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Father's Rights: Preparing for Your Divorce

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Divorce is scary for anyone. But when you're a father and it seems like the deck is already stacked against you, it can be outright terrifying. Thankfully, father's rights have come a long way. Father's are regularly being awarded custody or substantial parenting time. Understanding the laws and being prepared can greatly increase the chances that you will get the outcome that you want. Here are a few things you should know BEFORE you file for divorce:

1. The court cannot award custody to the mother simply because she is the mother.

That being said, the court does give a very strong preference to the person they view to be the primary caregiver. The court will evaluate the emotional ties that the child has with each parent. They will also look at who takes care of the child's day-to-day needs such as bathing, meals, and education. If you are seeking custody of your child, it is important that you can show that you are actively involved in your child's life. Go to the parent conferences and doctor appointments. Coach the baseball team. Know your children's friends. If you weren't doing these things before, do them now.

2. The court will look at the ability of each parent to support the relationship between the child and the other parent.

Do not, under any circumstances, use your child as a way to punish the other parent. Threatening to withhold parenting time or worse yet, actually doing it is highly frowned upon by the courts. The same goes for talking bad about the other parent to your child. Not only will you hurt your child, but you will also greatly affect your chances of being awarded custody.

3. Stability is very important.

The court seeks to provide as much stability to the child as possible. This is why they give preference to the primary caregiver. But it goes beyond that. The goal is for the child to maintain as much continuity with their previous life as possible. This can mean staying in the same house and keeping the same schedule. If possible, it is important that you do not move out of the family house and do not make any drastic changes to your schedule. Delay any job changes or moves until after the divorce is finalized.

Divorce can be scary. We can help. Contact us today.

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Lessons from Mary J. Blige's Divorce

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Music fans and those going through a divorce might like to know more about the end of Mary J. Blige’s marriage to Martin Isaacs. The couple filed for divorce in July 2016, and Isaac’s requested $129,319 in alimony every month. That might make the $30,000 Blige was ordered to pay instead look small in comparison, but the singer is likely not happy with this decision as Isaac’s waived the right to spousal support when the couple signed a prenuptial agreement.

The judge assigned spousal support so that Isaacs can enjoy a similar standard of living as he did when married, which is normal for divorce cases. Between attorney’s fees for her ex and retroactive payments, Blige might owe around an additional $200,000.

While it seems like money might not matter to a musician as talented and successful as Mary J. Blige, the entertainer is reportedly deeply in debt. Blige said she owes millions of dollars because of tax issues and no profit from a European tour. Blige also may not want to support Isaacs anymore after she claimed he spent more than $400,000 when traveling with another woman while married to Blige.

There are several lessons one can learn from Blige’s marital woes.

1) It’s important to create a fair prenuptial agreement. A prenup can protect the more successful spouse’s assets while still providing for the other spouse. However, a prenup could be unenforceable if it favors one party too heavily.

2) The circumstances of a divorce could influence the proceedings. If one partner does something like cheating or breaking the law, this might be taken into consideration by a judge.

3) A judge’s orders are not always set in stone. If a change of circumstance occurs, you can ask the court for a modification. This could be necessary if you lose your job or fall ill and can no longer make payments at the same rate.

For more information about divorce, contact us today.

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Alternatives to Traditional Divorce

Thursday, September 07, 2017

When most people think of divorce, they tend to think of it in terms of the traditional, or adversarial, divorce.

In an adversarial divorce, each spouse and their respective attorney face off in a court of law before a judge, who will then decide the terms of the divorce. The judge in such a divorce is empowered to decide every legal issue of the divorce, from alimony and child support to property division.

Adversarial divorce is built around one basic assumption -- that the spouses in the divorce proceeding see each other as adversaries and are unable to reach any amicable, mutually agreement divorce resolution without judicial intervention. Because of this assumption, traditional divorce can be very messy, unpleasant affairs which can leave both sides unhappy with the result. Traditional divorce can also add additional emotional strain to the situation that can cause lasting bitterness and negatively affect such issues as child custody for years to come.

Fortunately, divorce does not have to be a painful, stressful ordeal. Many couples would prefer to handle their divorce proceedings in a much more civil way, a non-adversarial way that would equally benefit both parties.

