Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Mississippi divorce lawyer’

A Profile of Mississippi Divorce Attorneys: Part II

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Divorce attorneys—we all know of them, but how much do we really know about them?  In Part I of this two part series profiling the Mississippi divorce attorney, we addressed some basics about what a divorce lawyer is, when divorce law developed, and how one becomes a divorce attorney.  In this segment, we will continue our study on divorce attorneys, looking at the commonality of the practice, average pay scale, and the reason behind all those lawyer jokes.

How many divorce lawyers are there in Mississippi?

There are over 7,000 active resident attorneys in the state of Mississippi.  This amounts to approximately 23 lawyers per 10,000 residents, which is actually below the U.S. average of nearly 40 attorneys per 10,000 residents.  There is no official organization that provides data on the number of attorneys practicing within a specialty, however, a search of the website avvo.com, which allows users to rank attorneys, reveals over 100 divorce lawyers in the state.  Justia.com, another lawyer ranking site, lists over 200.  There are likely many more firms in the state who handle divorces as part of a more general practice.  In the Jackson area, over 60 attorneys advertise themselves as divorce attorneys.

What is the average salary of a Mississippi divorce attorney?

Divorce lawyers nationally earn an average of $56,000 annually, which is on the lower end of average for attorneys across all disciplines nationwide.  Salaries can vary greatly by region with those in the South typically earning less, though lower cost of living can equalize these two factors.

How many divorces occur each year?

A divorce occurs every 13 seconds in the U.S.  Over a two million couples will wed each year, and over a million couples will divorce.  Mississippi has a slightly higher than average number of divorces a year, with 4 individuals per every 1,000 obtaining a divorce.

Is the field of divorce law expected to grow?

Divorce law, and its broader accompaniment of family law, is expected to continue to grow as an industry.  Employment of divorce lawyers is expected to increase 13% in the coming years.  Interestingly, statisticians show that as the economy improves, the number of divorces will actually increase.  It is theorized that individuals in troubled marriages choose to wait out the worst of an economic turndown before feeling comfortable enough to finally pursue the divorce they have wanted.  Therefore, as our economy continues to shakily climb, the number of divorces might jump in coming years, meaning more business for divorce lawyers.

Why do attorneys have such bad reputations?

We have all likely heard a number of lawyer jokes and perhaps laughed at a lawyer’s expense.  While the public perception of lawyers is not all bad, some negative associations do seem to follow the practice.  One possible reason for this is the simple fact that people tend to only need an attorney when something has gone wrong, often terribly wrong, in their lives.  Whether it be a bitter divorce, criminal charges, or financial woes, you see an attorney when you are at your worst which might tend to color your perception of the field.

The media also has much to do with the bad reputation of lawyers.  Television shows and movies often depict the stereotypical greedy or money hungry attorney.  Further, the sensationalizing of certain lawsuits, such as the McDonald’s hot coffee suit, has led some to form a negative opinion of lawyers as greedy and willing to bring frivolous suits.

Despite unfair media depictions, most attorneys, particularly divorce attorneys, enter the profession with the desire to help their clients.  Divorce lawyers understand that they are assisting their clients through what is likely the lowest point of their lives.  With their unique skill set, thorough research, and dedication, divorce attorneys can lead clients through divorce to a brighter future.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole: Providing Skilled and Compassionate Representation

At The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole, we care deeply about each of our clients and devote an inordinate amount of time and study to ensuring our clients obtain the best possible outcome from their divorce.  Call attorney Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to see how he can begin shaping your tomorrow.

As the Economy Recovers, Many Predict the Divorce Rate May Actually Climb

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

It seems to run contrary to logic.  We have all heard that finances are the number one cause of divorce.  In light of this fact, it is easy to assume that the divorce rate would be at its highest in a down economy.  However, new studies reveal that the opposite might be accurate.  Divorce predictors divine that as the economy continues to shakily find its footing and enter a path to recovery, the number of divorces each year will actually increase.

