Birmingham Family Law Attorneys: The Magic City Law Difference

Birmingham Family Law Attorney

Need help with your divorce? Give our family law boutique firm a call today at 205-582-2832.

You’re thinking about hiring a lawyer for your family law matter. Whether it be an adoption, custody case, or divorce, you’re not exactly sure who you want to hire. You have checked out a lot of lawyer websites but they all have a gavel, scales of justice, or some sort of laurel wreath. You’ve read through the schools, the length of practice, and how each person wants to try to sell themselves to you. After reading each bio, you’re still just as confused. You don’t know what you want. You don’t know what route to take.

We get it.

As a law firm, we didn’t know which route to take either.  It’s obviously, we’re young & we’re spunky. Our firm is new-ish to the market. We could try the ol’ “we have over “x” # of years of combined experience” line to make ourselves appear older, but we’re not. That’s not us. We get it, we’re young, but we do have years of experience. Most importantly, those years have been focused on one area of law. We spend each and every day gaining experience and expertise in family law. Here’s the Magic City difference. You let us know whether or not we’re the right fit for you by giving us a call.

  1. We want to be your friend and confidant.

First, we keep it real. We don’t attempt to make you feel like you’re stupid or uninformed when you come in our office. We aren’t trying to sell you on what our firm will and can achieve for you. We cannot do that. Each and every case is different. The most important parts of a case are the people and the facts. Here’s the thing, we cannot make you into a better person, we can only work with what you give us. We cannot make the opposing party into a better person, we can only work with what they give us. We will, however, speak to you – sometimes at length – and explain what is going on in terms that everyone can understand.

We make sure that when we talk to you about your case, you leave feeling like you just had a chat with your close friends. We don’t want you to feel like you’re ever bothering us, or that we’re above you. We’re in this together. Regardless of whether or not you just did something crazy.

  1. We work each case as a team.

That means you get two lawyers for the price of one.  Our firm doesn’t charge for two attorneys during our trials, but we work them together. To be the most effective firm we can be, we have to be on point all-of-the-time. One lawyer will do the questioning, while the other is watching the reactions of the people in the courtroom, especially the Judge. We do this, not only for you, but for ourselves. You see, April and I have very different personalities. We use that to improve each other. We may have one of us being aggressive, while the other is working the honey/sugar/niceties. Just remember that you’re on our team when you hire us, and when you hire us, you hire a team.

  1. We want to save you money.

We don’t want to bankrupt you while working to get you to a happier place. We want you to still call us and be our friend when everything is over. We want you to send other clients to us. We often will let you know, as a friend, “hey, those 25 phone calls last week, they’re depleting that retainer, fast. “ We do everything we can to save you money, and keep unnecessary expenses from happening. Although we love money, I mean it’s a material world and I’m a material girl, we don’t love it more than our clients.

Birmingham Divorce Attorney: 4 Tips For Trial Day

Tips for Trial

Divorce in the Magic City isn’t necessarily magical. Give us a call for an initial consult at 205-582-2832.

You’ve been waiting for this day for months, maybe years. You are going to trial. You show up with your posse. Everyone is ready to go! You’ve had your coffee and you’re wearing your smarty pants – you are READY TO GO. You have read through your notes. You’ve been up since 4am. It is time to start the show. Your attorney has explained that the docket is rather long, and that you may not get to go that day. You figure that you’ve waited long enough so you take that with a grain of salt (and maybe a tequila shot – please don’t). You go in for the docket call and realize you’re pretty low on the food chain. Some of the cases here have been waiting for three years! So, what now?

Follow these Tips for Trial:

1. Bring a book, a few magazines, or something to occupy yourself.

Here’s the thing: divorce, court, the entire process is rather slow. You think that once you get to trial (or just simply, court) that things will speed up? Not going to happen. The judges’ dockets are so full they usually make the lawyers go talk. That means that we will have to go talk to the other lawyer, who has to talk to their client. Then that lawyer comes back with an offer. We have to take that offer to you, and then come back to them. It’s a lot of volleying back and forth. Sometimes both lawyers have multiple cases so this process is happening over and over again. Your lawyer has been pounding the marble (would say pavement but not in courthouses) trying to keep up with the other attorney. Sometimes the Judge will call us and make us explain to them why we’re having issues settling. There is a lot going on behind the scenes. This is very upsetting to some clients as all they want to do is “see the judge”, but it is how things are done. Judges don’t want a five day trial of “he said- she said” if it can be avoided.