For these couples, there are two alternatives to traditional divorce, known as collaborative divorce and mediation, which, when successful, allows them to skip the courtroom and dissolve their marriage in a much more civil manner.

Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, the spouses and their respective attorneys sign an agreement to work together or collaborate, to reach a mutually agreeable divorce settlement in a civil, mutually respectful and mutually beneficial way. They agree to do this in lieu of taking the divorce case to trial with a judge.

This collaboration is often encouraged through the use of a 'poison pill' provision, or clause, in collaboration agreements. This clause is used to encourage the two sides to reach an agreement as soon as possible. If the two spouses do not reach a mutually acceptable agreement within a pre-determined time limit, both parties will have to start the process over with new attorneys. This can add considerable time and expense to the divorce process.

Mediation

Mediation is a perfect divorce method for couples who simply want to end their marriage as easily as possible and who do not have any lasting anger or other issues and simply want to end the marriage without the drama of a traditional adversarial divorce.

In mediation, the two spouses and a mutually accepted, neutral third-party, known as a mediator, agree to meet and to work out a mutually agreeable divorce agreement. The mediator will listen to input from both parties and work with them to create a fair settlement. Mediation is also a highly private affair since no one is involved but the couple and their appointed mediator.

In a traditional mediation, neither side is required to be represented by an attorney; however, engaging a lawyer to review a potential settlement is encouraged to make sure that both sides understand the legal ramifications of any divorce settlement.

Mediation can be a perfect solution for many couples.

However, there is no guarantee that mediation will work for everyone. It can take considerable time -- as well as re-starting negotiations -- to work out an agreement.

If you are considering divorce, contact us for more information on which type of divorce may be best for you.

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Navigating a Gray Divorce - Four Divorce Tips for Seniors

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Getting divorced in your senior years? Also called gray divorces, they are not that uncommon. Divorces between couples 50 years or older have doubled since 1990, according to a study by Bowling Green State University. Although many of the usual issues such as child support and custody are out of the picture, other issues come into play. Here are some things you need to know.

Retirement Issues

The money that you set aside for retirement may be split in half, depending on which state you live in. The division will usually be covered by a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order). Laws about this can be complex, so contact an attorney to help you figure out everything related to your retirement funds before they are divided.

Social Security Issues

Social security isn’t divided, but you may be entitled to derivative benefits on your former spouse’s social security records. This only applies if you are 62 years or older and have been married for more than 10 years. If your former spouse dies, you may be entitled to survivor benefits. Contact an attorney for more information.

Estate and Will Issues

Who will keep the house? Whoever keeps the house will probably have to give up something else. They might receive lower alimony payments. Keep in mind that if you keep the house, will have to pay for expenses such as property taxes. Another thing you might want to consider is rewriting your will.

Contact an Attorney

Don’t attempt a complicated divorce by yourself. Get a lawyer to help you navigate issues such as retirement, social security, alimony, and more. Contact us today for help! 

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Filing for a Divorce While Pregnant: What You Need to Know

Thursday, August 24, 2017

If you and your spouse just can’t stand each other anymore, filing for an immediate divorce may seem like the best thing to do. If, however, you are pregnant, things get a little more complicated. Here are some tips to help you out.

Learn About State Laws

Every state has different laws regarding getting divorced while pregnant. In many states, you won’t be able to finalize the divorce until the baby is born. In other states, you will be able to file but your spouse will be listed as the baby’s father. In yet other states, your ex won’t be listed as the father. Get a lawyer to help you out.

Who Will Pay for Health Care?

If your divorce is finalized before the baby’s birth, who will pay for your health care while you are pregnant? Usually, you ex-spouse does not provide health care for you, but the court may order them to help you out with health care costs if you are pregnant. After the baby is born, your ex may be required to give you monetary support under child support laws.

Child Bonding and Visitation

If you are a father, it’s important that you establish your visitation rights before the birth. The most important time to bond with your child is soon after their birth, but the mother will usually be awarded full custody rights as long as the baby is breastfeeding, so make sure you get some time together to bond. After the baby is weaned, you may be able to get overnight visits.

