On the Home Front: Military Deployment and Child Custody

June 21st, 2018

Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines! According to the Defense Manpower Data Center (under the Office of the Secretary of Defense), the United States currently has approximately 200,000 active-duty troops deployed across 170 countries. It is no secret that many of these soldiers are battling the harshest mental, emotional, and physical conditions of their lives, journeying from their homes to the world’s most dangerous warzones in order to defend our freedom for months (or possibly even years) at a time. Much less frequently discussed, though, are the infinite difficulties faced by the loved ones that they leave behind. As the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, I fully understand how military families “serve with” their soldiers during deployment. However, I can only imagine how much more arduous these absences must be for the children of single-parent households or those whose parents are deployed simultaneously. Who takes care of them, and what happens when the deployment ends?

The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) was designed to resolve child custody and visitation issues that military families may face during a soldier’s deployment, temporary duty, or mobilization. The UDPCVA is divided into five articles, with the first of these defining the foundational terms for the rest. Most importantly, Article 1 states that a parent’s “residence” is not changed during deployment and that deployment cannot be considered in deciding what is in “the best interest of the child.” Article 2 discourages litigation on child custody and visitation issues by outlining procedural protections for simple agreements between parties. This act also assists the UCCJEA* in preventing the issuance of competing orders via Article 3, which covers court procedures and includes the use of electronic testimony and the expedition of hearings. In addition, this article allows for the designation of visitation rights to a nonparent where the court finds that doing so would be in the best interest of the child and Article 4 explains the termination process for these rights following deployment. Finally, Article 5 summarizes the information within each article.

Mississippi Code § 93-5-34 states that “Custody and visitation procedure upon parental temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization” follows the guideline provisions of the UDPCVA on these issues and answers my earlier hypothetical question regarding who would take care of the children similarly to Article 3. It states that “(4) If the parent with visitation rights receives military temporary duty, deployment or mobilization orders that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent’s residence or otherwise have a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise rights, the court otherwise may delegate the parent’s visitation rights, or a portion thereof, to a family member with a close and substantial relationship to the service member’s minor child for the duration of the parent’s absence, if delegating visitation rights is in the child’s best interest.” Our law also explains that the court will hold expedited hearings or submit electronic testimony when deployment, temporary duty, or mobilization may affect a soldier’s ability to appear in person at a scheduled hearing.

To answer the second question regarding the end of deployment, the same section of Mississippi Code contains a provision like Article 4 of the UDPCVA, stating that “(3) When a parent who has custody, or has joint custody with primary physical custody, receives temporary duty, deployment or mobilization orders from the military that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent’s residence having a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise custody responsibilities:

(a) Any temporary custody order for the child during the parent’s absence shall end no later than ten (10) days after the parent returns, but shall not impair the discretion of the court to conduct a hearing for emergency custody upon return of the parent and within ten (10) days of the filing of a verified motion for emergency custody alleging an immediate danger of irreparable harm to the child; and

(b) The temporary duty, mobilization or deployment of the service member and the temporary disruption to the child’s schedule shall not be factors in a determination of change of circumstances if a motion is filed to transfer custody from the service member.

(c) Any order entered under this section shall require that:

(i) The non-deployed parent shall make the child or children reasonably available to the deployed parent when the latter parent has leave;

(ii) The non-deployed parent shall facilitate opportunities for telephonic, “webcam,” and electronic mail contact between the deployed parent and the child or children during deployment; and

(iii) The deployed parent shall provide timely information regarding the parent’s leave schedule to the non-deployed parent.”

If you are a member of the United States military and would like to learn more about the UDPCVA then please contact the law office of Matthew S. Poole. We would be more than happy to assist with your child custody or visitation arrangements in lieu of deployment, temporary duty, mobilization, or for any other reason.

Thank you for your service.

*Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Information about the UCCJEA and a summary of its application can be found in our previous article “The Jurisdiction Determination in Child Custody Cases.”

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

The Jurisdiction Determination in Child Custody Cases

June 18th, 2018

“Where are you from” is a fairly simple question, especially if you live and have lived in a certain state your whole life. If you have moved around, though, the answer may actually seem pretty complicated. In casual conversation, people commonly resort to phrases such as “I grew up in…” or “I’m originally from…” in order to distinguish their “home state” from a recent or current residence. When it comes to legal jurisdiction, however, a much more meticulous approach is required. Where you are truly “from” will determine which court has the authority to hear your case and ultimately control your future.

It should not be a surprise that child custody disputes exaggerate any confusion surrounding this question, particularly when a child moves with one parent to a different state from the other parent. Although there may be multiple states with the authority to rule on child custody matters, only one state will take jurisdiction. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) governs jurisdiction determinations for all child custody and modification of custody cases and prevents courts from issuing conflicting orders. This law has been adopted by 49 out of 50 states (including the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam) and reconciles discrepancies between the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act and the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, which previously attempted to provide these jurisdictional guidelines.

§ 93-27-201, Subsection (1) of the UCCJEA establishes the “exclusive jurisdictional basis for making a child custody determination,” which does not require physical presence of, or personal jurisdiction over, any party involved. Actually, these factors are not even sufficient to establish child custody jurisdiction according to part (c). A state only has jurisdiction over an initial child custody proceeding in the four situations summarized as follows:

It is the home state of the child on the date of the commencement of the proceeding or was the home state of the child within six months and the child is now absent from this state but a parent or someone acting as a parent still lives in the state

A court of another state does not have jurisdiction through situation (1) or a court of the home state has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is a more appropriate forum and

The child and at least one parent or someone acting as a parent have a significant connection with this state other than mere physical presence and

There is substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships

All courts having jurisdiction under the situations described above have declined to exercise jurisdiction on the ground that this state is a more appropriate forum

No court of any other state would have jurisdiction under the situations listed above

Since the UCCJEA designates the home state as the best forum, that state will always have priority in custody matters. § 202 says that this exclusive jurisdiction will continue as long as the state maintains a significant connection with the parties and the substantial evidence is still in the state or until all of the parties have moved out of the state. If an emergency situation occurs (i.e. a child is being abused or was abandoned) then the state where the child is physically located may take temporary jurisdiction to secure his or her safety under § 204. The case will then be given to the home state, transferred to another state that has grounds for continuing jurisdiction, or possibly even kept by this state if the first two options are not available.

However, except as provided by §204 for emergency situations, no court can modify a child custody order made in another state “unless a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial determination” under § 201 (a) or (b) and (1) the other state decides it no longer has exclusive continuing jurisdiction or that a court of this state would be more convenient forum or (2) it has been determined that the parties do not presently reside in the other state.

This synopsis certainly does not include every detail of the UCCJEA, but Attorney Matthew S. Poole has handled a countless number of these complex cases. If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment, please don’t hesitate to call us. We would be happy to explain how the UCCJEA applies to your unique situation.

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

Why Women No Longer Want to be Wives

June 13th, 2018

Should a husband say: “this is my wife, Jessica” or “this is Jessica, my wife?” The debate over this question has largely become irrelevant, as it is now normal for people to say that they don’t want to get married or that they don’t know whether they do or not. In fact, studies from Pew Research Center show that one in four parents in the United States have kids outside of marriage. Considering the common knowledge that approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce, it is understandable that the thought of getting married would cause someone to fear a complicated and stressful separation in the future. Although the possible reasons are infinite, understanding why women initiate divorce more often than men may help to explain the recent avoidance of marriage in general.

According to a study conducted by Michael J. Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, social scientists have proposed several theories to explain why women initiate divorce at a much higher rate than men. The primary theory is that women may be more attune to relationship difficulties and leave a partner when they believe the issues will require significant action to resolve. However, Rosenfeld argues this explanation is not sufficient according to his research as published by the American Sociological Association. Data taken from the national “How Couples Meet and Stay Together” survey from 2009 to 2015 shows that men and women initiate break-ups equally in non-marital relationships, but women initiate 69% of all divorces. Rosenfeld argues that if the sensitivity theory were true then studies would show women initiating break-ups in non-marital relationships as often as in marital relationships (being equally as dissatisfied), but his data proves this far from the case.

Another suggestion explaining why someone chooses to end a marital relationship is the power-differential theory, which states that the spouse with better prospects beyond the current relationship is more likely to file for divorce. This theory is actually counter-intuitive to the proven statistic that women initiate divorce more than men. Husbands are usually older and have traditionally higher incomes than their wives. Studies also show that single men become more attractive to others as they age, whereas single women decline in attractiveness to others as they age. Therefore, this theory suggests that men typically have the “power” in a marital relationship and better prospects following a divorce. If this theory were accurate, men should initiate the greater amount of divorces as time in a relationship passes. Some social scientists twist this theory to suggest that it is actually the lack of power to voice dissatisfaction with a marital relationship driving women to initiate more divorces. However, prior research on this failed to distinguish divorces initiated by the husband from those initiated by the wife. Although Rosenfeld does not believe the power-differential theory accurately describes why women initiate divorce at a higher rate than men, the lack of power suggestion is actually close to his proposition.

Rosenfeld advocates for the theory that the marital institution has been viewed by society as having incredibly asymmetric gender roles for so long that women now dislike the idea of marriage as a whole. The historic notion that a wife’s only purpose is to cook, clean, and take care of children may lead women to assume that their potential and value in a marital relationship is severely limited. Rosenfeld’s theory aligns with many feminists who suggest that these traditional roles still exist because heterosexual couples are especially likely to marry if the man has high earnings. Also, they call attention to the fact that women still adopt men’s surnames even though laws requiring this came to an end in the 1970’s. Regardless of your position on this controversial subject, it is not difficult to see the connection between women who believe that marriage is an oppressive institution and women who initiate divorce. This theory also helps to explain the general apprehension regarding marital commitments and the increased number of children born to unmarried couples.

These reasons women may initiate divorce much more often than men certainly do not account for every instance, but it definitely presents a challenging consideration regarding the fear of marriage. However, maintaining a healthy dose of caution when entering a marital commitment is probably smart in light of divorce statistics. It is also important to note that signing a “prenup” may help to alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding marriage. Although prenuptial agreements are often perceived to be “dooming” a marriage before it even begins, making this agreement may actually offset divorce fears and prevent stress from ruining your joyous occasion.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole is well-seasoned to handle divorce and other family law cases. If you have any questions or are in need of an attorney, please don’t hesitate to call us. We would love to help.

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

“What’s Mine is Yours” (Unless it’s Mine)

June 9th, 2018

One of the most common questions received by our office on a daily basis is whether someone will be able to keep real or personal property following a divorce, including assets and increases in valuation. The answer, like so many others regarding the law, is “it depends.” Many people mistakenly believe that having title to an asset automatically means their spouse will not be able to make a claim to ownership of that asset, but this is not a safe assumption in any community property state such as ours. Several states including Mississippi previously had a separate property system where all property was awarded to the titleholder in a divorce, but this system was fundamentally flawed with regard to common jurisprudence and recognition of spousal contribution. Today, division of property is instead governed by an equitable distribution system and both the legislative and judicial branches of government have made accommodations for the disregard of contributions made to property by a non-titleholding spouse. Although “equitable” sounds like “equal” or “50-50,” it actually means “fair.” A chancellor will determine what constitutes a fair distribution of property not by determining the titleholder, but by relying on eight factors that were provided in the case Ferguson v. Ferguson. 639 So. 2d 921, 928 (Miss. 1994). These factors are summarized as follows:

  • (1) Substantial contribution to the accumulation of the property
  • (2) The degree to which each spouse has expended, withdrawn, or otherwise disposed of marital assets
  • (3) The market value and the emotional value of the assets
  • (4) The value of assets not ordinarily subject to distribution
  • (5) Consequences of the distribution (like taxes or legal issues with third parties)
  • (6) The extent to which property division may be used to eliminate future friction between the parties
  • (7) The needs of the parties for financial security with regard to assets, income and earning capacity
  • (8) Any other factor which in equity should be considered

The only type of property that is subject to equitable distribution upon divorce is marital property. According to accepted interpretation as outlined in Hemsley v. Hemsley, 639 So. 2d 909, 915 (Miss. 1994), all assets earned or acquired during the course of the marriage are presumed to be marital property. The well-known exceptions to this presumption are assets acquired before or outside of the marriage such as gifts or inheritances. Unfortunately, there is one delineating factor: these assets must be brought into the marriage by only one party and kept separate throughout the entire marriage. Co-mingling of assets will defeat this exception to the presumption of community property within the confines of a marriage. Therefore, it is possible for the court to find that property is divisible as marital property if the family has been using it throughout the marriage or if the court cannot trace your separate interest in the property. Rhodes v. Rhodes, 52 So. 3d 430, 437 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011). This process is called “transmutation” and applies to both real and personal property. Interestingly, though, Mississippi is one of the only states that does not presume that property is marital for the purpose of equitable distribution where there is joint title. Pearson v. Pearson, 761 So. 2d 157, 163 (Miss. App. 2000).