2. Leave most of the friends at home.

Friends love you and they want to be supportive, but there are only so many times that they can take off work to help you talk ___ about your ex. If you need emotional support from your friends or family members, pick a couple and leave the rest. A lot of times those helpful emotionally supportive friends can insert their opinions when they aren’t needed. Sometimes they can conflict what your lawyer is trying to help you do because they’re angry. They merely want the other person to suffer, and they don’t know the law. Sometimes they will beg the two of you to reconcile. Also, on days when there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, they may start blessing you with their own worries. Choose the team wisely, and make sure they’re supportive and minimum drama.

3. Bring a jacket & a snack.

It’s pretty cold in the conference rooms. Negotiating can last hours. Your nervous jitters may give way to hangry times. Make sure that you have the necessities. When it comes to our tips for trial – this one takes the cake. Seriously.

Tips for Trial

Bring a Snack: One of our 4 Trial Tips in this blog… you’ll need it.

4. Don’t sign a settlement just because you want to leave.

I feel like settlement negotiations can imitate police interrogations. You are cold, hungry (unless you followed our advice), and ready to get this DONE. You are presented with a few offers, and you’re not happy. Then you start to realize that you’ve wasted your entire day. You feel like maybe you should simply sign and walk away. You’ll forego some of what you want BUT YOU ARE FREE TO GO EAT AND WARM UP AND RELAX… Just think before you agree. There are no “takes-backsies” after you sign. You probably should think it through and contemplate how you’ll feel the next day. Don’t let the uncomfortable nature of negotiation and court looming in the background to cause you years of unhappiness.

Your Divorce Lawyer’s Biggest Pet Peeves: How To Be The Best Client

Be the best client you can be! Give us a call: 205-582-2832

Be the best client you can be! Give us a call: 205-582-2832

There was a time, very recent, that lawyers were begging for clients. We all sat around waiting for the phone to ring hoping someone was arguing over dishes or the trash… well, basically anything to get them in our office. I suspect there probably was an attorney somewhere instigating people. However, these days the phones are ringing more often. The clients a bit more cumbersome, and lawyers everywhere are able to turn clients away without wondering how they were going to pay for the overhead that month. That being said, some of the unfavorables are no longer being represented. There are people out there that, despite their pocketbook, lawyers will not represent. Actually, despite their case, and the lawyer’s need to win, their case is sitting there. Why? Here are a few reasons and how you can be a client that the lawyer wants to represent:

1. Showing up late or not showing up for appointments.

Regardless of whether you just made a brand spanking new appointment with a lawyer’s office (how exciting!!!) or you have been a long term client… Showing up late is a no-no. Lawyers run on time. We spend our time billing and preparing for cases. In order for us to be profitable and stay in business, we have to manage our time. Most lawyers will plan everything down to the minute, so when you show up thirty minutes late – they’re probably already helping someone a bit more punctual. Also – it shows that you don’t value their time. That indicates a lack of respect.

INSTEAD: Leave early or on time and show up on time. If you’re running late – then give us a courtesy call! There’s this newfangled thing called a cell phone. Almost everyone has one… if not two. Use it and let us know what’s up. We promise we won’t sue you if you give us a good excuse for running late. The first time… (kidding…)

2. Calling back to back without leaving a message.
Do you want the most cost-efficient direct answer to your question? Want the biggest bang for your buck? Want to avoid the dreaded “oh, I’ll have to call you back on that one… I’m going to have to check in to what the other side says.” Then do not call your attorney’s office back to back without leaving a message. One, it makes you look a bit crazy. Two, it makes us dread calling you back because there’s no telling what’s lurking behind all of those back to back phone calls. For all we know you could have just snuck some rat poison in your husband’s coffee and are feeling killer’s remorse.

INSTEAD: Leave ONE detailed message and wait for us to return your call. “Hey… I know I’m supposed to be in court on Tuesday, but I just left for Canada with all 5 of my children. Tell my husband, Mr. Rogers, I’m not in the neighborhood anymore…”

3. Asking the same question over and over again.

We don’t mind questions. In fact, we kinda ask them for a living. Questions are what make an attorney’s world go ‘round. We love giving information and answering questions. Shoot! Sometimes, if I don’t know, I’ll make up something crazy just to see if you buy it (not the law but just something simple like “why is my ex’s attorney such a terrible person? Because she grew up in the circus and though she always wanted to be a trapeze artist, they made her clean up after the elephants. Really? No.”) That being said – we will often answer client’s questions in email, on the phone, in person, by carrier pigeon. Our office has a policy of following up with the answer to your question in writing whether it be by email or letter. With that sort of thorough behavior, it would be a shocker if a client said we didn’t answer their questions… and ask them again… but they do.

INSTEAD: Listen. Before asking a question AGAIN, look through your email. I bet you that question has been answered. If your policy is “TLDR” (too long didn’t read), I’d suggest that you don’t get involved in litigation.

4 Points On Standard Visitation Schedules

Looking to get more than a step visitation schedule? Afraid you won't get it because you're "not the mama"? Give us a call at 205-582-2832

Looking to get more than a step visitation schedule? Afraid you won’t get it because you’re “not the mama”? Give us a call at 205-582-2832

DISCLAIMER: We do not feel that we will take either side. Each case is evaluated on a case by case basis. We have simply seen that there are good fathers being disadvantaged due to the mere fact that they are the father and not the mother. This post is not intended to offend anyone in particular, but merely to give light to a way to fix a long standing issue.

Couple 1: Princess and Michael met in a bar one night. He had a hard day at work, and she was everything just right for that night. He was a little intoxicated. They ended up going home together where they inevitably made a baby. They continue to text each other from time to time. For months neither of them knows that Princess is pregnant. She continues to go out drinking, and takes different guys home. She works at a local strip club, and when times are tight, she sometimes gives the customers a little extra sum’n sum’n to get a bigger tip. They go on a few dates, but Princess has a different type of life than Michael who works an office job each and every day until 5. She has the baby, and has a new guy at this time, so she doesn’t tell Michael. When he eventually finds out via Instagram a year or so later (#wheresmychildsupport #wheresmaurywhenyouneedhim #19years19yearsandonthe19thbirthdayfoundoutitwasnthis) he immediately files for custody. He goes to court, and sits next to the other unwed couples awaiting to find out if this is his child. Turns out that Kleverleigh Un-Xpected does in fact belong to him. He, the working father, with no previous drug issues and nothing on his record, gets supervised visitation until the child is 3.

Couple 2: Claire and Robbie are childhood sweethearts. They get married in a small town on the outskirts of hunting territory and nowheresville. BAM, they’ve got six kids. She stays home, and he works to provide for the family. He’s always been involved with the kids. He comes home each night to take each of them to their various hobbies whether it be ninja ballet or laser tag football training camp. He bathes them, puts them to bed, and reads them their favorite stories. He goes to every single recital or game. Eventually the long hours to help feed all the little mouths begins to take a toll on the marriage. They decide to get a divorce. Robbie goes into the courtroom and realizes quickly that he’s getting supervised visits with two of his kids until they’re three and the rest? He gets them for every other weekend.

Couple 3: Claire and Robbie are childhood sweethearts. Instead of staying in that small town, they decide to move to a bigger city in the biggest county in the state. Again, Robbie’s always been involved with the kids. (Same facts as #2). They decide to get a divorce. Robbie gets joint custody.

Couple 4: Claire and Robbie are childhood sweethearts. He beats her/He does a lot of drugs/He partakes in child torture. He loses custody and gets supervised visitation. He blames the system and her for losing custody and having supervised visitation. He doesn’t understand why she won’t modify the agreement to give him more time with his kid. (This is the exception, and these are the ones that waste the mother’s money with modifications because they’ve gone to one or two counseling sessions or AA meetings and expect to get unsupervised visits with their children).

