Dear Carolyn,

My daughter is living with me after her separation. I am not charging her rent, but she wants her own apartment. Her ex is saying he does not have to pay for her apartment because she is living with me rent free. This is sort of a “chicken and an egg” situation. She cannot get the apartment without help from him, so she does not currently have the expense. She has been asked to fill out a statement of income and expenses. Her only income is disability from Social Security. So what gives? Does she have to live permanently with me, or can the court award her alimony to get her own place to live? I love my daughter, but she is 40, and it seems unfair that she would have to live with me forever for free just because her ex is ridiculous.

She also has rented a storage facility to store the marital furniture until she can get an apartment. The ex says this fee for storage is hers and he wants nothing to do with the storage fee. Does he have to share in the storage? Otherwise, the property would have to be given away as I have no place to store it. She will need it if she gets an apartment. It is to protect “their” stuff after all.

 

Carolyn Answers …

Your situation is most unfortunate, but I think the law is clear on your two questions. I see question one as whether your daughter can be awarded prospective rent as a part of alimony and whether post-separation storage fees are a shared expense in equitable distribution? I’ll answer question one first.

Typically, affidavits of income and expenses for purposes of spousal support are actual. However, there is an exception for your daughter’s situation, i.e., the apartment expense. Typically, hypothetical expenses are not allowed. However, obviously your daughter needs a place to live. The case of McQuire v. McGuire, a March 2018 North Carolina Court of Appeals case out of Union County is similar to yours. The trial judge allowed the prospective apartment rent as an expense. The husband appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in favor of the wife’s prospective apartment rent as alimony.

The storage fees for the furniture are technically not a marital debt because marital debt ends on the date of separation. However, this is not the end of the story. The North Carolina statute for equitable distribution has several factors for an unequal distribution. Storing furniture in your daughter’s situation protected the furniture and prevented the furniture from being lost to the marital estate. Thus it is a factor for the court to consider under North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) Section 50-20-(c)(11a) for expenses to prevent the waste of the marital estate.

 

 

Dear Carolyn,

I am a Realtor going through a divorce, and my attorney says I still have to hire an expert real estate appraiser to value my home. I live there and I know the comparable houses. Do I really have to pay someone else to testify about what I already know?

 

Carolyn Answers …

While I would be remiss to give you advice in this column contrary to the advice of your personal attorney when I haven’t talked to you, and I do not know all of the facts of your case, I do have a suggestion. Take the case of Dalton v. Dalton to a meeting with your attorney. Dalton is a 2017 North Carolina unpublished opinion of our Court of Appeals. The court does not have to rely on appraisals. The value of property can be based upon any competent evidence the court hears. “An owner is entitled to testify to the value of his own property unless it affirmatively appears that the owner does not know the value,” Responsible Citizens v. City of Asheville, 308 N.C. 255 (1983).

An unsubstantiated opinion is insufficient. In Dalton, the property owner testified about the value of his property based upon the appraisal and sale of a similar home located on the same road as his home.

Having a qualified appraisal is the easy answer for your case, but you do have the right to your own opinion. Just keep in mind, if your ex presents a neutral appraiser, the court could go with the appraisal value rather than your value.

 

 

Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to askcarolyn@rhinotimes.com, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at Ask_Carolyn. Post questions for consideration for this column. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in Ask Carolyn are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.

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