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.

What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

A Legal Separation and a Divorce are almost identical in the fact that the procedures are the same, child custody and support can be awarded, and assets and debts will be divided in both; however, at the end of the process of Legal Separation, you remain married to your spouse. A Legal Separation is rarely necessary or beneficial for most people because if you obtain a legal separation and decide later that you want to get divorced, after all, you have to go through the time and expense of the Court process twice. Some notable exceptions might be if a party has religious beliefs that do not allow for divorce, or if a party has a chronic illness that makes obtaining their own health Insurance cost-prohibitive or impossible. If parties know they will never want to get remarried again, a Legal Separation may suffice for them.

Both Legal Separation and Divorce can be handled in a contested or uncontested matter, but both parties have to agree for a Legal Separation to be ordered. If one spouse wants a legal separation and one spouse wants a Divorce, the Court will grant a divorce. If you and your spouse are having trouble and could benefit from some time apart, you can separate without obtaining a Legal Separation.

What You Need to Know About Divorce in Mobile, Alabama

What You Need to Know About Divorce in Mobile, Alabama

Here in Mobile, our divorce court is called Domestic Relations Court. The Domestic Relations clerk’s office is located on the 9th floor of Mobile Government Plaza and the Courtrooms are located on the 2nd floor.

We have two judges who handle all of the Divorce and Post-Divorce cases, as well as all Petitions for Protection From Abuse (PFAs). Post-Divorce means all matters related to enforcement or modification of prior divorce orders. These judges are the Hon. Walter H. Honeycutt and Hon. Michael D. Sherman. These judges preside over what is probably the busiest court in the state, hearing thousands of cases per year each. If your divorce is handled in an uncontested manner, where the parties agree on all terms, your divorce agreement must be on file with the Court for 30 days, then the judge can grant your divorce. If your case must be handled in a contested manner, where discovery of information is done on both sides and the case is eventually set for trial, it typically took a case an average of 12 months to get to trial. Today, trial settings are significantly slower due to the COVID-19 crisis. As such, more cases are being referred to other avenues to assist in settling disputes, including the appointment of Special Masters to resolve discovery disputes and Mediation to try to achieve settlement of the entire case.

More information about Mobile County Domestic Relations Court, including the Court’s Parenting Guidelines and the Court’s Pretrial Order, can be found on their official website, here: https://mobile.alacourt.gov/domestic-relations/.

Communication Strategies for a High-Conflict Divorce

Communication Strategies for a High-Conflict Divorce


What is a High-Conflict Divorce?  A High-Conflict Divorce is one hallmarked by constant fighting, where one or both parties fight for the sake of fighting without regard to the effect on the family, particularly the children. There is a lot of overlap between high-conflict divorce and personality disorders or traits such as narcissism, controlling behaviors, and lack of empathy.

When you have children with someone, you will have to communicate with them, no matter how unpleasant it may be. Here are some strategies:

1. Stick to the issue at hand

When you contact the other parent to ask about your son’s baseball game, and they respond with a 10-page email diatribe how none of this would even be happening if you weren’t such a terrible person and terrible parent, do not respond to their attack. A high-conflict person wants you trapped in a power struggle with them and if you engage, they win. Avoid the temptation to defend yourself or reply with your own attacks, and keep the discussion to the baseball game.

2. Get it in Writing

A high-conflict person may often manipulate or twist reality, even to the point of telling outright lies. Whenever possible, communicate in writing to avoid the inevitable “You never told me that,” “I didn’t say that,” or even “You threatened me.” You can use text, email, or a host of the co-parenting apps and websites that are on the market now.

3. Take the High Road

When dealing with the near-constant needling of a high-conflict person, it may be tempting to engage in your own antagonistic behavior because you are tired of feeling bullied, such as bringing your girlfriend to a visitation exchange because you know it will make your ex-wife furious, or refusing to swap visitation days with your ex-husband when his family is visiting simply because you don’t want him to get his way. In the long run, these behaviors only hurt your children. Taken to the extreme, high conflict divorce can even be lethal, like this recent news story from North Alabama.

