Divorce season and tax refunds

January is often referred to as the kickoff of divorce season. Research has shown filings increase by 1/3rd at the beginning of the year.  Divorce attorneys generally report inquiries nearly double in January. There are reasons why waiting until the new year to file for divorce can provide benefits during the divorce process.

The holiday season is rife with distracting social and financial obligations. Couples going through a huge undertaking, such as a divorce, typically try to avoid any undue stress during this busy time.  Social obligations tend to open up conversations not ready to be discussed yet. “Where is your wife?” No awkward response required. Remaining together through the holidays helps you sidestep explaining a spouse’s absence.

The holidays also bring more close contact with extended family and in-laws. Making decisions about how the family will divide it’s time are easier. Once the divorce is in progress it will help to have a long period of months to adjust to the changes in the family structure. This will give the family time to prepare and plan for the emotional as well as the logistical demands of the new arrangement. Also children tend to have a harder time over the holidays with changes. Most couples want to wait for the sake of the children’s well being. Those couples who aren’t strategically planning their divorce, sometimes emotionally, the stress of the holiday can often act as an impetus for the divorce.

January has financial implications for divorce as well. The close of the fiscal year is December 31st.  Locating year end statements, such as debt and credit card statements are very important to do before you file. Also, if your spouse is set to receive a year-end bonus, it will benefit you financially. It could give your post-separation finances the little extra cushioning it needs.  Lastly, April and tax season are just around the corner and you will need to prepare. Making sure all of your tax information is gathered and organized will help smooth out the process of you and your spouse filing those taxes, in a post-separation context.

Your tax refund which typically comes in the early months of the year is a great way to pay initial retainer fees. These can vary widely depending on your attorney and your specific case, so a hefty tax return can be just the thing to get your legal ball rolling.

One side note about filing at the end of the year is the limited availability courts and judges. There are many cases attempting to be wrapped up before the end of the year in addition to the holiday breaks that create a limited schedule for everyone involved. January is more open and tends to be the best time to enter into the legal system.

The fresh start of a new year can bring in a resolution to make changes that weren’t possible the previous year. Whether or not you make the decision to file in January for emotional or strategic reasons, you will find that it is one of the best to pull the trigger on this challenging life event.

Please remember, this article is merely meant for guidance and information purposes.  It is NOT intended as legal advice nor does it establish attorney/client relationship or privilege.

What is Contempt of Court?

When one party is not following the orders of family court, they are said to be in violation of court orders and being deliberately and willfully disobedient. Even though the case may seem fairly straight forward, there are some particular aspects that need to be addressed if you are to prove your spouse or former spouse is in contempt.

Because there are stiff penalties for being held in contempt, such as jail time, the burden of proof for willful contempt is significant. The court has to be careful not to violate a person’s constitutional rights since they can be jailed, fined  or have future support deducted out of their pay as a result of being found in contempt. Here are some questions to ask yourself before filing your motion for contempt:

  • Is the order specific? Does it have one meaning that is clearly stated? Is there an agreed upon date for a support payment or an agreed upon specific custody schedule? Is there room for interpretation or any cause for confusion? Can there be more than one meaning to the order?
  • Does the spouse or former spouse know about the order? Did they sign the agreement? Were they personally served the paperwork?
  • Do they have the ability to comply? Are they knowingly avoiding the responsibility even though they have the means to do so? If your spouse is claiming they cannot afford to pay a certain amount of child support, yet you can prove they are earning enough to do so, can you show that they are knowingly and willfully avoiding the court order? Be prepared with evidence of their ability to comply, such as income statements, bank statements, etc.
  • What circumstances could excuse them from their compliance of the Court’s order? Jail time will usually be avoided in contempt of court cases when a spouse being detained results in him or her losing their job, dependent children would be left without a caretaker, the spouse has a disability or they have a proven inability to comply with the court order. Evidence is crucial to proving your case, so be prepared to provide plenty of it.
  • The Court can also order that the party who is not in compliance pay attorney fees and costs.

