When I say 'be cognizant of evidence' I mean evidence that can work for you against your spouse and evidence that can be used by your spouse against you. If you are doing something illegal, stop doing it. If you have a problem, take the necessary steps to correct it and document the steps you've taken to show you've bettered yourself. If your spouse has a problem with drugs or alcohol, make sure you are able to prove it in court.
WHAT ACTIVITY BY MY SPOUSE AM I LOOKING FOR?
For starters, your spouse's activity doesn't have to be illegal per se (although adultery is technically illegal in NC), but it should be any activity that is going to be helpful for a post-separation support, alimony, or child custody case.
Problems by a spouse with drugs (illegal or those taken legally with a prescription) or alcohol need to be documented somehow. Pictures of empties or illegal drugs themselves or even documenting what days a spouse is intoxicated can be evidence you can produce in court as showing your spouse has a problem.
Evidence of any abuse needs to be documented by pictures and reported to the police immediately. The highest priority is to get away from an abuser as quickly as possible. If a domestic violence protective order is the best option, then take that option. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please read our post on the subject here.
There may also be evidence of financial impropriety. If you have legal access to this information, produce it to the proper authorities.
If a spouse is cheating on you, then you need evidence of the adultery. Evidence of adultery can help you in Post-Separation Support and Alimony cases.
WHAT ABOUT MY ILLEGAL OR IMMORAL ACTIVITIES?
It's not going to be worth continuing an illegal and/or immoral lifestyle. Even if you aren't separating, you will suffer consequences if you continue to engage in activities of ill-repute, so just stop.
If you have a problem and you cannot control yourself, you need to get help. Your possibility of obtaining any custody will be benefitted if you show the court that you received the help you needed and you did so without the court having to order you. Keep records of all the help you've received and all classes you've taken to meet your new life goals.
HOW DOES ANY OF THESE ILLEGAL OR IMMORAL ACTIVITIES IMPACT MY SEPARATION AND DIVORCE?
Continuing with an addiction-fueled lifestyle or making a spouse's life unduly burdensome and intolerable are just two of the six grounds for divorce under North Carolina's divorce from bed and board statute. Engaging in illegal or immoral activities is going to impact a divorce from bed and board action the second most, only behind child custody.
Although there are no set factors in North Carolina that define what is in the best interest of the child, most Judges, if not all, will not allow a child to remain in harm's way. If a parent continually drives a child around intoxicated or throws parties while having custody of the child, then a Judge is more than likely going to award custody to the other parent (assuming he or she does not do the same things).
This blog post is not meant to be an excuse to destroy evidence or break laws in acquiring evidence. I am not encouraging or condoning that behavior. If you do destroy evidence or break laws, you are only going to be hurting yourself.
That is going to do it for our 5 part series covering what you should know when separating. Hope this series was helpful. Feel free to reach out to our office to set up a confidential consultation.
*Nothing in this blog post is to be taken as establishing an attorney-client relationship. This blog post is not to be construed as providing legal advice.