We're now well into 2014, so it's time to make sure that you've reviewed your court order or separation agreement. It's a good idea to periodically review this document, and in particular at the beginning of each year. Many times things will be different depending on whether it's an odd-numbered year or even numbered year, and here are some common examples: the holiday custody schedule and the dependency tax exemption.
It is common for the holiday custody schedule to "reverse" in even-numbered years from odd -numbered years...meaning, mom has the children for Christmas in even-numbered years, dad has the children for Christmas in odd-numbered years. Sometimes a court order provides for one parent to have first choice of summer vacation weeks (or commonly here in Wake County trackout) in one year, and has to notify the other parent by a certain date. Every custody arrangement is unique, so it's important to review yours and make sure you know what is supposed to happen and when.
For the dependency tax exemption, have either you or your ex signed the appropriate IRS form (Form 8332)? I recently met with my CPA who does my personal and business taxes, and reminded me of how important that one form can be, and how the last thing you want to be dealing with is a battle with the IRS!
In Separation Agreements, it is also common for child support to be recalculated every couple of years. Most of the time in order to accomplish this, you have to exchange income information with your ex, such as W-2s and 1099s. Does this apply in your case? Is your period of paying or receiving alimony or child support change this year? If you are the one who will experience a decrease in the amount of child support and/or alimony, have you reviewed your budget accordingly?
If you have a court order in place for child support, how long ago was the order entered? If it's been more than three years, you might want to consider whether modifying child support is appropriate. Under the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines, it's presumed to constitute a substantial change in circumstances if there is a 15% or more difference between the amount of child support payable under the order from three or more years ago and the current amount of child support under the guidelines.
Review your court order or separation agreement. If you have questions, contact your attorney. Legal fees can be expensive, but not if it costs you significantly more in the end. Not having a clear understanding of your court order or separation agreement is far more costly than an hour or two of legal work consulting with your attorney now.