Birmingham Divorce and Family Law Attorneys: 3 Tips Before You Divorce

Some call it hoarding, others call it preparing evidence.

Some call it hoarding, others call it preparing evidence.

You’re ready to leave. You’ve tried counseling, tuning each other out completely, spending hours and hours talking to each other, secretly putting gross things in each other’s food, couples’ massages, yoga, blaming yourselves, blaming each other, blaming your children, blaming your in-laws, blaming video games, blaming the election, blaming TV, blaming Obama (#thanksobama – that’s a joke…), and pretty much everything short of criminal behavior. It’s time to call it quits, and things are so bad now that you know it’s going to be ugly. You have to act fast, quick, and with the stealth of a ninja. Here are a few before tips before you leap into the shadows of this horrifying yet liberating (seriously, you’re freeing yourself of pain) adventure:

  1. Think like a hoarder. Tis the time to start hoarding evidence if you know this is going to get ugly. Nothing is more irritating that a client who says, “I swear all of this is true! I don’t have proof because I left all of it at the house and she destroyed it, but believe me. She seriously is crazy. She has made voodoo dolls of my entire family. She even has photos above their little villages of my family members.” You knew when you left that the information was important. Otherwise you wouldn’t have committed it to memory. Simply put: Gather everything! Bills, records, evidence, etc. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, hoard it.
  2. Go see a Lawyer. You need advice tailored to your situation. Scouring the internet for information will only do so much. You need someone who will listen to your life story, give you advice on how to move forward that will benefit YOU and YOUR case, and sometimes you need someone to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
  3. Speaking of seeing a lawyer, you might want to consider saving up some money. Good representation isn’t free. Do you go to the doctor and demand that they waive the co-pay? No, you pay the co-pay for them to tell you what surgery or medicine (that you also have to pay for) will fix your problem. Think of a consultation like a co-pay. Yes, we charge a discounted hourly fee for you to come and talk to us about your case. Then we tell you what we think it’ll cost to fix your problem. Just like med school isn’t free, neither is law school. We charge for our advice because our job is to give advice and work toward fixing that problem using our minds. If you want to use our minds to your advantage, you’ll need the cash to pay for that knowledge. Spending loads of money on things like new shoes, vacations, new cars, isn’t necessarily the best idea when you’re about to have to drop a few grand on a legal mind.

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 Divorce Attorneys: 4 Tips for Splitting Personal Property

Personal property can sometimes be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s hard to part with your personal property, your belongings, your “things.” The “things” that aren’t necessities, but are close to your heart and make you feel like who you are. I’ve personally got my things that I couldn’t part with if I had to make a choice such as my painting given to me by my old boss that looks like my dog laying between two French doors as the autumn leaves blow in, or my purple bunny from childhood, or even my pearls. (I refuse to mention my dogs because I do not believe they are property to be distributed but beings of which you have custody of).

These are a few of my favorite things...Let us handle your personal property division...it can be a pain!

These are a few of my favorite things…Let us handle your personal property division…it can be a pain!

I’ve seen judges who will direct one person to make two lists of things for each of them to take from the home and then allow the other person to pick which list they want. Sometimes they’ll tell the person before that they’re doing that, or they’ll let them make a list thinking it’s going to be theirs and then say, “Okay, now give that to your spouse. That’s their personal property.” I’ve seen judges include everything that is in the home as part of the marital estate to be divided simply because it was in the marital home and thus used as marital property. The thing about things is that you have an emotional connection to it. Sure, you may not go back into a burning building for it, but when it comes to divorce, you’d lay down your checkbook to fight over it.

The general rule over personal property is that anything purchased during the marriage is seen as personal property. However, things that you brought into the marriage that you purchased or were given to you before you got married, things that are inherited or given to you as a gift are seen as your sole personal property. These, normally, will not be divided. These “things” are normally for you to keep as your own to take with you when you go. I know that I made a joke about giving up your “things” so you can make a Christmas List with new or better items to replace them, but sometimes the emotional toll in giving up these items is too much.

Here are a few tips to prove these are your things and not your spouses:

  1. Pictures of you with these things dated years back.
  2. Receipts.
  3. Testimony or Affidavits of witnesses. These people can prove that your parents gave you the ugly orange chair or giant cat picture years before you two were even an item.
  4. Legal documents showing that you alone are the owner of the item. (Wills, Bills of Sale, Contracts, etc.)

