Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Social Media: Blessing or Curse To Your Domestic Case?

Take a moment and remember back to the times when Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Vimeo, Tumblr or Snapchat did not exist.  Depending on your age (and perhaps addiction level to social media), you had one of two reactions: (1) a sense of freedom and peace which washed over you or (2) pure panic as you realized you would never know what your friend’s boyfriend’s cousin had for dinner last night!  Regardless of which camp you were in, the fact is that society, relationships and communication are heavily driven in today’s world by social media.

Billions of people connect all over the world every day via social media platforms, the largest of which are Twitter and Facebook.  You can celebrate the mountaintop experiences of your life and of those you know and love (and even those you don’t know at all) or share the rough patch through which you are struggling.  Perhaps one of the most common aspects of social media communication is the ability to post your feelings, both good and bad, about individuals, groups or business and organizations.  Bad experience at the grocery?  Post about it and make sure your neighbors know.  Just had the best meal ever while visiting New Orleans?  Post about it and recommend it to every contact you have.  With Twitter, post and tag (via hashtags) the business, restaurant or company and often times you’ll get a direct response.  That’s pretty amazing considering some of these organizations are multi-country conglomerates.

Read more . . .

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Shared Home

A Shared Home but Not a Joint Deed

Many people erroneously assume that when one spouse dies, the other spouse receives all of the remaining assets; this is often not true and frequently results in unintentional disinheritance of the surviving spouse.

In cases where a couple shares a home but only one spouse’s name is on it, the home will not automatically pass to the surviving pass, if his or her name is not on the title. Take, for example, a case of a husband and wife where the husband purchased a home prior to his marriage, and consequently only his name is on the title (although both parties resided there, and shared expenses, during the marriage). Should the husband pass away before his wife, the home will not automatically pass to her by “right of survivorship”. Instead, it will become part of his probate estate. This means that there will need to be a court probate case opened and an executor appointed. If the husband had a will, the executor would be the person he nominated in his will who would carry out the testator’s instructions regarding disposition of the assets. If he did not have a will, state statutes, known as intestacy laws, would provide who has priority to inherit the assets.

In our example, if the husband had a will then the house would pass to whomever is to receive his assets pursuant to that will. That may very well be his wife, even if her name is not on the title.

If he dies without a will, state laws will determine who is entitled to the home. Many states have rules that would provide only a portion of the estate to the surviving spouse. If the deceased person has children, even if children of the current marriage, local laws might grant a portion of the estate to those children. If this is a second marriage, children from the prior marriage may be entitled to more of the estate. If this is indeed the case, the surviving spouse may be forced to leave the home, even if she had contributed to home expenses during the course of the marriage.

Laws of inheritance are complex, and without proper planning, surviving loved ones may be subjected to unintended expense, delays and legal hardships. If you share a residence with a significant other or spouse, you should consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action after taking into account your unique personal situation and goals. There may be simple ways to ensure your wishes are carried out and avoid having to probate your partner’s estate at death.

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.

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