Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

Importance of a Father in the Home

Saturday, 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

Frontline Prospective On Child Custody Law

Friday, April 13th, 2018

Working under Matthew Poole, a saying that I hear almost every day in the office is: “if everyone was reasonable, child custody lawyers would be out of a job.” As the main individual who handles calls to our office, I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is true. Working in a family law office can definitely show you the bad side of good people, and the people that call our office are usually in situations where tempers and emotions are high. As the person in our office who handles the majority of these calls, my perspective is that there are things that people can and should do to both save money and to help their situation in the long run.

From the start of my employment here, I noticed some commonalities between the variety of different calls we would receive on a daily basis. The main commonality in every call that we have received is lack of communication between the potential client and the person they are having issues with. If I could give any advice to those in these situations it would be that communication is key. There are so many situations where if the two people could just put differences aside and start a conversation with one another, it would save them so much heartache and money. After an extensive case study on custody matters, our office has found that 25% of people agree to settle their case with the same agreement that was offered to begin with. This shows that if the two people could just communicate without getting attorneys involved, they would not waste thousands of dollars on litigation; giving them more money to spend on the child.

I understand that communicating in situations like divorce and child custody can be tough. But in those circumstances, particularly when children are involved, being able to talk to the other side is vital. For instance, being able to have an open dialogue with the other parent in a child custody case can and will make it easier to deal with them later on down the road. Even though it’s hard, it would be so beneficial for the children if their parents were able to talk and communicate with each other about the children’s needs. It’s not easy for someone going through something like this to shelf their emotions and be the first one to reach out and start a dialogue, but in all honestly it is the best course of action to resolve their issue. To put it simply, every dollar spent on a lawyer could be spent on the kids. Why waste resources on litigation when simple communication could resolve the issue and leave that money available for the child? Doing so would dramatically decrease stress and replace it with tranquility. Just remember, the happier that a parent is, the happier the child will be.

Price is certainly something that most potential clients are sensitive to, and therefore we encourage all of our clients to attempt to talk with the other side as much as possible. Communication can help iron out many of the problems present, and can lower costs greatly for both parties. We understand this can be tough in a situation where there was a falling out of a once caring relationship. Unfortunately, there are times where starting a conversation is next to impossible and getting an attorney involved is the only option. If you believe hiring an attorney is your only avenue of relief, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. We will do our best for you when communication has broken down in your relationship to get you a fair result.

Written by J. Tyler Cox, J.D. Candidate, Mississippi College School of Law, Class of 2018.

Alimony as Punishment?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Probably the most common misconception about alimony is that it is a punishment for the person who has been ordered to pay it. Some believe that if their spouse has cheated on them, or has engaged in any type of misconduct, that they are entitled to alimony simply based on fault. This is simply not true. Basing alimony wholly on whether the other party is at fault would basically make alimony an award for punitive damages, which is a totally different beast altogether. Although fault is a factor when considering alimony, the main hurdle in any alimony dispute is need.

Punitive damages are damages that exceed simple compensation and are awarded to punish a defendant. Punitive damages do not take into account the need or income of the person being awarded those damages, but rather serve as a warning or discouraging measure to make sure that other people do not engage in similar behavior. For example, punitive damages are commonly used in torts cases where a court punishes a company for a misdeed in order to stop it from doing the misdeed again and to dissuade other parties from doing the same. Punitive damages are responsible for the TV commercials and billboards that speak of large awards won for clients.

The purpose of alimony is to offer support for a spouse who is financially-dependent on the other. Even though fault is a factor that a court will look at, a court will focus primarily on the need of the spouse seeking alimony. In other words, alimony can be awarded to a spouse if that spouse is in need of support because they are not equipped to maintain the level of lifestyle that they have grown accustomed to while being married. For example, if a wife never had a job while married and now is getting a divorce, a court may award her with alimony so that she may begin to get back on her feet since the main income earner in her household is no longer present.