The results of this filing can be very effective for enforcing an order. The judge can rule that your spouse or former spouse has to immediately comply or will give them a set amount of time to comply. Either way, it helps you to enforce an order that your spouse or former spouse could otherwise walk away from.

 

Please remember, this article is merely meant for guidance and information purposes.  It is NOT intended as legal advice nor does it establish attorney/client relationship or privilege.

In which Country should I file for divorce?

There are several pieces to the divorce puzzle.  In this article, we will discuss venue and judicial circuits and how it impacts where you file for divorce.  Remember, it is always a good idea to have an attorney to represent you during a divorce or family law matter.

Venue is a legal term used to describe the place that an event is to take place.   Where you currently live, where the other spouse lives and where the marital domicile was located all come in to play when determining venue for a divorce case.  Once you determine the correct court to file for divorce, it is referred to as “venue is proper”. First, in order to file for divorce in the State of Georgia, you OR your spouse must have lived in the state for the previous six (6) months – military families have some exceptions.  Second, you should generally file for divorce in the County that the other spouse resides.  .  In domestic cases there is an exception that will allow you to file for divorce in the county where the marital residence is located if you have been separated less than six (6) months.  In the event that the spouse has moved out of state, you may file for a divorce in the County which you lived during your marriage (marital domicile).   What if you do not know where the other spouse lives, works or where he/she can be served with a copy of the divorce request, what now?  You definitely want to seek advice from an attorney in this instance.   The Court requires the Plaintiff (the person filing for divorce) complete several steps to show a diligent effort to contact the other spouse.

A judicial circuit is simply a particular number of counties that use the same judges.  The judges travel within a specific area to hear cases in this given “territory”.   For example, Coweta County is in the Coweta Judicial Circuit.  The circuit is composed of five counties:  Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Meriwether, and Troup.  There are seven Superior Court judges serving in the Coweta Judicial Circuit:  Chief Judge A. Quillian Baldwin, Jr.; Judge John Simpson; Judge Dennis Blackmon; Judge Jack Kirby; Judge Emory Palmer and Judge Travis Sakrison.

How do venue and judicial circuits tie together?  Once you have determined the Superior Court (venue) in which you need to file your paperwork, your case will be assigned to a Judge in the judicial circuit of that County.  As we noted above, a judicial circuit may cover several counties.  You can then request that your case be placed on the calendar of the assigned Judge the day that he/she is hearing cases in that particular county.  For example, you cannot have a case filed in Coweta County and have a court hearing in Carroll County, even though your assigned Judge is hearing cases that day.   Although, the Judges serve several counties, your case will most always be kept in the county where venue is proper.   There are exceptions to every rule but this can only be changed by agreement of the parties and an order of the Judge.

Please remember, this article is merely meant for guidance and information purposes.  It is NOT intended as legal advice nor does it establish attorney/client relationship or privilege.

Should I change divorce attorneys?

Patience is virtue, or so you’ve been told.  If you find yourself beginning a Divorce, patience is probably the last virtue you want to hear about.  Divorce can be one of the most terrifying, frustrating and biggest emotional roller coaster rides you may ever endure.

Complications and disagreements are just the tip of the iceberg of challenges you will face during a divorce.  But what happens when you are not seeing the results you would like or feel your interests are not being protected or considered by the attorney you have hired?  How do you talk with your attorney about your concerns?  How do you know what to expect next?  How do you handle rebuttal from the opposing party?  How do you communicate your preferred outcome of your divorce to your attorney?

First, let’s talk about the things to expect when you file for divorce.  Prepare yourself for the long haul.  A divorce   especially a contested divorce, does not happen overnight.  There are specific rules in place by the Court that require time.  For example, once you file for divorce the opposing party has to be served the divorce paperwork.  The opposing party generally has at least 30 days to file an answer with the Court or hire an attorney.  Next could be the discovery phase of the divorce.   Discovery is when both sides begin to gather information about the other party. Both sides can request a list of documents (referred to as Production of Documents), request answers to a list of questions (referred to as Interrogatories), request a sworn testimony from the opposing party (referred to as a Deposition) and the list can continue.

