Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Learn More about Our Collaborative Divorce Practice in B-Metro

When we decided to come together and create a new family law firm in 2013, we knew there was a dire need for an alternative to the contentious way divorce is handled today. As family law attorneys, we’ve been in the trenches with families divided by conflict and strife, and know how damaging the process can be to a family.

That is why we champion collaborative divorce - as a way to offer a better solution to couples going through difficult times, without the stress and acrimony normally associated with a divorce.

As explained in this piece from B-Metro on our practice, collaborative divorce was not always available in Alabama. It took a concerted grassroots effort from our team and other professionals in the state to bring collaborative divorce to Alabama, an effort that involved a lot of education – education that is still ongoing.

Now, however, our clients can benefit from an interdisciplinary approach to divorce that features support from a wide variety of resources, including mental health and financial professionals, to solve difficult problems for families. Respect, patience, and cooperation are what drive our approach, and our goal of creating better relationships is our foundation.

Read more about our approach to divorce and family law in B-Metro and contact us if you have any questions about the divorce process. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney

A Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney? Or Do I Need Both?

Many people are confused by these two important estate planning documents. It’s important to understand the functions of each and ensure you are fully protected by incorporating both of these documents into your overall estate plan.

A “living will,” often called an advance health care directive, is a legal document setting forth your wishes for end-of-life medical care, in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself. The safest way to ensure that your own wishes will determine your future medical care is to execute an advance directive stating what your wishes are. In some states, the advance directive is only operative if you are diagnosed with a terminal condition and life-sustaining treatment merely artificially prolongs the process of dying, or if you are in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

A durable power of attorney for health care, also referred to as a healthcare proxy, is a document in which you name another person to serve as your health care agent. This person is authorized to speak on your behalf in order to consent to – or refuse – medical treatment if your doctor determines that you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. A durable power of attorney for health care can be operative at any time you designate, not just when your condition is terminal.

For maximum protection, it is strongly recommended that you have both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. The power of attorney affords you flexibility, with an agent who can express your wishes and respond accordingly to any changes in your medical condition. Your agent should base his or her decisions on any written wishes you have provided, as well as familiarity with you. The advance directive is necessary to guide health care providers in the event your agent is unavailable. If your agent’s decisions are ever challenged, the advance directive can also serve as evidence that your agent is acting in good faith and in accordance with your wishes.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Judge Shares Words of Wisdom for Child Custody Disputes

Child custody disputes can be very difficult for everyone involved – especially the children. You can imagine the pain of having two parents go through a tough and troubling time full of arguments, fighting and strife and how much stress it places on the child, who is often caught in the middle.

Understanding what it’s like for children, a judge in Minnesota named Michael Haas penned a short letter to divorcing parents back in 2001.  Given their import, we wanted to share them with you:

Read more . . .

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Top Reasons Why Marriages End in Divorce, According to Divorce Attorneys

Why do marriages break up? What causes couples to decide to go their separate ways?

Although the reasons vary and explanations are seldom simple, recent research suggests there are some common themes in failed marriages.

A British survey recently reported in Huffington Post revealed a sobering statistic: the average couple spends more than two years considering divorce before proceeding with one. (On a positive note, 76 percent of those people surveyed made the effort to resolve their differences and fix the marriage before pursuing divorce.)

Read more . . .

Sunday, March 30, 2014


What happens if you are bequeathed a car that no longer exists?  The ABCs of Ademption

If you’re involved in settling a loved one’s estate, you may come across the curious word “ademption”. Ademption describes what happens when something designated in a will no longer exists. Say, for example, your uncle dies and leaves for you in his will an old-school Harley Davidson motorcycle. However, if your uncle crashed the motorcycle two years before the will was probated and there’s nothing to leave, then that gift would be considered adeemed and you would receive nothing. This is why certain wills include language that says, “if owned by me at my death.”

However, it is important to realize that certain items cannot be adeemed. For instance, money. If your uncle died and left $7,000 for you in his will, but left a zero dollar balance in his accounts, your gift of cash would not be adeemed. Instead, the estate would be responsible for satisfying that gift, say for example, through the sale of the house or other such property.

There are exceptions to ademption, however. If the property leaves the estate after the person who wrote the will has been declared incompetent, ademption is waived.  Other states make exceptions for cases where interest in a corporation that no longer exists because the shares were exchanged with that of an acquiring company.  Your state may tackle ademption differently based on its laws, so please consult a qualified real estate or probate lawyer if you want to learn more about ademption and its exceptions.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Seeking a Divorce and Hiring a Divorce Lawyer? Questions You Should Answer First

By now, any married couple – or couple contemplating marriage – has heard the oft-quoted statistic that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Whether or not that statistic is accurate, it is certainly indicative of how pervasive divorce is in our society.

Deciding whether your marriage is worth saving is one of the most challenging and trying decisions you will ever have to make. Before you conclude that divorce is your best option and hire a divorce lawyer, ask yourself these questions first.

Read more . . .

Monday, January 13, 2014

Life Does Not End at Divorce

As Birmingham divorce lawyers, we have the responsibility of shepherding our clients through what can be a difficult and emotional process. It is not ever easy to end a marriage, whether it has lasted for one year or for fifty. The stress and trauma can be such that those going through the process are unable to imagine a healthy, productive, and normal life afterward.

Read more . . .