Here is a look at the reasons behind the rise in divorces at a time when the economy is improving:

  1. Falling house prices, rising inflation, and high rates of unemployment may have put strain on the relationship—for some couples, the recent recession, and the ensuing housing crisis, caused the breakdown of their relationship.  Financial woes are the most common cause of divorce, and this downtrodden economy likely left the marriage of many couples in shambles.  Despite agreement between the spouses that the marriage was over, some couples put off filing for divorce for the reason discussed in number two below.
  2. The poor economy forced couples to stay together—during the economic downturn, many couples elected to stay together not out of love or devotion, but because they could not afford to do otherwise.  Many families struggled with underwater homes and joblessness.  A couple’s home, pre-recession, was generally one of the largest assets to divide.  With plummeting home values, divorcing during the housing crisis would have left many individuals with grave financial losses.  Further, if one or more spouse was out of work, it took both spouses pulling together to simply provide for the basic needs of themselves and their children.  Lastly, some couples could not afford the expense of a divorce during the recession times.  Accordingly, the most recent recession likely forced numerous unhappy couples to stay together.
  3. As the economy grows, people can again afford to divorce—the recession pushed many couples to desire divorce, and while the down economy forced spouses to stay married, today’s improving economy has provided them with the financial stability to seek that divorce they have been putting off.  As the housing market continues to rise, couples can once again count on their homes to provide a major source of marital assets.  The rate of joblessness has diminished, so many spouses now feel confident enough in the job market to set out on their own.  Further, more couples can simply afford the cost of divorce.  The number one concern of divorcing parties is the expense.  Divorce can come at a high price, between attorney’s fees, court fees, accountant expenses, and the like.  Obtaining a divorce while the economy was sluggish was simply impossible for some.

For these reasons, many researchers and divorce lawyers predict that the coming years will see a rise in the number of divorces.  This phenomenon is not unique to the United States.  In Britain, divorce rates reached new lows in 2008, just as the country’s economy was devastated by the financial crisis.

If you have made the difficult decision to divorce your spouse, The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole can help.  Matthew S. Poole is a dedicated, compassionate divorce attorney with a stellar reputation in the community and years of experience in the arena of divorce law.  At The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole, we understand that concerns of expense can lead to delay in seeking your divorce.  We are always open and up front about our fees and willing to work with you to see you obtain that divorce you desire.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Termination of Parental Assistance Due To a Child’s Poor Behavior in Mississippi

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Under Mississippi law, a child can forfeit both child support and college assistance through his or her poor behavior.  A case recently decided by the Mississippi Court of Appeals provides a thorough examination of the issue.  In the case of Stasny v. Wages, No. 2012-CA-00567-COA, decided June 25, 2013, Lori Stasny and John Wages divorced in 2004.  The couple had two children during the marriage, Sarah and Tyler.  Stasny and Wages agreed to a joint custody agreement wherein neither would pay child support and both would equally contribute to the children’s vehicle expenses and college trust funds.  Four years later, Stasny and Wages ended up back in court requesting a modification of the custody arrangement.  They decided that Lori Stasny, the mother, would have custody of Sarah and Tyler would be in the custody of his father, John Wages.

A year later, Stasny petitioned to have Wages’ parental rights terminated, and both children joined in the petition.  A guardian ad litem was appointed and informed the court that Sarah, then 16, desired to have Wages parental rights terminated so that she could be adopted by her stepfather.  However, the court could not find grounds for termination.  Stasny tried to negotiate with Wages by offering to terminate his financial obligations towards the children if he terminated his rights, but he refused.  The case sat on the docket unresolved.

In 2010, Stasny sought to be awarded child support and to modify the settlement agreement.  By this time, Tyler had reached the age of emancipation, so the only concern was Wages’ financial obligations towards 18-year-old Sarah.  A hearing was held, encompassing the request for child support and the still pending petition to terminate Wages’ parental rights.  At the hearing, Sarah testified that she had not seen her father in over two years, despite the fact that she was scheduled to see him every other weekend.  She said she had other priorities which took precedence over her relationship with her father.

Based on the evidence, the chancellor concluded that Sarah’s actions towards her father were clear and extreme enough to warrant forfeiture of her father’s financial obligations towards her and reversal of his agreement to pay for college expenses.  The court of appeals upheld this determination.

The court of appeals summarized the law in Mississippi concerning termination of child support or college education responsibility as follows:

  1. Termination of child support—in order for a child to reject the parent-child relationship to the extent that child support is forfeited, the child’s actions must have been both clear and extreme.  Courts will generally look at whether the child has abandoned the parent-child relationship, such as refusing to visit with or communicate with the parent for an extended period of time.
  2. Termination of support of college-aged children—if the child is college-aged, as was Sarah, the court need not find the child’s actions clear and extreme.  Instead, a parent’s duty to support a college-aged child is dependent not only on the child’s aptitude for college, but on the child’s behavior toward and relationship with the parent.  The court will look at whether the parent-child relationship makes the child deserving of the additional financial burden placed on the parent.  Mississippi courts applying this standard have found no obligation to support a college-aged child where the child refused to visit the parent and spoke disparagingly towards the parent.

