Alison Baxter Herlihy P.C. Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Alison Baxter Herlihy P.C. Celebrates 10th Anniversary

February 28, 2021 marks the 10th Anniversary of Alison Baxter Herlihy P.C.  These past 10 years have flown by!  We have grown so much over the years.  Back in 2011, Alison rented a one room office at 401 Church Street, but now we have our own building at 1751 Dauphin Street and are a three-person office.  Heather Dennis is our legal assistant/office manager – Heather keeps everything running here efficiently and is our first line of excellent customer service for our clients.  Walter Gewin joined the firm as an Associate Attorney in September 2020 and is already an invaluable team member who helps us serve even more Family Law clients.

I want to personally express how grateful I am to my family, friends and colleagues for their support over the years and to all of my clients for trusting to me to handle some of the most important and sensitive legal matters there are – their families and their children.  Family Law gives you a unique opportunity and responsibility to help people resolve complex changes in their personal lives, and I try to appreciate that every day.  Thank you from all of us at Alison Baxter Herlihy, P.C!  We hope the next 10 years bring continued growth and opportunities to impact our community and serve our clients.

New 5 Star Client Review on Google

We just received this new 5 star client review on Google:

I went through a long and difficult contested divorce with no minor children. Alison and her team were so good at advising me throughout the process. They were patient and understanding with any issue I had. If I had questions or concerns, Alison was able to answer and put me at ease. She has a gift for being the right balance of firm and compassionate. In preparing for trial, she was knowledgeable, skilled and thorough. I would recommend her and her team to anyone for any area of family law.

Most Common Reasons for Divorce

Most Common Reasons for Divorce

After 15 years of practicing divorce and family law, I sometimes think I have heard it all, but people continue to surprise me.  Although every case is different, we hear a lot of common themes over and over.  The most common reasons I see, ranked in order, for people getting divorced are as follows:

1. Lack of Communication or Common Interests.  This may not be the tabloid fodder you would imagine, but the number one reason I see for people getting divorced is a simple lack of communication or common interests.  I hear clients over and over say things like “we are like roommates;” “we never talk;” and “we have nothing in common.”  This may be the case from the beginning and becomes more pronounced as the excitement of a new relationship wears off.  Others may simply grow apart over time.  We also see many cases where people neglect their marital relationship and devote all of their focus to co-parenting their children, only to realize there isn’t much of a marriage left once your children grow up and leave the nest.

2. Money.  This is a big one!  “Financial infidelity,” which I would describe as lying or secrecy about money and spending is one of the top causes of divorce.  If one spouse is a saver and one is a spender, that is hard to reconcile.  If you get married, only to learn that your spouse has tens of thousands of dollars in debt that they never told you about, that is a pretty big betrayal.  Betrayal about money often bleeds over into other areas as well.  Marriage is a partnership, and honesty and full disclosure about your finances is key.

3. All other “fault” reasons, to include adultery, substance abuse or other addiction, and domestic violence.  

Those of us who have not had personal experience with divorce tend to believe that the vast majority of divorces fall into the “fault” category, where one spouse has done something terrible and the other spouse has no choice but to get divorced, but this simply is not the case.  Most people getting divorced are normal people just like you, believe it or not!  Even if your situation falls into one of these extreme scenarios, you can come out the other side a happier, and stronger person.  I always tell my clients, some people say life is too short, but I say life is too long to live in a miserable marriage.  You have options, and you have the power to make changes in your life.

Common Misconceptions About Divorce

Common Misconceptions About Divorce

There are a lot of common misconceptions about divorce.  Most people getting divorced have never had any interaction with the legal system or litigation so it can be very overwhelming.  Everyone knows someone who knows someone who has been divorced, and all of the sudden they think they know what is going to happen in your divorce.  Every situation is different, and there are a lot of misconceptions and myths out there.  Here are a few:

“I can’t move out of the house because that is abandonment.”  

The Alabama Code sets out one of the fault grounds for divorce as follows: For voluntary abandonment from bed and board for one year next preceding the filing of the complaint.  You would have to leave for over a year, over the objection of your spouse, prior to a divorce being filed, to constitute this legal definition of “abandonment.” You do not forfeit any legal rights if you and your spouse are getting divorced and you decide to separate.

“My husband cheated on me so that means I will get alimony.”  