Equitable Division of Property 101

Equitable Division 101

Equitable Division 101

A client comes into our office who has been married to her spouse for five years. He’s been cheating since they got back from the honeymoon, but she stayed nonetheless. She wants alimony for his adultery. She hasn’t worked since they met. She also wants the house that he just inherited from his father, and the check from his pending personal injury litigation where he spilt piping hot coffee on his big toe leaving him devastated that he can no longer wear anything but flip flops. She wants insurance for the next 20 years, and she wants his retirement. She’s angry and she’s ready to take him to the cleaners! After hearing all this, we are obligated to inform her that she’s not taking him to the cleaner’s, but more like taking him to the laundry room to use a spot remover pen.

The thing is, people are under the misconstrued thought process that once they are married they are getting half of everything their spouse has and will ever own. When they get a divorce a few months or years later, they’re shocked when they hear of the term “equitable division.” Equitable division basically means that you will get an equitable share of the MARITAL property not his or her sole personal separate property. Equitable division is not what is fair, but what the trial court (or the equity court) deems is a proper division of assets. The law isn’t exactly consistent, because it isn’t so much statutory (governed by statutes) as it is ruled by case law. This means that the law is ever changing based off individual cases. However, the courts take into account a few considerations that we, as divorce lawyers, learn and use to predict how the court may or may not rule. Some of these elements are extremely more important than others and determine whether some facts are even considered. These factors include:

  1. Is it marital property or separate property?
  2. Was the separate property comingled (did the parties use the property in the marriage)?
  3. How long have the parties been married?
  4. What did each spouse contribute to the marriage (nominal & through actions)?
  5. What debts do the parties have together?
  6. Was their misconduct on either side of the marriage?
  7. Is there a prenuptial agreement?
  8. What are the ages of the parties?
  9. What is each parties earning potential?

In our client’s case (above) the property she’s wanting was mainly his separate property that he either inherited or is going to receive because of the big toe incident. Don’t get me wrong, he should owe her a lot for the pain and heartache she’s gone through all these years, but the court can’t really put a nominal value on heartbreak. As for her not working for five years and wanting alimony, she hasn’t really become accustomed to this new standard of living yet. She’s been doing it for five years and thus, she can go back to work and start over again. When looking into awards of alimony the court wants to know if the spouse has become accustomed to that standard of living which normally takes more than ten years.  If they had been married for thirty years, that’d be a whole other story!  In the big scheme of life, she’s only been in this marriage a short time.

Who Keeps the Marital Home in Divorce?

 

There are other options! Give us a call at 205-582-2832!!!

There are other options! Give us a call at 205-582-2832!!!

Here are quite a few factors to consider in deciding who keeps the marital home in a divorce. Each case is different and every option has many considerations for you to think over before making such an important decision. However, the mortgage payment comes monthly, so don’t take too long to decide.

1)      Emotional Factors:

  1. Children’s Home: If you have children, it can be psychologically helpful to keep them in their same home. This makes sure that they can still keep their daily routine (for the most part). They stay in the same school, and have the same friends. Keeping the home for the children can make the transition through the divorce easier on the children, however, it can put a financial strain on the family.
  2. The Staying Spouse’s Routine: Similar to the children, the spouse who keeps the marital home can keep their routine. Along with divorce, keeping the marital home means not dealing with the added stress of moving. However, living in the marital home after the marriage is over, can also be a daily reminder of a previous life that no longer exists. It can be painful for the spouse left behind. It can also be a point of contention for years between the ex-spouses.

2)      Financial Factors:

  1. Keeping the Home (as is): This is probably one of the worst ideas unless you feel like you and your ex can work together for years and years to come. Normally, though, when a divorce is needed, it’s past the point of being able to cooperate. If you are both kept on the deed and mortgage, you have to figure out what you’ll do if one person decides to stop paying. You have to decide what to do if the one still in the home decides to move, and one person has been paying the bills the entire time. As mentioned above, this can be a point of contention if one spouse is paying the house note (as, perhaps, alimony) and the other spouse is living in the home and reaping the benefits. That spouse may decide to stop paying and then, what happens? Think of these possible scenarios before making this decision. It has worked many times, but it has also failed many times as well.
  2. Refinance: If one of you decides to keep the home and the other wants to relinquish their interest, the one staying in the marital home may assume the mortgage of the marital home. They will refinance the home in their sole name and the other spouse will be released of the duty to pay on the mortgage. This should be done within a certain number of days from the separation agreement.  Otherwise, the other spouse is stuck with no end date as to when their responsibility to the mortgage has ended and they cannot buy another home because they’re still tied up in the previous home. This of course comes with factors to consider such as what is the proper buy out price? In other words, what price do you need to pay to your ex to make giving up your interest in the marital home a fair trade?
  3. Sale: If you decide to sell the home, you have to decide who gets what portion of the proceeds of the marital home? Is someone going to stay in the marital home? What will that person do in order to make the sale of the marital home easier? Who will the real estate agent be? Who will continue to pay the mortgage until that time? These are important questions to answer before you decide to put the house on the market. You want to make sure that both parties will benefit from the sale. You want the house to sell quickly and for a good price.
  4. Short Sale or Foreclosure: These are the least favorite options, but sometimes in a divorce these are inevitable. These options are available when one spouse either cannot or will not make a house payment, and the other spouse is either not able or willing to take up the additional responsibility.  Check out our blog from Monday for more details on tips on handling foreclosure and divorce.

There are many options in deciding what to do with the marital home. Make sure you discuss all of them with your Attorney and your Accountant.

4 Tips for Handling Foreclosure in Your Divorce

Divorce & Foreclosure are hand in hand these days. Divorce is expensive, and everyone knows this fact. Divorce often leads to unexpected costs. People understand that divorce can be expensive when it comes to hiring a lawyer. What people don’t realize is that they are going from a combined income where they are paying for their combined costs of living such as power, mortgage, insurance, water, food, and groceries from one combined account, to now having to separate those costs and pay for those things individually.  Additionally, there are new costs such as the previously mentioned legal feels, counseling costs, court costs, and sometimes spousal or child support. With all of these additional costs, and no additional income, people get into trouble, and the marital home is sadly one of the biggest sources of contention in a divorce because it a constant drain on both parties emotionally and financially. We’re here to help you figure out what your options are, and what comes next.

Tips for Handling a Foreclosure:

1. Communicate with Each Other:   Divorce is hard. It is difficult to handle your own inner emotions and deal with external conflict. However, normally, people are financially jointly tied to a marital home. In order to help yourselves as a couple, and your own individual credit, it is best to speak with each other. You don’t want your best defense to be – I thought the other person would pay the mortgage…

2. Communicate with your Bank:  Banks don’t want to foreclose. They would rather someone consistently pay their mortgage payment and keep their home. There are multiple options that banks can offer if you simply request to work WITH them. They are normally helpful because foreclosure isn’t their best financial option either. Try calling your banker or better yet, go pay them a visit. It’s harder to ignore a problem on both sides if it is staring you in the face.

3. Communicate with your Attorney: Speak with your divorce attorney and, if the facts provide, your bankruptcy attorney or real estate attorney. There are many things they can do to help you with the divorce and financial difficulties. If you haven’t filed yet, something as simple as filing for divorce in order to get a Pendente Lite Order into place can keep you from having to work with someone who is being difficult to work with. It puts the court and banks on notice that there is a problem that has been acknowledged. Also, they can work with the bank or find someone who can help you work this out before it puts a dark mark on your credit.  In some states, courts are consolidating divorces and foreclosure actions into one case in order to promote efficiency in the court system. This helps save time and money, but even these states explain that these courts can’t consolidate if the parties are postponing filing for divorce.

4. Know your Options:  When it comes to foreclosure, there are other options that may help you in the long run. Although keeping the house is optimal, it is not always possible. You could try a short sale where you are selling your home for less than you owe to the bank. Provided you have hardship such as divorce and financial problems, the bank may qualify you for a short sale. You could try loan modification where either the two of you modify the loan so that you could sell the home at a later date. Alternatively with a loan modification, one of you could keep the home in their individual name by refinancing. The last option, which is the least beneficial idea, is to file bankruptcy as a couple or individually. This could discharge additional debts, so that you can focus on getting back on track financially.