200.00 for committing a misdemeanor. Citing a case decided before the Civil War, the Court ruled the failure to issue a marriage license will not invalidate an otherwise...

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