Archive for April, 2014

When Does My Child Support Obligation End?

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Whenever a parent is required to pay child support for one or more children, it is only natural that they will wonder how far into the future that obligation extends. In Mississippi, the short answer to that question is that a parent’s child support obligation ends upon a child’s emancipation.

There is not a one-size-fits-all definition for emancipation. Two common circumstances under which a Mississippi child becomes emancipated from his or her parents are reaching the age of twenty one or getting married. There are also other situations in which a child will be considered to be emancipated. For example, if a child under twenty one years of age voluntarily moves out of their parent’s home and into an independent living situation, the child may be found to be emancipated and the parent who pays child support may be able to stop doing so.

There are even more ways that children become emancipated. If your child joins the military, he or she is considered to be emancipated. Likewise, young adults become emancipated when they live with another person without the approval of their non-custodial parent. Also, unless your child is disabled, if they stop attending school on a full-time basis after their eighteenth birthday, they are emancipated. This scenario applies whether or not they work full time after leaving school. A felony conviction which results in incarceration also renders a young person emancipated.

As you can see from the variety of situations that have been described, emancipation can occur in many ways. The situations described above are examples, and there could be other, similar situations which would also result in a child being emancipated, and their parent’s child support obligation being terminated, before they attain the age of twenty one. The best way to find out whether a specific situation in your family has resulted or is likely to result in one or more of your children being emancipated is to speak with a Mississippi Family Law Attorney.

It is essential that parents with children who have undertaken activities which could qualify them as emancipated understand that they do not get to decide on their own whether or not their child is emancipated. If you believe that one or more of your children should be considered to be emancipated, you must petition the court for a modification of your child support order. If the court does find that your child is in fact emancipated, it will issue an order describing the change in your child support obligation.

Also, a finding that one or more of your children are emancipated applies only to child support payments which would have been due in the future. If you are behind on your child support payments, you are still responsible for paying any arrearages. The best way to prevent incurring child support arrearages is to take prompt action to modify your child support obligation if your income changes and you begin to have trouble paying the amount which is required of you by your current child support order. A Mississippi Family Law Attorney can help you to petition the court for a modification of your child support if your income has changed and you are having difficulty meeting your current child support obligation.

Whether your child support question involves emancipation, modification due to a change in income, or some other issue, a Mississippi Divorce Attorney can help you to find the answers that you need. Matthew S. Poole is a renowned family law attorney in Mississippi, with a reputation for exceptional legal service.  Call Matthew S. Poole today, at (601) 573-7429, to schedule you free initial consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Explains Grandparent Visitation in Mississippi

Monday, April 21st, 2014

It is important for children to have meaningful relationships with adults who are not their mother and father. Many adults have fond memories of the times that they shared with one or more of their grandparents. From helping Grandma in the kitchen as she prepared delicious meals and treats, to going fishing with Grandpa and coming home with a couple of fish and a lot of great stories, the memories that our grandparents gave us serve as reminders of the time and attention that they devoted to helping us learn and grow.

While not all children have grandparents who are actively involved in their lives, those who do form close connections with them. The relationship between a child and their grandparent deserves respect, and the State of Mississippi recognizes that. In Mississippi, the visitation rights of grandparents are set forth in MCA 93-16-3. This statute is designed to ensure that grandparents who have close relationships with their grandchildren can continue to visit with them regularly in the event that one or both of the children’s parents die, the children’s parents divorce, the rights of one or both parents are terminated, or even if the relationship between the children’s parents and their grandparents has deteriorated.

Mississippi’s grandparent visitation statute does not apply to all grandparents. Since the grandparent visitation statute is designed to protect the relationship between grandparent and grandchild, it makes sense that visitation is awarded only when it is in the best interest of the child. In order to be granted visitation, a grandparent must show that they have a viable relationship with the grandchild or grandchildren that they seek to visit. In Mississippi, a viable relationship can take one of two forms. The first type of viable relationship is when a grandparent supports a grandchild financially, either in full or in part, for at least six months prior to petitioning the court for visitation. The second form of viable relationship is where the grandparent has visited the child frequently for at least a year prior to petitioning the court for visitation.

When a grandparent seeks visitation, the court analyzes ten different factors while making its decision on whether to award visitation, and how much visitation to award. The factors which the court considers are set forth in Martin v. Coop, 693 So.2d 912, 913 (Miss. 1997). Courts consider the ages of both the grandchild or grandchildren and the grandparents, the physical and mental health of the grandparents, the distance between the home of the child and the home of the grandparents, any employment responsibilities of the grandparents, the moral fitness of the grandparents, the suitability of the grandparents’ home for visits, the bond between grandparent and grandchild, whether a grant of visitation is likely to cause any disruption in the child’s life, and whether the grandparents are likely to interfere with the parenting choices and disciplinary decisions that are made by the children’s parents.

If you are a grandparent who is in a situation where you are unable to see your grandchildren because of the death of one of their parents, a divorce, a termination of parental rights, or a falling out with one of their parents, a Mississippi Family Law Attorney may be able to assist you in getting the visitation that you and your grandchildren want. Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Mississippi Divorce Attorney who is known for providing caring and compassionate legal counsel. To find out how Matthew can help you, please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.

Tips on Moving Forward After Your Divorce

Friday, April 18th, 2014

When you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, it can sometimes feel like your divorce will go on forever. Fortunately, that is not the case. Unless the two of you decide to call off the divorce or the court declines to grant you a divorce, you will obtain a final divorce either by agreement on all of the issues, or after a trial on some or all of the issues.

Being involved in a divorce case can certainly keep a person busy, but it is important to remember that on the other side of your divorce proceedings lies the rest of your life. This can be a good thing to think about, when thoughts about your divorce threaten to take up all of the space in your mind, leaving no room for anything else. Of course, it can also be a frightening thought, since with your divorce you leave behind many things that are familiar to you.

As you work your way through the process of divorce towards the other side, your life as a newly single person, it may be useful to do a few things that you may not have done for a while, or may not have done at all, for that matter. For example, taking time to think about your positive qualities can help you remember what makes you unique and special. Being in a marriage which is ending in a divorce can be emotionally draining, and it could be causing you to think more about the aspects of yourself which you consider to be negative. Thinking about your positive qualities can help you to move through the sadness and pain of your divorce towards healing.

Another important part of moving forward in your life after divorce is letting go of your past experiences after you have acknowledged your feelings about them and learned whatever lessons they contained. While the court will take care of the legal paperwork associated with your divorce, you must do the hard work of putting any grudges and regrets that you are holding onto behind you so that they do not hold you back from enjoying life.

When you were married, much of your time and energy may have been wrapped up in the details of family life, work, running a household, and other things. While these certainly are important things, taking time to reflect on what other things may be important to you can help you to find a renewed sense of purpose as you move forward after your divorce. Perhaps you have a passion for gardening, which has been neglected for years because you had too many other responsibilities competing for your time and energy. You are probably still busy, but perhaps you can find a way to grow a small garden this year, or to help out with a friend’s garden or a community garden. Of course, gardening is just an example. Everyone has at least a few things that they care deeply about. Think about what those things are, and find a way to incorporate them into your life, even if only on a very small scale.

While moving forward with your life after your divorce is something that you must do on your own, a Mississippi Divorce Attorney can help you to navigate the divorce process so that you come out on the other side with the things that are most important to you. To find out how Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole can help you, please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.

Habitual, Cruel, and Inhumane Treatment is Hard to Prove

Friday, April 11th, 2014

One of the most common grounds which is alleged in at-fault divorce cases in Mississippi is that the petitioning spouse was subjected to habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment by the respondent spouse. Unfortunately, this grounds for divorce is also difficult to prove. As you might imagine, the inability to prove habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment could result in a court’s refusal to grant a divorce in a situation where a divorce is needed in order to enable an abused spouse to break free from their abuser.

What makes it so hard to prove habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment is evidence, or more likely, the lack thereof. Mississippi courts have ruled that the petitioning spouse must provide “a preponderance of credible evidence” in order to support their claim that a divorce should be granted on the grounds that they have suffered habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment. Chamblee v. Chamblee, 637 So. 2d 850, 859 (Miss. 1994) The evidence must show that not only do the respondent’s actions rise to the level of cruelty, but also that those actions have caused physical or emotional harm to the petitioner.

Examples of situations where the courts may find that habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment has occurred include case where the petitioner has experienced severe physical violence on multiple occasions, or extreme emotional abuse over an extended period of time. While multiple incidents or a pattern of mistreatment are normally required, in extreme cases, the court may recognize a single incident as sufficient proof of the need for a divorce. Boutwell v. Boutwell, 829 So. 2d 1216, 1220 (¶14) (Miss. 2002)

Sometimes, the evidence which is needed to support a petition for divorce based on the grounds of habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment is difficult to obtain because it is expensive. In order to support allegations of physical and mental harm, the petitioner may have to present testimony of the doctors and psychologists which have diagnosed and treated their injuries. Unfortunately, the price of this type of testimony may keep it out of reach of many people who most desperately need it.

At other times, the evidence is not difficult to obtain because of its cost, but because the dynamics of abusive relationships are such that abused spouses may not show or tell anyone anything about what is going on inside of their home. Even if they do share some information with others, it may not be enough to corroborate their claim. An example of a case in which the court did feel that enough evidence was provided to support a claim of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment is Fulton v. Fulton, 918 So. 2d 877, 880 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2006) In this case, three witnesses were presented by a woman in order to corroborate her claim that she had been abused by her husband. One witness was her mother, who had observed bruises. The second witness was a friend, who testified that the wife often called late at night to talk about the fights that she had with her husband. The third witness, the wife’s cousin, testified that she had felt the tension in the home when she visited, and that she had taken pictures of the wife’s injuries.

If you intend to pursue a divorce based upon the grounds of habitual, cruel, and inhuman treatment, you need the assistance of an experienced Mississippi Divorce Attorney. Matthew S. Poole is a renowned Family Law Attorney in Mississippi, with a reputation for helping his clients present their cases in the best possible manner. To learn how Matthew can help you, call our office today, at (601) 573-7429, to schedule you free initial consultation.