Next, there can be a requirement for Mediation.  This is a meeting with a specially trained neutral party with no connections to your case to listen to both parties and try to negotiate an agreement.   If an agreement is not reached, your divorce attorney may request a hearing before the Judge to determine the terms and conditions of your divorce.

Divorce is a cumbersome and very meticulous process.   Here are some tips to consider when hiring a divorce attorney.

  • Trust your attorney.  From the beginning, have a clear understanding of what to expect and what your responsibilities are as a client.
  • Your attorney is hired to represent you and your best interest.   Your attorney will provide you with guidance within the guidelines of the law.  While your attorney should always be empathetic to your situation, remember, he/she isn’t a therapist.
  • Determine the most effective method of communication with your attorney.  Ask your attorney to copy you on all correspondence and ask if the attorney prefers email or phone call for communication.
  • Be mindful of timelines.  It is general practice that you give your attorney at least 24 hours to return your phone call or email.  Also, daily updates are not typically feasible either.  With Court determined timelines, you should to touch base with your attorney every 30-45 days.

If you feel that your attorney is not representing you to the best of his/her ability and your best interest is not being protected and you are considering changing attorney’s mid-voyage, consider the following before making the decision:

  • Are my expectations unrealistic?
  • Am I making this decision out of anger and emotion?
  • Have I given my attorney all of the items he/she has asked for?
  • Have my legal needs changed from the initial divorce petition?
  • Have my expectations changed from the initial divorce petition?

Your right to discharge your attorney is absolute, meaning you can discharge him/her at anytime during the case.  You are still responsible for fees incurred.

There are also some other considerations you should take into account prior to deciding to change attorneys mid-case.  Not only will your new attorney need to take time to read over the paperwork you already have, your new attorney will need to determine what has been done, what you would like to do and what it will take to accomplish your goals.  Generally, you will have to pay another retainer; you will have to pay the attorney for his/her time to go through the paperwork already completed and for future work on your case.

Best advice is talk with your divorce attorney.  If the case factors have changed since the initial divorce petition, maybe it is time to map out another plan of action for your case.

Getting divorced without breaking the bank

“My divorce was so cheap,” said no one ever.

In the last blog, we talked about patience and what to expect when you file for divorce. This post, we are going to expand on divorce and how to lighten the load on your checkbook.

Divorce is an unfamiliar and confusing path. It is important that you educate yourself. Learn the difference between fees that are necessary and mandatory versus fees that can be minimized or possibly avoided.

Let’s look at the fees commonly necessary and required when filing for divorce:

  1. Retainer is the initial fee you pay to hire an attorney. This fee is necessary to hire an attorney to represent you during your divorce case.
  2. Filing Fee is the fee charged by the Court to file your Petition for Divorce. This fee is set by the State.
  3. Service Fee is a required fee that is paid to a person that is certified through the Court to present the Divorce paperwork to the other party.
  4. Mediation is a step that is required by the Coweta Judicial Circuit. This specific step is an attempt to agree to the terms of your divorce without going before a Judge for a final hearing. You will need your attorney’s guidance through this process.
  5. Children of Divorce Parenting Class cost is a seminar that is required by the Coweta Judicial Circuit. The Court has specific agency/agencies that comply with the Courts standards. Remember, you must use a Court approved agency to receive credit for the seminar or receive prior court permission to attend another program.

Now, take a breath & let’s look at the financial aspect of your divorce that you can control! Obviously, uncontested divorces are the least expensive way to go. In this situation, all terms are agreed upon and it’s essentially “cut and dry”.

In the case of a Contested Divorce, what can you do to keep your fees to a minimum?