There are four types of alimony:  (1) Periodic Alimony, the more traditional type, with no set termination date and allocated month to month based on need;  (2) Lump Sum Alimony, awarded as a fixed sum that can be paid all at once or in installments;  (3) Rehabilitative alimony, developed to assist a spouse when reentering the workforce after their marriage; and  (4) Reimbursement Alimony, awarded to a spouse who supported the other spouse through undergraduate, graduate, or professional school. A court may award just one type of alimony or a combination of the types.

While alimony and punitive damages may seem the same, they serve two totally different purposes. Punitive damages are a punishment payment made out to the other party, and while people who are ordered to pay alimony may see it as a punishment, alimony is actually just based on the need of the other party. There are two totally different criteria when awarding both punitive damages and alimony. Courts in Mississippi will in fact look at fault when awarding alimony, but only after an intense need-based analysis by the chancellor to determine how much and what type should and will be awarded. Confusing these two are very common among people who come into our office, and we are well equipped to answer any questions that may arise when dealing with these issues. Contact our office if you or anyone you know have any questions about alimony, awarding alimony, or any other questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Questions for Your Attorney? Ask Them!

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

A lawsuit can be a confusing process for someone who has never been involved in one. They involve a language totally different than the everyday vocabulary of most people. Attorneys usually expect questions from clients because of the large amounts of questions they themselves had at the outset of their career. Divorce lawsuits are especially stressful, as they delve deep into some of the most well-guarded areas of a person’s life. Knowing what questions to ask your attorney can help very much in cutting that stress down, and to help you make sure your case is in good hands. Here are some examples of questions you should be discussing with your attorney.

Question #1: Have you issued discovery, and what did that discovery request?

Discovery is the part of the lawsuit where attorneys send requests for information to the opposing side to be answered. This often involves interrogatories, which are questions about the case to be answered, and requests for production of documents that may be used as evidence at trial. Discovery is an extremely important part of a lawsuit, as it gives a party the time to possibly object to some requests and to carefully build their case. Asking about the issuance and substance of discovery is a way for you to make sure that the attorney you hired is taking the right steps to build your case.

Question #2: What was included in the pleading?

Pleadings are how you ask the court for the relief you want, and therefore should be done with care and should include every remedy possible. For example, there are twelve grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Asking questions about those grounds can help your attorney know what grounds you may have, which will therefore help in crafting the best pleading possible for your case. It’s your story, so help your attorney tell it.

Question #3: What witnesses should I call to help my case?

The answer to this question from an attorney will most likely be “it depends.” Witnesses may testify to things they have personally seen or heard as well as things told to them. You know better than anyone the people in your life who may be able to help present your case, and your attorney’s past experience may help in discovering other potential witnesses as well. One witness’s testimony can be a huge difference-maker in a domestic case.

Question #4: What documentary evidence should I produce?

One question our office receives from clients almost without exception is “What do you need from me?” This often depends on what the other side asks you to produce. In domestic litigation, common documents requested involve finances and contact between a party and their spouse or child. Your attorney should know what document requests you can object to and which ones you will most likely need to produce to the opposing side. These documents will be the foundation of your case, and you should ask your attorney their plan for building that foundation.

Question #5: What things specific to my case can we ask the court to order?

Every situation in domestic litigation is different, as the experiences, wants and needs of different families intersect in each case. You should be asking your attorney what you could possibly ask the court to order that helps you in your situation. The attorney’s role in this is twofold: the attorney should have a basic idea of what the court will or won’t order while also offering a less emotional presence making the request. When a decision affects your family, you want to make sure it is the right one.

Your attorney’s role in your lawsuit is to help you navigate the rules and procedures of a lawsuit, and asking questions can help you give your attorney all the help they need in building your case, as well as making sure your attorney is properly representing you. Lawyers expect those questions, so ask them! Many lawyers will either know the answer, or admit that they don’t and will find you the answer. In lawsuits, the right questions can be the difference between a good result or a bad one. If you have questions about your domestic case, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. We will be glad to help you in any way possible.

The New Tax Bill: What Does It Mean?