Obviously looking at the above situations, one could see why lawyers everywhere have to say to you that it depends on the judge, on the court, or on the situation for whether or not you will get custody. Your lawyer may be the type who doesn’t care to learn what each judge thinks regarding visitation and just encourages the ancient schedule to push settlement along, as well as your case. Sometimes you’re just on an assembly line with little thought being given to your case. The problem that we keep seeing at our firm is that there are good and loving fathers with no history of drug or alcohol abuse, nor any child abuse issues, who come into our office after they’ve signed an agreement that “grants” them the ancient step schedule where it gives the father a certain amount of time with the child depending on the child’s age such as (and they aren’t this “simple”):

ages 1-3: supervised visits for a few hours

Ages 3-5: one night every other weekend

Ages 5+: every other weekend

Here’s the short of it:

  1. A marriage makes a huge difference when it comes to custody, even in the best of counties. The difference between married parents and unmarried parents can make or break a custody case for the father of the child. It can put you into a different courthouse with a whole different set of rules. These rules normally point to the step visitation schedules mentioned above. If you are married, then you definitely need to know your rights before you sign them away. Further, you need to find out how your Judge feels about Fathers. If you are unmarried, please look to #4 then continue reading and read #4 again.
  2. Are these step visitation schedules based on age compliant with Alabama law? We would argue no. These types of visitation schedules that automatically increase without requiring proof of a material change in circumstances have been deemed to be improper in divorce cases where the parties agree to a modification based only on time without any material change in circumstances to justify the modification. These step visitation schedules, just like the cases allowing for a modification after a mere passage of time, have the same issue in that there would be no reason other than the child’s inevitable aging that would indicate that a change in visitation is justified. In Long v. Long, where unsupervised visitation was automatically changed to supervised visitation, the Court stated that the “evidence did not support modification of child custody after six months from supervised visitation to unsupervised visitation, as trial court did not impose any conditions or obligations on noncustodial parent to fulfill during six months, there was no evidence to indicate that there would be any change of circumstances or conditions to warrant modification after six months, and there was no basis to determine future events.” Long v. Long, 781 So. 2d 225 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000). So, does this mean that these step schedules have made it so that fathers have supervised visitation forever? Well, that just seems like a disaster, but maybe… In that case, are these schedules justified in making all visitation with the father supervised… FOREVER? Well, that seems like poppycock. It has been stated that restrictions such as this are deemed okay “only when necessary to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the child. A juvenile court exceeds its discretion, however, when it imposes an overbroad restriction on visitation that does more than is necessary to protect the child and thereby unduly infringes on the parent-child relationship.” Pratt v. Pratt, 56 So.3d 638, 641 (Ala.Civ.App.2010). B.O. v. Jefferson County Dept. of Human Resources, 70 So. 3d 1286, 1291 (Ala. Civ. App. 2011). So tell me why these fathers have to have supervised visitation with the children if their only discretion is that they are not the mother?!
  3. Are men less capable of taking care of their children? Yes, SOME men are. Just as some women are less capable of taking care of their children as well. There are tons of cases such as Couple # 4 in which the father OR THE MOTHER go to yet another rehab program/counseling session/child abuse program and they think they’re suddenly parent of the year. However, looking at just a man versus a woman with no other facts doesn’t really seem like a good way to determine custody. Isn’t deciding something based on genitalia and/or gender called something— wait, what is that word? Oh, yeah: sexual discrimination. Isn’t there also something in the Constitution of the United States that deals with this type of law making? Pretty sure there’s that whole Equal Protection Clause thing…
  4. Should men just take the abuse and settle out of court because they won’t change the law anyways? No! It’s time to take a stand. Fight for your children. Find a lawyer who knows the courts and the judges in your county. Pay attention when you’re on the assembly line of cases. Don’t just be a case in a line of cases that the lawyer is going to throw some settlement talk at you and make you settle so they get paid and they can move on to the next case. Also, don’t take her word for it. Unless she is your lawyer and is not your baby momma, then you should not believe what she has to say. Wouldn’t you tell her what you think would make her give up the fight and give you want you want? You wouldn’t? Well, that’s nice of you… but custody battles aren’t nice.

