A Day Late and Dollar Short: The Huge Custody Hurdle

April 24th, 2019

We spend much of our time talking about all of the factors that impact court custody decisions and there are certainly plenty. The Albright factors dominate much of the information we provide to prospective clients, as they should. They permeate every aspect of custody outcomes. If you look at the search bar on our site and place the word “custody” within it, it will become clear how permeating these factors are in custody law, and that they are the cornerstone of domestic litigation involving children. Is there one factor that rises above the terrain in terms of its power of influencing outcomes? My answer is…..yes.

The most important factor (aside from some extremely horrible parenting which rises to the level of abuse/neglect) is continuity of care. As an example, I have multiple times encountered a prospective client that may very well be a better parent than the alternative parent. We just received a call from a gentleman that appeared to deeply care for his 6 year old daughter and also to be a loving, concerned dad. He is responsible, has a great job and stable home. According to him, mom was not as good a parent as he. That may well be the truth. However, he waited, and waited, and waited……..6 YEARS to call an attorney and attempt taking custody from her. Big mistake. His window of opportunity has shrunk to the point of being nearly non-existent.

I must say bluntly that if you are truly the better parent, then you must act quickly and decisively. The most difficult argument for any attorney, which is entirely nonsensical (even somewhat comical) on its face, is to say to a judge, “Your Honor, my client will be demonstrated to be the better parent, although he/she left the children with the worse parent for half a decade”. Good luck selling that to any court in Mississippi. Keep in mind that the old saying “The law aids the vigilant” could not be more applicable than in child custody cases. There is a natural proclivity for any judge not to disrupt the usual routine unless an exceptional danger to the child exists.

Some may ask, “But what if I can prove that I am more capable as a parent, that I have a better home, school district, morals, etc.?”, and that is a fair question. It is a very good question and rightfully in play. If I may respond, my retort would be that the child needs stability also…….changing custody can and usually will be traumatic for them. Although a parent may well be “better”, they are unlikely to overcome the huge obstacle of not having been sufficiently “present”. Be careful about sitting on the sideline, being a day late and a buck short will be one tough hill to climb. Better parents frequently lose custody cases for this simple reason. It is most often a loss that could have been easily avoided.

In short, my simple advice is that if you are the better parent, demonstrate that fact by not leaving your child with the lesser parent. Actions truly speak louder than words, especially in Mississippi Chancery Courts.

Matthew Poole is a 2018 Top 10 rated Mississippi family attorney by the National Association of Family Lawyers, 2004 Finalist of the Steen, Reynolds, and Dalehite Trial Competition at the University of Mississippi, and 2001 Millsaps Second Century Scholar. He will speak to members of the Mississippi Bar on behalf of The National Business Institute on July 18, 2019 on divorce practice and procedure. The seminar is certified for 6 hours of legal continuing education credit.

The Truth About Costly Kids

April 22nd, 2019

I absolutely love helping parents who love their kids and to fight for what is best for them….it is the most fulfilling part of a difficult job. I can easily relate to their plights simply because I am one of the crowd. I have fought through child custody cases since 2004. When I became a father with sole custody of my son in 2009, I particularly realized that children are an incredible blessing and also an expensive addition to our lives, even for those fortunate to have better than average incomes. I began to directly relate to so many of my clients, the ones who desperately wanted to raise their children as the primary custodian. Also noted is that the raw financial data regarding child-rearing is not particularly encouraging for most folks and presents a harsh fiscal reality for most.

Are you truly prepared to be a parent? With the risk of appearing heartless, I must say many of the people who contact my office are not even able to afford a pet, and quite far from affording a child. Let alone, they often struggle to even afford themselves. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child until age 18 is $233,610. Mind you, this does not include college or related expenses. The monthly expense far exceeds $1,200. As much as my heart hurts for the single mom of 2, 3, or 4 kids, I also see a society in meltdown because of the failure to acknowledge the basic expenses of our children. We simply cannot sustain a broken moral system where the government must fill the gap caused by poor decision-making of moms and dads alike.

Why do I point these matters out to my readers? I do not simply expect my advice will be heeded by most people after all. I hope that the truth will resonate for a few of you. Please consider another path or plain old abstinence before expecting a lawyer to fix your terrible financial plight due to the children you cannot afford. It is not only unfair to you, but to the innocent lives you brought to our world.

