What Makes a Family Law Firm Stand Out

Let’s say you’re preparing for a divorce and you know there are going to be some contentious issues. You and your spouse don’t see eye-to-eye on anything. You don’t know who’s getting the house, who’s getting all the other assets, or who’s getting custody of the kids. You’re worried that you might have to settle for a crummy apartment, a big child support bill, and occasional visitations with your children. You know you need a great family lawyer more than anything. How do you find them?

This is a question thousands of individuals go through every year, and that’s why I’ve decided to share my own system for choosing a lawyer. I call this the 10 Score because it adds up all the most important aspects of a lawyer you can know beforehand and gives you a handy score out of 10 so you know just how they rate before you choose them.

So, without any more delay, this is the 10 Score system:

  • Experience and Success (out of 3)
  • Attention to clients (out of 3)
  • Prestige (out of 2)
  • Location and localness (out of 2)

How do we apply this? To show you, let’s take an example of a perfect 10 law firm in my area, Adams Law Firm. Here’s how I’d score them:

  • Experience and Success: 35 years in family law and personal injury law. That’s a lot. 3/3
  • Attention to clients: The firm guarantees a personal, one-on-one relationship with clients. 3/3
  • Prestige: The law firm has an AV Preeminent rating and numerous awards. 2/2
  • Location and localness: The firm was founded by two brothers from the area who raise their families in the area. If you’re near them, you’re their neighbor. 2/2
  • Score: 10/10

As you can see, just by five minutes on the Adams Law Firm site, you’d have your score and you’d know you’re getting the right kind of lawyer for your divorce. Obviously, not every lawyer or law firm will hit these high numbers. That’s the point. You can score a law firm very quickly and move on when the scores don’t hit the high marks you are looking for.

Now, a word about why I grade in this way. To begin with, experience is perhaps the most important quality your lawyer can bring to your case. If they have had a long career with a lot of success, they’ll know the best way to approach your divorce. That is, unless they don’t make you a priority. That’s why attention to the client is equally as important in my system. If your lawyer has so many cases they barely have time to look at your divorce, you’re not benefiting from their experience, no matter how much they have. Prestige is another way of gauging the quality of the experience of your lawyer. If they have been working hard in all those years, they should have some awards to show for it. Finally, you want a lawyer from your area and you want them to feel connected to you and your divorce, so localness is a good indication of that.

I hope this helps all of you out there who are looking for a quality lawyer before a divorce. And good luck!

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Marriage, Prenups and Divorce

A common legal step that is taken before marriage is a premarital agreement, or more commonly called a prenuptial agreement or prenup. Most people going into a marriage hardly think that they may end up in a separation or divorce, yet it happens quite a bit in our society. This prenup establishes property and financial rights of each spouse in the event of any divorce. Today, approximately one-half of all marriages in America end up in divorce. Considering a prenuptial agreement is the wise choice to make, considering the likelihood of divorce in the United States. Not only do prenups protect assets of more wealthy spouses, but they also can protect family businesses and serve other functions.

Yet the choice is up to you. There are, however, advantages and disadvantages of getting a prenuptial agreement. Although laws vary by each state, prenups can potentially protect a business or professional practice so that it is not divided with the spouse in the event of a divorce. Or, sometimes a prenup can protect the debt-free spouse from having to assume obligation of the other spouse. Further, a premarital agreement can sometimes limit the amount of spousal support that one spouse pays to the other in the event of divorce. More commonly, prenups are designed to protect persons with substantial wealth and older individuals who are going into a second marriage. Yes, second marriages are becoming more common since the first marriages are failing at an alarming rate.