Monday, January 13, 2014

Protecting the Stay-at-Home Spouse: Exploring the Wisdom of a Postnup Agreement

You may have read an article on recently about a concept that at first sounds strange: development of a postnuptial agreement, or “postnup.” As you might imagine, the postnuptial agreement is similar to a more-familiar concept, the prenuptial agreement (or prenup) that is put into place before getting married to protect both parties in the event of a divorce.

Read more . . .

Friday, December 20, 2013

Avoid Family Feuds through Proper Estate Planning

Avoid Family Feuds through Proper Estate Planning

A family feud over an inheritance is not a game and there is no prize package at the end of the show. Rather, disputes over who gets your property after your death can drag on for years and deplete your entire estate. When most people are preparing their estate plans, they execute wills and living trusts that focus on minimizing taxes or avoiding probate. However, this process should also involve laying the groundwork for your estate to be settled amicably and according to your wishes. Communication with your loved ones is key to accomplishing this goal.

Feuds can erupt when parents fail to plan, or make assumptions that prove to be untrue. Such disputes may evolve out of a long-standing sibling rivalry; however, even the most agreeable family members can turn into green-eyed monsters when it comes time to divide up the family china or decide who gets the vacation home at the lake.

Avoid assumptions. Do not presume that any of your children will look out for the interests of your other children. To ensure your property is distributed to the heirs you select, and to protect the integrity of the family unit, you must establish a clear estate plan and communicate that plan – and the rationale behind certain decisions – to your loved ones.

In formulating your estate plan, you should have a conversation with your children to discuss who will be the executor of your estate, or who wants to inherit a specific personal item. Ask them who wants to be the executor, or consider the abilities of each child in selecting who will settle your estate, rather than just defaulting to the eldest child. This discussion should also include provisions for your potential incapacity, and address who has the power of attorney.

Do not assume any of your children want to inherit specific items. Many heirs fight as much over sentimental value as they do monetary items. Cash and investments are easily divided, but how do you split up Mom’s engagement ring or the table Dad built in his woodshop? By establishing a will or trust that clearly states who is to receive such special items, you avoid the risk that your estate will be depleted through costly legal proceedings as your children fight over who is entitled to such items.

Take the following steps to ensure your wishes are carried out:

  • Discuss your estate planning with your family. Ask for their input and explain anything “unusual,” such as special gifts of property or if the heirs are not inheriting an equal amount.
  • Name guardians for your minor children.
  • Write a letter, outside of your will or trust, that shares your thoughts, values, stories, love, dreams and hopes for your loved ones.
  • Select a special, tangible gift for each heir that is meaningful to the recipient.
  • Explain to your children why you have appointed a particular person to serve as your trustee, executor, agent or guardian of your children.
  • If you are in a second marriage, make sure your children from a prior marriage and your current spouse know that you have established an estate plan that protects their interests.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Consult With A Lawyer Before You File For Divorce

Individuals contemplating divorce can make serious mistakes in how they go about ending their marriage. Sometimes they make promises about what they are willing to do in a divorce settlement without first consulting with a lawyer. This can be incredibly unwise! Even if those promises are not in writing, your spouse will not forget the conversation. If you learn later that you cannot or should not keep your promises, you may end up turning your divorce into a long drawn-out nightmare.

Keep in mind that information on the web can be misleading, outdated and flat out false. Consult with a lawyer that specializes in family law, and arm yourself with accurate information about your rights before undertaking negotiations that could significantly impact your future.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Accessing a Safe Deposit Box After the Owner Passes Away

How do you access a safe deposit box after the owner passes away?  If the deceased owner (the “decedent”) had a safe deposit box, it may be a good idea to gain access to the box as soon as possible.  The Last Will and Testament or Trust and other documents needed to settle the estate can often be found in a safe deposit box.

Under Michigan law, safe deposit boxes jointly owned with another person are not sealed at death. The surviving joint tenant may gain immediate access. While this may be convenient, be careful in who you designate as a joint tenant on a safe deposit box because the joint tenant has the right to enter the box and remove any items in it, at any time.  Designate the wrong person and the jewelry, gold coins, or cash that “everyone in the family knows was in the box” may go missing for good. 

If you have a probate estate, the probate court may appoint a personal representative for your estate.  If the joint tenant is someone other than the personal representative, then both the joint tenant and the personal representative have full access to the box. If the box is jointly leased with someone other than the personal representative, however, the personal representative must open the box in the presence of the safe deposit company’s authorized employee.  Michigan law then requires that a list of items removed by the personal representative must be made and served on the other joint owner within seven days.  

What if the safe deposit box was just registered in the decedent’s name?   Then the law provides that even before a personal representative is appointed, any interested person, as defined in Michigan’s probate laws, may petition the probate court to open a safe deposit box to look for a will or burial plot deed.  However, to utilize this law you need to know the name of the financial institution and location of the branch where the safe deposit box is located and the box number.

The probate judge may issue the order immediately after a $10 fee has been paid. Once the order has been issued, the box may be opened in the presence of an officer or authorized employee of the bank. All those in attendance must sign a certificate stating whether a will or burial deed was found in the box and that no other items were removed. Items contained in the safe deposit box other than the will or burial plot deed may not be removed from the box.

The certificate and any will or burial plot deed found in the box are to be delivered to the probate register. The register issues a receipt for these materials to the bank where the box was found.

What if you are not sure if a deceased person had a safe deposit box?  In order to find out, an estate will have to be opened in probate court and a personal representative appointed.  A personal representative, once appointed, has authority to inquire of a bank if there was a safe deposit box and the bank is authorized to disclose that information to a personal representative.  The personal representative, once appointed, has full access to the box.

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