Archive for December, 2017

Winning and Losing a Custody Case

Friday, December 29th, 2017

The smallest events can have a large significance on the outcome of a situation. A custody lawsuit is no different, as the testimony of one witness or the smallest behavior by a party can be the deciding factor in who gets custody of a child. Our office has had many cases hinge on a seemingly insignificant occurrence or detail. Our office wants our current and future clients to know the impact that things can have on their custody hearing, and what they can do to influence the outcome.

Custody cases are a naturally volatile process, and when you introduce the emotions and concerns that these cases raise, they become even more so. One part that may be hard on the parties is a temporary visitation and custody order that the court puts in place until a trial on the case is heard. Having contact with the other person for exchange of a minor child for visitation can be a tough thing for people to go through, as many former romantic partners harbor some sort of ill will toward each other. Mississippi Courts have held that interference in a parent’s visitation schedule may amount to a material change in circumstances in extreme cases. Ash v. Ash, 622 So.2d 1264, (Miss. 1993). Though it may be difficult, the best thing is to adhere to the court’s order as closely as possible. Court orders are not suggestions, and keeping in line with that order will only help your case.

Another common thing we see in our office is disparagement of one parent by the other. Mississippi courts have held held that, if extreme enough, parental alienation or disparagement can amount to a material change in circumstances that can be enough to award custody to the non-offending parent. Potter v. Greene, 973 So.2d 291, 293 (Miss. Ct. App. 2008). It is natural to want to make your case to both the Court and your child, however that energy is better spent showing the child why they should live with you, and not just why they shouldn’t live with their other parent. These remarks can be very damaging to the relationship between the child and the other parent, as well as to the child themselves.

There is simply no way around it: custody lawsuits are tough. They combine they already stressful process of a lawsuit with decisions that will impact a family’s life for the foreseeable future. Although both parties to these cases care about the welfare of the child, too often their disdain for each other shines brighter than that concern. Our advice is to be careful of your conduct during a custody lawsuit. This is simple advice that when combined with the highly emotional nature of these cases can become difficult to keep in perspective. The other side is just as invested as you are, and if they believe reporting your behavior to the court will help their case, then they will. If you have questions about what to do outside of the courtroom in your custody case, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole, and we will help you in any way we can.

Questions for Your Attorney? Ask Them!

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

A lawsuit can be a confusing process for someone who has never been involved in one. They involve a language totally different than the everyday vocabulary of most people. Attorneys usually expect questions from clients because of the large amounts of questions they themselves had at the outset of their career. Divorce lawsuits are especially stressful, as they delve deep into some of the most well-guarded areas of a person’s life. Knowing what questions to ask your attorney can help very much in cutting that stress down, and to help you make sure your case is in good hands. Here are some examples of questions you should be discussing with your attorney.

Question #1: Have you issued discovery, and what did that discovery request?

Discovery is the part of the lawsuit where attorneys send requests for information to the opposing side to be answered. This often involves interrogatories, which are questions about the case to be answered, and requests for production of documents that may be used as evidence at trial. Discovery is an extremely important part of a lawsuit, as it gives a party the time to possibly object to some requests and to carefully build their case. Asking about the issuance and substance of discovery is a way for you to make sure that the attorney you hired is taking the right steps to build your case.

Question #2: What was included in the pleading?

Pleadings are how you ask the court for the relief you want, and therefore should be done with care and should include every remedy possible. For example, there are twelve grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Asking questions about those grounds can help your attorney know what grounds you may have, which will therefore help in crafting the best pleading possible for your case. It’s your story, so help your attorney tell it.

Question #3: What witnesses should I call to help my case?

The answer to this question from an attorney will most likely be “it depends.” Witnesses may testify to things they have personally seen or heard as well as things told to them. You know better than anyone the people in your life who may be able to help present your case, and your attorney’s past experience may help in discovering other potential witnesses as well. One witness’s testimony can be a huge difference-maker in a domestic case.

Question #4: What documentary evidence should I produce?

One question our office receives from clients almost without exception is “What do you need from me?” This often depends on what the other side asks you to produce. In domestic litigation, common documents requested involve finances and contact between a party and their spouse or child. Your attorney should know what document requests you can object to and which ones you will most likely need to produce to the opposing side. These documents will be the foundation of your case, and you should ask your attorney their plan for building that foundation.

Question #5: What things specific to my case can we ask the court to order?

Every situation in domestic litigation is different, as the experiences, wants and needs of different families intersect in each case. You should be asking your attorney what you could possibly ask the court to order that helps you in your situation. The attorney’s role in this is twofold: the attorney should have a basic idea of what the court will or won’t order while also offering a less emotional presence making the request. When a decision affects your family, you want to make sure it is the right one.

Your attorney’s role in your lawsuit is to help you navigate the rules and procedures of a lawsuit, and asking questions can help you give your attorney all the help they need in building your case, as well as making sure your attorney is properly representing you. Lawyers expect those questions, so ask them! Many lawyers will either know the answer, or admit that they don’t and will find you the answer. In lawsuits, the right questions can be the difference between a good result or a bad one. If you have questions about your domestic case, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. We will be glad to help you in any way possible.

The New Tax Bill: What Does It Mean?

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

The Republican Party’s new tax bill that is currently in the works will have an effect on Americans and the amount of money they take home.Taxes are a necessary evil that Americans are all too familiar with. Taxes pay for roads, schools and medical expenses for many people. They are also a constant reminder of having a smaller paycheck. The Republican Party’s new tax bill that is currently in the works will have an effect on Americans and the amount of money they take home. The size of this effect is to be determined, but this tax plan is something that married couples who are considering divorce should be aware of.