Other exceptions to the presumption that property is marital and equitably distributable include personal injury or disability awards, pensions, or property designated as separate by agreement. Pensions and other employment benefits are considered marital property for the purpose of equitable distribution but are not divisible if the funds accumulated before the marriage. Similarly, personal injury awards are usually divisible if they were provided to compensate for a loss belonging to the family rather than just pain and suffering of the individual. Mississippi courts have not directly addressed the classification of workmen’s compensation or awards for disability, but they are likely to be indivisible from the marital estate to the extent those awards are compensable for loss of wages or wage earning capacity.

Another notable exception to the presumption that property is marital is the value of a professional degree. The Supreme Court of Mississippi held in Guy v. Guy, 736 So. 2d 1042 (Miss. 1999) that a professional degree obtained by a student spouse was not property for the purpose of dividing the martial estate. In that case, the court (citing an older case from the Supreme Court of Colorado) found that an educational degree is not “property” at all because it is not inheritable, transferrable, or valuable for sale on the open market. Therefore, intellectual enhancements acquired during a marriage are not considered to be marital property.

Although professional degrees are not distributable upon divorce, a supporting spouse may have the right to compensation (called reimbursement alimony) if he or she contributed to the education obtained during the marriage. This is because it is presumed that a contribution was made with the expectation of achieving a higher standard of living for the family since a higher education typically equates to a higher income. According to the court in Guy v. Guy, a supporting spouse would be “left with nothing more than the knowledge that they aided their now ex-spouse in increasing his or her future earning capacity” without this repayment. 736 So. 2d at 1044. Reimbursement alimony is granted on the actual amount of funds provided towards the education and is most common in the divorces of young couples who typically have few assets and little money.

Matthew S. Poole has 14 years of experience and a successful track record in divorce cases. If you have any questions about property distribution or divorce in general, please don’t hesitate to call our office.

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

Social Media as Evidence: Your Posts Don’t Lie

June 4th, 2018

Advances in technology have now made the world’s wisdom accessible to pretty much anyone with a smart phone or computer. Arguably even more astounding than the efficiency and productiveness flowing from this kind of access is the level of connection achievable between people from different parts of the country… or different countries… or different continents. From texting and direct messaging to posting statuses, pictures, videos, and locations, social media has revolutionized the way society communicates. Every day more and more people are putting their lives online for everyone they want to share information with and truthfully some they probably don’t.

It is likely that at some point in time you have been told to consider the cost of hitting “send” or “post” on social media before doing it. For example, should that picture from 3 a.m. last Saturday really be available to everyone? What about that status raising cane against your careless uncle Joe for backing into your car? The reason for this instruction is to reiterate the broad accessibility and eternal permanency of sharing information through the Internet. Unfortunately, though, many people still fail to see the laundry list of unintended consequences that may result from even just one poorly thought-out post.

Many employers have openly begun monitoring current employee’s social media accounts or combing through posts of a potential employee before an interview. But even if you don’t “clean” your accounts well enough, the worst that can happen is losing a job… right? No. Actually, your social media accounts could end up being used as evidence against you in court. A survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2010 found that 81% of divorce attorneys had seen an increase in evidence taken from wireless devices and 66% cited Facebook as the source of this evidence. Social media can be used as evidence to prove a variety of things like your opinions or thoughts, the time and place of your actions, communications or interactions with others, and even your income or purchases.

According to Washington family attorney McKinley Irvin, one reason social media accounts create relationship problems is because of the amount of time spent on them. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior showed that a 20% increase in Facebook enrollment equated to a 2.18% to 4.32% increase in divorce rates. If you’ve ever looked around a crowded restaurant at lunchtime, this statistic should not come as a shock. The number of people staring at their phones instead of conversing with their present company is staggering. If the quality of conversation in a social setting this low, it is easy to see how the same behavior at home could quickly destroy emotional connections and ultimately derail a marriage.

Attorney Irvin states that social media also creates an easy outlet for jealousy or distrust to flourish in a relationship. In fact, one in five people claim that they question their relationship after finding something suspicious on their partner’s social media account. Unfortunately, sometimes suspicions of infidelity are well warranted. Approximately one in ten people admit to hiding messages or social media posts from their partner and 8% of people even admit to having secret social media accounts. With all of this on the table, it is not surprising that one in three divorces are actually instigated because of online communications or affairs.