If you are a parent seeking to terminate your parental obligations towards a child who refuses to have a relationship with you, it is imperative you consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney.  An action to terminate your financial obligations is complex and will require the assistance of  a skilled child support attorney.  Similarly, if you are a child who stands to lose the financial assistance of a parent due to your alleged poor behavior, you should act quickly to secure the representation of an experienced child support attorney.  You need to begin mounting your defense to such allegations.

The Law Office of Matthew S. Poole has extensive experience in a wide array of family law matters, including termination of parental obligations due to a child’s poor behavior.  We can assist you in your action, whether it involves an action to terminate financial obligations or defense of a motion to terminate.  Call us today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

Parental Alienation Syndrome—Grounds for Custody Changes in Mississippi?

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

While divorce is, regrettably, painful for all those involved, it can be especially hard on the children. Custody battles can get nasty, with the real losers being the children. Although most parents are aware, on some level, that “bad-mouthing” the other parent is not a beneficial practice, hurt and anger may step in, removing whatever self-control the parent may have been exercising. Parental alienation occurs when one parent actively seeks to pull the children away from the other as a form of retaliation for issues experienced during the marriage.

Of course there are various levels of parental alienation ranging from the occasional snarky comment to an all-out war against the other parent, using the children as pawns and with little consideration of the short and long-term effects. (Keep in mind that if the parent has committed acts of verbal, physical or sexual abuse against the children, leading them to shun that parent, this is not considered parental alienation.)

One Extreme Case of Parental Alienation

While divorced dads are the most likely to claim parental alienation syndrome, men are not always the target. Over a year ago, a lesbian couple made the news for what one partner characterized as a ten-year campaign with a clear goal of parental alienation. The parent who gave birth to the children via artificial insemination was awarded primary custody while the other parent was awarded visitation rights. Time and time again excuses were made, rendering the non-custodial parent unable to spend time with her children. While the judge in the case ruled the children (ages 11 and 14) no longer thought seeing the alienated parent was “valid or worthwhile” and that it was more important for them to live the way they wanted, a Court of Appeals disagreed.

The Court stated the view of the girls had been tainted by the birth mother, adding there was a clear mismatch between what the girls said and how they behaved.  The Court further stated that the original judge failed to factor in the crucial importance of the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the children and the damage they would suffer if that relationship was lost. The parent encouraging the alienation was sharply reprimanded by the court, asked to cease alienating the children against the other parent and was told custody could be given to the other parent if the alienating behaviors did not stop.

Occasional Alienators

Most divorced parents fall into this category; while they generally keep the best interests of the children uppermost in the equation and are overall fairly cooperative with the other children, anger may nonetheless break through occasionally, leading to an unfortunate comment to the children. These parents share information and actually make a concerted effort to avoid saying negative things about the other parent in front of or to the children. Even in this mildest form, the children can end up feeling torn between their parents. They may feel a need to defend the parent being disparaged or may feel they must side with the parent making the negative remarks. Either way, the children likely end up feeling secretly angry about the situation.

Full-Blown Alienators

Parents who actively and constantly say unkind things about the other parent in front of the children might be considered “mid-level alienators.” These parents recognize they should not be saying negative things about the other parent, but frustration and anger gets in the way. In order to assuage the guilt they feel for the negative remarks, they may tell themselves they are protecting the children from the other parent in some way. In extreme cases parents may carefully plan the alienation strategy with a clear goal of causing the children to refuse to see the other parent. This is the most dangerous form of parental alienation, and if it can be proved, courts may change the original custody agreement, evening giving primary custody to the other parent.

Getting Legal Help When Your Children are Suffering Parental Alienation

If you are a parent who has suffered parental alienation following your divorce, your first step should be to speak to Matthew S. Poole. As a single father with a young child, Matthew S. Poole fully understands the myriad of issues involved in child custody arrangements. We will fight hard for your parental rights and will deal with your individual situation with experience and compassion. Child custody issues are often fraught with emotion and we will do our best to minimize any negative fallout your children may be experiencing. Call (601) 573-7429 today to speak with a knowledgeable divorce attorney.