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In Alabama, the calculation of child support is governed by Alabama Rule of Judicial Procedure 32. ”Rule 32″ as it is called contains very specific instructions for how a non-custodial parent’s child support is to be determined. Once the calculation has been completed, judges are obligated to order that parent to pay that specific amount without deviation unless there is a specific reason to make the ordered amount higher or lower. One of the reasons to deviate specifically mentioned in Rule 32 concerns the situation when one parent lives far enough away from their children that they incur substantial costs to travel to see their children. These days travel to see your children in their hometown can get expensive with gas or airplane fares rising every day, not to mention hotel costs and meals at restaurants. This can be an important issue to raise in several situations.
If you are the non-custodial parent and you have to move away from your children, then this can be the basis of a motion to reduce your child support. That is especially true if you are going to be paid less money to work at your new job. In that case you can request a reduction for both reasons. Of course, anytime you are divorced and there are children involved, there is always a chance that you will have further disagreements that result in potential litigation before a judge. As a result, documenting these extra expenses with receipts, bank records and/or credit card statements is essential to giving yourself a chance to get the judge to agree with your position. Remember, the person paying child support is always the one that bears the burden to prove payment of support no matter what form.
Travel costs can also be important if you are the custodial parent and you are the one that is moving. If you notify your Ex that you intend to move and they object, litigation attempting to get a judge to allow the move can be complicated, time consuming and expensive. Offering to reduce the child support they are paying as a way to get them to agree to the move is one of many tools you can use to settle the dispute.
I get a lot of questions about prenuptial agreements. Usually the questions are about whether they are enforceable under Alabama divorce law (they are if certain requirements are met) and whether and why to have a prenup.
I recently came across a nice blog dedicated to prenuptial agreements. It is www.prenuptialagreements.org.
One of the better posts I found on the blog so far was titled 8 Reasons Why You Should Have a Prenup.
The 8 Important Reason pointed out in the blog are:
1. You are much wealthier than your partner. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that your partner is marrying you for who you are, and not for your money.
2. You earn much more than your partner. A prenuptial agreement can be used in many states to limit the amount of alimony that is payable.
3. You are remarrying. When you remarry, your legal and financial concerns are often very different than in your first marriage. You may have children from a previous marriage, support obligations, and own a home or other significant assets. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that when you pass away, your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and that neither your first family, nor your new family are cut off.
4. Your partner has a high debt load. If you are marrying someone with a significant debt load, and don’t want to be responsible for these debts if your marriage ends, then a prenuptial agreement can help ensure that this does not happen.
5. You own part of a business. Without a prenuptial agreement, when your marriage ends, your spouse could end up owning a share of your business. Your business partners may not want this to happen. A prenup can ensure that your spouse does not become an unwanted partner in your business.
6. To prevent your spouse from overturning your estate plan. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that you estate plan works, and, for instance, ensure that a specific heirloom remains in your family.
7. You are much poorer than your partner. Just as a prenuptial agreement can be used to protect a spouse who is well off, a prenup can also be used to ensure that the partner who is weaker financially is protected.
8. If you plan to quit your job to raise children. Quitting your job will negatively impact your income and your wealth. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that the financial burden of raising the children is shared fairly by both partners.
All of these are great reasons. If you think you should consider a prenuptial agreement, meet with a divorce and family law attorney in your area.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently held that a prenuptial agreement was valid, even though it was signed by the parties one day before their wedding and wife failed to read the entire document.
The court found that the wife was not prevented from reading the agreement, and that as a real estate agent she should have been familiar with the import of reading a legal document.
The Court apparently also found it important that the wife knew the husband was a “millionaire” before they married, and thus was aware of the general extent of his assets at the time she signed the agreement. Reportedly the wife attempted to seek legal advice, but when she was advised that her attorney was unavailable she declined to seek other counsel.
There are several lessons here: one is not to sign a prenuptial agreement on the day before your wedding. I can’t tell you how many of the people that come to retain me to help them with their prenuptial agreements that wait until the last minute. That is a terrible idea. The other lesson is to get legal counsel. In this case, the wife likely gave up significant legal rights. And, whether she was a real estate agent or not, she may not have fully appreciated the impact her signature had.
Fellow family law blogger, Jeffrey Lalloway of the California Divorce and Family Law Blog, recently concluded a series of posts on what to include in your prenuptial agreement.
