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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! 

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Alabama Family Law Blog

Who Gets What In A Divorce

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Tagging woman in Facebook post violates no-contact order

A court order barring a woman from contacting another woman by “electronic or any other means” prohibited the subject from tagging the protected woman in a Facebook post, a New York judge has ruled.

Denying a motion to dismiss a criminal contempt case against Maria Gonzalez, acting Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Susan Capeci said the conduct, if proven, would violate the protective order, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

A lawyer for Gonzalez argued that the court order didn’t specifically ban making contact via Facebook.

The ABA Journal

It occurs fairly often in pending divorce situations that “no contact” orders are issued.  It is also common for there to be “no contact” orders in criminal domestic violence cases.  With the many ways that people have contact with one another these days other than face to face contact, such as email and texts that are delivered straight to people’s smartphones, it is easier than ever to violate these orders.  That was illustrated recently in a case reported out of Westchester, New York where a judge has held that “tagging” a person who is the subject of a “no contact” order in a photograph in a Facebook post can violate a “no contact” order.  This was noted in an article posted in an ABA Journal Tech Monthly article recently.  There the judge refused to dismiss a criminal contempt complaint against a defendant due to the tagging of a person in a photograph.
 
These “no contact” orders are usually very broad and cover not only direct contact but indirect contact as well.  If you have a divorce pending or a visitation schedule to work out these orders can be surprisingly easy to violate and can subject you to criminal or civil contempt penalties.   

Divorce in the Military

According to a report from the Pentagon, the rate of divorce among members of the armed forces held steady in 2007, at 3.3 percent. Considering that marriages can be under considerable stress due to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this can be somewhat surprising.

Some veterans have questioned if the figures are accurate, but defense officials have cited recent efforts to support couples enduring long separations and hardships due to the wars.

According to the Associated Press, the divorce rate represents over 25,000 failed marriages among approximately 755,000 active duty troops throughout all branches of the military who are married from a period between October 1, 2006 and October 1, 2007.

According to the Defense Department’s data, the Army, which is the branch with the largest number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, had a 3.2 percent rate of divorce, which is unchanged from the previous year. That percentage represents 8,748 divorcees among approximately 275,000 married troops.

Army couples had to deal with extended separations due to tours of duty lasting 15 months instead of 12 months. Longer deployments and multiple tours have taken the blame for stresses on military couples.

The biggest exception to the data is the divorce rate among female troops. Over the past several years, women in the military have had twice as many marriages fail as men. The data did not provide firm numbers, but it appears that in 2007, eight percent of women in the service have divorced and 2.6 percent of men have divorced.

There is no system that can compare this rate to the rate among civilians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the general population’s divorce rate was 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2005, which was the most recent statistics available and the lowest rate since 1970.

According to Todd Bowers of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, there is a crushing effect on military marriages from the war, producing a rising number of breakups. However, he says, these are not being tracked because they are among people who are no longer in the service.

Proper Ways to Tell Your Kids About Divorce

divorce

Children in Divorce

Divorce can be a difficult situation for anyone to face, and it can be especially challenging for children, who perhaps do not understand why their parents are getting divorced, or are confused about their own role in their parents' marriage. Talking with children about divorce is an essential step toward helping them accept the situation, but it can be difficult for many parents to do. Oftentimes, parents put off talking to their kids about their divorce because they are unsure how to approach the topic, but this delay can make a divorce even more difficult for a child or children to move past.

When kids are suddenly facing the divorce of their parents, they may feel like the divorce is their fault, or they could become angry and begin acting out. Such a situation can make a divorce even more difficult to process for both spouses, but talking to your kids strategically and effectively might prevent any confusion or anger.

Strategies for Talking to Your Kids

While talking to your children about your divorce may not seem appealing or may seem beyond your capabilities, just remember that a lot of people have to go through this process and there are ways to make it easier on both yourself and your kids. Some strategies for making this process easier include the following:

ñ  Talk to your kids with your spouse – present a united front

ñ  Carefully explain the reasons for the divorce, as appropriate

ñ  Make it clear that the divorce is not the child's fault

ñ  Maintain eye contact and a calm voice and demeanor

ñ  Avoid blaming your spouse for anything, and stay positive

ñ  Allow plenty of time for kids to ask questions

Each of these strategies can make talking with your kids about your divorce easier, not just for your children, but for you as well. While you may not implement all of these strategies, you can decide which will work best for your situation and use them at your discretion. If you feel like you need additional advice for talking to your children, you may want to consider talking to a divorce lawyer, as these professionals have the experience necessary to advise families in a variety of situations. Remember, every family is different, so talking about your divorce with your kids will be a different experience for you than it would be for someone else.

Donna Swanson is a Legal Writer/Blogger from Austin Texas | Legal News

Protect your credit in the event of divorce

If you are facing divorce this, you need to take care to protect your credit.

Most people don’t know that court decrees assigning payment responsibilities for joint loans are not honored by lenders. This incorrect assumption of being off the hook for financial obligations can result in payments being missed and your credit score being tarnished for years. However, you can limit your exposure to this type of risk this if your credit is safeguarded before filing for divorce.

If you and your spouse have joint accounts, you should do your best to change them to individual accounts so that splitting up your financial responsibilities will be easier. This may or may not require your spouse’s cooperation. It will depend on how the debt is titled and on the requirements of the creditor. However, these steps can save years of credit woes in the future.

You should begin this process with your credit card accounts. Payments on credit card debt are the most often missed, as opposed to home and vehicle loans. Those loans are the second thing you should work on.

However, refinancing your mortgage and car loans will be more difficult, as banks or mortgage companies will likely require additional transaction costs to refinance the loan. Selling the car or house and splitting the money could be an easier method, which would guarantee a vengeful ex-spouse wouldn’t damage your credit.

Opting out of receiving pre-screened offers for credit or insurance is also advisable, as a former spouse could be tempted to apply for a loan in your name in order to ruin your credit.

Of course, this information is not specific legal advice for your own situation. Rather, it is general information. Before taking any action, you should discuss these issues with your lawyer.

Preparing for Possible Divorce: What Is The First Thing You Should Do?

If either you or your spouse may be thinking about a divorce, the first thing you should do is consult with an attorney who handles divorce matters in your area.  Too often I meet with people who have talked to friends or family and been given totally wrong information about one or more issues they will face in the event of a divorce.  These sources are great to get advice from in many instances but a possible divorce is not one of them.  Friends and family are very important for both emotional and possibly financial support but don’t rely on them for divorce  advice.

One of the things I enjoy most about my practice is meeting new people and finding out about how I can help them deal with their particular circumstances.  Every person’s situation is unique.  A divorce lawyer can advise you regarding your specific circumstances and tell you what you should be doing as well as things you should not be doing to put yourself in the best possible position to either get the best settlement or prepare yourself for a potential trial.  This is even more important for people who may not be familiar with the particular facts surrounding their finances or how much income they have.  There might be things like specific expenses for children or other reasons to cause you to want to go ahead and file, wait to file or not file at all.  If you think you might have to deal with a divorce, go see a lawyer and find out what issues are going to be important in your situation as soon as you can.  Without a doubt dealing with a potential divorce is stressful enough.  Don’t compound your anxiety by not getting real answers to your questions from a lawyer who knows how to answer them.

Discovering Hidden Assets

In your divorce case, you may hear your lawyer talk about the “discovery process.” Discovery is essentially the legal process by which lawyers can obtain information necessary for your case (such as assets, debts, income, and other factual information). This often will involve written requests to your spouse to produce certain documents, a request for them to file written answers to the lawyer’s written questions (called interrogatories), subpoenas for documents from banks, credit card companies, etc.

Often lawyers will use multiple methods of discovery in an effort to obtain complete information. I have had clients ask me not to pursue discovery for fear of the costs that would be incurred. This is often short sighted. An example from a recent case I had is instructive.

I was representing a wife in a divorce case. The husband had complete control of all of the finances and the wife was not even aware of all of the assets. Through the discovery we sent to the husband he produced a spreadsheet that he claimed were the assets. The wife was surprised at the amount of assets that were disclosed. They were much more than she thought they had. But, the husband showed what he claimed to be the fair market value and the loans owed on them. In all, he showed a net equity of less than $500,000. It was more than the wife suspected, but something told me it was less than it should be. So, we subpoenaed his bank records.

The bank produced documents to us that included the husband’s loan application and the net worth statement that he provided to the bank. And, you’ve probably guessed the punch line – the net worth statement he provided to the bank included assets that he had not disclosed on the financial statement he provided to us, and the values were higher. In all, the difference was that he showed a net worth on the financial statement provided to the bank that was nearly $2.5 million dollars – increasing the marital estate for the divorce judge to divide by about $2 million!

My client now understands it was to her benefit to make sure we did a thorough job of discovery. Obviously this example (though completely true) is not what usually happens – at least not to this degree. But, the lesson is a good one – make sure that your lawyer does a thorough job of discovery. And, make sure that you let him.

Compulsive Shopping & Divorce

Compulsive shopping is a serious affliction that has an effect upon thousands and can lead to serious problems including divorce. Someone recently brought an article to my attention on this subject that can be found at a NBC affiliates’ website. The article states the following interesting facts:

“According to a study in 2006, approximately six percent of the population of the U.S. can be classified as “compulsive” shoppers.

According to research, compulsive shoppers average around $9,000 worth of credit card debt.

According to psychologist Dr. April Benson, who specializes in treatment of compulsive shoppers, many people who spend a great deal of time shopping and making compulsive purchases typically feel “really hollow inside.”

Benson says that compulsive buyers will generally attempt to fill the “hollowness” with material things, which can result in severe consequences.

According to studies, women are not the only ones who can become impulsive shoppers, men are just as likely to succumb to uncontrolled spending.”

I recently helped a client in a divorce in Mobile, Alabama where the husband has incurred an incredible about of debt going gambling at the casino boats. That situation is very similar to what they are describing in this article – compulsive, addictive behavior that escalates over time to the point that it interferes with one’s relationship with their spouse and eventually ends in divorce. In either case, it is a sad conclusion for a behavior that may have started out innocently enough.

5 Common Financial Mistakes in Divorce

I recently came across this article from the USA Today which set out Five Common Financial Mistakes Made in Divorce.

Here is a summary of their points:

1. Trying to keep the house no matter the costs. Many couples scrambling to obtain a divorce settlement wish to keep the house at any cost. However, financial experts say that more attention should be given to who can afford to maintain the property, pay the mortgage, and manage the taxes. While it is possible to ask for spousal support to help make the mortgage payments, unexpected maintenance costs may pop up, and make home ownership more of a liability than a luxury.

2. Failing to get a clean financial break from your former spouse. Clean separation of assets and debts is another difficult task, but one that Howard Dvorkin, the founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services says is absolutely necessary, or the consequences can be devastating. Although the task may seem insurmountable, “the alternative is much worse,” says Dvorkin. “Having a spouse drive up your debt when you’re not married anymore” can seriously affect one’s credit score.

3. Depending on your former spouse to comply with financial arrangements. This is also a huge mistake, according to the USA Today article. Although both parties in a divorce are beholden to a court-ordered divorce agreement, creditors do not fall under that arrangement. If your ex spouse is supposed to pay the mortgage, but doesn’t, “the lender is going to sue both of you,” remarks Melissa Avery, an Indianapolis family law attorney. This holds true in Alabama divorces as well; if your ex fails to pay the mortgage, you may be hurt when applying for future loans.

4. Not reviewing your estate plan after a divorce. Wills and trusts can also be seriously impacted by divorce proceedings. If divorced spouses wait unnecessarily long to change a beneficiary on a will, for example, the money may go to the wrong person-your new spouse may get nothing, while your ex spouse inherits the amount provided for in your will.

5. Not understanding the different tax treatment of alimony vs. child support. Finally, never forget which amount of money in your divorce settlement is alimony, and which amount is child support. Whereas child support payments are not taxable to the recipient, alimony payments are. Furthermore, there are limits to how long a person can receive such payments-child support payments can no longer be received once the child turns 18 or is done with college, while spousal support generally ends once the recipient remarries.

Women, Money & Divorce

I recently came across an article in the internet by Samantha Change, the Executive Editor of theimproper.com. The article discussed the financial hardship that women in particular have as a result of divorce. One of the things that Samantha emphasizes is the importance of women being involved with and informed about the financial affairs of the family. In representing women in Mobile and Baldwin County Alabama where I practice, I too have noticed that often the wives do not know a lot about the financial situation of the family. This is not always the case. But, I do see it quite a bit in my divorce practice.

The main thrust of Samantha’s article is for women to be involved and educated about the money and financial issues in the marriage. Some of the other points she makes are summarized below. Here is a link to the entire article.

According to recent statistics, U.S. divorce rates have decreased in recent years after a peak in the 1970s, but still remain fairly high. In addition to being an emotional breakup, divorce can bring about serious financial issues that can have long-term consequences on the economic stability of a woman.

According to recent studies, a woman’s standard of living decreases at least 30 percent after divorce, which means getting a grip on finances both during and after divorce is crucial for surviving intact.

Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand

All women-especially divorcées-need to overcome their aversion to money issues, educate themselves and set financial goals. Part of the reason why divorce hits women so hard financially is due to most of them being reliant on their husbands to take care of household financials while married and then becoming shell-shocked having to manage their own situation on their own.
Self-sufficiency is crucial, and these tips can help.

Study Your Finances

According to investment advisor Lisa Fox, women often have no idea what they have financially. She says that during an after a divorce, they should be aware of all investments and read each financial statement, investigating anything they are unsure of. Fox also suggests keeping track of finances by copying all important documents.

Knowing what you have puts you in a better position for negotiation during divorce.

Create a Budget

Draw up a post-divorce budget while in negotiations in order to provide yourself with a snapshot of the type of settlement you’ll need, keeping in mind that downsizing may be required for your lifestyle after divorce.

Money: Not Just a Man’s Issue

Because women tend to live longer, earn less money during their lifetimes, and not be prone to investing, they have different financial needs than men. This makes getting a handle on financial issues is important, and should be done so sooner than later.

Divorce is never easy, but through common sense and financial responsibility, making the transition can be made easier.

The Importance of Secure Communication During Divorce

Whenever you are going through divorce, it is important to maintain secure lines of communication with your lawyer. This is especially important in the early stages of representation, when you may not want to tip your hand to your spouse that the divorce is imminent.

Houston divorce lawyer, Shannon Cavers, recently posted an informative article on this subject here. Like Shannon, at the initial consultation we ask our clients for a spouse safe e-mail and mailing address. It is so simple to open a yahoo or hotmail e-mail account for free, that you should consider opening one for this purpose. In doing so, make sure that you use a password that they will not guess and that is unique to this account.