Posts Tagged ‘divorce attorney in Mississippi’

Violence During Divorce Proceedings in Mississippi

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Recently, in Manchester, Tennessee, the local community experienced shock and outrage when a wife shot her husband after leaving a divorce mediation conference.  Brenda and Harry Bartee were in the process of divorce and met for a mediation session at the law firm of Rogers, Duncan & North, located on North Spring Street.  The mediation did not go well.  Heated arguments between Brenda Bartee and her physician husband ensued.  The couple left the law office and moments later, Brenda Bartee reached into her coat and retrieved a .45-caliber Ruger.  She fired seven or eight rounds at Dr. Harry Bartee, hitting him at least four times.  Two deputies quickly rushed to the scene and Dr. Bartee was transported via helicopter to the Erlanger Medical Center.  He is currently in critical but stable condition.

Brenda Bartee has been charged with attempt to commit first degree murder and remains in jail with a bond of $250,000.  Investigators have revealed that both Brenda and Harry have a history of domestic violence, some of which occurred right here in Mississippi.  In Boliver County, Mississippi, Brenda Bartee fired two shots at her husband while they were both seated inside the car back in 2012.  The reason for the dispute – Brenda allegedly accused Harry of cheating on her.  Harry Bartee was granted an order of protection against his wife and she was charged with aggravated domestic violence.

While the tale of Brenda Bartee seems like something out of a movie, domestic violence occurring during divorce proceedings is not all that unusual.   In 2011, Catherine Scott-Gonzalez arrived at a Broward County, Florida courthouse for the final hearing in her divorce case.  About 30 minutes into the hearing, when the issue of child support arose, Catherine’s husband, Paul Gonzalez, got up to leave the courtroom.  He stated calmly but unhappily that he was not going to pay child support.  He took one step out of the courtroom, then returned and suddenly attacked his estranged wife.  Paul threw punch after punch at Catherine while her attorney fought to restrain him.  Finally, the judge hit the panic button and several deputies arrived to arrest Paul Gonzalez.  Like Brenda Bartee, Paul Gonzalez also had a history of violent behavior and Catherine Scott-Gonzalez had sought several restraining orders against him which were denied.

While exact rates are unknown, incidences of domestic violence often increase during a divorce.  Domestic violence may already be present in a marriage, then the stress, anger, and hurt involved in a divorce causes heightened aggression.  For some individuals with no history of violence, the grave emotions evoked during a divorce can lead to violence.

If domestic violence may be a potential issue during your divorce, it is important to make your attorney and the court aware of this.  Had the attorneys for Brenda Bartee and Catherine Scott-Gonzalez known of the potential for violence, they could have planned separate mediation conferences or arranged for adequate security in the courtroom.  Never hesitate to call the police if any threats, whether verbal or physical, are made or if you are fearful of your soon to be former spouse.

You can seek psychological evaluation for your violent spouse.  Abusers often have mental health issues that perpetuate the violence and gathering a clinical understanding can help your estranged spouse, yourself, and the court understand the reason and possible solutions for the violence.  If you fear your spouse may become violent, do not hesitate to insist on separate counseling.  Finally, request child custody evaluations be completed by someone trained in domestic violence treatment.  Even children who are not the direct victims of domestic violence can be severely traumatized living with an abuser.

Matthew S. Poole has extensive experience representing divorce clients with domestic violence concerns.  With his vast knowledge in the field, Matthew can address all the special issues that arise in a divorce case involving domestic violence.  Matthew vows to keep you safe during the divorce proceedings by advocating at all times for your security.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 for a free initial consultation.

Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage: Will Mississippi Join the Movement?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The Supreme Court’s momentous decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act seemed to open the floodgates on the push for marriage equality.  Currently, fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.  Some of these legalizations are quite recent, with Minnesota and Rhode Island becoming the 12th and 13th states to legalize gay marriage in August, and New Jersey just a few months later, in October.  Illinois will become the 15th state by November 20th, if all goes as planned, and Hawaii may join the list any day now.  Additionally, New Mexico, which is the only state to have no laws either allowing or banning same-sex marriage, may soon legalize same-sex marriage.

Suffice to say, the list of states abolishing previous bans on same-sex marriage and legalizing the institution is growing by the day.  While the tides of change seem to be sweeping much of the nation, there has been little talk of legalizing same-sex marriage in Mississippi.  The recent case of Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham, who is married to a same-sex partner and seeking a divorce in Mississippi, brought the issue of same-sex divorce to the front of the headlines in our state.  However, Czekala-Chatham and her attorney were quick to assure the court and the public that they were not seeking to advance gay marriage in the state, merely to be able to divorce.

Nearly 10 years ago, in 2004, Mississippi voters passed a ban on same-sex marriages.  At the time, 85% of voters supported the ban.  Recent polling, however, reveals that attitudes in the state are changing.  New bipartisan polling from the Human Rights Campaign found that 58% of Mississippi residents under the age of 30 favor gay marriage.  In the above 30 crowd, 55% objected to same-sex marriage.  While the public opinion does not seem to be strong enough yet to persuade legislative action, it is clear views are shifting.

Recently, the Southern Equality campaign swung through the state.  Several same-sex couples attempted to obtain marriage licenses, including an Air Force Reserve member, and were turned away.  Showing its continued support for the gay marriage ban, Mississippi declined to grant full benefits to troops in same-sex marriages.  Due to the constitutional ban, Mississippi stated that same-sex spouses could apply for benefits on federally owned property but not property owned by the state.  This decision is in defiance of a Defense Department directive granting full benefits to same-sex marriage spouses of troops.

Advocates of same-sex marriage are hard at work bringing change to the state.  The Human Rights Campaign president, Chad Griffin, expressed optimism that Mississippi and the rest of the deep South would change their laws to legalize the same-sex marriage institution.  Griffin stated that numerous cases were being filed, and many already filed, since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, the precedent setting DOMA case, challenging Mississippi’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

There are three ways that same-sex marriage could become legal in Mississippi.  The first would be through judicial action, which is what Griffin alluded to fighting for.  Next would be by constitutional amendment.  Just as the state voted to add the ban in 2004, an amendment could be placed on the ballot requesting appeal of the ban.  Finally, the legislature could pass a same-sex marriage amendment.

All things considered, it appears Mississippi may not join the ranks of gay marriage friendly states anytime too soon.  While polling numbers reveal a shift in attitudes, they do not show enough support passage of a constitutional amendment.  However, it seems like that if public opinion continues to swell in favor of same-sex marriage, Mississippi will eventually accept the institution.

Call For Your Free Initial Consultation

If you have any questions about same-sex marriage or same-sex divorce in Mississippi, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429.   He will take the time you need to advise you of your legal rights and options, and help you determine the best course of action in your case.

The Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Divorces in Mississippi

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Given the shaky economy and seemingly ever rising expense of obtaining a divorce, more and more individuals are electing to divorce without the assistance of an attorney.  These do-it-yourselfers feel that by divorcing on their own, they will save substantial money in the process.  What they fail to recognize, however, is the potential long-term financial costs of foregoing an attorney, and the probable negative impact the absence of a lawyer can have on the entire divorce process.

The following list is designed to caution you before electing to proceed with a divorce pro se, or without an attorney:

  1. Divorces are never as “simple” as they appear to be: you may feel that because you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce, your divorce will be quick, simple, and painless.  After all, forms exist online that purport to provide you with all you need to obtain a divorce.  However, as any experienced divorce attorney will tell you, no divorce is as simple as it appears.  The agreement you and your spouse thought you reached often falls apart and you end up in tense negotiations with no end in sight.  You become overwhelmed with the myriad of court forms required and strict time deadlines for each.  You consent to something only to realize later it had negative tax implications you were unaware of.  This list goes on and on.  Divorce is nearly always a complicated process and even the “simplest” of divorces can be quite confusing and time consuming.  A knowledgeable divorce attorney can guide negotiations and handle all the filing of the many required forms, while ensuring deadlines are met and proper disclosures made.  A divorce attorney takes out the guess work and the stress for the layperson unfamiliar with intricate divorce law.
  2. You can cost yourself in the long-run: while foregoing a divorce attorney might appear to be an effective cost-saving method, this decision can cost you far more in the long-run then the initial savings.  Without the assistance of a divorce attorney, you may end up settling for far less than you deserve, waiving your right to alimony or property to which you are entitled.  Missing crucial deadlines or failing to provide requisite information can lengthen the divorce process, costing you more.  A skilled divorce attorney knows just what assets you may be entitled to and what debts you must shoulder.  Your divorce attorney will negotiate or, if necessary, argue in court on your behalf to ensure you reserve the monies and property to which you are entitled.  A layperson without knowledge of intricate alimony, child support, and property division laws is unlikely to be in the position to obtain the best outcome possible.
  3. Mistakes are often irreversible: often, in the legal world, mistakes cannot be undone.  If you miss a crucial deadline, your rights maybe waived.  If you agree to a settlement negotiation which the court accepts, you will not be able to later undo the agreement if you come to realize a mistake was made.  Further, once the court rules on an issue, your options to amend it are few and will most likely require the aid of an attorney.  These early stages in a divorce are crucial and there is no room for mistakes.  This makes it imperative to consult with an experienced divorce attorney who will ensure you do not inadvertently forfeit crucial rights.