It is important to remember that even if your social media accounts are private, you can still legally be required to provide information from them during a lawsuit. Deleting anything will usually violate a court order and is unlikely to be effective anyway. As previously stated, information is never really gone once it is online. If you’re in the middle of a lawsuit, the best advice is to deactivate your social media accounts until the matter is settled.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole has the expertise to handle many types of family law cases. If you or someone you know is looking for a divorce or child custody attorney, please don’t hesitate to call us. We would be happy to help you obtain justice as efficiently and inexpensively as possible regardless of whether you or your spouse has committed an online “faux-pas.”

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

Domestic Violence as a Bar to Custody/Visitation Rights – or Not?

May 31st, 2018

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there are approximately 10 million people physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States every year. Unfortunately, 1 in 15 children are exposed to this violence and 90% of these children personally witness the incidents. It is no secret that the effects of domestic violence extend far beyond physical injury to trigger mental illness, substance abuse, and even suicide. With this in mind, courts typically find that it is not in the best interest of a child to be placed in the physical custody of a parent who has a history of committing domestic violence.

A “history” of domestic violence includes not only a pattern of abusive behavior, but also any isolated incident that caused “serious bodily injury” to a partner or another family member. However, it is not impossible for people with this kind of past to get physical custody of their children. In fact, a court may find that parental custody would be in the best interest of the child even if both parents have a history of domestic violence. According to Mississippi Code § 93-5-24(9)(a)(iii), the court may consider the following factors when determining whether or not physical custody will be awarded to a parent with a history of domestic violence:

(1) Whether the perpetrator of family violence has demonstrated that giving sole or joint physical or legal custody of a child to the perpetrator is in the best interest of the child because of the other parent’s absence, mental illness, substance abuse or such other circumstances which affect the best interest of the child or children;

(2) Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a batterer’s treatment program;

(3) Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a program of alcohol or drug abuse counseling if the court determines that counseling is appropriate;

(4) Whether the perpetrator has successfully completed a parenting class if the court determines the class to be appropriate;

(5) If the perpetrator is on probation or parole, whether he or she is restrained by a protective order granted after a hearing, and whether he or she has complied with its terms and conditions; and

(6) Whether the perpetrator of domestic violence has committed any further acts of domestic violence

If custody is not awarded to the parent with a history of domestic violence then visitation may be allowed instead. Generally, the court can mandate any condition that it deems necessary in order to ensure the safety of a child during visitations. Conditions may include, but are not limited to, supervision of the visitation, parent’s restraint from drug and alcohol use during and for twenty-four hours prior to the visitation, or prohibited overnight visitation with the parent.

Another rather interesting option the court has regarding visitations is to require payment of a bond for the return and safety of the child. In other words, the parent would pay a fee to take the child and then receive the money back once the child was returned without harm… Compared to the alternatives, this option often seems a bit out of place. For example, one may ask whether the safety and welfare of a child is really guaranteed by the leverage of a monetary payment. However controversial this option may seem, it is rarely used and is usually a last-resort measure. We must trust the chancellors of Mississippi to use the highest discretion to apply this option appropriately.

“Ne Exeat” (Latin for “do not leave”) security bonds are used to ensure the safe return of a child by preventing another party from leaving, or removing the child from, the jurisdiction of the court or state. Although Mississippi lacks a statutory provision for these bonds, they could still be required through the use of a chancellor’s broad equitable powers.

Ultimately, parents may still be granted physical custody or visitations with their children despite a history of domestic violence. If you or someone you know has a question about the custody or visitation rights of a parent with a history of domestic violence, please don’t hesitate to call us. The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole is highly experienced in these types of situations and we would be happy to help.

Written by Jessica Jasper, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2020, Mississippi College School of Law

Gas Fumes and Perfumes: Modifications of Custody Involving Teenagers

May 22nd, 2018

While in court recently on a child custody modification, a chancellor was remarking on how difficult teenagers can be when they are smelling “both gas fumes and perfumes.” While also an attempt to break the tension in the room and to help the parties relax, the judge’s words evidenced how tough implementing a visitation schedule on a headstrong teenager with a driver’s license can be. In this particular case, the question posed to one of the parties was “what happens when the child doesn’t listen?”

This was an interesting question that different chancellors will approach in their own ways. A judge stated to me once that if a child did not want to attend a visitation with their parents, the judge would take their cell phone. Cell phones are life to many teenagers, and this judge found taking them away to be an extremely effective way to promote obedience of a court order.