The last time I looked at the data, Department of Human Services in our state was chasing over a quarter-million (yes, over 250,000, almost ten percent of our entire state’s population) deadbeat parents for past-due child support. We are in terrible shape in this state if things do change. The government is simply overburdened and unable to fight for every innocent child effectively.

Now we should pivot slightly and look to college expenses and things get really scary. Obviously college costs have risen dramatically as of late and continue to do so. More than 19.9 million students are projected to attend colleges this fall. Fact: In 2019, the average annual cost of college education (room and board, tuition, fees) is approximately $21,000 at public schools and $47,000 annually at their private counterparts. That is some serious lifting for any parent, even with six-figure income.

Everyone can hopefully one day enjoy the experience of parenthood, but only if able to do so. Never forget that 14 percent of your child’s other parent’s (talking to you dad) adjusted income (usually around 10 percent of take-home pay) is not sufficient to raise a single child. The laws must be changed to hold those who create children sufficiently responsible for their outcomes. The choices we make ourselves must also be strongly considered.

In summation, Mississippi chancery courts exercise broad authority in determining all custody and support matters that come before them. Chancellors have broad discretion and will exercise them to the benefit of fairness for all, particularly your kids, but never forget that the law prefers those who help themselves first.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who specializes in domestic conflict management. He is a single father and passionate about the best interests of children. He will be speaking at the National Business Institute on July 18, 2019 at the Pearl, MS. Marriott.

Facebook: The Great Divorce Equalizer

April 14th, 2019

Most of you who are reading this post remember simpler days, those pre-ancient times even prior to “Myspace”, and possibly from the era where cellular phones were reserved for the elite upper classes and the size of a half-loaf of bread. Gone are the days of simple social interaction. Once upon a time in the 1990’s, when I was a teenager, my peers and I had to actually call a young woman at her home if we wanted to see her outside of school. On an actual “landline”. Usually we expected to be fully screened by her mom or dad before speaking to her. It was all in due course and expected. Then in the late 1990’s came the internet. Communication with potential mates became plentiful, if not burdensome. God help marriage. Times have certainly changed.

Although most have realized some benefit of the wide-open communication brought by Facebook and Instagram in connecting with old friends, the perils are laid bare in the context of our most sacred social institution…..marriage. In 2005, I opened a practice focused on domestic litigation, and not necessarily by pure choice. Many of my closest friends had difficulties early in marriage and kids in tow as well. They saw no easy out and no way to salvage their sanity and their childrens’ well-being. Complex problems require complex solutions and plain will to fight for what is fair.

When social media became entrenched within our everyday lives, our cultural landscape became forever altered. When people are more easily accessed, spoken to, and available for picking their brains or for plain run-of-the mill conversation, we open a new paradigm…..some good, some dangerous. I have to dig deep to recall a single divorce case in the past decade that did not require subpoena to a social media provider. At this point, the legal teams at Facebook and Instagram have me on speed dial. The results of the subpoena power demonstrate that so many married people essentially live a double life. It is all too easy to hide behind a keyboard and away from the reality of normal married life.

My posts often lack advice (sadly it is not easy to come by, nor do I possess the ability to solve complex relationship issues), some are purely observation. I hope that anyone can derive at least a few helpful words from each of my posts. I truly appreciate my readers. So many of you inspire me to maintain my desire to speak about the unspeakable.

My sole tidbit of information that may well be beneficial when faced with divorce is that a decent lawyer is only a subpoena away from obtaining every social media post and response thereto since the day you walked down that sacred aisle. It is all fair game in the process of legal discovery, and although some attorneys are too inept (or lazy) to do so, make sure that you recognize the possible reality…..facing hard, cold facts that impact your divorce.

Social media is a proverbial gold mine for domestic attorneys like myself, and the best of us know that a small investment in a subpoena for document production can and often does pay huge dividends for our clients. Issuing a well-placed subpoena “duces tecum” (for document production) can be a major asset for a client, especially in today’s age of hyper-social interaction. Do not assume that you are operating in a private realm if online. That assumption is not only dangerous in the context of divorce and child custody, it is just plain dumb.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Custody and Divorce Attorney. He will be speaking at the National Business Institute on July 18, 2019 at the Marriott, Pearl MS on divorce procedure and practice. Multiple continuing education credits will be granted for both government and private institutions. Access further information at their website.