Co-Parenting Apps & Technology

Co-Parenting Apps & Technology

Technology and apps have come a long way in assisting in co-parenting. Co-parenting apps can provide an essential tool to aid in communication and scheduling. Some also offer secure messaging, which is useful in high-conflict custody situations. 

If you are in a high-conflict custody situation where you have experienced a lot of litigation, it can be very difficult to cobble together emails and text messages etc. to prove who said what when, so the messaging feature would be especially useful to you. Additionally, the app shows what information was shared and when so there is an automatic record. 

Here are a few options:

1. Google Calendar

Cost: FREE

Benefits: Can create a shared calendar specifically for co-parenting issues, while also having a work or personal calendar that only you can see right on your Google calendar app on your phone. Parents can share scheduling information, extra-curricular activities, and doctor’s appointments. You can also create a recurring event for visitation schedules, so you will always know whose weekend it is.

Drawbacks: No messaging, no ability to upload documents such as expense information.

2. Our Family Wizard

Cost: $99 per year, per parent

Benefits: Has all of the calendar features of Google calendar, with the added features of secure messaging and the ability to upload expenses that need to be reimbursed such as medical bills. You can also store family information such as immunization records and insurance cards. The use of Our Family Wizard has been ordered by courts all over the United States, so it is widely considered a reliable record for communications scheduling and expenses.

Drawbacks: For cash-strapped parents, the cost can be prohibitive. Amazon indicates a lot of 1 star reviews with complaints about the app crashing, not very user friendly, and not worth the money.

3.  AppClose

Cost: FREE

Benefits: Provides all the calendar features of Google and Our Family Wizard, has secure messaging, sharing and exporting of records, and incorporated expense reimbursement through the app itself. This app has scheduling templates or you can fully customize your schedule. Online reviews are excellent and indicate that this app is very user-friendly.

Drawbacks: This app is relatively new compared to the other options, so other parents, courts, or attorneys may be more resistant or skeptical of using it.

Six Tips for Finding a Family Law Attorney

Six Tips for Finding a Family Law Attorney

First of all, what exactly is family law? Family Law is an umbrella term that applies to any type of dispute that affects families, such as divorce, child support, child custody, adoption, termination of parental rights, petitions for protection from abuse, alimony, pre and post-nuptial agreements, and more. It can also include wills, powers of attorney, health care directives, guardianships, and conservatorships.

1. Ask your family and friends

Experts currently put the divorce rate at around 39 percent, so the odds are that someone very close to you has been through a divorce. Ask them what lawyer they used and what their experience was like. Keep in mind that every person and every case is different, so the lawyer that may have been a good fit for them and their situation, may or may not be the best lawyer for you.

2. Research online

There is a wealth of information online about attorneys. If they have a website, you can learn about their background and what kind of work they do. You may also have the opportunity to read some of their writing or watch them speak in a video (like on this blog). If they do not have a website or you cannot find them online at all, that may not be a good sign. 

In the Mobile, Alabama area, a lot of solo practitioners and older attorneys do not have websites, but it is not necessarily a reflection on their qualifications. It is easy for clients to post reviews about attorneys, so the process and the person is not quite as mysterious as they once were. This means it is also easy for a person who is disgruntled about their situation to hop online and blame their attorney, so online reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt too.

3. Check with the bar association

Information about attorney discipline, which is whether they have been sanctioned by the bar association for ethical violations, can now be found online at alabar.org

4. Call their office

If you cannot get anyone on the phone or you leave a message and no one calls you back, that does not bode well for future communication and responsiveness. Some solo attorneys may not have any staff or have a small staff, so do not be alarmed if you have to leave a voicemail when you call. If you do not get a return call within 24 hours, it is probably a good idea to look elsewhere. Once you make contact, you can ask questions about consultation fees and the types of cases they take.

5. Meet with them

There is a wide mix of personalities in the legal world, just like everywhere else, so it might be a good idea to try and meet with a couple of attorneys. You will be working with this person a lot, and they may be an excellent attorney, but it is not going to work for you if you and the attorney do not mesh well. 

6. Watch for red flags

An attorney can never “guarantee” a particular outcome in a case, so if the attorney is promising you the sun, moon, and stars, beware. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!