Posts Tagged ‘divorce in Mississippi’

Domestic Violence and Mississippi Divorce Cases

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Domestic violence occurs at alarming rates throughout Mississippi and the U.S.  The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence reports that over one million women suffer non-fatal violence by a person with whom they are intimate each and every year.  While both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, statistically women are more often perpetuated violence against.  For spouses in an abusive relationship, the most dangerous time is in the few weeks preceding and few weeks after a divorce.

Spouses are often not the only victims of domestic violence—child abuse often goes hand in hand with spousal abuse.  Between 3.3 and 10 million children witness the abuse of a parent each year, and in 30 to 60 percent of families experiencing domestic violence, there are both adult and child victims.  The impact of domestic violence on children is alarming, with study after study linking such traumatic events to behavioral, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical health problems.

If you are caught in a domestic violence situation and considering divorce, it is important to know the following:

  1. Help is available—preparing and filing for divorce is the most dangerous time for your safety and that of your children.  Do not take this risk alone.  There are numerous domestic violence shelters throughout the state of Mississippi that can offer you protection during this critical time.  Shelters can ensure your safety, allowing you to pursue the divorce you so require.  Further, a divorce attorney with experience in domestic violence issues can be a tremendous asset.  Your divorce attorney may elect to seek a protective order against your spouse.  A protective order can issue against a spouse in the event of domestic violence if the violence occurring meets the definition of abuse set out in MS Code § 93-21-3(a).  A protective order can provide you with a legal remedy to protect yourself before the divorce even begins and throughout it.  It can also serve as evidence of abuse in a divorce.
  2. Domestic violence can be grounds for divorce– it is important to recognize that domestic violence can be a ground for divorce in Mississippi.  Mississippi has both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce, but no-fault divorce is only an option where both parties agree to the divorce.  In an abusive relationship where one spouse likely does not wish to terminate the marriage, the victim spouse may assert the fault based ground of habitual cruel and inhumane treatment.
  3. Domestic violence can prevent an award of child custody—in Mississippi, there is a presumption against awarding custody to a parent with a history of domestic or family violence.  Therefore, while ordinarily there is a presumption in favor of joint custody, this will not apply in situations of domestic violence.  The presumption against custody with the abusive spouse is rebuttable.  The spouse will have an opportunity to show the court the presumption should not apply.
  4. Documentation is important—whether you may seek a protective order, allege domestic violence as a grounds for divorce, or as a grounds for sole custody, it is important that you have documentation of the abuse whenever possible.  The best documentation comes from police and incident reports made after the abuse occurred.  Other evidence could include pictures of physical harms following abuse, psychologist reports, or the testimony of friends, family, and neighbors.  Many abuse victims do not report instances of abuse for fear of retaliation by the abusive spouse.  The absence of police reports does not invalidate your valid divorce grounds.  An experienced divorce attorney can advise you on how to best present your case in court.

Jackson, MS attorney Matthew S. Poole has helped many victims of domestic violence successfully and safely navigate the divorce process.  If you are considering divorce and have questions concerning domestic violence, call The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 for a free consultation.

The Potential Impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act on Divorce in Mississippi

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Every major website, newspaper, radio, and social media network is teeming with news on the recently enacted Affordable Healthcare Act.  The Healthcare Act has undoubtedly produced a strong reaction from the American public and everyone seems to have an opinion on the potential effects of the Act.  One theory posed in recent days is that the Affordable Healthcare Act, commonly called Obamacare, will increase the divorce rate across the country including here in Mississippi.

A Brooklyn couple provided their story as an explanation for why Obamacare may impact the divorce rate.  The couple, Nona Aronowitz and Aaron Cassara, earn over $62,000 a year combined, making them ineligible for subsidies under the Affordable Healthcare Act.  Nona Aronowitz is a freelance writer and Aaron Cassara a film industry worker.  If the couple instead chose to divorce and live together, they would qualify for subsidies.  The savings would equate to several hundred dollars a month.  Nona and Aaron are now considering divorcing because they realize the potential large savings.

Nona and Aaron are not alone in discussing divorce in the post-Affordable Healthcare Act world.  The Act has been criticized for instituting a divorce incentive or wedding tax due to its sometimes negative impact on married couples’ finances.  The calculator featured on the Kaiser Family Foundation website illustrates the affect of marriage on healthcare prices.  For instance, a forty year old couple with two children earns $93,000 combined, with one parent earning $70,000 and the other $23,000.  They will not receive a subsidy if they apply while married and will pay a premium of $11,547 annually.  If that same couple divorced and gave custody of the children to the low wager earning spouse, their combined annual premium would only be $4,317.