Can I do this by Myself?

April 1st, 2019

At the law office of Matthew S. Poole, we field a myriad of questions from callers and emailers about the vast subject of Family Law. Some questions are well-versed, imaginative and even thought provoking. Others are laced with raw emotions and these may take us some time to determine the real nature of the call. And then there are those calls that seem to take our collective breath away. Some silly, some sublime and far too often the inquiry is, even for us simply unbelievable. One such inquiry that seems to recur about twice a month now involves a party to a newly filed Divorce proceeding who wants us to direct him to the forms that he can use to represent himself through the legal battlefield. Read that again. Takes your breath away, right? I’ll let you in an a very poorly kept secret: There are no forms that you can use to prepare you for this legal matter.

Let me paint the picture for you, as follows:

You and your wife (or husband, but I will be gender specific just to represent the male in this article) have decided that this is “it” – the marriage is over and a divorce is eminent. And so you decide together that you will agree to save money and only hire one attorney. No worries, right? After all, we have agreed to a divorce….what could go wrong? In a word: Everything.

Be advised that an attorney can only represent ONE party in any adversarial proceeding. And I can hear you whispering under your breathe that this divorce is agreed to and is not “adversarial”. Wake up and understand this: all divorce proceedings are adversarial by definition. That is not to say that everyone must be opposed to the other person involved about every issue; however, a divorce is “you versus me”. Otherwise, why are you getting a divorce?

Now I hear you whispering that you are smarter than that “pencil neck” that your wife hired….And you might be correct , but unless you are an attorney, then you are outmatched. You may be thinking “There is no way can that hired gun can understand everything about my case and my family as well as I do. No way can I be outsmarted in my world by someone not in my world”. Makes sense to me. After all, everyone wants to play fair, right? Don’t kid yourself. That lawyer, pencil neck or not, does this for a living and he is NOT on your side. He cannot be on your side, as this is specifically prohibited by the Rules of Ethics. That’s right – the Rules dictate that he must represent his client against you with zeal. (Please refer to blog article of December 5, 2018 “Are you smarter than…”).

Perhaps there is absolutely nothing that you are prepared to fight about. The marriage is over, the kids are grown and gone and there is no value to anything that you have accumulated during the course of the marriage. She can have the furniture and the new blender and you get the lawnmower and the poodle pup. This situation, while not very common, does occur. Even in this instance, an attorney should be utilized to make sure the pleadings are correctly drafted and appropriately filed with the Court and, most importantly, that the Final Judgment of Divorce is presented to the Chancellor and entered. Can you imagine if you sought to save a few dollars and ended up doing it all wrong, only to find out years removed from the filing that your Divorce was never finalized? We have dealt with this exact occurrence and the conversation with the new fiancee’ explaining why the upcoming nuptials must be postponed was more than a little uncomfortable.

More often; however, there are minor children involved, assets and liabilities that must be divided and satisfied. The subject matter is a maze: a legal minefield chock-full of traps and pitfalls. The pleadings can be confusing and the Property Settlement Agreement is usually more than 20 pages in length. There are several ways that you can be confused, or misled, or worse – lied to. Can you spot all of the angles and complexities? Probably not.

A friend of mine who was going through a divorce in a neighboring State commented to me that he couldn’t afford to hire a divorce lawyer. He had 3 children all under the age of 11, a house with a hefty mortgage, some savings and other assets as well as some debts incurred by both he and his estranged wife. He said that they were going to work it all out and he was going to represent himself. Sound familiar? I gave him this same advice that I now give to you, my reader: You can’t afford NOT to hire a lawyer.

Michael Louvier received a B.A. from University of New Orleans (1988) and a J.D. from Mississippi College School of Law (1994) and is currently the lead Law Clerk to attorney Matthew S. Poole. He is married 28 years (Tammy) and they have 2 children (Amy, 25 and Nick, 20).