What happens when a teenager really does not care about their phone? In the “gas fumes and perfumes” case, the child there was a lover of the outdoors who spent his time with 4-H and fishing, and did not really care if they had a cell phone or not. The judge in that case recognized this and posed the question of “what then?” Do we hogtie him and take him to the visitation? Throw him in jail? Hard labor? These questions become more difficult to answer when dealing with a teenager who is entering an exciting and confusing time of their lives.

Teenagers are notorious for doing the exact opposite of what they are told to do. It is simply in their nature. However, court orders are still court orders. They should be followed by whatever parties bound and should have consequences if not followed. The difficulty with teenagers is finding some way to punish them that will actually work. People of that age often do not have the funds to pay a fine, and if we threw every disobedient teenager into jail, we would have to build a million jails!

The biggest way to help facilitate teenage obedience of court orders regarding visitation seems to be communication. As a parent, the best thing to do is to talk about these visitation times with a teenager. Make them feel like it is something they want to do, rather than must do. Make them feel as though they are going to a second home and not a vacation. Teenagers want to have their concerns fall on ears that are listening. Striking a balance between parent and friend will help facilitate a teenager’s obedience with a court order, and to make sure that they won’t get in the car and drive off every time they want to act counter to that order.

Written by Kenneth B. Davis, Associate Attorney at the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole.

Importance of a Father in the Home

May 12th, 2018

Maintaining the family unit should be the number one goal of any mother and father. Even when going through a divorce, it is essential that both parents are just as involved in their child’s life as they possible can be. However, with divorce ever on the rise in the United States, an all too common consequence of parent’s separating can be an absence of the father in the home. This can mean a great deal of adversity for the children later on in life. Be it an increased risk of poverty or a higher chance of incarceration, living without a father puts a child’s life squarely at risk for all manner of difficulty.

Since 1960, the percentage of children living in two-parent homes has decreased dramatically from 88% down to 66%. This drop has been caused by many factors, but the most prevalent one is the rise in divorce. Across the nation, married couples are calling it quits and their children are stuck in the middle. Unfortunately, this increase in divorce has made some dads pack up permanently, leaving their ex-wife with the kids, and their kids without a father-figure. This can have an indescribable effect on the life of a child.

According to the Census Bureau, there are 24 million children in the United States, and one out of three of them live without their biological father in the home. Compared to children who live with both parents, these children are four times more likely to live in poverty, and two times more likely to drop out of high school. Combine these statistics with the poverty income level in the U.S. only being $12,140.00 a year, a child living in a single parent, fatherless home has to escape becoming another statistic just to overcome the odds already stacked against them.

Risks of poverty and lack of education aside, there is a darker and more horrifying concern of growing up without a father. One of the more striking statistics provided by the Census Bureau shows that 63% of youth suicides in the United States are performed by children of single-parent homes. This is an astonishing number. To put this data a different way, one of the only single identifying metrics that connects two thirds of all children from around the country that commit suicide is the fact that they are raised in a single-parent home. This alone shows the importance of why maintaining a two-parent household is integral in a child’s life.

Going through a divorce can be the toughest thing someone has to go through. Although most everyone would rather not split up their own family, it is often not that simple. When mom and dad cannot work it out, or even refuse to work it out, the child suffers. Custody battles can be the same way. When one parent refuses to let mom or dad be a part of their kid’s lives, it hurts the child most of all. If you want to be a part of their child’s life, but are struggling because of divorce, custody, or your spouse is refusing your rights as a parent, please do not hesitate to call us. The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole is well-seasoned to handle these types of situations and we would be happy to help.

Written by J. Tyler Cox, J.D., Class of 2018

Finances In A Divorce

May 7th, 2018

A person’s financial situation has more influence over day-to-day life than almost any other aspect. Finances influence our ability to enjoy certain luxuries that life brings. Money is also a very private subject. Almost universally, it is considered rude to inquire about someone’s finances in a social setting, and also viewed as arrogant to brag about money. Therefore, when a prospective client comes to our office seeking to initiate or defend a domestic lawsuit, they are often surprised at the level of financial disclosure that comes with that proceeding.

Finances indicate more than personal wealth. They are a good indicator of a person’s ability to hold down a job, ably manage their finances, and to provide security for their families. Directing your finances in a sensible way shows the court a certain level of maturity. Money is hard to earn, and easy to spend. In domestic litigation, especially when children are involved, courts take into consideration how the litigants have been able to soundly oversee their earnings.

