Archive for December, 2014

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Shares Tips for Avoiding Holiday Drama

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

If you are divorced or divorcing, you may find that the holiday season has you feeling more stressed than usual. On top of the usual shopping, cooking, planning, participating, and overall busyness, you may have a schedule that does not give you as much time with your children as you would like and a relationship with your former or soon to be former spouse that is filled with conflict. If this describes your current situation in full or in part, you may be hoping that the holidays pass quickly because it is all just too much.

If there were a way to reduce the amount of conflict and tension in your life during the holidays, you would certainly want to know about it. Fortunately, there are a few ways in which divorced or divorcing couples can try to make things a little easier for themselves and their families during this stressful time.

As difficult as it can be to do sometimes, supporting your children in spending time with both you and their other parent can help everyone to have a happier holiday season. Children are keenly aware of how the adults in their lives feel, and if they sense that you disapprove of them spending time celebrating the holidays with their other parent then they will have a hard time enjoying both the time that they spend with them and the time that they spend with you because they feel stuck in the middle. When a parent reassures their children that they want them to enjoy their time with their other parent, the children can focus their attention on enjoying their time with each parent because they don’t feel as though they have to choose one over the other.

In conjunction with supporting and encouraging your children to spend time with their other parent during the holidays, it is important that you establish a holiday parenting schedule early on and then stick to it. Some divorcing or divorced parents may already have a parenting schedule in place as part of the divorce process, and those schedules usually include schedules for holidays and school breaks. If you don’t have a schedule in place yet, make one as soon as you can. Also, make sure that your children know the holiday schedule so that they know what to expect, and when they will be spending time with each of you, and with family and friends.

Taking time to reflect on your feelings may not seem very appealing if you have been experiencing a lot of negative emotions. It is important to do so, whether on your own or with a friend or family member, so that you can acknowledge what you are feeling and work through negative feelings so that they are less likely to drag you down at other times.

Implementing the three strategies mentioned above may help you to reduce the amount of stress and tension in your life this holiday season. If you have a question about your Mississippi divorce during the holiday season or at any other time of year please contact Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Talks about Fifth Amendment Issues in Divorce Cases

Monday, December 29th, 2014

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and all of the various state constitutions provide a privilege against self-incrimination. You are probably familiar with this privilege in the context of criminal  cases, where it is commonly referred to as “pleading the Fifth,” but it actually applies in all judicial proceedings, whatever their nature, if there is the risk that the individual could be incarcerated.

At this point, you are probably wondering what incarceration has to do with divorce proceedings. Some types of misconduct are subject to criminal prosecution when committed by a married individual. This is why a party will often plead the Fifth if they are asked whether they have ever committed adultery. If adultery is punishable by incarceration in the jurisdiction where the case is being tried, therefore creating a risk of prosecution if adultery is found to have occurred, than the invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is proper.

There are situations in which a party may not invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, including any situation in which prosecution is not possible because the statute of limitations has already run. In these cases, the party or the witness must answer the question truthfully, because they could not possibly be prosecuted for their actions and therefore are not within the class of persons whom the Fifth Amendment is intended to protect.

Sometimes, divorcing parties call witnesses to testify in their divorce proceedings. If a witness could possibly be prosecuted for participating in an act of adultery or some other crime as the result of their truthful answer to a question that is asked of them on the witness stand, the witness may invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege instead of answering the question.

If this issue arises in your divorce case, it is important that you answer the question of whether you have committed adultery by invoking your Fifth Amendment privilege instead of responding in the affirmative that you have been a faithful spouse. If you make an affirmative statement that you were a faithful spouse, the issue of your fidelity is open for discussion and you may not invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege because you waived it by making your fidelity an issue.

These issues regarding the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination are indicative of the complex types of issues which can present themselves in divorce cases. There is a lot at stake in any divorce case, and it is too risky to go through the divorce process without the assistance of skilled counsel. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can help you to anticipate and navigate the unique challenges of your divorce, and they can help you to understand what your options are at each step in the divorce process. Whether you anticipate settling your divorce or going to trial, Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole can answer all of your questions about your Mississippi divorce. Call our office today. at (601) 573-7429, to set up a free consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Talks about Access to Your Children’s Records

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

There are many opportunities for conflict between any two divorcing parties, and parents are no different. One area which can be difficult for some parents to navigate is the issue of access to the children’s school records and their health care records. These records contain important information that parents need, in order to make decisions that will serve the best interests of their children.

