DIVORCE & FAMILY LAW INFORMATION

Tuscaloosa, Northport & West Alabama Divorce Lawyer

 CONTESTED V. UNCONTESTED

If you are thinking about filing for divorce and you contact an attorney, one of the first questions they will ask you is whether your divorce is going to be contested or uncontested.  Often, the answer to that question is not simple.

Generally speaking, when we ask that question we are trying to determine whether you and your spouse have discussed some or all of the issues that may be involved in your divorce and how far apart the two of you have been in those discussions.  If you and your spouse have worked out all of the issues, such as equitable division of property and debts, alimony, and child support, prior to contacting an attorney, then your divorce will most likely be uncontested.  From an attorney’s perspective, in an uncontested divorce, an attorney for one of the parties will draft a settlement agreement reflecting the agreement, both parties will review it, there will be minimal, if any, changes to the agreement, and then it will be ready for the parties to sign and file with the court. 

 A contested divorce, on the other hand, generally refers to a situation where you may not have spoken to your spouse about the issues in your divorce or that you have been unable to come to an agreement upon the terms of the settlement agreement.  In this type of matter, your attorney will negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement, if possible, with the opposing attorney.  While certainly some of these types of cases ultimately lead to litigation and eventually a trial, it is important to understand that the vast majority of these “contested” cases result in the parties ultimately resolving their differences outside of a courtroom. 

Sometimes, it is difficult to determine whether a divorce is uncontested or contested in the beginning and what may seem to be an uncontested divorce can ultimately turn out to be contested in the end.  The question is not whether you perceive that you and your spouse can work things out over the course of a divorce, but whether you have already done so. 

FAMILY LAW 

Tuscaloosa, Northport & West Alabama Family Law Attorney

At Blume & Blume, our experienced family law attorneys recognize that domestic troubles can be extremely emotionally and financially taxing on families.  We are ready and willing to meet with you and provide you with the information that you need to address your specific domestic issue, and strategize about how you can meet your goal as amicably and cost effectively as possible.  We provide quality legal services in a wide variety of family law areas, including:

CHILD CUSTODY AND VISITATION MODIFICATION

After child custody has been initially determined, a court may modify the initial custody order upon a showing of a substantial and material benefit to the children so great that it overcomes the inherently disruptive effect of a move upon a child.  This is known as the McClendon Standard. 

ALIMONY MODIFICATION

In Alabama, after a divorce matter has been concluded and a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce has been entered in the matter, an action for a modification of alimony may be filed by either of the former spouses in order to seek a reduction or increase in the amount of spousal support being paid by one former spouse to another.  There are many factors relating to whether alimony can be modified including but not limited to a substantial change in the income of one party, the remarriage, cohabitation by the spouse receiving alimony with whom he or she is not married or the depth of either party.

CONTEMPT ACTIONS

Generally, contempt of court refers to an action or actions that disregard or disobey a court order.  Whether or not a case for contempt is appropriate is dependent on many factors.  It takes an experienced attorney to determine whether the facts and questions would rise to the level of contempt.

PATERNITY

In Alabama, in instances where the father and the mother were never married, either parent may seek to have the paternity of the child established by the Domestic Relations Court and the out of custody parent can be ordered to pay child support.

FAMILY VIOLENCE

In Alabama, family violence, or it is otherwise known as domestic violence, can be addressed through the issuance of a protection from abuse petition and a restraining order against the party committing domestic violence.

PRENUPTIAL AND POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

A prenuptial agreement or ante-nuptial agreement is a contract entered into by a couple prior to marriage that divides the couple’s assets in case of divorce.  Prenuptial agreements are quite common where one party to the marriage has a great deal more assets than the other party.  Prenuptial agreements are only concerned with property, one cannot enter prenuptial agreements concerning child custody or child support.

LEGAL SEPARATION

Alabama still recognizes the concept of legal separation.  However, it is used in very limited circumstances.

GRANDPARENT VISITATION

The law concerning grandparent visitation in Alabama is in a state of flux.  The Alabama State Legislature considers new laws about grandparent visitation each time that they convene.  The issue of grandparent visitation has been hotly contested in the highest courts in the U.S. and Alabama.  It takes a family law practitioner with many years’ experience to help grandparents negotiate the process.  Nettie has been practicing in family court in Tuscaloosa since 1988 and have spoken at Continuing Legal Education seminars about this subject.  She follows the pending legislation closely.  Grandparents need to talk to an attorney about their rights in this ever-changing area of the law.

For more detailed information on our practice areas and to schedule an appointment, please call:

(205) 556-6712

CHILD CUSTODY 

Tuscaloosa, Northport & West Alabama Child Custody Attorney  

TYPES OF CUSTODY

Broadly speaking, child custody is broken into two major categories, physical custody and legal custody, (in other words:  Time and say so).  Physical custody deals with which parent the child will reside with primarily.  Legal custody addresses which parent will have final say so on various matters relating to a child’s upbringing such as medical and educational decisions.

DETERMINING CHILD CUSTODY

The determination of physical custody may be made by agreement of the parties (subject to court approval) or directly by the Judge presiding over the case.  In contested custody matters, the court will often appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) and/or obtain psychological evaluations to aid the court in determining custody.

VISITATION

For the non-custodial parent, usually some type of visitation is put in place to ensure that the child has access to both parents.  Parenting plans relating to visitation are as varied as the individual seeking a dissolution of their marriage.

TELLING THE KIDS

 One question that often comes to mind as a couple considers divorce is: “How do we tell the kids?”  This is a very difficult task.  Three things to remember to tell your children are:

  •  It’s not your fault.
  •  Mommy and Daddy still love you.

Your children are not your therapist.  Do not discuss the reasons for the divorce, the costs of the divorce or any other matters that are not appropriate for children.

INFORMATION GATHERING

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

The following is a list of items that you should begin gathering prior to meeting with an attorney.

 Financial Information and Records

  •  Past three years tax returns.  Most recent paystub for yourself and your spouse.  Most recent statement of all checking accounts both jointly and individually held.  Most recent statements for all investment accounts, including but not limited to IRA, 401K and pension.  Most recent credit card statement for all accounts both jointly and individually held.  Most recent mortgage statement.  All documents evidencing ownership of real property both jointly and individually held.  List and photograph of the contents of the safe deposit box.  A complete listing of all assets held jointly or separately and notations as to whether any accounts were acquired prior to the marriage.  A complete listing of all debts and liabilities held jointly or separately and notations as to which parties are obligated and the primary party currently making payments.

Personal Identification Information

  • Passport for yourself and your children.  Social security card for yourself and your children.  Any other identification cards such as military identification cards and health care information cards.

Information Regarding your Children

  •  A compilation of school records including but limited to academic reports and disciplinary records.  Records indicating monthly child care expenses.  Any journals evidencing potential custody issues; i.e. travel calendar, non-exercised visitation if you have already separated, involvement/non-involvement in extracurricular activities.  Any and all health and medical records for your children.

 Insurance Policies

  • Current life insurance policy.  Current homeowner’s insurance policy.  Current automobile insurance policy.  Current health insurance policy.

 Other Important Information

  • Latest copy of you Will and/or Trust documents.  Any criminal records or current suits.  Any reports of domestic abuse or family violence.  Evidentiary documents related to adultery, abuse or custody issues.  List of all email and social networking accounts owned by yourself or your spouse.

CHILD SUPPORT

Northport, Tuscaloosa & West Alabama Child Support Lawyer

In Alabama, child support is set by Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration.  A child support worksheet must be filled out in order to establish the correct amount of child support.  While there are some deviations allowed from the child support guidelines, any deviation must be approved by the court.

DIVORCE: PLANNING AN EXIT STRATEGY 

After all of the aspects have been considered, seeking a divorce may be the best and most appropriate solution to your marital discord.  If that is the case, learn as much as possible about the process and potential outcomes you may face with a divorce.  Often, it is this lack of knowledge (or worse the misinformed knowledge passed to you from others) that makes cases more contentious than they need to be and serve merely to further harm your relationship with each other.

Model “Exit Strategy” for a Divorce

1.       Collect and maintain copies or records of important information, like financial, personal and insurance related information.

2.       Protect sensitive information.  It is best to change the passwords, especially your email account, unless changing your password would raise too much suspicion.  In that case try opening a different email account with a password only you would know.

3.       Sever the financial ties between you and your spouse.  Do not transfer or move funds that could possibly belong to your spouse.  Seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney if you are unsure

4.       Do not alter, transfer, assign, or make a gift of any marital assets that are titled in both you and your spouse’s name.  Seek the advice of a divorce attorney before taking any steps that may concern the separate property of your spouse.

5.       Make a projected budget.

6.       Try to avoid accumulating new or additional debt.

7.       Stay active in the lives of your children.

8.       Research alternative healthcare options.

9.       Keep a journal of any and all facts, times, dates and events surrounding your marriage, children and divorce.

10.     Plan for the future.

11.     Obtain legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your state.

12.     Talk about the divorce with your spouse.

To schedule an appointment call:  (205) 556-6712