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If you are searching for informative and helpful information regarding divorce and family law issues in Alabama, you've come to the right place. Mobile and Baldwin County attorney Jim Jeffries provides monthly posting and updates, including informative articles and helpful reviews on current divorce-related news events. Our firm has more than two decades experience in our practice areas and is dedicated to providing excellent service and skilled representation for each of our clients. We also seek to further the education of each of our clients regarding divorce matters, so check back regularly for more information on Alabama Family Law! 

Jim Jeffries

Jim Jeffries

Friday, 03 April 2009 19:00

First Money, Now Communication

Ben Stevens at the South Carolina Family Law Blog has posted #2 in the series of Secrets to a Happy Marriage.

His guest blogger, a pastoral marriage and family therapist, obviously knows his subject. His first “secret” was regarding transparency in money issues. This one speaks to good communication skills and “breaking” your spouse’s “code.” Good stuff.

Friday, 03 April 2009 19:00

Secrets to a Happy Marriage – Part One

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, my friend, Ben Stevens, has posted the first in a series of posts on the secrets to a happy marriage.
The series promises to cut right to the heart of the issues that often seem to cause problems in relationships. How do I know? See Secret #1: Full disclosure of money – No hidden accounts.

My divorcing clients are often surprised when we discover assets or accounts they never knew about. This applies to financial asset accounts as well as credit accounts they may not have known about (for secret purchases). The fact that such accounts are in existence for these divorcing spouses, seems to offer some support for the theory that keeping such secret accounts is not a sign of a healthy relationship.

I look forward to the additional articles in this series, and I will posts the links here as they appear.

Friday, 03 April 2009 19:00

What to ask before you say “I Do”

A new survey asked a sample of 1,000 adults what issues a person should discuss with their prospective spouse before they marry. Here are the results and brief commentary about the survey.

Friday, 03 April 2009 19:00

The Art of Listening

My friend and fellow divorce lawyer, Ben Stevens of the South Carolina Family Law Blog, pointed this article out to me. It is an article titled On Listening and Other Rare, Exotic Habits by Hans and Donna Finzel.

A quote from the article – “In this age of telecommunications and voice messaging, there is still no substitute for quiet, prolonged exposure of one soul to another. With all the marvels of the Internet and a reach-out-and-touch-someone technology, husband and wife are more in need of quiet and prolonged communication than ever before. The more busy and crazy our lives become, the more communication protects the marriage.”

If more husbands and wives communicated better and more deeply, I’d have a lot less work.

Monday, 17 December 2012 17:03

Healthy Marriage Initiative

I recently came across the website for The Healthy Marriage Initiative. The site states that their mission statement is
To help couples, who have chosen marriage for themselves, gain greater access to marriage education services, on a voluntary basis, where they can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage.

Click here if you’d like to view their site and see if they have any resources that you or someone you know may be able to use.

A Parent who has been previously ordered to pay child support is obligated to pay until the child’s 19th birthday. Unless there is a specific date in the divorce decree or subsequent order which states that the support can be terminated on that day, a person is technically obligated to pay support until the Judge issues an order terminating the support requirement. A person can be ordered to pay support past the child’s nineteenth birthday if the child is going to college and the parent has the financial ability to pay or if the child is a “special needs” child and is mentally or physically unable to provide for themselves once they reach the age of 19. Any action intended to get one parent to pay college support MUST be filed prior to the day of that particular child’s nineteenth birthday. If not filed by then, the court forever loses jurisdiction to order college support.

If there are multiple children who are receiving support pursuant to your current order and one has turned 19, that is a sufficient basis to modify the payor’s support. The new order will be recalculated based on the parties’ gross monthly incomes and other A.R.J.A. 32 factors existing at that time but will not include support for the child that recently turned 19.

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.

My friend Candi Peeples, who has a family law practice in Birmingham, Alabama, has developed an app for calculating child support. It is brand new and I have only had a chance to use it a few times but it can provide you with a good estimate of what child support you should receive or pay. The app can be found by going to the app store and searching for “Alabama child support calculator”. The app is free and literally takes seconds to download.

The interface is very simple and the information can be entered quickly. The app gives you a child support amount at the end and also provides a link to let you look at a calculation page that is similar to the one required to be submitted to a court. The only issue I can see so far is that it is not clear that the income amounts that are entered should be your GROSS monthly income and not net income. I expect that this will be corrected soon.

Please be aware that child support calculations can be very simple or very complicated depending, for example, on how easy or difficult it is to determine income. Candi’s disclaimer makes it clear that you should at least consult with an attorney who is familiar with child support calculations before relying on the numbers the app provides. I think this app will be useful to me during client meetings as well as in-court situations where I need a quick calculation. Give it a try yourself and see how you like it and call me if you have any questions.

A new bill reducing the age of majority from 19 to 18 will be the subject of a hearing before the Alabama House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

The most recent word I have received is that the Senate version of the bill passed the Senate. So, if the bill gets out of the Committee tomorrow, it could be on its way to passing both Houses and being signed into law.

Many family law attorneys are concerned that changing the age of majority will have significant negative effects and cause substantial litigation. For example, questions have been raised about how this proposed law would affect existing child support cases and prior Settlement Agreements regarding child support and post-minority education expenses. Additionally, there is some concern about its effect on 19 year olds being able to remain on their parents health and hospitilization insurance.

The legislature is supposed to be taking these issues into consideration, but until we see the final bill, it is hard to know what the final impact would be.

UPDATE: To date, the proposed bills to reduce the age of majority have not been passed. The age of majority remains 19 in Alabama.

The Alabama Supreme Court held in June of this year that the State’s grandparent visitation statute (§30-3-4.1, Ala. Code 1975) is unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. As a result, there may be no viable way for grandparents to obtain visitation rights with their grandchildren through a divorce court.

In Ex parte E.R.G., [Ms. 1090883, June 10, 2011] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2011) the Court found that the right of a fit parent to determine, among other things, who has contact with their child is a “fundamental” right and therefore any law interfering with that right must pass the “strict scrutiny” test to be constitutional. This test is the most stringent one a court applies to determine the validity of a statute and our Supreme Court held that it was not met in this case.

The question of how this ruling affects older cases where grandparent visitation has already been awarded was recently addressed in Burnette v. Burnett, [Ms. 2100935, December 9, 2011] ___So. 3d___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2011). The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that a change in substantive law, such as a finding that a statute is unconstitutional, should be applied retroactively. As a result, the court overturned a previous award of visitation to grandparents.

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