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

The Republican Party’s new tax bill that is currently in the works will have an effect on Americans and the amount of money they take home.Taxes are a necessary evil that Americans are all too familiar with. Taxes pay for roads, schools and medical expenses for many people. They are also a constant reminder of having a smaller paycheck. The Republican Party’s new tax bill that is currently in the works will have an effect on Americans and the amount of money they take home. The size of this effect is to be determined, but this tax plan is something that married couples who are considering divorce should be aware of.

As is being heavily reported in today’s news, the House and Senate Republicans have both passed a version of this tax bill, and will confer in the coming days to agree on a final version. And while the impact on corporations is likely to receive more news coverage, the bill is being touted by the GOP as a plan to allow the average working-class American to bring home more money after taxes. Many Mississippians fall into this category, so the tax bill will have a significant effect on residents of our state.

Of course, a tax bill as majorly different as the one that is currently being voted on could have major implications on married couples, and therefore on divorced couples. There is talk of some deductions increasing, namely the standard deduction and child tax credit. This could impact familial decisions regarding custody of the children more than taxes have before, so that is something for parties to keep in mind when discussing child custody.

Although none of the proposed tax provisions are set in stone, whatever version of the plan that is introduced is sure to have an effect on the finances of Mississippians, and therefore an impact on their decision making. The most important thing about receiving help is asking. Taxes are not something that the everyday person (or many attorneys) knows a great deal about, and therefore there is nothing wrong with seeking advice regarding how this new tax plan may impact your family. Knowledge is one of the most powerful weapons you can possess, especially when it involves your family’s finances. If you have a question about tax implications in your divorce, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole, and we will be glad to give any advice we can about this impact.

How Long Does a Mississippi Divorce Really Take?

Friday, December 1st, 2017

One of the more common questions about divorce in Mississippi is a totally understandable one: how long does it take? Clients are often surprised at how long their cases last, especially when in their minds it is clear that divorce will only benefit everyone involved. The answer to the question of length of a divorce case in this state is often the classic lawyer reply of “it depends.” This is an honest answer, as the length of a divorce can be fast or slow depending on many different things, and a major part of the process is the client’s proper understanding of the fickle nature of time in a divorce case.

As we have talked about elsewhere on our website, there are two ways to get a divorce in the Magnolia State. One is an irreconcilable differences divorce, sometimes referred to as a “no-fault” or “agreed to” divorce. In an irreconcilable differences divorce, much of the timetable for the process is the 60-day waiting period required after the filing of the complaint. After that period, assuming that the parties still agree with the terms of the split, the final judgment need only be signed by a chancellor of competent jurisdiction to be final.

The other way to get divorced in Mississippi is through a lawsuit, which has a much more volatile timeline than an irreconcilable differences divorce. Lawsuits involve filing pleadings, serving process on parties, and getting discovery requests out, and that’s just to get started! After the suit is initiated, it is likely that several court appearances will be needed to properly address the claims. These hearings take place for a number of reasons such as obtaining temporary relief, compelling documents that were properly requested but not produced, or asking for a continuance. Once you combine these hearings with crowded court dockets, the timetable for a divorce can be a total mystery, even to experienced legal professionals.

The process of a lawsuit is unfamiliar territory for many clients. Ideally, every stage of a divorce would occur without incident and on time, and divorces would be faster and easier to obtain than they are. However, much like life and marriage, divorce is a complicated issue with many variables at play. Combining two parties, the lawyers, the court system, the schedules of everyone involved, and possible mishaps during the lawsuit makes a natural cocktail for a wait that seems like forever. In a time where people desire concrete answers to questions, there simply is not one with the amount of time a divorce lawsuit takes.

Almost without exception, divorces are expensive, stressful, and, above all, time-consuming. When you add the client’s desire to get a divorce and be done with the experience, the process becomes even more of these things. Our office believes that clients should know the dedication and time that a divorce may require, so that they do not feel like they are in the middle of the ocean without land in sight. This is of course not the answer that many seek, but we firmly believe that in situations like divorce that honesty is truly the best policy. If you are in need of help through a divorce, please call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole to schedule a consultation.