You will have to weigh the odds of signing a prenup. An obvious disadvantage of signing the prenup before you get married is that you are starting a relationship that sets forth agreements on what will happen if you do divorce. Some people may say that this is not the best way to start a marriage – with lack of trust.   Other couples may say that they are too much in love to worry about such issues, as they believe that they will live with each other forever, but one spouse signs it anyway. Sometimes, by signing a prenup, the spouse that has less money or assets is giving up their right to inherit their spouse’s estate when he or she dies. By law, you are entitled to a portion of the estate even if the other spouse doesn’t even mention you in his or her will. As you can see, it is important to be informed before signing a prenup – whether you are the predominant wage-earner who may have more wealth or whether you are the spouse who may raise the family and take care of the home. Sometimes the person that takes care of the home and kids is faced with a prenup that he/she signed before marriage. If he/she is a non-wage-earning spouse, sustaining the lifestyle to which he/she has become accustomed to during the marriage can be challenging. The prenup can substantially limit the amount of spousal support that he/she can obtain in the event of divorce. Getting the assistance of a family law attorney, like Kessler & Solomiany, LLC, may be helpful to sort out your questions and concerns. Being sure that your rights and interests are protected is always a major consideration in any premarital agreement.

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Research Shows Rise in “Gray Divorce”

As baby boomers age, they are initiating yet another social trend–a rise in divorce rates. According to a recent study from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) that polled 1,600 lawyers, 61 percent noted an increase in divorce cases with parties in the over-50 age group.

Lawyers call a divorce after 50 a “gray divorce.” High profile gray divorces have occasionally made headlines in the past five years, including the split of Al and Tipper Gore and Mel Gibson and Robyn Moore, but the actual statistics are startling: a report from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University found that in the United States, the rate of divorce among “adults ages 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2009.” According to that study, more than 600,000 people ages 50 and older got a divorce in 2009.

Researchers and lawyers have not linked the sharp rise in divorce rates to any factors in particular. However, both studies showed that wives were initiating gray divorces at higher rates than their husbands. Alton Abramowitz, president of the AAML, said the change must be attributed to a combination of factors, including longer life spans and ease of obtaining a divorce.

“Some people find a younger partner,” Abramowitz said. “Some people find their interests have diverged. Each case is different.”

Divorce can be an emotionally and financially taxing procedure, says the website of the Marshall & Taylor Family Law and Divorce firm. For those who are looking to end an unsatisfying marriage, seeking the advice of an experienced attorney can protect your interests and help the divorce proceed quickly. A legal professional may be able to help you in matters of divorce, child custody or visitation rights, alimony, and division of assets. 

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A Simplified Divorce is Faster and Costs Less…But It’s Not for Everyone

It is a common misconception that divorce is always contentious. Many people whose marriages did not work out get a divorce but remain friends afterwards. In some cases, they even decide to remarry! It is perfectly possible for a couple to get a simplified divorce which is fast, inexpensive and mutually agreeable. In fact, a simplified divorce in Texas dispenses with the services of a divorce lawyer, and the forms have been made available so that the couple can fill them out on their own.

However, there are very specific circumstances under which the simplified divorce is the ideal solution. The couple must be mutually agreeable to the divorce, have no children, and no property together.  If there is no property to divide, then there should be no problem. The same applies to child custody and support issues. But if there are, it is a different case. If any one of these conditions is not met, attempting to file for a simplified divorce is an exercise in futility, and the couple will end up re-filing for a regular divorce.

The issue of property division, in particular, requires extensive documentation of what the couple has earned or acquired during the marriage, including retirement and pension benefits. This is a complex proceeding at best, and it can become impossible to figure out without a lawyer. If there is a child or children to consider, a simplified divorce form is simply not the way to go. An article on the website of Woodlands-based law firm BB Law Group PLLC points out that while filing a simplified divorce does not require a lawyer, it is important that one understands beforehand the legal consequences of committing to such an agreement.

There is a lot to be said for a simplified divorce, not the least of which are the low costs associated with it. But one must always consider the legal consequences of the dissolution of marital ties to avoid problems later on.

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Alimony: Payment until Death?

