Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

The Zen of Marriage and Divorce?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Years ago when I was in high school, the alternative rock band Bush had a song called “everything zen” that was popular amongst teens and twenty-somethings in an era dominated by the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.  Its seems like a million eons back to me at this point.  The song was my first introduction to the concept of zen, and I had absolutely no clue what in the world “zen” was.  After studying the zen philosophy and practicing divorce law for close to 2 decades, Bush had it right, everything is zen…even marriage and divorce.

If you want a quick description of my interpretation of zen, it is well summed with an acceptance of a concept embodied in a popular zen quote, which reads “the delusion of humanity is to believe that I am in here and you are out there”.  What is good for your spouse is most likely good for you and your children.  Your well being and their well being are actually, believe it or not, the same thing.  Marriages often fail because of the inability of one or both parties to recognize that their happiness is to the benefit of their spouse.  Many conceptual similarities are found in the reading of the Holy Bible.

This will be a short blog simply because it is confusing.  It requires some degree of taking everything you thought you knew and forgetting it all.  We are all selfish to some extent or another.  Letting go of that is the only thing that will make your marriage last. 

My advice to you if you are considering a divorce is to be the one who sees your equality in marriage.  If you let your guard down, take a leap of faith, remember the words spoken in your vows, you have done all you can and have earned a divorce.  You cannot control others, so start with YOU first.  In the words of Bush, everything is truly, well, zen.  If it does not work and divorce is inevitable, call or email us anytime.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Domestic Lawyer and a Single Father

Divorce Quick Guide…..the “Cliff Notes”

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Here is a quick guide as to divorce grounds in Mississippi……this list includes all recognized grounds and basic judicial interpretation of those reasons for legal rights to divorcing. Sometimes several are applicable to divorcing spouses.

FAULT-BASED GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE (Miss. Code Ann. 93-5-1)

Natural Impotency……..The Mississippi Supreme Court has held that divorce on this ground was not permitted where a woman’s physical condition made intercourse painful and where she pursued treatment. Sarphie v. Sarphie, 177 So. 358 (Miss. 1937

Adultery………Adultery is “voluntary sexual intercourse on the part of either spouse with a person other than his or her own spouse.” Owen v. Gerity, 422 So. 2d 284 (Miss. 1982). Adultery may be shown by circumstantial proof or a generally adulterous nature, combined with evidence of a reasonable opportunity to satisfy the infatuation of proclivity. McAdory v. McAdory, 608 So.2d 695 (Miss.1992). Direct evidence is not required. No need to have concrete proof!

Being sentenced to a penitentiary………..The statute was, several years ago, amended to read “sentenced to any penitentiary.”

Desertion….willful, continued, obstinate desertion for the marital space or domicile for a period of one year.

Constructive Desertion (as an option where physical desertion is not available)………Mississippi recognizes constructive desertion (where on spouse engages in conduct that forces the other to leave the marital home or renders the continuation of the marriage “unendurable”. (A subjective standard).

Refusal to have sexual relations (as a form of constructive desertion)…… This must be long-standing and without good cause, such as physical pain from intercourse.

Refusal to reconcile (as a form of constructive desertion and/or desertion).

Desertion may occur when on spouse leaves the marital home, then makes a good faith effort at reconciliation and the other spouse rejects the offer. Day v. Day. 501So.2d 353 (Miss. 1987).

Habitual drunkenness……..This one needs little explanation.

Habitual use of opium or “other like drug”….note that the Court of Appeals has broadened the definition of other “like” drugs. Marijuana is now considered a “like” drug by our courts due to the effects of its use.

Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment………The courts state that the cruelty required is not such as merely to render the marriage undesirable or unpleasant. Where both parties file on this ground, the chancellor must determine who is more at fault and grant the divorce to the other party. Hyer v. Hyer, 636 So.2d 381 (Miss. 1994).

Incurable Insanity at the time of the marriage, if the complainant was without knowledge of the insanity.

Marriage to some other person at the time of the purported marriage.

Pregnancy of the wife by another at the time of the marriage, without the husband’s knowledge.

Relation within the prohibited degrees of kindred, (a.k.a. incest).

Defenses to Divorce

Recrimination………Recrimination is the doctrine that if both spouses are guilty of fault, neither is entitled to divorce. Until 1964, this doctrine required that a Chancellor refuse to grant a divorce where both spouses were at fault. Miss. Code Ann 93-5-3 now provides that it is not mandatory that a Chancellor deny a divorce, even though the evidence may establish recrimination.

Insanity……..Insanity may be a defense to divorce based upon adultery, desertion, or cruelty.

Condonation……….Condonation is forgiveness of the marital fault by the wronged spouse, with the understanding that the conduct is not to recur. It is conditional, based upon the “good behavior” of the spouse at fault. If the conduct recurs, the defense is removed. Condonation may result from express forgiveness, or be implied from a resumption of the marital relationship after knowledge of the conduct.

Mere resumption of residence without resumption of sexual relations does not necessarily indicate condonation. Cherry v. Cherry, 593 So.2d 13 (Miss.1991).

Connivance………Connivance is one spouse’s implicit consent to the wrongful conduct of the other. The defense of connivance arises from the fault-based notion of a “wronged” spouse; if the innocent spouse did not object to the conduct, he or she has not been wronged. It typically applies to adultery claims.

Collusion……..Collusion occurs when the parties agree to frustrate the divorce procedure in some way, by creating grounds, or by agreeing not to defend a case, MS Code Ann 93-5-7 requires that for every divorce except those on the ground of irreconcilable differences, the parties must attach an affidavit stating that the action is not the basis of collusion.

Provocation……..This is a bar to divorce where the complainant provoked the conduct to the wrongdoing spouse most likely be used in response to a divorce action based upon desertion. This act allows a stay of proceeding for persons in the military and must be granted unless it can be shown that the applicant’s rights will not be materially affected by the proceeding.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer specializing in custody and custody modification matters. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

Do This, Not That…Common Custody Mistakes

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

“Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas”.

Eleanor Roosevelt

We receive about 4,500 phone calls a year, plus or minus. In 16 years of practice, my assistants and I have received prospective client intakes from more people than the population of a medium-sized city. Almost all of the calls have a common denominator; an inability to communicate with the “other” parent. It can be easily avoided…here is a basic blueprint. I hope it is helpful.

Every life struggle needs a hero. Why should it not be you? As a single parent, I have seen these challenges first hand. As a domestic lawyer, I have fought these battles for my clients just the same. So here are my thoughts and impressions about how to proceed when child custody is front and center in your life…and your kids’ lives even more importantly. So here is the entree’; what to do and what to avoid. If you follow this advice, parenting still won’t be easy, but life will be better for your children.

DO- Keep open communication with the other parent about childrens’ activities and progress.

DO NOT- Cut off your kids ability to talk to dad/mom or keep them in the dark. Children build self-esteem through belief that they have great parents…two of them.

DO- Remember that children are innocent.

DO NOT- Believe they understand adult problems, emotions, or opinions.

DO- Remember that your child is one-half of you, one-half of another.

DO NOT- Think that your child isn’t hurting because their other parent is not around…even if it is by their own bad choice.

DO- Realize that kids need love, even if the person loving them has serious flaws.

DO NOT- Require perfection from your ex…we all have flaws, but loving of our children is what matters most, your relationship may have been a simple moment in time, after all.

DO- Make sure to tell your kids that you love them, so does dad…or mom…and grandma.

DO NOT- Tell them that they were abandoned, that you are the hero, that you saved them from misery and suffering.

DO- Ask your children what they need from your ex, be it a new toy, a way to communicate, or a simple showing of affection.

DO NOT- Tell your children how you feel about the person who may have broken your heart, damaged your soul.

DO- Make sure your children enjoy being a child…it is a precious thing we all remember dearly.

DO NOT- Let them feel the real life burdens all adults feel every day.

Last thought…if all else fails, always take pride that you did your best and never gave up on the children brought into an imperfect, but beautiful world. Any judge will see you for your strengths first. That is the way it should be. In a custody battle, nice guys and gals finish first.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer specializing in custody and custody modification matters. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

Necessary Divorce Documents—The Short List

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Some of these may not be applicable, and often are not depending on the specifics of your case. Many of these are also applicable to any custody matter whether ever married or not. Perusing this list will give you a good feel for the things that can rightfully impact the outcome of your domestic case. Better safe than sorry! (Make sure to run through this list with your attorney to determine whether these are needed in your case.) So here they are, in no particular order.

Business income tax returns for past three to five years (federal, state, and local)

Individual income tax returns for the past three to five years (federal, state, and local)

8.05 Financial Declaration

Proof of spouse’s current income (last pay stub- several would be even better)

Proof of your current income (last pay stub- several would be even better)

Bank statements

Loan Documents

Stock portfolios

Benefits statements

Health insurance policies

Real property appraisals

Prenuptial agreement

List of personal property and approximate value, including home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, home office equipment, clothing and furs, etc.

List of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage and value

List of property acquired by each spouse individually by gift or inheritance during the marriage

List of contents of safety deposit boxes

Wills

Living wills

Powers of Attorney

Advance Health Care Directives

Personal property appraisals

Automobile insurance policies

Homeowner’s insurance policies

Life insurance policies

Employment contracts

Completed financial statements

Monthly budget worksheets

Other bills (e.g., school tuition, unreimbursed medical bills, music lessons for children, etc.)

Utility bills

Credit card statements (3 year minimum)

Property tax statements

Mortgages and property tax statements

Stock options

Trusts and declarations

Retirement account statements

Pension statements

Certificates of deposit and account numbers

Separation agreement(s)

Although this is not an exhaustive list, it illustrates the complexity of attempting to sever marital bonds and approximate a baseline for distributing marital assets. Every case has unique nuances, but starting here will give you and your attorney the ability to ensure you are not taken to the cleaner, so to speak. If you need assistance in formulating a pre-divorce plan, I have 16 years of experience and the tools to ensure you are treated fairly every step of the way.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who specializes in child custody and divorce, including modifications. He is a two-time recipient of the National Family Lawyer Top 10 Award and is an N.B.I. Certified Domestic Relations Instructor. He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 9 year old son, Lucas.

Ever-Relevant…The World Wide Web

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

By: Michael Louvier

Does anyone even remember when we referred to the internet as the “World Wide Web”? That is where the “www” in the site addresses that we all visit daily originated. Back then we tried to be cool and called it “The Web”… That was back in 1990 something prior to Al Gore inventing the internet (rumored, yet to be proven).

Today the internet is as commonplace as travel by automobile. Google and Google Maps have completely replaced the phone book as the easiest and most used methods of finding a business. The computer that we all carry around in our pockets (commonly referred to as a smartphone) will deliver you the phone number, web address, ratings, directions to and almost any other information that you could possibly desire about a business. The Yellow Pages have gone the way of the buggy whip. If you don’t immediately what a buggy whip is (or was), that’s my point.

Immediate and almost unlimited access to information is what the internet delivers. Prior to the “immediate information age”, lawyers actually had to research the law in books. By using the correct search tools and key words, recent and relevant case law is literally at the lawyer’s fingertips after proper training. Today lawyers and law firms save untold amounts of money on books and paper, and they save even more time and money (client’s money, thankfully) by utilizing the internet for legal research and the online filing of pleadings, motions and other case related Court documents. A lawyer may now “e-file” a pleading in a case from his home or office laptop computer. Furthermore, he can accomplish this task at any time of the day or night, regardless of whether or not the Clerk of Court is open. Alas, the internet has made the modern law office much more streamlined and efficient.

Please do not interpret the phrase “streamlined and efficient” to mean that your divorce and/or custody case will now be “easier” or even “less complicated”. Quite the contrary, the internet has made the profession of law more complicated and more competitive than ever. The fact is, everyone has access to this information. Everyone has become more streamlined and efficient. Lawyers, litigants, Judges, and even the children caught up in a custody battle have more information at the ready than ever before. The onus is; therefore, on the lawyer to be well prepared to use this wealth of information or, if the facts gathered by the other side via the internet (Social media) are harmful, he/she must be somehow savvy enough to not allow it to burn his or her client.

As Matthew Poole has previously stated in his article “Facebook: The Great Divorce Equalizer” (posted April 14, 2019): “…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.” More to that point, a Subpoena Duces Tecum served on the wireless provider will provide data regarding texts and calls – that is: who texted or called whom, and when, and how long was the conversation, etc.

This information can, of course, be very damaging to the divorce litigant with that “special someone” waiting in the wings as they text love notes to each other at 2:00am. This data could certainly be used to show that a parent has no idea that the teenager at issue in the custody battle is also texting and calling and snapchatting at all hours of the night and day – during school hours and instead of studying. This could be used to demonstrate a lack of willingness to actually “parent” the child or, even worse, the lack of ability. The Albright Factors, by default, as discussed on this blog site many times, just got introduced to the digital age and the 21st century.

As the love interest in the movie “The Social Network” (2010) told Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook: “it’s the internet…its written in ink”. So be aware of your digital footprint, as it is very easy to use against you in Court, or in your favor if your lawyer is inclined to do the dirty work against your ex for your benefit.

Michael Louvier was born in 1965 in Metairie, LA, graduated from Brother Martin High School in New Orleans in 1983, received a B.A. from University of New Orleans (1988) and a J.D. from Mississippi College School of Law (1994) and is a regular contributor to the blog tab on the world wide website of attorney Matthew S. Poole – www.mspoole.com. If you are reading this, then you obviously have access to the internet and are on the site. Odds are, you are no longer depending on a “dial-up” modem to support this visit. Please include this site into your favorites list and click onto this site often. And may the force be with you. (Sorry, I could not resist a 1970’s reference).

Michael Louvier is married 28 years (Tammy) and they have 2 children (Amy, 25 and Nick, 20).

TAGS: Family Law, Subpoena, Custody, Divorce, Social media, Albright factors

New Custody Rules…And Similar Advice

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Child custody cases are never easy. Oftentimes they require a year or more of litigation and many, many thousands of dollars. There have been several recent developments in Mississippi law that will affect each and every child custody case in this state, some are meaningful and will make a major impact, others will not. Custody matters are never straightforward and and those who believe they are simple likely need a straight-jacket and some serious psycho-therapy. And this is the reality when child custody is front and center in your life.

Easy advice is not readily available for those who are seeking simple solutions. There are a few recent changes to both statute and common law that will impact any child custody case in our state, although they rarely make outcomes differ. The basic paradigm is still in place…the best interests of the children will always be paramount. We have a piece of advice that is entirely obvious and commonly ignored…follow the existing court order precisely, do all you can for your kids, and never, ever fail to exercise visitation when it is availed to you. Be as involved with the kids as possible, help with homework, and do not let a new romantic relationship impact your little ones in a negative manner.

Chancery court is the sole arbiter of who wins child custody. Chancellors are the ultimate guardians of all children in their respective jurisdictions. Even though finances are of concern as well in every divorce, the clients we have the most compassion for are those who will fight to have their kids with them as much as possible. As a single dad, I share their raw emotion. It makes the job all the better to represent like minds.

Some recent legal changes that impact custody cases in our state include changes to the alimony laws which now present previously unforeseen obstacles, the judicial decision that marijuana use is a ground for divorce under the existing statutes and now considered tantamount to opiate use, and that habitual cruelty is now more easy to prove and encompasses more bad conduct as grounds for divorce. Child custody law has also been affected by these changes to cases that also apply to childless divorces. I want to be clear that all legal decisions regarding child placement are highly subjective and dependant on a myriad of factors.

Based on existing law and the subtle changes to Mississippi custody and divorce law, I have a few simple observations and a small piece of advice. My previous article the pointed to the absolute importance of continuing care of your child is a must-read. I also would like to point to the importance of moral fitness in any custody matter. Although it is often said that only God can judge, try telling that to your local chancery judge.

Law has and always will change. Your custody case will also have a changing life of its own. Being a little behind on your child support and then asking for a modification of custody as a defense is a very precarious scenario for any litigant. Never forget that one must possess “clean hands” in order to ask to court to intervene in their domestic case. At the end of the day, two wrongs never equal a right. That never needs to be forgotten.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Family Lawyer with 15 years of trial experience. He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 9 year old son, Lucas.

A Day Late and Dollar Short: The Huge Custody Hurdle

Wednesday, 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.

Facebook: The Great Divorce Equalizer

Sunday, 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?

Monday, 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).

Are Judge Ideologies Reflective of District?

Thursday, 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.