A parent’s finances are a factor in child custody cases, and the financial situation of the parents is even included among the Albright factors that chancellors use in making a child custody determination. You can view an earlier post on our website about that factor as well as the other Albright factors through our website’s blog search function. This does not mean that chancellors will simply look at which parent makes the most money and award custody to that parent. It is but one factor to show that the person seeking custody is able to provide for the child as they need and deserve.

Income also plays a large part in the awarding of alimony or separate maintenance. If one spouse in a divorce makes much more money and the other party needs some financial assistance, courts will take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to avoid alimony.

One of the most important documents in domestic litigation is the 8.05 Financial Declaration, named for the Uniform Chancery Rule that requires certain financial disclosures to be made. This document lists a person’s income, assets, and liabilities. Having an ex-spouse be able to see that information can make clients uncomfortable, but they are important declarations to make in these cases. Chancery courts, which handle domestic matters, are courts of equity. This means that chancery courts attempt to resolve disputes in a way that is fair to both litigants and that avoids unjustly enriching one party over the other. These rules regarding financial disclosures can be a friend to those who follow them, and a foe to those who don’t.

Our office understands the uneasiness that comes with giving out financial information, but we also have the experience to know that following these rules can only help the court look favorably upon a party. For a person involved in domestic litigation, being able to show the capability to control their finances will go a long way in achieving whatever goal that person wishes to reach. If you or someone you know has a question about the financial reporting involved in a lawsuit, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. We will be happy to lend our knowledge to give you a response that is the truth, and to help you navigate any domestic legal issue you may have.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic attorney who specializes in family litigation. He was admitted to practice in 2004.

Parental Alienation: Why You Should Act Fast

May 3rd, 2018

Pretty regularly at our office, we unfortunately have child custody cases where one parent continually makes derogatory remarks about the other parent in front of their child. This is one of the worst things a parent can do when wanting to obtain custody, especially when the child is not old enough to legally have a preference with which parent he/she would rather live with. What many parents do not realize is that a parent has an inherent duty to foster and facilitate the relationship between their child and that child’s other parent. Disparaging the other parent can not only hurt their case in the eyes of a chancellor, but it can also adversely affect the child. From a chancellor’s perspective, belittling the other parent in an effort to negatively impact the child’s relationship with them is wholly improper and unacceptable.

When the “brainwashing” of a child by one parent gets so bad that it manipulates the child into disliking or not wanting a relationship with the other parent, there is more than likely a case of parental alienation. Parental alienation is a term used by child custody lawyers and child psychologists alike to describe what happens in situations where a parent has made conscious efforts, by negative words or actions, to upset their child’s relationship with the other parent. An example of this would be where a mother has spoken badly about a father, made derogatory remarks about him, or even lied about him to the child, all in order to alter that child’s feelings towards his dad, so that the child would not want to live with him.

Other examples of behaviors that can cause parental alienation include one parent discussing details of the parent’s relationship, scheduling the child’s activities during the other parent’s visitation time, not informing the other parent the times of those activities in order for them not to attend, denying the other parent important school and medical records, and giving the child ultimatums encouraging them to pick one parent over the other. This type of behavior has major consequences, and if not addressed as soon as possible, can permanently destroy a child’s relationship with their parent. A child’s mind is very susceptible, especially to a person that they instinctively trust – as they would a parent. Prolonged exposure to this type of influence deteriorates little by little any chance of a relationship they might have had with one of their mother or father.

In years past, parental alienation issues could only be brought up when there was a non-disparagement clause in the custody order. This prevented parental alienation from being any more than a contempt issue. Now, however, chancellors in Mississippi consider disparagement through the parenting-skills factor under Albright. With disparagement now being a consideration in Albright, it constitutes a material change sufficient for modification of custody.

Isolating a parent from their child is serious, and in the end, it does more damage to the child than it does to the other parent. To put it plainly, parental alienation is a form of child abuse. Chancellors know this, that is why any hard evidence that a mother or father is molding their child’s emotions negatively toward the other is met with extreme prejudice. Absent neglect and endangerment, nothing can kill a parent’s chances of being awarded custody more than harmfully reshaping their child’s relationship with their mom or dad. If you believe that this is happening to you, or someone you may know, please give us a call. We have the expertise to handle parental alienation cases, and any of your child custody needs.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic attorney who specializes in family litigation. He was admitted to practice in 2004.