  1. Organize, Organize, Organize! – Gather all financial information. Be prepared to give your attorney tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information and map out all expenses.
  2. What is really important? Create a list of items that are important to you and address during your divorce case. Choose your battles wisely! Determine items that you will negotiate versus items that are non-negotiable.
  3. Short term & Long term Impact. It is very easy to be overwhelmed with the “right-nows” of your divorce you lose sight of the “what-is-to-come”. Consider all possible scenarios and how each will impact you 1, 2, or 5 years from now. Don’t leave loose ends and loop holes that will create a need for additional cost in the future.
  4. Involve your attorney as little as possible. The main purpose in hiring an attorney is to protect your rights and best interest in accordance with the law. Consider touching base with your attorney every 30-45 days if you have not heard from him/her. If you have questions during that time, write all questions down and ask during the same email/phone call/meeting. Your attorney is paid by the hour, each time you call, email or meet, the meter is running.
  5. Court hearings are sometimes very necessary, especially if the other party is being unreasonable. However, a court hearing, and waiting in court for your hearing, is one thing that will quickly add to your fees. You need to determine how important that particular issue(s) is to you and factor in what the expense may be.

In conclusion, there are necessary costs that come with a divorce and then there are the optional ones. As with many things in life, the more proactive you are about how you approach you divorce, will determine just how much money you spend in the long run. It has been said, “luck favors the prepared,” in this case educate and prepare yourself on the financial landscape of your situation and you will likely come out very lucky.

Divorce and the self-employed spouse

“All good things must come to an end”, originally penned by Geoffrey Chaucer and a frequently used proverb today, can be interpreted as having positive and negative meanings. Isn’t divorce much the same? The mere thought of divorce may cause a wide array of emotions to surface, including relief, fear, disappointment, excitement, dread, frustration and loss. Divorce is never easy and can send you into an emotional tailspin. Regardless of how you feel, you will have to make some decisions that aren’t exactly within your comfort zone. One of the most uncomfortable discussions will be in regards to your finances. Before you plunge into divorce, make sure you have prepared yourself for all possibilities. Here are a few tips to ensure you know how to handle the financial discussion during your divorce case:

  • Copies, copies, copies! Keep copies of every family financial record you can find; canceled checks, bank statements, tax returns, life insurance policies, etc. Rule of thumb, if it has to with money – make a copy or two. Maybe even three! You may never need this information, but if you do, it’s good to have it.
  • Assets, assets, assets! Learn everything there is to know about your family’s financial situation. Remember, as you wind your way through the divorce maze, you will only be able to share in assets you can prove, so you must find out exactly what you have acquired during the marriage. For most, that’s probably easy. There’s a house, a car, a pension, and a little bit of savings. But for some, property ownership is more complicated so keep accurate records.
  • Money, money, money! Learn your spouse’s annual income. If he or she has a salaried position, or is paid by the hour, the information should be on a recent pay stub. If you can’t get your hands on one, last year’s tax return should do. If your spouse is self-employed, a tax return may not tell you the full story. You may have to do a little detective work to know if your spouse is hiding assets or not. If you haven’t discussed your plans to divorce with your spouse yet, be sure to put it off until after you have managed to obtain as much financial information as possible.

Jeff Landers, a Forbes Contributor, writes extensively on the subject of financially complex divorces. Mr. Landers penned an article titled “If Your Husband Owns A Business, Watch Out For SIDS (Sudden Income Deficit Syndrome) Once Divorce Proceedings Start”. In this article he describes red flags of the self-employed/business owner hiding assets as:

  • The business is supposedly in trouble, but his lifestyle does not reflect a loss of income.
  • The business pays his personal expenses.
  • His loss of income began just as your marital troubles were intensifying.
  • He stalls or stonewalls when asked to turn over financial documents or allow a business valuation.

Click here to view the full article

Just as a runner trains to prepare for a marathon, you must train your mind & prepare yourself for a divorce case. During your case, you can be faced with many hurdles to jump. The better prepared you are ahead of the race, the easier to tackle the obstacle course.

Finding your match

Swipe left, swipe right; fill out a long questionnaire to find your perfect match…..does this sound familiar? There are several website to find the “perfect” this, the “perfect” that and so on, but HOW do you find the “perfect” divorce attorney?

Let’s begin by remembering – hiring an attorney in any legal matter is a very important decision. Selecting a divorce lawyer to represent you and your best interest in a divorce case is a decision that will impact the present and future of you and your family.

The first important step will be your consultation. DO NOT be afraid to ask questions and toss out scenarios to measure how the attorney responds to your concerns.