Alimony is a payment, ordered by a divorce court, which must be paid to a former spouse after divorce. This centuries-old practice is somehow rooted from the idea that upon marriage, a woman would remain dependent on her husband until death. Thus, through alimony, financial support is provided for whoever was financially-dependent during marriage, usually the wife. Despite differences in alimony laws between states, means or types of payment are generally the same:

  • Lump sum, a large, fixed payment made in one installment, which ends upon the death of the recipient spouse; this payment may not be terminated (except upon the death of the recipient) or modified even upon remarriage or future changes in circumstances. Lump sum alimony is resorted to only when consented to or in extraordinary cases, such as when the spouse supposed to provide the support is totally unreliable.
  • Permanent alimony, which is a continuous, regular payment without a fixed end date; it goes on so long as the recipient has not died or remarried and as long as the payer is alive. Permanent alimony is actually intended to enable the recipient spouse to maintain his/her standard of living which he/she enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Temporary or rehabilitative alimony is support awarded to whoever between the spouses has a lesser earning; this support, however, ends when the recipient lands a job or becomes self-sufficient.

The gender-equality movement during the 70s paved the way for the acceptance of husbands, rather than wives, as recipients of alimony. Laws were made clearer too that anyone who would fail to pay alimony obligations, allowing these to go into arrears despite the capability to pay, can end up in contempt of court and serve time in jail.

Reforms are being introduced, however, on alimony laws in various states, putting the recipients of the payment on the losing end, especially those who have truly sacrificed their own educational and employment opportunities by giving all of their time and labor to the family, in order to allow their spouses’ careers to peak. After turning away from what could have been a promising future when still younger, many, today, will surely find that re-entering the workforce is much tougher than they think.

The website of Marshall & Taylor Law Firm, P.C., specifically mentions the necessity of alimony for those having a condition which prevents them from earning a substantial pay. Thus, cutting the amount of alimony or shortening the period during which it ought to be paid, will result to much difficulties for those who truly need them.

Filing a claim for alimony and deciding what type of payment to file for may not be too simple, though. Having a legal professional to help you pursue your case would be the wisest decision, if you are thinking of filing for alimony; just make sure you hire the one armed with knowledge and seasoned through experience.

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Marital Assets and Properties: What Goes to Who?

Divorce and all other issues related to it are painful and emotionally- draining experiences. Yet, couples go through the experience, especially if it seems to be the only means remaining, to close the chapters of a life of marriage that can no longer be mended.

Divorce opens a lot of fears and doubts regarding the kind of life you will have in the future. More than any other thing, the basis of this fear is actually the financial standing you will be cast into as your marriage is severed and you face the future alone or with your child/children.

Thus, aside from divorce itself, many other important issues need to be settled as husband and wife separate; one of these many issues is division of assets and properties. To be able to determine what goes to who, though, the court first needs to know which properties ought to be divided or more specifically, which properties are marital (the only ones subject to division) and which are non-marital (those acquired before marriage).

Properties and assets include employer-sponsored retirement savings plans or 401K, mutual funds, stocks and bonds, saving accounts, credit card accounts, country club memberships, pension and retirement plans, deferred compensation, tax refunds, life insurance, commissions and bonuses, antiques, art, vehicles and some others. With concern to real estates, these may be sold and the proceeds divided between the spouses or any of the spouses may claim these by buying out his or her partner’s share.

In some US states, assets and properties are divided equally between the spouses; in others, however, division is based on fairness and reasonableness, that is, equitable distribution. This latter form of division is affected by other factors, such as:

  • Income / property contributed by each spouse into the marriage
  • Length of the marriage
  • Standard of living during marriage
  • Health and age of each spouse
  • Earning capability and income of each spouse
  • Needs of the custodial parent assigned to take care of the child / children (if there are any)

The process of division is always a complex matter, even with a judge seeing to it. There are times too when a spouse is awarded properties that are irrelevant to his or her needs. The website of Holmes, Diggs & Eames, PLLC, also states how difficult reaching a settlement is, as both spouses have personal interests to protect. Thus, having a skillful and knowledgeable legal representative during the divorce proceedings will definitely work in your favor.

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