Are Attorney’s Fees in Child Custody Cases Negotiable?

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Clients have more ability to negotiate attorney’s fees in child custody matters than they often realize. It is obvious to anyone who has had the burden of hiring a qualified attorney in a child custody matter, whether a first proceeding (a.k.a. initial adjudication) or a modification of custody/visitation that cost is always a serious obstacle-even insurmountable to the person living paycheck to paycheck. Depending on a variety of factors, it is typical that custody cases in Mississippi Chancery Courts can take anywhere between 25 and 150 hours of attorney time, and often even more if an appeal is necessary. Experienced custody attorneys usually charge between $200 and $300 per hour, so doing the math can be a scary thought, to put it gently.

It is important that you consider several factors in hiring a domestic lawyer, particularly when obtaining custody of children is the paramount goal. For one, do not hire an attorney who has practiced for a short duration of time (i.e., less than 6-8 years). Also, exercise extreme caution when considering an attorney who practices in multiple areas. Lawyers that litigate injury cases, criminal matters, contractual issues, and custody/domestic law are jacks of all trades, and masters of none. I have rarely observed an attorney that can wear multiple hats effectively. The best family lawyers are focused exclusively in that area, and I battle with the best domestic lawyers in Mississippi on a regular basis. The volume of statutes and case law within even one area of legal practice is difficult to ever have a firm grip upon…..the more areas of practice, the more irons on the fire, and the fire will extinguish itself. Buyer beware.

So what is the best advice, the lessons I can help the legal consumer to benefit themselves and, in kind, their children? The following is a list of basic precepts that will ensure you do not overpay for your domestic attorney, in no particular order;

Don’t attempt to negotiate the retainer AND the hourly rate, pick one and run with it. Since most domestic litigation exceeds the retainer, I would suggest you offer your prospective attorney 20% less than their advertised hourly rate. Even if you can only achieve a 15% reduction you will save a significant amount and make your retainer stretch further than it would have otherwise.

If a significant amount of travel will be needed to prosecute/defend your case, offer the lawyer only one-half of the hourly rate for litigating, my quarter says they will most often accept.

Offer to pay a small expense stipend/retainer ($350-$400) in exchange for a reduced retainer/hourly rate…this will cut much of the hassle lawyers face with seeking expense reimbursement. Time is money for attorneys, and time saved is money earned.

You have nothing to lose, except, well….hard-earned money. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst you can expect is a resounding “No.” Most lawyers are realists, and we know that there are too dang many of us. You have more leverage in negotiating fees than you may expect.

Always take time to scrutinize your fee-statement. Lawyers are (believe it or not) usually fairly decent and ethical people. However, if something stands out as unusual or if there are an excessive amount of phone calls on your bill, don’t be afraid to question the veracity of those charges. It is not unusual for domestic cases to be 30-35% phone calls, but anything more is highly questionable at the least unless you require extraordinary client attention.

Hiring a domestic attorney can be a nerve-racking experience, and one that should not be taken lightly. Mississippians work hard for their money, and they deserve to feel that those concerns are being heard when hiring an attorney of any kind. Our office believes that when this issue is properly addressed, the lawyer-client relationship experiences growth in trust and understanding, making the unpleasant process of a domestic case a little easier on everyone involved.

In Loco Parentis: A Mile In Their Shoes

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Many of us have figures in our lives that mirror the role our parents play. Someone you trust, respect, and love. In some adult-child relationships, those people can step into the role of a biological parent. The doctrine of in loco parentis, which roughly translates to “in the place of a parent” addresses these relationships, and attempts to protect the best interests of both the child and the adult. Because of the delicate nature of these situations, Mississippians should know their rights when they believe that a child belongs with them instead of the natural parents.