3 Tips on Halloween and Your Custody Case

Attention all jack-o-lanterns and ghouls! Halloween with all its spooky glory is haunting our lives here at the office more and more often. Parents are often sacrificing holidays like Thanksgiving or Fourth of July in order to make sure they see their little ones all dressed up and on the hunt for sugar. Negotiating

Halloween Tips for Custody Cases can come to a halt if someone doesn’t get to trick or treat with their little one or be involved in choosing their costume. However, more often than not, parents fight over the major holidays and come to an Agreement only to realize at a later date that they neglected to even think about Halloween Festivities. Then, as the ghost appears, they’re having to call their lawyers in frantic panic to fight over who gets to take the little one this year and that year or how the other parent is allowing their little angel to dress like a devil/zombie/serial killer. If it’s not in the agreement, then whoever’s weekend coincides with the spooky day gets that joy which can really upset the other parent missing out on all the fun. With that being said, here are our Halloween Tips:

  1. Remember Halloween when you’re negotiating.

    People don’t think about Halloween as being a big family tradition until they realize they’re missing out on Little Seymour dressed as a killer Venus Fly Trap. Further. Children sometimes realize they’re going for visitation and all their plans end up ruined. “But MOM, we were going to go as the mean girls on Wednesdays! WE ARE ALL WEARING PINK! Without my girls, I’ll just look like Barbie!” The children’s feelings should be considered. Do they want to be around their main neighborhood during Halloween? Do they like handing out candy? Are they going to want to dress up with their other parent? “BUUUUUT DAD, MOM WAS GONNA BE BATMAN AND I WAS GONNA BE DA PENGUIN!!!” These things should be discussed before the child ends up looking like a fool because they planned a group costume, and now they’re the only one who can’t attend trick-or-treating. Instead they’re angry and targeting happy go lucky kids with skittles as they approach the door.

  2. Halloween isn’t often addressed in “standard visitation” nor is it usually addressed in standard agreements.

    Since it’s not a school holiday, and often times it is celebrated on a different night depending on where you live in order to allow kiddos to not miss school the next day, it could be hard to dictate when the actual holiday will fall. It’s just not given high priority in society because it can be seen as a frivolous celebration as opposed to Thanksgiving or Christmas. This doesn’t mean that you should just go with the norm. Why leave something out and let it haunt you at a later date? Go ahead and figure out if you’ll truly miss your kiddo during a holiday that screams with fun, then work it into negotiations.

  3. Even if you think Halloween won’t be a big deal, it might be better to carve out the details now instead of waiting for a problem to appear like an unwanted apparition.

    It might seem like your kid couldn’t care less about Halloween. That might be because he is only two months old and couldn’t chew those gum drops if he wanted to. What happens as the child ages and he starts obtaining interests of his own. Maybe this year he wants to go as Olaf, Thor, or Elsa. It’s best to figure it out now before you end up poisoning your ex’s candy to make sure you get to see little Timmy dressed as the ice queen.

HAPPY HALLO-NEGOTIATING! DON’T BE A HALLOWEENIE!!!

Call us at 205-582-2832 if you want us to help negotiate a good Halloween schedule for your little ghost or goblin!

Birmingham Divorce Attorneys: 5 Facts about Divorce in Birmingham (The Magic City)

Divorce in the Magic City isn't necessarily magical. Give us a call for an initial consult at 205-582-2832.

Divorce in the Magic City isn’t necessarily magical. Give us a call for an initial consult at 205-582-2832.

Sometimes in the Magic City couples lose the “magic” in their relationship. They no longer feel the way they once used to, leading to a very expensive fight. Maybe financial problems have torn them apart. Perhaps, it was a vice of some sort like alcohol, marijuana, heroin, excessive brownie intake, or even strippers. Regardless of the core reason that caused the dissolution, those people inevitably have to figure out the best way to split up everything without destroying themselves in the process. They begin googling divorce, child custody, and alimony (we’ve even seen the term “aliMONEY” in our google analytics) and start asking friends for advice. Then they start the divorce process highly educated in a variety of jurisdiction’s principles. They fail to realize that even one county away divorce is vastly different than the Magic City.  Sadly, they’re in for a rude awakening when they begin filing things and visiting with attorneys. Here’s a few facts about getting divorced in Birmingham to help you along the way:

  1. There are thousands of attorneys in the Birmingham area. A large portion of these attorneys handle domestic cases regardless of whether they are truly capable of doing so or not. Since the true nature of domestic or matrimonial law is fact based and ever changing, there are numerous lawyers who thrive in that gray and hide behind the safety of the statement “there’s no guarantee of a good outcome.” Ever since the criminal appointment system in Birmingham dissipated, lawyers who only practiced criminal law are now jumping into the domestic arena with little or no experience. There are lawyers everywhere who practice “threshold law,” meaning they’ll take anything that pays the bills. This has led to an increase in fees because domestic attorneys are forced to either teach the other side what they need to do to make this process move smoothly or deal with the incompetence of the other side. The pleadings and negotiating go downhill. The trials are flooded with nonsensical mess. Just because you found an attorney, doesn’t mean they do what you need. Would you go to an allergist to solve your heart problem?
  2. As the General of your army, you need to make the proper decision in regards to choosing an attorney right for you. The large amount of attorneys in this area comes with a large variety of attorneys you can choose from. If you are simply googling, you’ll get the people who pay the most for search engine optimization. This doesn’t mean you’re getting an attorney who is right for you. There are a few of those attorneys who will bleed you dry and send you on your way. How do you think they pay to be #1 on Google? If you have a complicated custody issue, look for an attorney that focuses on custody. Many lawyers advertise custody but have never been a Guardian Ad Litem. Ask your lawyer directly what they think an ideal custody situation is. If they are giving you what you want to hear, you know they aren’t looking out for your children first. If you have a high asset divorce, don’t just look for someone who advertises high asset divorces because sometimes…that’s just code for “clients that can afford to pay me.” Do your own research and NEVER hire someone who lists another area of law as their primary area of practice. You may save money at first, but you’ll end up having to hire someone else to clean up what they didn’t understand later.
  3. You could be waiting at least a year for your day in court. Just because you’re wanting to duke this out in court doesn’t mean that you’ll be in court in the next couple of months. Jefferson County is flooded with divorce cases, and don’t get me started on modifications. Sometimes it takes three months to get a Final Order on an Uncontested Divorce. You have to be patient, and you need someone who knows realistic time expectations, especially when it comes to which Judge is assigned to your case. You are in the largest county in the state. What does that mean? Larger numbers of people flooding the court system.
  4. Stop assuming that the mother is always getting custody, child support, and alimony. There are some counties where this is a guarantee. This is not one of them. Once again, this depends on your judge, but as a woman do not go in there expecting to win everything simply because you are a woman. As a man, stop giving up everything because you expect that to happen. This is not 1950. If it were, my outfits would be so much cuter. Also, people would never think it was okay to wear jeans to court. It’s not okay to wear jeans to court. Please, if you’re my client, do not ever wear jeans to court.
  5. There are two divisions for Jefferson County and so
    Your family's law firm. 205-582-2832

    We love the Magic City so much, we put in our firm’s name. We want to be your family’s law firm in the Magic City. 205-582-2832

     

    many courthouses. There is not just one almighty courthouse downtown like most counties in the state of Alabama. Jefferson County separates its domestic courts from the civil court, family court, and the criminal court. They even have another Bessemer Division that handle cases in the Bessemer area. The odds of getting lost without proper guidance are pretty good. Make sure your lawyer informs you of where and when to show up to court.

5 Ways You Can Help Us Help You

It’s thirty minutes after trial has ended. The client looks over at her attorney and mutters, “I had witnesses that could have testified to all of that. Why are they saying it’s only my word against his? I have letters, emails, text messages, and even recorded phone calls that can prove what I just testified to! He was lying too. I can prove that in a heartbeat. Look, I’ve got his mistress on speed dial and she said she’d testify to him paying her in diamonds. She said she’d tell the Judge he’d make it rain with diamonds while she was naked on the bed! I even have pictures in my glove compartment to prove that they were doing all this, and a video in my backpack. Oh, and she’s only 16.”  The lawyer, who has been prepping for this case for months, worried about no evidence, worked with her client over testimony, is absolutely flabbergasted.

After all this time prepping, talking to the client each and every day, could her client not mention any of this? Was she not listening when her client told her that her ex husband was making it rain with diamonds? There’s absolutely no way. That is something she would surely remember. It comes down to this simple fact: clients keep things from their lawyers. They don’t tell us everything. Okay, the good ones tell us a lot and help us prepare for trial. The ones that keep things from us are the ones that don’t always win their trial because we were missing proof that could’ve helped them. I almost want to say “Well, too little too late.” I don’t though. Instead I think of every way I can to help them tell me what will help them. Which brings us to this:

  1. If you think it could help your case, then help us help you. Don’t keep anything
    5 Ways You Can Help Us Help You!!!

    5 Ways You Can Help Us Help You!!!

    from your lawyer. (There are exceptions to this when it comes to criminal cases.) We suggest that you keep a diary. Write everything down. We don’t have to be phone pals, talking each and every day, but we want to know what’s important. If he is playing “Pretty Pretty Princess” with his mistress, then write it down and bring us proof if you have it! If you want to keep your bill down, then write short little notes to help you remember or to give to us to review. You don’t have to be our pen pal just to keep us informed, but you must tell us. If we were mind readers, we’d all be billionaires.

  2. Don’t wait to tell us. Write it all down immediately and let us know WAY before trial. If there is Discovery that is due, it might be a good idea to tell us before we do all of that. In order for us to fully prepare, we need ALL your information before the other side gets it. We need to know the good and the bad of our clients, so we are fully prepared to go to trial.
  3. If you have evidence, stop telling us about it and give it to us. There’s only so much that words can do. Clients can talk a lot of talk, but when it comes to proving their case, they often fall short. Bring us the bacon… or… uh… the smoking gun? We had a client bring us her husband’s lover’s prescription meds boxes and hair out of her shower drain that didn’t match her or her husband’s. Is this gross? Sure, a little, but at least she could prove that girl was in her home and using her shower. If you find naked photos or love letters, bring them to us. We don’t want you to describe them to us.
  4. Do not hold on to past criminal acts to use against your ex at the last minute. It doesn’t look good for our case. You cannot simply throw mud back and forth when you’re holding onto a time bomb. If you don’t want to use it against them, then by all means, do not use it against them. If you get angry enough to use it against them, it shouldn’t be at the end of the case. You either try to be nice and stay that way, or you bring it up fast. You should tell your lawyer about this time bomb before it is ready to explode. The last thing we want to do after negotiating a visitation schedule for four weeks is to then say, oh never mind, she’s been having an affair with a student at school for the past year. The Judge’s reaction if that comes out after multiple hearings will not only be disbelief but distrust.
  5. Just communicate. We know when it comes to lawyers that talk isn’t cheap. However, if you don’t talk to us because you fear the money implications of it all, then you end up only cheating yourself. Be effective by keeping a diary. Come in for short meetings where you stay on track telling us the high notes. Don’t call every day, but call and keep us informed. Make and keep appointments. Get us evidence without us having to work extra hard for it. Call your witnesses and talk to them before we do so they know what to expect. Be open with everyone, and your case will be economically efficient for you and time efficient for your attorney!

Birmingham Custody Attorneys: 5 Signs of Parental Alienation

Alice comes home from school. It’s Friday and she’s excited that she’s going to see her papa this weekend. Since the Divorce, she rarely gets to see papa and it’s been really hard on her. She used to play tea party with him, and her favorite stuffed bunny. She’s packing up her favorite tea set when the phone rings. She doesn’t hear the conversation. She doesn’t hear her father calling to say that he’s on the way to pick her up. She doesn’t hear her mother tell her dad that she’s made other plans for Alice this weekend. She doesn’t know that her father has been trying to call her all week to finalize his plans with her. Her mom comes in and tells her, “Your father isn’t coming to get you. He has better things to do. He didn’t even ask to talk to you, Alice. How about I take you to Yogurt Mountain to get some frozen yogurt and then you can go stay at one of your friends’ houses?” Even when Alice begins to cry, and ask to call her father, her mother doesn’t break. She tells Alice that her father just doesn’t love her as much as she does. She tells Alice that he’s not a good person and that he was a bad husband to her.

Dealing with Parental Alienation? Give Meyer, Middleton, & DeLuca a call at 205-202-0070! We can help!

Dealing with Parental Alienation? Give Meyer, Middleton, & DeLuca a call at 205-202-0070! We can help!

This happens more than you would expect. When it comes to custody, children are treated like a pawn in a war against the other spouse. This situation that you just read is a prime example of Parental Alienation. This happens all of the time when people are going through custody battles. They essentially project their feelings onto their child. The emotional aspect of this can be devastatingly permanent on a child and will ruin their relationship with the target parent, the projecting parent if they figure it out, or worse, both parents. On April 16, 2014 Governor Bentley declared April 20th through the 26th Parental Alienation Prevention Week with April 25th being Parental Alienation Awareness Day. This is something that is affecting the future your children and should be better known. Here are a few examples of Parental Alienation:

1. One parent is negatively speaking about the other parent.

Example: No, honey. Your dad is an alcoholic. He also will sleep with any blond that walks through his office leaving mommy all alone to raise you by herself. You better not bring your friends around him because when you reach your teens, he’ll date them all!

2.  One parent limits all visitation and communication with the other parent.

Example: I’m sorry, but Alice has summer camp this year. I’ve signed her for a dance camp. It’s not my fault it is during your visitation period. She needs this. Do you not love your daughter enough to support her dance future? Also, she can’t come to the phone right now. She has to finish her homework before she goes to dance.

3. One parent punishes the child when they say nice things about their other parent.

Example: Daddy isn’t smart. If daddy was smart, he wouldn’t have neglected his wife and daughter. If you think daddy is so smart then you can rethink that while you go outside and cut the grass with these scissors.

4. One parent alienates the other parent’s family, friends, and/or professionals who try to help.

Example: You can’t trust Daddy’s grandma. She raised him to be a bad man. Why do you think he is the way he is? She used to give him beer as a small child. She put it right in his bottle. Don’t tell your therapist I said this or your guardian ad litem. They are picking favorites anyways. If you tell them I told you, they’ll take you away from both me and daddy, forever. Do you want to be an orphan?

5. One parent blames everything that goes wrong in the child’s life on the other parent.

Example: Alice, you didn’t make dance team because daddy constantly interrupted your dance training. Your dad didn’t support you. You also broke your ankle attempting those triple pirouettes because you didn’t get enough practice. If your father helped you practice during his time with you, these accidents wouldn’t happen, but he’s too busy with the kinds of dancers that keep dollar bills in their thongs!

Modification: The McClendon Standard

Modification of CustodyThe papers have been signed. Everyone has made some sort of compromise meaning that everyone’s happy to a degree and unhappy to a degree. At this point, the parties have stopped fighting aggressively. It’s not peaceful, but the tension is bearable. This is how most divorces end. There is fighting until both parties decide that it’s easier to settle. Normally, this is either right outside the courtroom before the case goes to trial or through frantic phone calls back and forth between the attorneys right before the case goes to trial. The truth of the matter is that everyone wants to take the case to trial, until they actually have to take off work and sit through the hours and hours of questions back and forth. After everything is signed and all is said and done, the parties go along their merry separate ways. Then comes the first post-divorce agreement visitation fight, and, inevitably, we get this question: “So, like, if I want to take him (or her) back to court to change this custody agreement. What do I need to do?”

In these cases (which is very often) we have to explain the McClendon Standard (Provided the parties decide on one of the parents being the primary physical custodian or the court deems one parent the physical custodian). This standard is well known to domestic attorneys in Alabama. It is based off of the case Ex parte McClendon. This standard is that “the positive good brought by a modification must more than offset the inherently disruptive effect caused by uprooting the child. The parent seeking the custody change must show not only that she is fit, but also that the change of custody materially promotes the child’s best interest and welfare.” 455 So. 2d 863, 865-866 (Ala. 1984).

Sure, that seems straight forward enough, but what does it really mean? It means that you have this scale the judge must weigh. Good of the move & the stability of safety of the child’s new home v. the disruption to their routine. (Benefit of Change in Custody + Stability of new home + danger/or negative facts of staying in current home – disruptiveness to child’s routine & life = judicial decision.) Conversely, if there isn’t a true physical custodian, if the parties have a joint legal and physical custody agreement, then you don’t have to apply the McClendon Standard. At that point, you go back to the “best interests” standard in which you started when the divorce began. (Would it be in the child’s best interests for the court to modify the agreement?)

In short, applying that standard and overcoming is not done easily. It is the court and the law’s way of ensuring that children are equipped with the stability needed for a proper upbringing. However, it also provides a means for parents to protect their children if the custodial parent is not properly providing a stable safe home for their child. The legal realm is quite fond of keeping the children out of the legal system regardless of whether the parents can’t stop fighting.