Matthew S. Poole understands the expense involved in a divorce and recognizes the need to keep down costs.  He is a compassionate, experienced Mississippi divorce attorney that will strive to achieve your divorce with as little cost to you as possible.  Matthew S. Poole knows the intricacies of divorce law and will ensure your best interests are advocated for.

Call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

The Top 5 Things to Consider in Choosing a Divorce Attorney in Mississippi

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Hiring a divorce attorney is a critical step in your divorce.  The right divorce attorney can mean the difference between a quick, painless divorce and a long, drawn-out, contested one.  Your choice of Mississippi divorce attorney can also heavily influence the outcome of your divorce on the issues that matter most to you, such as alimony, child custody, and asset allocation.  While most people determine early on they need an attorney to help them through the divorce process, many do not know where to turn to find the right attorney, or what to look for in selecting a divorce attorney.  To this end, we have prepared the following list of the top 5 things you should consider in hiring a Mississippi divorce attorney:

  1. Experience is crucial—when you begin researching potential divorce attorneys in your area, look first and foremost at the attorney’s experience in the realm of divorce and knowledge of the local court system.  Experience does not equate to years of practice; rather, experience comes from handling a wide variety of divorce cases in your locale.  Experience will provide your divorce attorney with the necessary know how to competently handle your divorce case, no matter how complicated.  Also examine the attorney’s field of practice.  Does he or she focus primarily on family law, or just practice family law on the side?  While there are always exceptions to the rule, it is generally best to select an attorney who makes family law at least a large part of his or her practice.  This again will speak to the attorney’s thorough knowledge of divorce law and all the issues that accompany it.
  2. Communication skills are a must—when you sit down to interview your potential new attorney, pay close attention to their communication skills.  You should select an attorney that will listen to your concerns and properly address all your questions.  Divorce is a complex matter that involves a lot of emotions.  Your divorce attorney will be your guide throughout the process and must be available and willing to answer the many questions you are expected to have.  Further, an attorney’s communication skills are not only critical when dealing with the client.  Your divorce attorney will be communicating on your behalf to the court, other attorneys, and your divorcing spouse.  Their communication skills or lack thereof can therefore greatly impact your case.
  3.  Select a compassionate attorney—while this might seem minor compared to the two factors listed above, compassion is an important factor to find in a divorce attorney.  You are going through likely one of the most difficult times of your life.  You deserve to have by your side a truly compassionate divorce attorney.
  4. Avoid guaranteed outcomes—avoid attorneys who provide you with a guaranteed outcome.  There is simply no such thing in life or in the courtroom.  Promising such to a client is not professional and indicates a lack of experience in the field.
  5. Hire a divorce attorney that you ultimately feel comfortable with-— while examining an attorney’s website, list of successful cases, education, and brilliant awards may tell you a lot about them, ultimately you should select someone you feel comfortable with.  Your divorce attorney is someone you will likely have to discuss highly personal matters with; someone you may spend a considerable amount of time with; someone who will act as your sounding board, legal interpreter, and mouthpiece.  Comfort is essential and should not be overlooked as a factor in selecting your divorce attorney.

Matthew S. Poole is an experienced divorce lawyer in Mississippi who has handled a wide array of divorce cases.  The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole devotes extensive time and energy to the field of family law and has an in-depth knowledge of the practice.  Matthew is a compassionate divorce attorney who understands the difficult process of divorce and will be there to guide you every step of the way.  Call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule your consultation.

Community Property Versus Equitable Distribution in Mississippi

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

There are many factors that will affect the outcome of your divorce, from the length of your marriage, each of your incomes, and the involvement of children.  One crucial factor, however, will play a large role in the outcome of the distribution of your marital assets.  That factor is where you divorceEach state has its own unique set of rules governing the division of assets during a divorce.  A court in Texas, for instance, will apply drastically different rules in allocating assets than a court in New York.  There are two main categories of rules for the distribution of assets used in states across the country: equitable distribution and community assets.  Here is a look at the two systems

Community Property in a Mississippi Divorce

Community property is the less common division of assets regime.  It is used in the following 9 states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.  In addition, couples in Alaska can opt in to a community property system.  The community property system derives from Spanish law, which accounts for its predominate presence in the southwestern states.

In a community property state, both spouses are considered equal owners of all marital property.  As a general rule, whatever each spouse earns or acquires during the marriage is co-owned by both parties, regardless of who earned it or whose name is on the title.  During a divorce, all assets are divided 50-50, with some state specific exceptions.  Judges do not take into account the age, health, or employment prospects of the parties in dividing assets.  However, these factors will be considered in determining alimony.  Community property states are known to have very generous alimony laws, to accommodate for the lack of individualization in the division of assets.