When a person stands in loco parentis, they have assumed the status and obligations of a parent. Farve v. Medders, 241 Miss. 75, 81, 128 So.2d 877, 879 (Miss. 1961). This means that person provides parental supervision, support and education as if the child were their own. W.R. Fairchild Constr. Co. v. Owens, 224 So.2d 571, 575 (Miss. 1969). In loco parentis status carries the same rights and liabilities that belong to a natural parent, including a right to custody of the child against third parties. Farve, 128 So.2d at 879.

Although in loco parentis grants these rights, the rights of the natural parents are still superior. Mississippi law recognizes the natural parent presumption, which presumes that the biological parents of a child are the best guardians for that child. A third party’s in loco parentis status, standing alone, cannot by itself rebut that natural parent presumption. Smith v. Smith, 97 So.3d 43 (Miss. 2012). For a third party to rebut the natural parent presumption, it must be shown by clear and convincing evidence that 1) the parent has abandoned the child; 2) the parent has deserted the child; 3) the parent’s conduct is so immoral as to be detrimental to the child; or 4) the parent is unfit, mentally or otherwise, to have custody. Smith, 97 So.3d at 46. This is obviously a high burden, especially given that clear and convincing is the highest standard of proof used in civil courts. Once the presumption is rebutted, courts may then decide the custody of a child using the Albright factors.  http://www.mspoole.com/case-results/albright/.

Children deserve to have the best parental figures available to them. Unfortunately, sometimes the best parent is not the biological one. When someone stands in loco parentis to a child, that child depends on them to be there for them, and the law can help that person keep their rights to do so. If you or someone you know has a question about in loco parentis rights, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. Our office has the knowledge, experience, and passion needed to best address your legal situation, and to help you keep your rights to foster a relationship with a child who needs you. To schedule an appointment, call our office at 601-573-7429.

Constructive Desertion: When You Just Know

Monday, September 11th, 2017

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” T.S. Eliot’s words from his poem “The Hollow Men” can unfortunately describe the end to many marriages. Mississippi law states that desertion of a marriage may act as grounds for a divorce, but the statutory desertion period is one year. When that time period has not been met but there are signs the marriage is ending, courts look to constructive desertion to entitle a party to a divorce. Constructive desertion has been defined by Mississippi courts as conduct that renders the continuance of the marriage unendurable or dangerous to life, health or safety. Benson v. Benson, 608 So.2d 709 (Miss. 1992).

In Benson, the trial court did not grant the parties a divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. The husband alleged that the wife had committed cruel and inhuman treatment by habitual ill-founded accusations, threats and malicious sarcasm, insults and verbal abuse. The trial court found that the martial problems were mostly based on the incompatibility of the parties, which is not a ground for divorce in Mississippi. The Court of Appeals found that the trial court had correctly denied a divorce on cruel and inhuman treatment, but remanded the case for the ground of constructive desertion.

As you can tell by that standard used by the courts, constructive desertion can take many forms. What makes a marriage “unendurable” is different for different people. Mississippi courts have held that inexcusable, long-continued refusal of sexual relations warrants a divorce on the ground of constructive desertion. Tedford v. Tedford, 856 So.2d 753 (2003). As silly as that may sound to some people, this could signal that two spouses have basically become roommates, and the marriage has therefore been deserted.

This conduct may also stem from monetary support issues. If a husband has the means and ability to support his wife, and negligently or willfully does not, then the wife will be justified in severing the marital relationship and leaving the home. If the husband still refuses to support her, then he will be guilty of constructive desertion even though the wife left the house. Deen v. Deen, 856 So.2d 736 (Miss. Ct. App. 2003).

As dramatic as divorces often are, sometimes their end comes with a whimper and not a bang. Sometimes, you just know a marriage has no chance of lasting. Constructive desertion is a ground that many spouses in Mississippi can use to leave a marriage that has not yet reached the statutory time requirement. If you or someone you know is in a marriage that meets the criteria of being unendurable for a reasonable person, or if the person’s life, health or safety is in danger, call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole. Our office is experienced in courts throughout Mississippi with our full time and energy dedicated to domestic matters. This allows our office to know the nuances of the law, and to provide you with your best representation. Call the Law Office of Matthew S. Poole today at 601-573-7429.