THE ALBRIGHT FACTORS REVISITED

March 21st, 2019

Each and every Chancery court case in the State of Mississippi that determines the primary care and custody of a minor child (or children) will cite the case of Albright v. Albright. Within Albright, the Mississippi Supreme Court provided a list of factors that the Chancellor must consider when making the determination about the best interests of the minor child as it relates to the parent who should be awarded primary physical custody.

The factors, together with a brief explanation of each, are as follows:

  • The age, health, and sex (gender) of the child;

The commonly referred to “tender years doctrine”, which had suggested that very young children can only be cared for by the mother, has been on the decline. However, the gender and age as it relates to puberty and the corresponding biological issues can be considered in this factor. Also, any chronic and/or specific health issues that the child may be facing are to be considered. This factor would favor the parent that can better or more consistently attend to these needs.

  • The continuity of care of the child prior to the separation of the parents;

This relates to the stability of the relationship between parent and child and it can be difficult for a Chancellor to determine if this factor favors one parent over the other. (I suppose this is true of all of these factors). Testimony about the day-to-day care for the children is important. The consideration can become more clear if one parent moves out of the house and/or moves away and there is a lapse in time between those actions and the trial.

  • The parenting skills and willingness and capacity to provide primary care for the child;

Let’s face it, some people are not good with kids, even their own, and not all people have the desire to put in the time and effort to be the primary custodial parent. But where there is a court case about the custody of children, we can assume that they are willing to do so. Willingness notwithstanding, not all people have the mental, physical or perhaps financial capacity for primary custody.

  • The employment of the parent and the responsibilities of that employment;

Some parents are “penalized” for being the bread winner and can’t take off work whenever there is a crisis. On the other hand, self-employed or the business owner might have great responsibilities but also enjoy freedom of schedule.

  • The physical and mental health and age of each parent;

This factor seems fairly straight forward. Sick or mentally ill or alcoholic parents will be at a huge disadvantage, and perhaps they should.

  • The emotional ties of the parent and the child;

Unlike number 5, above, this factor is not so “cut and dried”. Witness testimony regarding how the child interacts with each parent is usually helpful. Therefore, your lawyer should know very early in the process about your potential witnesses. Some bonds are not mistakable and irreplaceable and we should all hope that the Chancellor, with the help of witness testimony, will be able to spot this kind of bond.

  • The moral fitness of each parent;

An “at-fault” party in a divorce proceeding may face the firing squad twice. An adulterous affair or proven addiction to drugs or alcohol would provide grounds for a divorce while simultaneously conceding this factor to the other party. Bad behavior of a parent, bad habits, poor morals, are often punished in Chancery Court.

  • The home, school and community record of the child;

For children advancing in age, active in sports, school and/or church activities wouldn’t want to uproot them. This factor can also be meshed in with factor #3, above. The parent who shows more involvement in schoolwork and other associations of the child will enjoy an advantage.

  • The preference of the child, when the child has achieved the age sufficient , by law, to express such a preference;

There is a common misconception that as soon as the child turns 12 (usually the recognized sufficient age) that this is the only factor… it is only one factor and in a Modification case, the other facets must be met first, as indicated in my prior blog article.

  • The stability of home and employment of each parent;

The Court would be reluctant to award primary custody to the parent who has a difficult time paying the rent, keeping a job, etc. Unlike factor #4, above, this one recognizes that a parent that holds down a steady job can be favored. So it would appear at first glance that these two factors (#4 and #10) are at odds with each other. Rest assured, they are not. Job stability, or the lack thereof, is the focus of this factor.

  • Any other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship;

This is the “catch all”. Chancellor that depends on this factor will most often define in clear terms what he is talking about and what piece of evidence or part of testimony during the trial that he has based this decision.

An Albright analysis is not supposed to be a score card system; that is, you don’t just add up each side to find the “winner.” Factors can favor one parent over the other, strongly favor, slightly favor, or they can be neutral. More or less emphasis can be placed on one factor over the other. An experienced family law attorney will be very knowledgeable about these factors and he should also be familiar with any specific “slants” or pre-conceived notions that the Chancellor assigned to your case might have.

Michael Louvier is a graduate of Mississippi College School of Law (1994). He has been married for 28 years (Tammy) and they have 2 children (Amy, 25 and Nick 20).

Are Judge Ideologies Reflective of District?

March 7th, 2019

The short answer is not just yes, but without question. Now, let’s speak to a couple of different issues that frequently come up during domestic and family related court cases. I will pick a few of the most common to best exemplify that no two chancellors are created equally. Some can rule totally ant-opposite each other on the exact same issues and facts. It can be a frustrating scenario for lawyer and client alike.

The Morality Clause

This issue comes up in virtually every case I have ever managed. The difference in results can be, well, astonishing. In some of the more left-leaning counties, chancellors are inclined to determine that there is no harm done to a child by having a non-married romantic partner stay the night or even cohabitate outright. No harm no foul, at least in their view. Try arguing that the sleep over with the new love is harmless in Rankin or Madison county and you will get laughed out of the room unless there is a VERY plausible reason. They almost do not exist.

Alimony awards

An award of alimony is more generous and easily obtained in liberal counties of Mississippi. Some of the old-school, conservative chancellors will award alimony, but the amounts tend to smaller. Be it periodic, lump-sum, reimbursement, or rehabilitative alimony, they are usually more conservative in their awards. Not surprising, right? I will say there is some variance in the awards of alimony vs. no alimony, but not as great as the variance in the bare amount of award. The variations, in my experience, can vary even as much as threefold depending on venue. The difference in even $2,000 a month makes a big difference in most people’s bottom line.

Attorneys fees

This one can be tricky, although there is always a best way to argue that you are entitled to attorneys fees. However, they are far from a guarantee. They are predominately based on ability to pay your lawyer vs. your opponent’s ability to pay theirs. This is where some significant discrepancy comes about in the courts method of interpretation. I have seen some conservative chancellors vanish a wife her lawyer fees request because, even though she made less than she spent, she recently bought a new car and took excessive vacations. This was the result even though husband made about five-fold her income. In a more liberal venue, the result would clearly have been different. A large award would be most likely the outcome.

Standard vs. Liberal Visitation

There are some chancellors, most of them older and somewhat old-fashioned (not that being so is a bad thing), who are strictly inclined to only award standard, every other weekend type visitation to the non-custodial parent (n.c.p.) Usually being the dad, but not always, the n.c.p. gets a very short end of the custody stick. Conversely, some of the younger and progressive counties elect judges who are willing to award either liberal visits for the n.c.p. or even outright joint custody.

In sum, lawyers will never be able to pull out the proverbial crystal ball and tell you precisely what to expect. Ask them what ideology your chancellor brings to the courthouse. It makes so much difference even in what may appear a simple case.

Matthew Poole is a 2018 Top 10 rated Mississippi domestic attorney by the National Association of Family Lawyers, 2004 Finalist of the Copeland Cook Taylor and Bush Trial Competition, and 2001 Millsaps Second Century Scholar. He will be speaking to members of the Mississippi Bar in July, 2019 on divorce practice and procedure.

MODIFICATION OF CHILD CUSTODY

February 27th, 2019

As stated in my previous post, I will now delve into one of the more serious topics of that Family Lawyers deal with regularly: Modification of Child Custody.

In order to obtain a custody modification, the non-custodial party, i.e, the party who does not have custody of the child, is required to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the child, that the change adversely affects the child’s welfare, and that a change of custody is in the best interest of the child. There are several factors/considerations a court will weigh in determining what is in the best interest of the child. The following article is a brief examination of the principles set forth above.

Let me clarify a few things, first: there are two (2) separate and distinct aspects to the subject of child custody:

  1. Legal custody,
  2. Primary physical custody.

Legal custody of a child is most often shared between parents, or more accurately stated, “Joint legal custody” is the more common award of the Chancery Court. In short, this indicates that neither parent has more or less “standing” than the other to inquire with the child’s teachers, seek medical assistance for the, child, discipline the child, etc. Shared legal custody basically indicates that mom is still mom and dad is still day, regardless of the other legal factors affecting the life of the minor child and his parents.

At the law office of Matthew S. Poole, we often encourage our clients to agree to shared legal custody, as it is often the best outcome and in the best interests of the child. Of course, there is much more to that facet of the topic concerning legal custody; but for the most, that’s the easy part of this discussion.

Now to the more commonly referred to aspect of custody: Primary Physical custody. W hen people call us at the law office of Matthew S. Poole and complain that they are seeking a change of custody, we understand that they are more than likely referring to primary physical custody. They are unhappy with the current situation and want it changed. Some callers even declare that the current situation is so terrible that it’s an emergency. Much more often than not, no emergency exists.

After the Chancery Court has granted primary custody to one parent over the other, modifying this Court Orders

There are 3 elements to the onset of a Custody modification matter:

First: There must be a material change in the current circumstances of the child since the time of the Order. The change must be “material” or “substantial” in nature. And contrary to popular belief, the fact that the child turned 12 is NOT, taken independently, a material change. Moreover, the material change (or changes) that have occurred should not have been easily anticipated at the time of the initial award of primary custody. The change or changes can be one significant event (perhaps one that even created an emergency situation), or a series of acts, actions, or episodes that, when taken as a whole, create or culminate into this material change.

Second: Those material changes must be deemed as adverse to the child. That is; the change in circumstances must be detrimental to the best interests of the child. Once again, contrary to popular belief, the custodial parent re-marrying is not, in and of itself, automatically bad for the child. Although it is typical human nature to resist and prevent it, change itself is not always bad. N fact, sometimes a change is both bad and good. Left old school and friends is bad…new school has better facilities or is closer to home is good. So, before you call a change in circumstances adverse, take a closer look. A final thought about the adverse nature of the change: remember that this new situation

Third: The decision by the Court that a change of the primary physical custody is the proper remedy to the adverse changes. Therefore, as the non-custodial parent who seeks modification you clear the first two hurdles, and that simply triggers the Court to make a new determination of what custodial/visitation set-up will now best benefit the child.

The best interests of the children should have been determined prior to first award of custody, whether agree to by parties or adjudged by Chancellor. If the parents who are going through a divorce come to an agreement regarding the primary custody of their children, we should certainly hope and even expect that they did so by taking into account all of the specifics surrounding their lives and then coming up with the solution that was best for the children. To do otherwise is unthinkable. Likewise, the reasoning used by the Court in Mississippi, commonly referred to as an Albright analysis, is mandatory before a custodial decision can be made. It is this pre-requisite that makes it often very difficult to convince the Court to modify the primary physical custody of a child…as it should be.

The Albright factors will be examined and analyzed in more detail in my next installment, and I hope that you will log on and read it.

Michael Louvier is a graduate of Mississippi College School of Law (1994). He has been married for 28 years (Tammy) and they have 2 children (Amy, 25 and Nick, 20).

Messy Divorces: A Few Tips and One BIG Key

February 21st, 2019

Most people seeking divorce are surprised at the complexity and cost associated, particularly when assets and child custody issues are hotly contested. One thing I have learned in 15 years and 1,300-ish domestic cases later is that clients will either be an asset for fair resolution or they will get in their own way to the extent of holding up a fair and final resolution for them and their children. My goal here is to help you the former and avoid being the later……even if the advice isn’t exactly what you wanted to hear.

Let’s start by starting some fairly obvious things you may need to be reminded of. First, never forget that marriage is a partnership, and our state begins any divorce with the notion that what is yours is his and vice versa. It is not to far different than a business partnership for the purposes of our discussion.

Secondly, Chancery Court judges do not value a litigant who comes across as angry, vindictive, or belligerent. To put it lightly, your testimony will be tainted as long as those attitudes persist. Coming across as the nice person you hopefully are will go further than you might think. A courtroom will never be a sparring match where overt aggression is effective, although there is a time and place for heavy-handed techniques. Trust your lawyer and avoid being the bad cop.

Third, do not assume that the court is familiar with every facet of your case. Specific evidence, be it documentation, witness testimony, an object, even your own diary need to be presented in a clean, thorough and articulate manner or expect that they are unknown to the judge. Keep in mind, hundreds of cases are on their docket at any given time.

Now the biggest and best for last. This tip is so important and also the most overlooked, largely because it is so very counter intuitive on its face. This tip is rooted deeply in basic human psychology, difficult to carry out, and may even require a degree of acting on your part.

So here it is after much adieu……..NEVER, EVER let your spouse know how badly you want out. They will expect you to give up more and take less. They will smell blood in the water and become a shark. Avoid this trap and you won’t have to “buy” your way out of an unhappy marriage. This is tough to execute, but trust me, it works.