Alimony is designed to her maintain financially dependent spouse in the lifestyle to which they were accustomed during the marriage.  While fault such as adultery will certainly be considered by the court, alimony is primarily determined by one spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay.  If you earn more money than your husband, even if he cheated on you, you are not going to get alimony because you are not the financially dependent spouse.

“Moms always get custody of the children.”

Courts are bound determine child custody based on the best interests of the children.  Frequently, that ends up being the mother, especially of very young children, due to the fact that, in a lot of families, the mother is the primary caregiver of the children.  Under the law, there is no gender preference for mothers over fathers in terms of custody, and the Court will consider the facts and circumstances of your family and your particular situation in determining what is best for the children.  Equal parenting time, or joint physical custody, of children is becoming much more common and mothers and fathers both work outside the home and equally share parenting responsibilties these days.

Tips for Telling Children about Divorce

Tips for Telling Children about Divorce

When you and your spouse decide to get divorced, one of the hardest things you can do is telling your children.

1) Be honest, but engage in age appropriate communication with your children.  A two-year-old and an eleven-year-old process and understand information very differently.  You need to do some research on age-appropriate communication given the age of your children.  The Domestic Relations Court in Mobile, Alabama requires divorcing parents to each undergo a class called Helping Children Cope with Divorce, which has some great tips.  You can learn more about the class here:

2) Present a united front (if possible).  If it is physically and emotionally safe for you and your children, try to sit them down and speak with them together. Maintain consistency in your messaging between you and your spouse.  If domestic violence is an issue in your relationship, then this may not be an option, and that is OK.  Every family is different, and safety must always be the number one priority.

3) Avoid assigning blame.  If you caught your spouse sexting with a co-worker, your children don’t need to know that.  Those are adult problems.  It is not important or helpful for your children to know whose “fault” the divorce is.  What is important is to communicate to your children that it is not their fault, and you love them and you are a family no matter what.  

4) Explain to your children what will happen next.  Tell your children what will change and what will stay the same.  If one of you is going to go ahead and move out, explain that to your children and what the temporary arrangements are for them to spend time with both of you.  If the children are going to have to move or change schools, you need to prepare them for that too.

5) Reassurance is of utmost importance.  Your children may be confused and scared, and you may be confused and scared too, but remember, you are the adult and they are the child.  It is your responsibility to tell them that, even though this hard, everything is going to be OK.  There may be a lot of uncertainty, but give them what reassurances you can such as that they will still get to see their friends and grandparents, they will still get to participate in their extracurriculars, and above all else, that you love them no matter what.  Your children are counting on you more than ever.

The First Steps to Take When Getting a Divorce

The First Steps to Take When Getting a Divorce

Divorce is an overwhelming and emotional process, to say the least. Many people who get divorced have never and will never have any other interaction with the legal system.  All of your friends and family, with the best intentions, suddenly become divorce “experts” and are ready to weigh in with what they think you need to do!  

First of all, if you feel safe and comfortable doing so, talk with your spouse. If you are on the same page, you may be able to resolve your divorce without litigation, which will ultimately be much less costly and stressful in the long run.

Seriously consider speaking with a counselor or therapist, even if you have never done that in your life. When you have been in an unhealthy relationship for a long time, it becomes difficult to trust your own reality, so it really helps to weigh out this important decision with someone who is well-trained and objective. A therapist can go a long way with helping you develop the communication strategies and confidence to get through what might be one of the most difficult times in your life.

Familiarize yourself with your finances and know where your important papers are, or obtain copies of them. Some examples of important papers are birth certificates, wills, deeds, tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements and credit card statements. When you are getting divorced, it is of utmost importance to know your own income and your spouse’s income, what you have, and who and what you owe! If you are concerned there may be debts you don’t know about, you need to run your credit report to make sure your spouse has not used your information to obtain credit in your name.

Be aware that, if divorce is imminent, then you and your spouse will be adversaries in a lawsuit and they may not have your best interests at heart. They may be trying to maneuver or obtain evidence to gain a tactical advantage against you in the case. Be aware that they could be recording you via audio or video, or even monitoring your email or social media accounts if they have access to your passwords. Everything you say, do, or post on the internet could potentially be evidence in your case, so be smart and cautious about what you say, do, and post.

Above all else, get your own independent legal advice by consulting with a lawyer, even if your divorce is “amicable.” Your own lawyer is the only person whose job it is to zealously advocate for you and protect your best interests.