Remember, you are hiring someone. This process follows that same pattern as interviewing for a job. Know what your core areas of need are for your situation and ask questions that are targeted to best measure the competency level of your attorney.

Here are a few topics to cover during your consultation that will help you in choosing an attorney to represent you:

  • Do you specialize in Family Law?
    If you were having issues with your back, you wouldn’t go see a plastic surgeon would you? Of course not! Medicine requires highly specialized practice areas. Law is no different. You need an attorney that is highly skilled in all aspects of family law. If you have additional need for representation (ex. Protective orders, own a company, substantial assets) make sure your attorney is skilled in those practice areas as well.
  • What is the fee schedule for handling my case?
    Generally most divorce attorneys will set fees in one of two ways. The first and most popular method is charging a retainer. Attorney’s have a set hourly fee. The hourly fees are billed against the retainer that you pay and then you will receive statements for additional cost incurred after the retainer has been exhausted. Sometimes a second retainer is required. Have a clear understanding of the hourly fee when you will receive an itemized statement. The second billing method is a set billing fee for handling your entire case. This is NOT the common method; however, this could be used in uncontested divorce cases.
  • What additional cost should I expect?
    Fees associated with Private Investigators, subpoenas, experts, depositions, court cost are generally NOT included in the standard hourly attorney fees. These costs are passed along to the client. The nature of your case will determine which of the additional services may or may not be needed.
  • Who else will be assisting on my case?
    Building trust during the divorce process is vital! You can expect to hear from your attorney and administrative professionals in the office. Please remember that the support staff is there to assist your attorney and are very seasoned and knowledgeable to handle aspects of your case. Only the attorney can provide you with legal advice.
  • What resources can you provide to me to reduce my cost?
    First, settlement is usually the main go-to method to reduce the financial burden of divorce. The least amount of time you spend, the more money you save. You have to remember to remain reasonable, be willing to operate with a give/take mentality and know what areas you will be willing to negotiate on to resolve the matter quickly and efficiently. Next option for reducing cost would be mediation.

As you ask the above questions and make a decision about hiring a lawyer, keep in mind that you have a right to expect your lawyer to do represent you and do what is in your best interest. Keep in mind that honesty with your attorney is a MUST. He/she cannot represent you to the best of their ability if they are blindsided with defaming information from the opposing side.

Once you have found a good lawyer please do not be intimidated by him/her. Ask questions and trust the answers you are given. The lawyer should also be willing to explain the decisions that need to be made during the process of your divorce as well as his recommendations. However, in the end, you are the one who makes the decisions. Ultimately, if you are not satisfied with the lawyer, remember that you have the right to terminate your relationship with him/her at any time, for any reason. Be careful in doing so, this can cause unnecessary delays or, worse, result in you having to proceed without proper representation.

Attorney reflects on life of law in downtown Newnan

In life, we often look for those little telltale signs that pop up every so often.

For Doug Dreyer, his popped up along the way to a job interview in 1988. Prior to his graduation from law school at Mercer University, Dreyer had sent out his resume to a number of law firms around the South.

One in particular was in Newnan with Rosenzweig, Jones, McNabb.

Driving up for his interview, the transmission on his car gave out just outside of Jackson. He began hitchhiking when a traveling salesman picked him up, citing that someone had done the same for him many years ago. They rode together to Griffin, where Dreyer ultimately rented a car to make his interview.

At some point during his interview, George Rosenzweig apologized to Dreyer, explaining that he had to take a call from Bank of Coweta, as they were foreclosing on a used car lot.

“As luck would have it,” Dryer recalled, chuckling, “I told him I could use a car and told him my story. He hired me on the spot and I came to work in Newnan one month later.”

Prior to his arrival in Newnan, Dreyer’s interest in law came at an early age. Growing up in Chattanooga, he recalled only three channels of television and, along the way, fell in love with Perry Mason.

“No one in my family was in law, but I was just enamored with it,” he said. “In time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

When Dreyer arrived in 1988, there were only 32 practicing attorneys in the area – eight were at Rosenzweig. He recalled the period of time when court was held every other Thursday, “and it was always Judge Lee or maybe Judge Dewey Smith sometimes.”

“But your court days were fairly brief because you didn’t have a lot of cases and you knew how Judge Lee liked to work,” Dreyer said. When the Carnegie Library was restored, there was a period of time when court was held there and at the courthouse across the street.

“You would see people going back and forth from the corner, often lugging boxes of case files,” he recalled, smiling. “Since the library was right on the street, we would briefly stop talking during the proceedings and just wait for them to pass.”

During his tenure at Rosenzweig, Dreyer felt that his own success was the byproduct of being fortunate to learn under such a list of accomplished attorneys.

“George (Rosenzweig), Joe McNabb, Mike Cam, Randy Ebersbach,” Dreyer recalled. “Pope Jones was one of the greatest real estate attorneys in town. There were a lot of good litigation attorneys in that firm so I was very fortunate to work there.”

The opportunity to work at the firm also presented Dreyer with an education that couldn’t be taught in a classroom.

“You only learn the basic concepts at law school,” Dreyer said. “The opportunity to get your start under a great lawyer is what gives you an edge.”

As the county grew, so did the judicial system, which now boasts seven judges in the circuit. In 2001, Dryer went out on his own, focusing primarily on family law.

“There was an assigned attorney list for indigent criminal defense and you ultimately get tired of criminals, stories, dealing with prosecutors and officers,” he recalled. “Not that they’re bad, but it just wears on you.”

Citing his desire to move out of the realm of criminal defense, Dreyer attempted to build his practice of family law which allowed him more flexibility. With a family at home, scheduling a happy balance between work and domestic life was a priority.

“I can knock off early to see my daughter’s game but you might miss dinner because you still have work to do back at the office,” Dreyer said.

And while he remains removed from the world of criminal law, he still sees the abuse that happens behind closed doors in family law.

“It’s astonishing what people are capable of,” Dryer said. “The abuse is not just physical, but it’s controlling, emotional and financial.”

“When I go home from work, I tell my wife how lucky I am to have her. It really puts things in perspective.”

With new lawyers cropping up all the time, Dreyer has no plans of riding into the sunset anytime soon.

“There used to be one or two new attorneys a year but now there are people I haven’t even met,” Dreyer said. “Many say they have an office here in their advertising but it’s just a phone that forwards to their Atlanta office. The nature of law has changed.”

Regardless, Dreyer says he enjoys his work more than ever.

“Besides, no one retires at 62, especially if you own your business,” Dreyer said. “Your health, mind and willingness to do it has to hold up.”

“They call it practicing for a reason,” he said. “You’re always watching and learning new things. Everything is similar for the larger portion but there might be a different way of asking a question that grabs you. It’s satisfying work.”

 

Resource:  Newnan Times-Herald/Clay Neely

Mediation VS. Litigation

We talked several times about decreasing the expenses associated with your divorce case.  One of the areas that I’ve touched on previously was mediation.  I have explained what mediation is and how the process maps out, now let’s dig a little deeper and discover how mediation POSITIVELY affects your checkbook.

Mediation can be faster, less expensive and provide better outcomes than litigation if the parties are willing to resolve the issues together.  The ability to work together not only results in lower costs and better solutions that reflect what the parties want, not what their lawyers where able to impress upon a judge, but also sets an example of understanding and compromise for children involved.  To be clear, formal litigation is always an option, but should only be used if necessary because neither party really wins, even when they win.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the differences between litigation and mediation.

If You Litigate Your Divorce

If You Mediate Your Divorce

YOU SPEND LOTS OF MONEY… Your combined attorney’s fees will be approximately $30,000 or more. You pay for discovery, delays, trials, countless phone conversations between the attorneys. YOU SAVE MONEY…Your combined mediation fees, review by consulting attorney, and paperwork preparation may be less than $5000.
KIDS IN THE MIDDLE… If custody is contested, the court will probably appoint a lawyer for your children and the lawyer will probably insist upon invasive psychological evaluations of the family. PROTECT YOUR KIDS… The two of you will determine what’s in the best interests of your children.
SOMEONE ELSE DECIDES… The outcome will be decided by a judge or commissioner. YOU ARE IN CONTROL… The outcome will be determined by you and your spouse.
YOUR PERSONAL FINANCIAL INFO IS PUBLIC RECORD. CASE DETAILS ARE ON THE INTERNET… All the filed declarations where you and your spouse make accusations against each other to gain advantage are public records available to anyone to view, even years later by your children and grand children. YOU HAVE PRIVACY… There are no filed declarations making accusations against each other. You maintain your good reputation. Mediation is a confidential process where decisions are made in a private conference room.
COURT OVERSEES EVERY DETAIL… The Court will determine when you have custody of your children and you will need to return to court for every change as the kids get older YOU HAVE CHOICES… You can try out various parenting plans to see if they work. You can modify the plans as your children get older without returning to Court.
MONEY TALKS… The Division of Property will be based on:

  • How aggressive your lawyer is compared to the other lawyers
  • The mood the judge is in
  • Prescribed court schedules
  • Whether you or your spouse has more stamina and financial breathing room for battle.
FAIRNESS COUNTS… Mediators help you negotiate a fair settlement.
BE THERE… Your divorce will follow the timetable determined by the needs of attorneys and the court. YOU SAVE TIME… You decide how fast or slow you want the process to proceed. You can schedule mediation at your convenience
HARD TO ENFORCE… You and/or your spouse may not feel committed to the results be-cause of a lack of participation in the process, bitterness fostered during the proceedings, or lack of fairness in the result. MORE LIKELY TO COMPLY… Child support, spousal support and parenting plans are more likely to be maintained when mutually decided.
TOXIC… Even the most poised, self assured individuals can find themselves one of the walking wounded after experiencing a day of the antagonistic debilitating and emotionally draining experience of watching your spouse and yourself being torn to shreds in court. DIGNITY… You will maintain your dignity. You will experience the challenge of working with your spouse to make the best of a bad situation. If you can’t save the marriage, save the divorce.
CLUELESS… Your attorney will negotiate property and custody issues for you. You will be advised not to communicate directly with your spouse. YOU PARTICIPATE… With the help of a neutral mediator, you will problem solve property and custody issues to design an agreement that works for you and your family.

In the end, it comes down to dollars and sense (yes, sense).  What makes the most sense for your situation? You can either work together to reach an agreement or allow a person who hardly knows you make decisions for you.

 

Chart source:  http://www.divorcewizards.com/Information-on-Divorce-Mediation-and-Divorce-Litigation.html

Stepparent Adoptions

Do you remember as a child winding and twisting your way through a maze of some sort? As you are winding your way around, you find a wall, turn around and try another way. Regardless of the maze, you always have a beginning and an end, but the path getting from one point to the next will always be different depending on the maze. Stepparent adoptions are much the same. Stepparent adoptions will have a starting point and a finishing point but the core circumstances will differ with each case. Understanding the requirements needed to complete an adoption of any sort is important, but stepparent adoptions can be complicate when the biological non-custodial parent is still alive and in contact with the child(ren).

The adoption process for stepparents can vary drastically. This is truly one of the type of case where one is never the exact same as another. While the nuts and bolts of stepparent adoption are the same from case to case, the process can take many twist and turns before getting to the finish line.

If you are the person your stepchild considers to be a parent then you may wish to solidify your legal rights. Attorney Doug Dreyer supports blending families and protecting parent-child relationship through stepparent adoptions. As a non-adoptive stepparent, you have no legal parental rights. If your spouse became incapacitated, died, or you divorced, the court could award custody of your stepchild to anyone—possibly a relative who has not ever been part of his or her life. Through stepparent adoption a legal relationship is established with a child that will become identical to that of birth parent and child.

In a stepparent adoption, one biological parent has parental rights, but the other parent does not have a stable parent-child relationship or no parent-child relationship at all. Stepparent adoption is the transfer of legal and parental rights from a biological parent to the stepparent. The adoption is not terminated if the stepparent and biological parent divorce. In order to proceed with a stepparent adoption, several legal requirements must be met. This is where the proverbial “water” gets a little muddy and you definitely need an experienced attorney to guide you through the adoption maze.