 

Adultery – If You Condone It, You May Have To Own It

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

One of the grounds for fault-based divorce which is recognized by the State of Mississippi is adultery. Adultery occurs when a married man or woman engages in consensual sexual intercourse with an adult who is not their spouse. While you may be aware that you can sue your spouse for divorce if they commit adultery, you may not know that the court may decline to grant you a divorce on those grounds if you have in some way condoned or forgiven the adulterous behavior.

When a spouse is sued for divorce on one of the grounds for fault which are recognized by the State of Mississippi, they have the opportunity to request that the court not grant the divorce by presenting a defense to the allegations that have been brought against them. The most common defense to allegations of adultery is that the non-offending spouse condoned the conduct of the adulterous spouse. Condonation is a legal term which means “conditional forgiveness”, and it is essential that people whose lives have been touched by adultery understand what it looks like in real life, because it is often misunderstood.

One common misunderstanding regarding condonation is that it occurs when a married couple lives together after an incident of adultery has occurred. It is important for people to understand that merely living together after an incident of adultery has taken place does not, on its own, constitute condonation. This is a good thing, especially when you consider the practicalities of the situation. Even if a spouse were to immediately decide that they were going to leave their adulterous husband or wife, it would take some time to put that decision into action, especially if the couple has children. The spouse who was going to leave would have to secure a new place to live, as well as figure out how they would afford it. If there are children involved, they would also have to figure out how they would address the issues of custody and visitation.

Since condonation of adultery requires more than just living together after adultery has occurred, it makes sense to explain what “more” is. One thing which must be present in order for condonation to be a possibility is awareness of the adultery. A person cannot condone that which they are unaware of. In addition to continuing to live in the marital home after learning that their spouse has committed adultery, the innocent spouse must also have resumed their sexual relationship with their husband or wife for condonation to occur.

Another complication which can arise in situations where condonation is raised as a defense to a divorce on the grounds of adultery is that the defense is only available if the adulterous behavior does not resume or continue. This condition makes sense, when you consider that condonation is conditional forgiveness, and not forgiveness with no strings attached. An innocent spouse welcomes an adulterous spouse back into their arms on the condition that no more adultery will occur. If a spouse goes back to his or her adulterous ways after the non-offending spouse attempted to forgive the initial bad act, the court will find that there is cause for divorce.

If your spouse has committed adultery, a Mississippi Divorce Attorney can help you to understand your options under the Mississippi divorce laws. Depending upon the facts of your situation, you may be able to divorce your spouse based on the grounds of adultery. Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole has a great deal of knowledge and experience in the area of Mississippi divorce law. His skill has helped him to achieve favorable results for his clients. To find out how Matthew can help you, please call our office today, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.

Your Guide to Alimony in Mississippi

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

            While it is true that awards of alimony in divorce cases are much less common than they were a few decades ago, there are still plenty of current divorce cases in which one spouse is awarded alimony. If both you and your soon to be former spouse are earning enough income to support yourselves after your divorce, then an award of alimony to either of you is not likely. Likewise, if the financial needs of both you and your soon to be former spouse can be addressed through the property settlement in your divorce, it is unlikely that either of you will be required to pay alimony to the other.

            If, however, you and your spouse have vastly different amounts of income, it is possible that the court may award some form of alimony to one of you. In a divorce case, after the court goes through the process of identifying and dividing a couple’s marital property, it will contemplate whether any alimony should be awarded. The factors which the court considers in deciding whether to award alimony are set forth in Armstrong v. Armstrong, 618 So.2d 1278 (Miss. 1993).

            The factors which are set forth in the Armstrong case include a few things that you might expect the court to consider, such as the parties’ income, earning capacity, age, health, financial needs, whether there are minor children, and the length of the marriage. The court will also consider some other things which are relevant to the issue of alimony. For example, if the divorce is based on “fault” grounds, such as adultery, the fault or misconduct will be considered by the court in deciding whether or not to award alimony. Also, if either party wasted assets during the marriage, it will factor into the court’s decision. If a case has unique circumstances that would affect either party’s need for alimony, the court is free to consider any factors which it deems just and equitable.

            If the court decides to award alimony, the award can take many different forms. Permanent alimony is the payment of a certain amount of money each month until the recipient either dies or remarries. Permanent alimony has fallen out of favor because it creates a continuing obligation which can be the source of many disputes in the years following the divorce. There are other types of alimony which may be better suited for you then permanent alimony. Temporary alimony may be awarded while a divorce case is in process, with the understanding that the payments will stop once a final judgment is entered. Lump sum alimony can be used to make up the difference between the values of the shares of marital property that were granted in the property settlement if there was no way to distribute the property equitably. Rehabilitative alimony provides for payments over a specific time period in order to enable the recipient to get on their feet and enter the work force, for example. Attorneys and courts can also create “custom blends” of the different types of alimony in order to accomplish whatever is needed in any given divorce case.

           A Mississippi Divorce Attorney can help you to understand which kinds of alimony may be available to you, and they can help you to pursue an award of alimony that will meet your unique needs. Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Mississippi Divorce Attorney who is known for achieving favorable results for his clients. To find out how Matthew can help you, call our office today, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.