It is a great series (as is his blog). I emphasize numbers 2 and 12 as these are two issues that, if properly addressed, can help ensure the validity of a prenuptial agreement in Alabama (i.e. full disclosure and representation by a lawyer for both parties).
Also, when reading, keep in mind that Alabama is not a community property state like California. Thus, some of the terminology might be different, though the issues regarding the divisibilty of property would be the same. And, I must admit, I’ve not had the prenuptial in which we included number 13 (but I have seen it come up in divorces before!)
Here are the first three items on his list (check out his blog for the remainder):
1. Decide how all of your debts will be handled. This includes those debts incurred before you are married and those incurred after you are married.
2. Make sure you disclose all of your assets, liabilities, sources of income, and any other potential future assets, such as gifts or inheritances.
3. Should you divorce or die, decide who will get your primary residence or any vacation homes.
It seems ironic that a divorce lawyer might offer marriage advice. When the Minister of Education at my church asked me to teach Sunday School to the Newlyweds, I gave him a hard time about bringing in a divorce lawyer to teach to young married couples. But, I really don’t know someone more qualified to tell you what to do and not do in your marriage than a divorce lawyer. In my divorce practice in Mobile and Baldwin County, I have seen all the problems that tend to contribute to the breakdown of a marriage. Maybe you know a young (or not so young couple) that could benefit from this information.
Here, in my experience, are the top five problems that contribute to divorce:
1. Money – Whether it is differences in values about money, issues about control of the money or financial pressures that put a strain on the relationship, money issues often lead to divorce. Best to get on the same page early, be fair about how the money is controlled, and attempt to understand and accommodate your spouse’s views on money.
2. Communication – I will often have a client of mine that is going through divorce tell me that they love their spouse, they are just no longer in love with them. I’m not sure exactly what that means. But, typically it is a sign that the couple quit having meaningful communication with one another some time ago. Communicate deeply and often with your spouse.
3. Lack of Commitment – I don’t intend to get on my soapbox about this issue, but it is hard to dispute that our nation no longer has the same view of marriage we once did. Sometimes a divorce is the only option, but quite frequently (particularly with younger couples, it seems) I will see one or the other spouse who really cannot express a good reason why they want the divorce. One divorce lawyer I know comments on how the threshold on what it takes to get someone to pull the trigger on divorce has decreased dramatically in the past twenty years. Perhaps it has something about how self absorbed and tied to instant gratification we have become. It will keep divorce lawyers in business, but it is sad for us as a nation.
4. Physical Addictions – Thankfully they occur in the minority of cases that I see. But, when they do, they are quite tragic. Whether it is alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs, the effects of addiction can obviously be devastating. The best advice is to intervene early and get professional help.
5. Sex – Of course, sexual problems frequently lead to divorce as well. But, their effect is probably overestimated. Generally speaking infidelity is a sign of other problems in the marriage, not the original problem. Increasingly, however, I am seeing the internet playing a role in these cases. Whether it is pornographic websites or the ability to meet others anonymously and easily online, the internet provides new snares for a relationship that did not previously exist.
Despite the fact that I help my clients navigate their way through divorce, I do not encourage divorce. Hopefully this advice will help someone avoid it all together.
Ben Stevens of the South Carolina Family Law Blog posted the final installment of his Secrets to a Happy Marriage series. This one is develop a shared vision for your relationship and review every 5 years.
The author suggests that every five years the couple take a weekend retreat and re-evaluate where you have come and where you are going as a couple.
The entire post can be found here.
A recent study by the Mayo clinic concludes that a healthy marriage is good for your health. The study found that the benefits of a healthy marriage include lower rates of disease, a longer life span and a greater sense of well-being.
The definition of a happy marriage as used in the study is one in which the parties enjoy strong commitment and open lines of communications.
The study keyed its conclusions to the fact that they found that the happily married subjects had less stress.
The article can be found at this link.
For my divorcing clients the lesson here is that you are more at risk for health problems during a divorce. At that time, more than any other, it is important to enjoy proper diet, exercise regularly, and find emotional and spiritual support.
I would change the title of this one to “words matter” or “words are powerful”. But, his point is well made.
Even those happily married could benefit from this advice, “praise your spouse often in public and in private.”
If more of our prospective clients put into action the “secrets” that Ben’s guest blogger, Dr. Kuhne, is sharing we’d have to find another source of revenue. And, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. The truth, is however, that the demand for family law attorneys is not declining anytime soon. To do so would take a major shift in our culture that does not currently seem to be on the horizon. The entire article is also continued below.