Anyone in Mississippi considering divorcing to save money on health insurance costs should exercise caution, however, as it is actually illegal to cohabitate in our state.  In Mississippi, as well as Florida and Michigan, it is illegal for opposite-sex couples to cohabitate.  The law in Mississippi is set out in Miss. Code 97-29-1.  This law is rarely, if ever, enforced but does have tax consequences.  The IRS will not allow opposite-sex couples in Mississippi, or Florida and Michigan, to file jointly or declare their significant other as a dependent.  Those caught filing as such or filing to healthcare subsidiaries using their de-facto marriage status could have to pay back the years of undeserved tax credits if caught by the IRS.

While the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act on divorce is a new issue, the topic of health insurance following a divorce has existed for as long as the institution of divorce.  Most often, divorce results in the loss of health insurance by one of the spouses, generally in families where one spouse was a stay at home parent or lesser wage earner.  A study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2012 revealed that about 115,000 women loss their health insurance every year after divorce.  In these situations, the Affordable Care Act may prove a boon for divorced spouses as it should allow them to get quality coverage at an affordable rate.

Though divorcing to obtain less expensive health insurance seems like a rather extreme measure, time will tell whether couples actually resort to this means of saving money.  In the meantime, if you are considering divorce and have questions about the impact it will have on your health insurance, Matthew S. Poole can help.  Matthew is abreast with the most current health insurance laws and can examine your individual situation to determine how you can best protect your essential health insurance coverage after divorce.

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

Do Stepparents Have any Custody Rights Following a Divorce in Mississippi?

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Although being a stepparent can be a confusing and difficult job in many cases, there are just as many cases in which the biological parent becomes a true parent in every sense of the word. When a divorce occurs, it can be wrenching for the stepparent who suddenly has no rights as well as for the child. In most states, including Mississippi, stepparents do not have custody rights unless a biological parent is considered unfit or voluntarily relinquishes his or her parental rights so the stepparent is able to adopt the child following the divorce. Legal custody rights and responsibilities rarely extend to stepparents although in many cases stepparents are the primary caretaker of the child or children.

Consider the case of a woman with an 18-month old child who remarries. The new wife raises the child, essentially becoming a parent. A decade later, the couple decides to divorce, and suddenly the woman who has been a mother in every way to the child has no rights to custody whatsoever. Not only is this hard on the stepparent who loves the child, it is hard on the child to suddenly have a primary caregiver in his or her life cut out like she never existed. While the courts are beginning to recognize the importance of the role stepparents have played in children’s lives, the laws are slow to catch up.

In some cases a stepparent who has acted as the parent of a child for a significant period of time may be awarded visitation rights although it is likely the stepparent will have to fight for those rights. The courts must believe this visitation is in the best interests of the child, and it will fall to the stepparent to prove that. The longer the relationship with the child, the more likely the courts will grant some form of visitation rights to the stepparent.

The Child’s Best Interests

Courts are routinely charged with determining what is in the best interests of the child; when the bond between the stepparent and child is apparent, and it is clear the child looks at the stepparent in the same way as the biological parent, then visitation rights are possible. Before this can occur, the stepparent must establish standing—the right of a party to be heard. This standing will be largely determined by the prior level of participation in the child’s life.  If the biological parent does not agree that a continuing relationship is in the child’s best interests, a guardian ad litem may be appointed.

The guardian ad litem will look at all the circumstances surrounding the relationship, meeting with the child, the biological parent and the stepparent before making a recommendation to the court. Teachers, neighbors and friends could be interviewed as well—anyone who has some type of personal insight into the relationship between the stepparent and the child. Biological parents need to at least try to put their personal issues aside and truly consider what is best for the child. If the child has enjoyed a lengthy, warm, loving relationship with the stepparent, it could hardly be a positive move to abruptly take that away no matter how awkward the situation might be.

Rights and Responsibilities

Although the stepparent may be granted certain rights following a divorce, those rights may also bring responsibilities—the same responsibilities a biological parent would fall under. The stepparent who receives visitation rights or some form of custody could be held responsible for child support, depending on the specific circumstances. At present, nearly half the states have implemented laws which authorize visitation for stepparents and ten more have granted stepparents the right to seek visitation. Thirteen states grant any interested third party the right to request visitation, including grandparents, other family members or stepparents. Only four states give no rights to stepparents regarding visitation.

When You Need Legal Custody Assistance, Call the Law Offices of Matthew Poole

Stepparents need assistance when seeking visitation rights and Matthew S. Poole has the experience in all types of custody to do just that. Matthew Poole makes a commitment to each and every client to work hard to get that client what they need and deserve whether it is a divorce case or a child custody case. Matthew truly understands the intricacies of many issues related to family law as well as the emotions involved as he is a single dad of young son. In an ongoing effort to provide the very best legal help for his clients, Matthew Poole deliberately keeps a lighter caseload. Call (601) 573-7429 to set up an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances.