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Winston-Salem, NC 27101
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The Marriage Contract

Religious marriage is a commitment before God and your religious community.  How God and your religious community deal with your divorce is none of my business, and way beyond my influence.

Civil marriage is a binding, legal contract.  (Uncomfortably binding, some comedians would say.)  Divorce is a lawsuit for breach of that contract.  When you marry, you accept the terms of that contract, whether you realize it or not.  Whether you and your spouse enforce the terms of the contract while you are married is up to you.  The terms of that contract will be applied when you divorce.

The Sanctity of Marriage

Poets and songwriters would like you to believe that "If you're really in love, nothing can come between you."  For the record, Reality is not Poetry. Things can come between you, if you let them.  Or if you weren't truly in love.  Or if you didn't understand what you were committing to.  Or if you didn't realize that “loving someone” and “living with (and getting along with) someone for the rest of your life” are VERY different things.  The first makes the second easier, to be sure.  And with the first, you'll work a LOT harder to make the second happen.

How can I help?

At this time, I only engage in limited domestic representation.

  • I handle "quit claim" or "simple" divorces - no minor children, and no disagreement on division of property.
  • If you require a separation agreement to document the division of property, I can assist you with that.
  • I handle stepparent adoptions.
  • I can assist you with pre-nuptial agreements ("prenups").

As mentioned above, civil marriage is a contract.  Nobody thinks about that when things are going well, and you're all playing by the rules you're making up as you go along.  But when things go wrong, you are bound by the rules that were in place when you went into the game.  The default rules are defined in the statutes.  At the very least, you should understand what those rules will be before you sign the contract.  I can help with that.

You CAN change the rules.  You can define the rules of your marriage going in.  Through pre-nuptial agreements, you can agree before you're ever married what would happen if you should divorce.  (There are limitations on terms that affect your children, if you have any, of course.)  If you anticipate divorce, and you're still on good terms, you can negotiate a settlement agreement, as you can with any breach of contract.

Referrals

I will gladly provide referrals if you need help with:

  • Divorce involving a custody dispute;
  • Divorce involving dispute over division of property (equitable distribution) ; and
  • Second-parent adoptions or agency adoptions (including overseas adoptions).

Isn't a pre-nup admitting it's not going to work, and planning your divorce?

A premarital agreement is not planning a divorce; it's planning for the possibility of a divorce.

It is a statistical fact that many marriages consummated today will end in divorce. Knowing how that would end up won't make you love each other less; why should it make it “easier” to get divorced?  In fact, you can craft a premarital agreement that actually provides incentives for staying married. Some states have statutes that take the reasons for the divorce into account; adultery (an affair) is just one example.  Your premarital agreement can specify that property will be divided one way if you both “just decide to go your own way,” and another way if one of you is unfaithful.  A number of other “classic cases” can cause complex and bitter divorce proceedings under the statute, but can be dealt with in advance:  putting each other through school, forsaking a profession to raise children, taking an extended leave to care for a sick parent, etc.  And even if you decide not to include such considerations in a premarital agreement, you may just find that the dialog you engage in while considering such far-ranging possibilities actually gives you better insight into the person you're planning to marry, her/his life priorities and goals, etc.

If you don't want to be married... (or Can't)

Hopefully, I have not scared anyone away from getting married!

Couples choose not to marry for all sorts of reasons, just as they have many reasons for choosing to marry:

  • Perhaps they're bitter about prior failed marriages, and have lost faith.
  • Perhaps one of them is still married, but estranged or separated.
  • Perhaps they are a recipient of a benefit, such as pension or trust, for which they would be disqualified if they (re)married.

In these and similar situations, they cannot take advantage of the ready-made contract of marriage.  They can, however, take advantage of traditional contract law to craft their own terms for their relationship:  Who owns how much of the property?  What happens if they have children?  What happens if one dies?  What happens if both die? The answers to these questions can make for one less point of concern or insecurity in a relationship, and are a fundamental part of life contracts and estate planning for unmarried couples.

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Nothing on this web site is intended to provide, nor should be intepreted as providing, legal advice. Every legal question turns on the facts of the individual situation, and any examples, illustrations, or cases presented here are presented as illustrations only.

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