Matthew Poole General Biography, 2019

Matthew has lived in the Jackson area since 1989 and is an honors graduate of Jackson Preparatory School, Millsaps College Political Science Department as the recipient of the Second Century Scholarship, and the University of Mississippi School of Law. At Ole Miss, he was named Finalist of the Steen, Reynolds, and Dalehite Trial Competition in 2003.

He began his legal career at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office in 2004 after graduating from Ole Miss Law and served in the executive division as a policy advisor to Jim Hood and assisted in formulating Department of Human Services practices and procedure as well as administrative procedures in the areas of civil and insurance related litigation.

After leaving government service, he spent 2004 and 2005 serving as associate trial counsel at Wilkins, Stephen’s and Tipton and represented Medical Assurance Corporation, G.E. Medical Protective Corporation, Merck Pharmaceuticals, and GlaxoSmithKline Corporation.

Matthew opened his domestic litigation practice in 2005 and has taken over 300 domestic cases through final trial. He has been named a Top Ten Mississippi Domestic Attorney twice since 2014. He has been honored to serve as Justice at the Mississippi College School of Law’s annual Copeland Cook Taylor and Bush Moot Court Competition on several occasions.

Matthew has a nine year old son, Lucas, and is particularly focused on custody matters and modifications as well as contempt issues that are associated with them. He is passionate in advocacy for single parents and children who are the victims of abuse and neglect.

Beware of the Third Adult

February 13th, 2019

Divorce is never easy. This could be the “Captain Obvious” statement of the year. No one ever gets married thinking “the divorce from this person will be painless.” Of course not-people don’t get married with the thought going into it that divorce is inevitable. In fact, there are several clients at the Matthew S. Poole law firm that have declared Pre-Nuptial agreement was not contemplated prior to marriage because the dissolution of the marriage was unthinkable. “No way will we ever be divorced!” Sound familiar? Of course it does. You and I either are those people or we know people who come to mind immediately. And so I will repeat myself: Divorce is never easy.

No matter the reason for the divorce, there is always a recovery period for each party. Often times an ex-husband busies himself with his work, or an ex-wife occupies her time with the kids, perhaps one moves away to be closer to their family, or takes a new job. Personal feelings change and may also stay stagnant as life moves on ever so constantly. Everything is fine…until that fateful day that the ex meets that new someone else. I’ll call them the “third adult”.

As the title of this article suggests, I am not a proponent of the third adult in terms of the impact on children. I am also not a big fan of the forth adult. They are the people who make a family lawyer’s practice thrive. They are the new love, the new “voice of reason”, at least hopefully. The third and forth adults in this equation are the new people that one meets and begin a new and, hopefully, lasting relationship with. And they always have a different agenda than yours of just a few short years ago. That is, the new love interest comes into your life and, more importantly, the lives of your children, with a new and different set of priorities. BEWARE.

Beware does not mean steer-clear forever, but proceeding with caution. Beware from this writer’s point of view does not mean that meeting someone new and falling in love and starting fresh is inherently bad. Beware means please keep in mind the best interests of your children, as the new person in your life may not have adhere to these same priorities. All of a sudden there are yours, mine, ours, his, theirs, etc…. the already disjointed family dynamic takes on a whole new twist. Invariably what may have been an uncomfortable, awkward and time consuming holiday transfer of the children can become an all-out “battle royale” to determine at whose house Santa actually comes. Summer vacations become a contest instead of a relaxing time.

Your new significant other may not appreciate your child support obligation as a legal mandate. They may want to spend that “wasted money” on a new car. Your budget may not allow for all things that everyone wants and needs, and it’s always easier to appease the voice that is closest to your ear. Don’t fall into this trap! Not only is it the beginning of the next round of Contempt filings in Court, but it is not fair to your kids. Be cognizant of your children, their needs, and your legal and moral obligations to them. Also, your ex is the parent of you children and, in most cases, is not your enemy. Your divorce notwithstanding, you have a common goal: to raise your children to be happy (as happy as they can be)…to become well adjusted adults who thrive in their own lives, despite your own shortcomings. Don’t allow the new person in your life to negatively impact your role.

Let me now take a bit of the sting off of the harsh realities presented here. So far, all that I have stated is that the new person in your life is no good, all bad, not welcomed. Please understand that I am not at all suggesting that people who are divorced should not seek to find love and happiness in their lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Happiness is (or should be) the ultimate goal for all of us. In fact, my children would both readily tell you that my only wish for them in their lives is for them to be happy. (Full disclosure: I am thrilled that my daughter is happy living in Denver, Colorado, despite the fact that it makes me quite unhappy that she lives so far away and I only get to see her twice a year…the fact is that her happiness is not contingent on my happiness.) I am, therefore, urging you parents of broken families to simply consider your children, and their happiness, before you put your own wants and needs, and especially the wants and needs of your new love intetests, at the forefront.

This article is meant to warn you against placing new priorities, because of new people in your life, where they are not proper. The theme of this article is consistent with my other offerings: keep the welfare, best interests and overall protection of your children as your top priorities, no matter in what new situation you find yourself. To do otherwise is, by definition, contrary to the best interests of your children. The law always values and encourages parental involvement and the bonds that come from interpersonal ties, as it should.

I will make clear to include more subtle points of law in my next addition and I hope you will read as I expound on this subject: Child Custody Modification.

Michael Louvier: B.S. University of New Orleans (1988), J.D. Mississippi College School of Law (1994)

My Ex and my children have moved to another State! What can I do?

February 4th, 2019

At the law office of Matthew Poole we have been fielding more and more “out of State” calls. These are contacts to us either by phone or by email about a multi State custody issue. The contact is more and more often initiated by a non-custodial parent who is now struggling to enforce his/her visitation after some serious geography has become involved. Either the Ex has moved to Mississippi, or away from Mississippi – with the children. No matter the reason for the move, or even which party moved, the schedule of “every other weekend, etc…” is now impossible. This new situation begs the obvious question: What can I do about this??

When divorced parents continue to live in the same area, the logistics of the exchange of children, the scheduling of ball games and dance recitals and everything else that goes with the day-to-day joys and “difficulties” of your kids is easily worked out. Although these parents might feel awkward and uncomfortable, it is just easier to get things done for the kids. After all – the “best interests of the children” is always the target, right? Mix a few hundred miles of highway between the houses and this delicate balance goes from a bit unpleasant and compromising to unworkable and unfair. Unfair to whom, you ask? This is unfair to everyone, especially the children. Keep in mind that the travel to and from house to house is endured by the kids, too. And the farther away from the non-custodial parent they move, the more difficult and tedious this issue becomes. A disruption of their plans and favorite activities is never a pleasant subject to broach, also. So keep these delicate subjects in mind when you are attempting to come up with a viable solution.

All of these different problems and headaches and obstacles to a simple issue: I just want to see my kids! Is there a solution? The short answer is YES – Always. When a schedule of visitation is no longer workable, and the parents cannot come to an agreement or a meeting of the minds, the Courts are available for a modification. Remember that your rights as a parent are NOT diminished by the distance between you and your children. In fact, the Constitution of the United States guarantees a parent’s rights, and the protection of those rights. These rights are defined as fundamental rights; that is, the most protected of all rights. See Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982). What this really means to you, the non-custodial parent, is that any decrease in your visitation should be viewed as more than simply “not good for me and my kids”…it is viewed as Unconstitutional!

The Mississippi Chancery Courts are referred to as the “super-guardians” of the children involved in cases that they handle. That is: the Chancellor must put the protection and best interests of the children as a paramount standard. And it is without debate courts hold that maximum involvement of both parents is consistent with the “best interests of the children” policy. With these tenets in mind, it stands to reason that a reduction in visitation because of the re-location of either parent would be inherently contrary to the best interest of the children. Protect your rights – cherish and protect your relationship with your children – and doing may very well mean that you have to go back to Court. Extended holiday periods, travel expenses, or even a true modification of custody are all issues that are on the table after a move of parent/children.

My next article will open yet another can of worms common to the subject of child custody/visitation: the introduction of the “Third adult”. I hope that you will log in to read that one, too.

Michael Louvier is a graduate of Mississippi College School of Law (1994). He has been married for 28 years (Tammy) and they have 2 children (Amy, 25 and Nick, 20).