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/

What is Collaborative Law?

What is Collaborative Law?

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a method of alternative dispute resolution wherein the parties commit to resolve their dispute out of court. Because parties to a divorce often need to have a continuing relationship due to co-parenting of children, Collaborative Law is ideally suited to divorce and other family law matters.

How is Collaborative Law Different?

A key difference between Collaborative Law and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, is the parties sign a participation agreement that sets out the parameters, including voluntary disclosure of financial information, mutual respect, insulating children from the dispute, sharing of experts such as mental health and financial professionals, and no litigation. Each party is represented by their own lawyer.

What are the Benefits of Collaborative Law?

The benefit of Collaborative Law is that you and your spouse or partner control the process and make final decisions; whereas, in litigation, the Judge controls the process and makes decisions for you. You also control the timetable which is most definitely not the case when you are involved in litigation. Collaborative Law is also private and litigation is not.

Collaborative Law is just now starting as a process in the Mobile area but has been taking place around the country and in Birmingham, Alabama, for several years. You can check out collaborativepractice.com for more information.

If Collaborative Law sounds like it may be right for your family, please contact us for a consultation. You can reach us by phone at 251-432-7909.

What Are the Benefits of Mediation in Family Law Cases?

What Are the Benefits of Mediation in Family Law Cases?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitates you and the opposing party, typically your spouse or the other parent, in negotiating a settlement in your case. There are several potential benefits to mediation.

Benefits of Mediation

Privacy

Mediation is confidential. No one will know what goes on at the mediation except for the mediator, the parties and their attorneys. If you are able to negotiate a settlement, you do not have to air your dirty laundry in court.

Flexibility

You and your spouse or the other parent can negotiate a plan that is tailor-made for your needs and situation. You probably will not get that result from litigation.

Cost-Effective

If both parties are serious about resolving their differences out of court and coming to a settlement, mediation is typically far more cost-effective than protracted litigation.

Reduces Conflict

Mediation does not have the adversarial nature of litigation and can often reduce the conflict level between the parties. If you have to co-parent with this person in the future, less conflict in divorce helps contribute to a better long-term working relationship. In addition, there is a wealth of information out there that indicates that children of divorce fare far better when the conflict between the parents is kept to a minimum.

Is an Uncontested Divorce Right for Me?

Is an Uncontested Divorce Right for Me?

People are often unsure of how the whole divorce process works. The term “uncontested divorce” refers to a divorce where the parties do not go to court, and the divorce is submitted solely on the written agreement of the parties. If you retain this firm for an “uncontested divorce,” it will be drafted and sent to you for review. Once you approve in final form, it will be sent to your spouse for their signature. Nothing is filed with the Court until the agreement is complete and signed by both parties, and the Defendant will not be formally served with anything.

This means that you and your spouse must be able to agree on 100% of the terms of your divorce, including custody and visitation, child support, the marital homeplace, and disposition of other assets and debts. If you and your spouse do not agree on these major issues, then an uncontested divorce is probably not for you. I have certainly had clients over the years tell me, “we agree on everything except custody of the children.” Well, child custody is a major issue!

An uncontested divorce also does not afford the opportunity to conduct discovery, so if you don’t know anything about the family finances, then an uncontested divorce is probably not right for you. That being said, a case can start out as contested, and then eventually settle once both parties have the chance to get the information they need.

In sum, unless you and your spouse have open lines of communication, and you have discussed the divorce with them and are fairly certain you can agree, then it may not be wise to invest your valuable time and legal expenses on an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse have discussed and agreed on the terms, and you feel you have enough information to make an intelligent decision, then an uncontested divorce may be the route for you, as it is typically the quickest and least expensive way to get divorced.

Is Joint Custody Right for My Family?

Is Joint Custody Right for My Family?

Joint Custody is an arrangement where each parent has the children for equal (or close to equal) amounts of time. The most common schedule is that each parent has the children for one week at a time, typically exchanging the children on Fridays or Sundays. If you are considering a joint custody agreement with your soon-to-be former spouse or romantic partner, there are several factors you need to consider:

How do you make decisions?

Can you and the other parent truly cooperate and agree upon every major decision regarding the children? Maybe you can, but there is a distinct possibility you may not be able to do so for the many years to come. If this is a concern, you may need to name a “tiebreaker” parent for major decisions such as religion, education, medical/dental, and extracurricular activities.

Holidays

Each parent is going to want holiday time with the children. There may also be holidays that are important to one parent but not the other parent. For example, one parent may have a big family reunion on July 4th each year, while the other parent does not have any special activities that day. It may make sense for the parent with the family reunion to have that holiday. Other holidays may need to be divided up in a way that is fair to both the parents and the children.

Work and Activity Schedules

You need to be sure that joint custody will work for the work and activity schedules for your family. If one parent works overnight every night, and you have young children, joint custody is probably not appropriate. If the children have an activity that is at 6pm every Wednesday, but Dad always works until 7pm on Wednesdays, he may not need to have them on Wednesdays if he can’t get them to their activity.

Communication and Cooperation

Above all, communication and cooperation are key items in a joint custody arrangement. Both parents will have regular responsibility for making sure schoolwork is completed, medications are taken, and uniforms are sent back and forth as needed. This will require frequent communication and cooperation among the parents. If you cannot put aside your differences enough to work together on this level, then joint custody may not be for you.

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Many people are unfamiliar with the legal distinctions between powers of attorney, health care directives, and guardianships/conservatorships.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving authority to another person to act for you in either specified or all legal and financial matters. The person giving power of attorney must presently have the capacity to do so. That is, they must understand what they are doing and be able to make important decisions. If you are concerned that you may become incapacitated for health or another reason (for example, unavailable due to being out of the country), it is a good idea to give power of attorney to someone that you trust. Note: This person will have the authority to conduct legal or financial transactions as if they are you, with no further notice to or permission from you, so be very careful when granting someone your power of attorney.

Health Care Directive

A Health Care Directive, also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, or medical directive is a legal document specifying what actions should be taken for a person’s health if they no longer can make decisions for themselves due to illness or incapacity. In your health care directive, you make decisions about whether you would want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated, or whether to allow other treatment which would keep you alive but which could not cure you. You can also designate someone to make those decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Guardianship/Conservatorship

A Guardianship or Conservatorship is granted only in instances in which an individual is already mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot take care of himself or manage his affairs. There must be medical evidence in support of same presented for the Court to order a Guardianship or Conservatorship. A Guardianship applies to matters affecting the person, and Conservatorship strictly applies to their assets and financial affairs.

Please contact Herlihy Family Law if we can assist you or your family with a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, or Guardianship/Conservatorship.