Since school and health records contain important information that parents should know about their children, it makes sense that both of a child’s parents should have access to them. The State of Mississippi agrees, providing statutory support for the rights of both parents to have free access to school and health records regardless of how they share parenting time and parental decision making authority. Some parents believe that they have a right to exclusive access to their children’s records, but fortunately, Mississippi law says otherwise. § 93­5­26  of the Mississippi Code Annotated provides that, “Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, except those provisions protecting the confidentiality of adoption records and except for cases in which parental rights have been legally terminated, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including but not limited to medical, dental and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because the parent is not the child’s custodial parent if such parent’s parental rights have not been terminated by adoption or by a termination of parental rights proceeding.”

Of course, being able to obtain information about your child’s education and health is just that, obtaining the information. What you do with the information that you receive is a different matter. It is possible that you may begin receiving regular reports on your children’s academic progress and their health care. It is also possible that all of your children may be healthy, and they may all be doing just fine at school. Of course, it is also possible that one or more of the children may have health concerns that require treatment or that one or more of the children are having some sort of difficulty at school. When it comes to what each parent can do to address the issues that inevitably arise as part of parenting their children, let your parenting plan be your guide.

If you are involved in a divorce and you do not yet have a parenting plan, make sure that when you do work on creating one, you include specific information about how major parenting decisions like those involved in your children’s education or medical care and treatment will be addressed. It is important for parents to understand that decision-making authority is a separate item from parenting time, so full authority to make decisions regarding health care and education does not automatically lie with the parent who has the children more of the time. Parents are free to decide how they apportion decision-making authority. Many parents choose to share the decision-making authority on these issues, and their parenting plans reflect that choice.

If you have a question about access to school and health records or how to address major decisions in your parenting plan, please contact Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole, at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Talks about Contested Divorce

Friday, December 19th, 2014

When divorcing spouses cannot agree on one or more of the topics that must be decided in their Mississippi divorce, their case will proceed to a trial where those issues will be decided by the court after the parties explain their respective positions and present evidence in support of those positions.

Much of the evidence that the parties will present to the court is obtained through a process called Discovery. During Discovery, the parties request information from each other through their attorneys and provide information through their attorneys in order to comply with requests for information that they have been asked to provide. Financial documents are often the topic of discovery, and both parties in any divorce action must complete Inventory and Appraisement forms that list all of the property owned by each of the parties and all of the liabilities owed by the parties. It is important that parties realize just how important it is that the Inventory and Appraisement documents are completed truthfully and accurately, because they are sworn statements.

As the date for a divorce trial draws near and the parties are unable to reach agreement on one or more issues, their attorneys begin their final preparations of the case for trial. About a month before the trial date, both parties submit pre-trial documents to the court. The pre-trial documents contain each party’s suggestions as to how they want the court to rule on issues like custody and property division.

When the trial date arrives, the divorcing spouses present evidence in support of their position on each of the contested issues in the case. The parties themselves are often the most important witnesses in a divorce case, but they may also call other witnesses who have relevant information regarding one or more of the contested issues to testify. It is important to note that many couples are able to agree on one or more issues before the trial, so the trial deals only with issues where there is not an agreement. Common topics upon which agreement does not occur before trial include division of assets, division of debts, and division of parenting time.

At the close of the divorce trial, the judge will decide how to rule on each of the contested issues, as well as on the ultimate issue of whether to grant the parties a divorce. After the trial, one of the parties’ attorneys prepares a Final Judgment of Divorce, and sends it to the judge, who signs it and then sends copies of it to the parties so that they can have all of the information that they need to comply with the terms and conditions that have been set forth for them.

Whether your divorce is resolved through settlement or you proceed to trial, Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole is here to help you every step of the way. If you have questions or concerns about getting divorced in Mississippi, get the answers that you need by calling us today, at (601) 573-7429, to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Family Law Attorney Talks about the Validity of Prenuptial Agreements.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

The divorce of billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin and his wife, Anne Dias Griffin, has taken an unexpected turn. Mr. Griffin initiated the divorce proceedings in July, and Ms. Griffin recently responded to his divorce petition with a request, among other things, that the couple’s 2003 prenuptial agreement be voided.

Ms. Griffin feels as though the prenuptial agreement is void because it was signed under duress. She was not presented with it until shortly before the couple’s lavish wedding was to occur in Versailles in July of 2003. Ms. Griffin states that she was caught off guard by the proposed prenuptial agreement, and that she felt an immense pressure to agree to it immediately because of the impending wedding. To further complicate matters, the couple had been seeing a psychologist who Mr. Griffin, unbeknownst to Ms. Griffin, had been seeing for some time before his wife also became the psychologist’s patient. Ms. Griffin claims that during a therapy session in the weeks before the wedding, the psychologist suggested to her that she should sign the prenuptial agreement. The psychologist’s suggestion, along with the fact that Ms. Griffin was unaware that Mr. Griffin was already a patient of the psychologist, could be construed as a situation which had an undue influence on Ms. Griffin, creating additional pressure to sign the prenup.

If you are considering signing a Mississippi prenuptial agreement, you should take care to ensure that it is valid. One thing that is part of any valid prenuptial agreement is a full disclosure of the values of all of a couple’s assets. Be sure that this is a part of your prenup, and that it does in fact include all of your assets.

The circumstances under which a prenuptial agreement is signed can make or break its validity. If one party can prove that they were essentially forced to sign it, as Ms. Griffin alleges in the example above, the agreement may be declared void.

The best way to ensure the validity of a Mississippi prenuptial agreement is to have separate legal counsel review the proposed agreement with each of you. This will ensure that each of you understands the terms of the agreement, and it gives you the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the agreement if they do not appeal to you exactly as they have been proposed. An attorney will help you to determine whether any of the proposed terms are unenforceable, so that those provisions can be removed from the agreement before it becomes final. Consulting with attorneys about your prenuptial agreement also ensures that the agreement is made in compliance with current Mississippi law.

A prenuptial agreement can be a great way for Mississippi couples to acknowledge their financial situation prior to tying the knot. Working with an experienced Mississippi Family Law Attorney can help you understand the terms of a proposed prenuptial agreement and ensure that it meets all applicable statutory requirements. Mississippi Family Law Attorney Matthew S. Poole can help you to create a prenuptial agreement that meets your needs. Call (601) 573-7429 today, to schedule a free, initial consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Talks about Post-Judgment Issues in Divorce Cases

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

In a perfect world, once a couple’s divorce became final, it would be just that, final. Unfortunately, there are situations in which a Final Judgment of Divorce must be revisited, either because the circumstances of one or both of the parties have changed so much that the original terms of the custody, child support, or alimony portions of the Final Judgment of Divorce are no longer appropriate, or because one of the parties has failed to comply with one or more portions of the Final Judgment of Divorce. These situations are referred to as modification and contempt, respectively, and all divorcing couples should be sure that they understand them in case they become relevant to their situation in the future.

It would be unreasonable to expect that all of the terms and conditions of a Final Judgment of Divorce would apply to both parties for the rest of their lives, no matter what. Some portions of a divorce decree require ongoing action on the part of the parties, and even in situations where the parties reached an agreement of how to divide parenting time or how much child support or alimony should be paid, there may come a time when one or both of the parties find it difficult to comply with the terms that are specified in the Final Judgment of Divorce because of major changes that have occurred in one or both of their lives.

The main thing that divorced couples must remember regarding post-judgment modification of custody, child support, or alimony is that the court will not grant a modification unless there has been a “material change in circumstances”. In other words, the changes that are the reason upon which the request for modification are based must be significant. An example of a situation which could constitute a material change in circumstances is if one party loses their job and remains unemployed for an extended period of time because they are unable to find work. A seasoned Mississippi Divorce Attorney can assess the changes that have been going on in your life, and they can provide you with an opinion of whether or not the court is likely to find that a material change in circumstances has occurred.

Sometimes, a divorced party fails to comply with one or more of the terms contained in their Final Judgment of Divorce. When this occurs, the other party can file an action asking the court to find that the party who has failed to comply is in contempt of court.

There are two types of contempt actions. In an a civil contempt action, if the court finds that the party has failed to comply with the terms of the Final Judgment of Divorce, the chancellor may require them to pay a fine. Some types of misconduct are more severe and thus require more severe consequences. These are criminal contempt cases. Parties who are found guilty of criminal contempt may be sentenced to imprisonment.

If you are divorced and you are wondering whether you could obtain a modification of your Final Judgment of Divorce, a Mississippi Divorce Attorney can assess the situation and help you decide how to proceed. If your former spouse is not complying with the terms of the Final Judgment of Divorce, your attorney can help you to file a contempt action which will hold them accountable for that failure in some way. Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole can help you with whatever post-judgment issues you might have. Call (601) 573-7429 today, to schedule a consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Talks about Financial Disclosure in Divorce Cases

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

The process of divorce involves separating both the emotional and the physical aspects of the parties’ lives. In every divorce case, couples dive deep into learning about their joint and separate household finances. They explore things that are good, such as their assets, things that may be bad, such as their debts, and sometimes even things that are ugly, like financial secrets that one party has hidden from the other for years.

Most of the exploration of a couple’s financial situation takes place during the discovery process, where a lot of other information about many other topics is being exchanged as well. The reason that all of this financial information is exchanged is so that the couple can identify all of their various debts and assets, classify them as marital property or separate property, and know their current values. This exchange of information enables each of the parties to identify what they most want to obtain as part of their property settlement. It also often gets the ball rolling on talking about which of them will keep which assets and pay which liabilities as part of the property settlement in their divorce. The financial information that is exchanged by the parties during discovery is also relevant to the issues of alimony and child support.

When soon to be former spouses discuss the issue of how they will divide their debts and assets, they should keep in mind that in Mississippi, the courts favor a roughly equal distribution of marital assets and debts. This is not to say that an unequal distribution won’t be approved by the court, only that the parties must present evidence that will help the court understand why the property should be distributed in an unequal manner. Situations in which an unequal distribution might be found by the court to be justified include cases where one spouse gave away items or sold them for much less than their actual value in order to deprive their soon to be former spouse of them and cases where one party used marital assets to maintain an extramarital relationship.

The property distribution portion of your Mississippi divorce case can be difficult to navigate, but it doesn’t have to be. When you enlist the aid of a Mississippi Divorce Attorney, you align yourself with someone who can help you to understand whether a proposed property distribution agreement is fair as well as any potential tax or other consequences that accepting any given proposed property distribution agreement may have in the future. Your attorney can also help you to negotiate with your soon to be former spouse, in the hopes of creating a property distribution agreement that gives you more of what you are looking to get out of your divorce. Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole can answer your questions about property distribution or any other aspect of your Mississippi divorce, so call us today, at (601) 573-7429, to set up a free consultation.


Mississippi Divorce Attorney Discusses the Divorce of Kris and Bruce Jenner

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Many celebrity divorces are filled with all kinds of drama, so it is refreshing to hear news of a celebrity split that happened without all of the usual fireworks. The divorce of Kris and Bruce Jenner was recently finalized without much fanfare, despite the fact that they did not even have a prenuptial agreement, like so many other celebrities do.

Like many other American couples who are not quite as rich and famous, Kris and Bruce Jenner were able to reach agreement on the issues in their divorce case. They divided the family fortune without a fight, and they worked out a distribution of their other assets. Neither of them will pay any child support to the other. The couple’s youngest child is nearly an adult, at seventeen years of age, so there was no fight over custody, either.

 Since the details of Kris and Bruce Jenner’s divorce are being widely publicized, hopefully their drama-free divorce story will serve as a message of hope and inspiration for divorcing couples everywhere. While it is uncertain exactly how the Jenners kept the drama at bay during their divorce, there are things that couples can do to decrease the amount of conflict in their own divorce cases.

Keeping a level head is sometimes hard to do during a divorce, but it can increase the odds that your divorce will go smoothly. While you cannot control the actions of your soon to be former spouse, if you are able to remain calm as you think about the various decisions that you must make as part of your divorce, you are likely to make choices that you will be happy with both now and into the future.

Another way to reduce the drama in your divorce is to say as little as you can about it to people who are likely to gossip. Sharing information with a few trusted individuals is a healthy way to work through your feelings, but sharing information with the wrong person could be much more harmful than helpful if they share your personal information with others. The less information there is “out there” about your divorce, the better.

Taking time to take good care of yourself can reduce the amount of stress and tension in your life and thereby increase your ability to remain calm as you navigate your divorce. Whether you exercise, meditate, go to counseling, write in a journal, or find some other way to work through the feelings that are associated with your divorce, you give yourself the best possible chance at avoiding the messy battles that are sometimes part of the divorce process.

Working with a Mississippi Divorce Attorney can also help you to accomplish a drama-free divorce. Contrary to popular belief, bringing attorneys into a divorce does not automatically increase the level of conflict. In fact, it often reduces the amount of conflict because it reduces the amount of direct communication between the spouses. Jackson area, Mississippi Divorce Attorney Matthew S. Poole is here to help you through your Mississippi divorce. Please call us today, at (601) 573-7429, and arrange for your free, initial consultation.