As is being heavily reported in today’s news, the House and Senate Republicans have both passed a version of this tax bill, and will confer in the coming days to agree on a final version. And while the impact on corporations is likely to receive more news coverage, the bill is being touted by the GOP as a plan to allow the average working-class American to bring home more money after taxes. Many Mississippians fall into this category, so the tax bill will have a significant effect on residents of our state.

Of course, a tax bill as majorly different as the one that is currently being voted on could have major implications on married couples, and therefore on divorced couples. There is talk of some deductions increasing, namely the standard deduction and child tax credit. This could impact familial decisions regarding custody of the children more than taxes have before, so that is something for parties to keep in mind when discussing child custody.

Although none of the proposed tax provisions are set in stone, whatever version of the plan that is introduced is sure to have an effect on the finances of Mississippians, and therefore an impact on their decision making. The most important thing about receiving help is asking. Taxes are not something that the everyday person (or many attorneys) knows a great deal about, and therefore there is nothing wrong with seeking advice regarding how this new tax plan may impact your family. Knowledge is one of the most powerful weapons you can possess, especially when it involves your family’s finances. If you have a question about tax implications in your divorce, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole, and we will be glad to give any advice we can about this impact.

The 8.05 Financial Declaration: Pen and Sword

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Change in life is inevitable, and these changes can often lead to large legal implications. Modifications of child support are no different. People change jobs, lose jobs, make more money and make less money. When these things happen, modifications of child support obligations are often one of the first things people consider. That obligation cannot be changed without an order doing so from the court that established the original decree. A helpful tool in this process is the 8.05 Financial Declaration, named for the Uniform Chancery Rule that requires it. While rather simple, this form can be the difference between a win and a loss in court.

The 8.05 is straightforward enough. It lists out the party’s income, assets, liabilities, and monthly expenses. The assets that must be listed include vehicles, guns, TVs, lawnmowers, and even furniture. Other things listed are mortgages and loans (in today’s world, often student loans). Clients are often concerned at how much financial information they are being asked to reveal, however when a party is requesting a modification of child support, full disclosure of finances is extremely important. The 8.05 is the requesting party’s way of showing the court their finances in a clear and concise way, and by swearing that the figures are accurate, the party is gaining the court’s trust that their modification request is being made in good faith.

As stated in previous posts, modification of a child support obligation requires a showing of a material change in circumstances of the father, the mother, or the minor child. This can be for any number of reasons, none of which really matter without an adequate showing of proof. This is why the 8.05 is so important. When filled out correctly, this document provides hard numbers for the court to look at to aid in their decision. The 8.05 also provides support to your attorney for any more abstract arguments they may use to plead your case. The pen is mightier than the sword, but an accurate financial declaration can act as both in a child support modification case.

Clients often have many questions when filling out an 8.05, and with the extensive information that is requested in the document, those questions are usually not a surprise. When help is needed, attorneys are glad to extend that to their clients, as they should be. A full and honest financial disclosure can be your best friend during a child support modification lawsuit. While the 8.05 is simple on its face, it should not be completed in a rush, as it is an extremely sharp sword to be used in your favor. If you or someone you know is seeking a modification of a child support obligation, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. Our office has the experience to guide you through this difficult process, and emphasizes the little things that may turn out to be an important element in the outcome.

How Long Does a Mississippi Divorce Really Take?

Friday, December 1st, 2017

One of the more common questions about divorce in Mississippi is a totally understandable one: how long does it take? Clients are often surprised at how long their cases last, especially when in their minds it is clear that divorce will only benefit everyone involved. The answer to the question of length of a divorce case in this state is often the classic lawyer reply of “it depends.” This is an honest answer, as the length of a divorce can be fast or slow depending on many different things, and a major part of the process is the client’s proper understanding of the fickle nature of time in a divorce case.

As we have talked about elsewhere on our website, there are two ways to get a divorce in the Magnolia State. One is an irreconcilable differences divorce, sometimes referred to as a “no-fault” or “agreed to” divorce. In an irreconcilable differences divorce, much of the timetable for the process is the 60-day waiting period required after the filing of the complaint. After that period, assuming that the parties still agree with the terms of the split, the final judgment need only be signed by a chancellor of competent jurisdiction to be final.

The other way to get divorced in Mississippi is through a lawsuit, which has a much more volatile timeline than an irreconcilable differences divorce. Lawsuits involve filing pleadings, serving process on parties, and getting discovery requests out, and that’s just to get started! After the suit is initiated, it is likely that several court appearances will be needed to properly address the claims. These hearings take place for a number of reasons such as obtaining temporary relief, compelling documents that were properly requested but not produced, or asking for a continuance. Once you combine these hearings with crowded court dockets, the timetable for a divorce can be a total mystery, even to experienced legal professionals.

The process of a lawsuit is unfamiliar territory for many clients. Ideally, every stage of a divorce would occur without incident and on time, and divorces would be faster and easier to obtain than they are. However, much like life and marriage, divorce is a complicated issue with many variables at play. Combining two parties, the lawyers, the court system, the schedules of everyone involved, and possible mishaps during the lawsuit makes a natural cocktail for a wait that seems like forever. In a time where people desire concrete answers to questions, there simply is not one with the amount of time a divorce lawsuit takes.

Almost without exception, divorces are expensive, stressful, and, above all, time-consuming. When you add the client’s desire to get a divorce and be done with the experience, the process becomes even more of these things. Our office believes that clients should know the dedication and time that a divorce may require, so that they do not feel like they are in the middle of the ocean without land in sight. This is of course not the answer that many seek, but we firmly believe that in situations like divorce that honesty is truly the best policy. If you are in need of help through a divorce, please call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole to schedule a consultation.