Equitable Distribution in a Mississippi Divorce

Equitable distribution is the most common system used for division of assets, embraced in the remaining 41 states not described above.  Mississippi is an equitable distribution state.  In an equitable distribution state, assets are allocated to each spouse on the basis for fairness.  Courts take into account the circumstances of the spouses and divide accordingly.  Some of the factors considered include:

  • The contributions of each party to the marital property
  • Time spent on family duties during the marriage
  • Contributions to the stability and harmony of the family
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Contributions to the education, training, or other accomplishment increasing the earning capacity of a spouse
  • A spouse’s disposal of marital assets
  • The market value as well as emotional value of the assets subject to distribution
  • The value of the assets not subject to distribution, such as inheritance
  • Tax consequences of proposed distribution
  • The needs of the parties for financial security

As is clear from these factors, equitable distribution does not always mean equal distribution.  Before the court can weigh the above factors, it must determine what the marital assets are.  Marital assets are those assets acquired through the efforts of one or both parties during the marriage.  Included in the marital asset definition is added value, as where a property acquired before the marriage increases in value during the marriage.  For instance, if one spouse had a home before the marriage and it increased in value $50,000, that increase in value would usually be considered a marital asset.

Comparing the two systems, you can see that the outcome of your divorce might vary significantly depending on whether you divorce in a community property or equitable distribution state.  You are not necessarily bound by the division of asset laws of your state, however.  You can create a pre or post-marital agreement that sets out the division of assets in the event of divorce.

Division of assets is often a highly contested area in any divorce.  An experienced divorce attorney can fully explain the equitable distribution laws in your state and assist you in obtaining the most favorable asset division possible.

Matthew S. Poole is an experienced Mississippi divorce attorney with years of experience in the realm of asset division.  He will fight tirelessly on your behalf to achieve the asset allocation you desire.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

Mississippi Divorce Attorney Explains the 5 Things Not To Do When You Divorce

Friday, September 13th, 2013

You’ve probably read all the things you should do in preparing for a divorce, like consulting with a divorce attorney, making a list of assets, and budgeting for divorce expenses.  The following, however, is a list of the opposite kind—it is a list of the top things you should never do when you are divorcing your spouse.  This list encompasses behaviors that can later damage your divorce case and possibly result in a less favorable settlement.  So be aware of the following list of don’ts:

  1. Don’t represent yourself—seeking a divorce without the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney can cost you significantly in the long run.  A skilled divorce attorney will guide you through all steps of your divorce and assure you receive the best possible outcome.  A knowledgeable divorce attorney will prove invaluable in negotiating for division of assets, child custody, and alimony.  Consult with a licensed divorce attorney in your state before filing for divorce.
  2. Don’t refuse to negotiate—divorces are mixed with emotions and often anger.  Spouses may refuse to negotiate due to bitterness and hurt feelings.  However, it is in your best interest to negotiate with your soon to be ex spouse.  In Mississippi, both spouses must agree to a divorce if you are to proceed with a no fault divorce.  A no fault divorce is often quicker and less costly then a fault based one.  Negotiating with your spouse to obtain his or her consent can greatly benefit you both in the long run.  Further, negotiation over important issues like property division, child custody, and alimony can spare you the time, expense, and stress of the courtroom.  Negotiation is in your best interest when you are in the middle of a divorce, and the help of an experienced divorce attorney can greatly assist the negotiation process.
  3. Don’t move out of the marital home—before filing for divorce, one spouse will often move out of the marital home.  This is not something you should do before consulting with a divorce attorney in your state as it can impact your later claim to the home.  Consult with an attorney before making any moves.
  4. Watch what you post on social media sites—with the advent of Facebook and other social media websites, divorce has become less public.  Spouses and attorneys across the nation have begun utilizing “posts” made by divorcing spouses as evidence against them.  Pictures of spouse’s gallivanting with members of the opposite sex, drinking, or even bragging about malicious acts towards the other spouse, can all commonly be found on social media websites.  Be very careful what you allow others to see online as it can have consequences on your divorce.
  5. Don’t deny your spouse access to the children—in general, it is not a good idea to deny your spouse access to your child/children unless there is good reason to do so and your licensed divorce attorney has instructed you to do so.  Except in isolated instances of domestic violence or abuse, it is not wise to withhold access to your children because it can later be grounds for allegations of withholding affection.  Withholding the affection of your minor children from their mother or father is a factor courts consider in making child custody determinations and not something you want to be accused out.  Your best bet is to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney before the divorce is imminent and obtain their advice on working out a temporary custody agreement that the court will approve.

For more information on what you should and should not do when preparing for divorce, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole.  Matthew S. Poole has worked with thousands of clients who have made the difficult decision to divorce their spouse.  He can advise you on all aspects of your Mississippi divorce, from filing for divorce to reaching a favorable alimony settlement.  Call Mississippi divorce attorney Matthew Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.