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!
Alabama ranks high in divorce rates.
According to the U.S. Department of Public Health, Alabama’s divorce rate was 39% higher than the national rate in 2007.
A recent article in the Time Daily, reports that many churches in Alabama are responding by implementing Divorce care programs for their communities. Encouragingly, the article relates that many communities are also responding by implementing programs to strengthen marriage. In my experience as a practicing divorce attorney in Alabama, that is where the focus should be.
I encourage you to read the article.
A while back, I wrote a series of articles on Alabama Divorce Preparation. The article explored what someone facing divorce ought to do to best protect themselves under Alabama divorce laws. Recently, I have noticed that many people have been coming to this blog looking for information on Alabama divorce laws, but particularly on preparing for divorce.
For that reason, I thought it would be helpful to direct you to the final article I wrote on Alabama Divorce Preparation. If you visit that page, it will show you each of the 13 Steps I outlined and includes a link so you can get more information for each one. I hope it is helpful to you.
I read a lot of articles on divorce. I am always tracking what is going on in my field and trying to pass on good information to the readers of my Alabama Family Law Blog. Recently, I have noticed a lot of articles with the headline: How to Stop Your Divorce! I’ve noticed that most of these lead to sites that are selling some product to people facing divorce. Perhaps, some of these products are worthwhile. But, I can’t help but think some of these are simply an attempt to play on the emotions of someone going through one of the worst times of their lives.
The fact is, under Alabama divorce laws, if one of the spouses insists on a divorce, they are going to get it. There is nothing you can do to stop. You can make it take longer, and you can make it cost more money (but why would you want to?), but you can’t stop it. I tell my divorce clients all of the time, “It takes two people to decide to get married, it only takes one to decide to get a divorce.”
Can you try to convince your spouse to reconcile? Of course. Can you try to convince a spouse considering a divorce to not file and give it another chance. Sure. I always encourage reconciliation. And, if you are struggling in your marriage, a good book to take a look at is, The Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Married. The author is a divorce lawyer and in it, she interviews other divorce lawyers around the country. Because we see so many marriages that end in divorce, divorce attorneys have a unique perspective on the issue.
But, as far as these websites that promise to stop your divorce case, I would just be careful. A few sessions with a qualified marriage counselor or pastor will have a much better chance of being effective than an e-book slapped together by someone trying to capitalize on your desire to avoid divorce.
The Orlando Sentinel posted an article today on Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative divorce is an alternative way to resolve a divorce case without resorting to litigation. I was actually trained as a collaborative lawyer in 2001. However, it has been slow to pick up steam in Alabama. In fact, many divorce attorneys in Alabama that I have spoken to have expressed their reluctance to hanlde cases collaboratively. I think that will change. As it becomes more common and more people find out about it, there will be a market demand for it.
The only real down side to collaborative divorce can be the expense. But, it is far less costly than a traditional adversarial divorce.
I have been working on something called the No Nonsense Divorce that I think will provide another viable option for families in Alabama trying to cope with divorce. It is a way for divorcing couples to streamline the divorce process and to resolve their case for a fixed fee that is far less than would be incurred in litigation. I’ll be posting more about No Nonsense Divorce here as soon as we have all of the parts in place.
Until then, I encourage you to read the article linked above on Collaborative Divorce. It captures some of the same themes that I urge my clients to consider in the way we handle their divorce case.
I came across this excellent article entitled, 7 Steps to Help You Get Through Divorce. It doesn’t appear that the author is an attorney, but his advice is right on the money. If you are facing a divorce in Alabama (or anywhere, for that matter), the article is worth a read.
I appreciate the fact that his first step is to hire a divorce lawyer. In his words, “a lawyer will be your best friend for how ever long you divorce is active.” I would only add, that the right divorce lawyer will be your friend for how ever long your divorce case is active.
Some of his other steps were included in my own series on Alabama Divorce Preparation.
Finally, I like the fact that he concludes with the important reminder for parents to never use the child as leverage in a divorce. I see that too often, with devastating consequences.
The UPI ran this article entitled, Divorce Lawyers find GPS Useful. In it they describe how many divorce lawyers are increasingly using data from global positioning satellites to track vehicle movements and location in order to prove adultery. I have found this occurring more frequnelty in my Alabama divorce cases as well. The article correctly points out that one of the advantages of using a GPS instead of hiring a private investigator is the cost savings. You can hire a p.i. for several hours at a time over several different days and you may or may not time it correctly to gather evidence. On the other hand, the GPS data will be there all of the time and isn’t charging you by the hour.
The article also states that an advantage to the GPS is that an owner of the vehicle can conceal it on the car. My only word of caution about that is that the laws vary from state to state and are constantly changing. So, before you go put a GPS on your vehicle that your spouse doesn’t know about, you should run it by your divorce lawyer first.
I came across the Family Watchdog website today. At this site you can put in your address and it will pull up a map indicating the number of registered sex offenders residing near your home. After pulling up the map, you can access photographs of the registered sex offenders.
I was shocked to see 4 within 1 mile of my home! Check it out.
The American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence has published a very helpful resource which contains safety tips for victims of domestic violence. It includes practical tips for protecting your children and yourself at home, at work, and elsewhere.
The document can be downloaded for free here.
Thanks to Ben Stevens of the South Carolina Family Law Blog for the tip.
If you live in the Mobile-Baldwin County area and are going through a divorce or are about to go through a divorce, have you ever wondered what sort of visitation the non-custodial parent will be granted? It is a question that many in this situation ask about and is one that is usually easily answered, despite the differences in the way this issue is handled in our local counties.
In theory, a domestic relations and/or Juvenile Court Judge has very wide discretion to fashion particular visitation schedules in each case depending on the facts and circumstances of that case. In reality, however, most Judges in this area have developed their own “standard visitation” schedules that they put in their orders. These can vary slightly from the basic order as well. For instance, in Mobile, a Wednesday night can be added if the parties ask for it, but the Courts will not allow much more that that, despite an agreement between the parties. However in Baldwin County, Wednesday night is part of the standard order. Also, Baldwin County Judges will allow the parties to share custody where the children spend an even amount of time with each parent (two weeks with one and two weeks with the other, for example). The following are the “highlights” of the normal visitation orders in different courts in this area.
In Mobile County it is as follows:
-Every other weekend from Friday at 6pm to Sunday at 6pm.
-One month during the Summer.
-One week at Christmas beginning at 2pm on Christmas Day.
-Thanksgiving and Springbreak holidays alternate in even and odd years.
I have never really considered “virtual visitation” or contact between parents and children over a computer video connection to be practical. However, after reading Ann Sanner’s AP article titled “‘Virtual’ Visits Pushed in Several States,” I may have to make this part of the visitation options I discuss with certain of my clients. While it obviously should not be used as a substitute for actual physical visitation, in the right circumstances it seems that this could help many parents and children maintain their relationship.
The article above describes a prime example of when virtual visitation would be appropriate and desirable. The Father lives in another country and only gets to exercise in-person visits a few times per year. Even so, his divorce agreement guarantees him contact with his 5 year old daughter by internet video connection and he usually gets to talk to her this way at least two times per week. The fact that they are able to look at one another during these talks seems to make a big difference in the quality of his contact as opposed to mere telephone conversations.
While local Judges may not be familiar with this method of contact, based on the very broad discretion Judges have in this state when it comes to visitation matters, I think it is something they have the power to order now, without the need to have a specific statute autorizing it. With the proliferation of broadband internet connections as well as the ease with which these video connections can be set up, there is no reason to only consider them in situations where the parties are separted by long distances. These contacts could just as easily take place as a part of local visitation situations.
I was walking down the hallway of my house the other night and I heard my 14 year old daughter having a conversation with what sounded like another boy in her room. It was late and I knew no one was there but, of course, I immediately headed that way. When I opened the door to her room I saw her sitting on her bed with her new school laptop in front of her and she was talking to and laughing at her computer.
It turns out she was having a Skype video conversation with her Uncle who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. As I leaned in to view the screen I saw my brother-in-law and also saw myself in the bottom of the screen. I waved and said hello and he did the same back to me. Amazing!
I have had several opportunities to put provisions in agreement divorces or relocation case settlements that obligate one party or the other to have broadband connections to facilitate communications with the other non-custodial parent but this was my first personal experience with it in video form. It really was a great way to communicate and was much better than a simple phone call would have been.
Alabama has no statutory obligation requiring a court to consider Skype or other forms of ”virtual visitaion.” I am also not aware of a published opinion where this was required by a judge after a hearing. However, with the economy being in the condition it is, causing both custodial and non-custodial parents to consider relocating to find jobs, the technology that allows this sort of communication can help improve an otherwise bad situation. The technology has defenitely come a long way. Video conversations are certaily no substitution for spending time with your children but they absolutely can help give the feeling that your children are not so far away.
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.
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.
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.
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.