In any case, it's important that you don't try to file by yourself. Contact us today for legal help!

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3 Tips for Navigating Taxes When Filing for a Divorce

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Filing for a divorce is always a hassle. Dealing with taxes while in middle of the divorce process just makes things more confusing. Here are a few tips to help you out.

Know Your Filing Status

Your filing status depends on your marital status on December 31st of the year you’re filing for. If you were already divorced then, you should file as a single. If you were married, you’ll file as married. If filing as married, you can file either jointly or separately.

Communication Is Key

You may not want to ever talk to your spouse again, but it’s important that you communicate about filing taxes. You don’t want one of you filing jointly and the other filing separately. You also don’t want both of you filing separately and each claiming your children as dependents. This is a sure way to get the IRS knocking on your door for an audit. Also, remember that joint returns have joint liability for any funny stuff.

Child Support and Alimony

If you’re paying child support, that is not tax deductible. If you’re paying alimony, however, that is deductible. If you are receiving alimony, then that is reportable income. Keep in mind that if you are paying interim support without a court order specifying that you pay alimony, then you can not report it as alimony. There are some other instances where alimony may not be deductible, so learn about the rules.

Need help with filing for a divorce? Contact us for legal help today!

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Family Law: Divorce isn't war. It's the beginnings of Peaceful Negotiations

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Have you ever felt like you were the only person in a conversation? The other person seems uninterested, detached, or distracted? Or maybe it just feels like they are listening only well enough to see where the breaks in conversation are going to open up, and they are just waiting for their turn to talk. Chances are if you are in the midst of a divorce right now, you might not have felt like your soon-to-be former spouse was ever listening. What makes you think they are going to listen now? Why should they? After all, you are at war.

Divorce isn't a war. The war was your marriage, and now you are beginning the process of peaceful negotiation. Now is the time you both can continue on with your lives and are able to follow your own paths, without getting in each other's way. When navigating the mediation table, you might feel like you are in a similar situation as you were during your marriage. A lot of people are talking, but nobody is listening. The problem is both of you want to be right. You know you are right!

Not listening might have played a part in the end of your marriage, but that doesn't mean it has to continue into your new found life. The best way to listen is to stop talking just to hear yourself. The first step in getting someone else to listen to you is to listen to them. Stop talking. Wait. If they are still talking, wait until they are done, re-engage in the discourse, or allow your attorney to intervene.

Are you seeking a resolution in your family law case? The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The worst thing is that it makes both of you crazy. Mediation just seems to be pouring gasoline on the nearly dead embers of a campfire. But this isn't a war. This is a chance for you both to start new patterns and your parting of ways can be civil and dignified. If you have children, it is the least you can do for them. If not, it is the very best you can do for each other.

Contact us if you want to have your voice heard in mediation. This process is a long and difficult one, but it shouldn't drive you crazy. Break those patterns and start somewhere new today!

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Parallel Parenting in Family Law

Thursday, August 03, 2017

When you go to family court or mediation, in typical situations, the system deems that the best outcome for your children is to have both parents involved in their lives and for the parents to work things out amongst themselves amicably. This situation is also known as "co-parenting." If parents have difficulty getting along, the court may order for the parents to undergo co-parenting counseling. Ideally, parents come out of counseling knowing how to respectfully talk to each other and cope with relinquishing complete control over their children's medical, education, nutrition, and other needs.

But oftentimes, achieving that best-case scenario seems impossible. Instead, you may find that the other parent is such a nightmare to work with because they insist on negating everything you do or say just for the sake of it. Or you may find yourself in a situation where the other parent is trying to actively cut you out of parenting altogether, as you are unjustly accused of a litany of unfounded allegations.

In enduring such a contentious situation, sometimes the most prudent action you can take is to forego co-parenting, and instead, opt for parallel parenting. In parallel parenting, parents have minimal contact. That is, parents do not communicate with each other directly unless it's necessary, and only with regards to the care of their children. Research shows that parallel parenting allows high-conflict parents to maintain relationships with their children without dragging them into the parental conflict. Such a situation also allows parents to undergo a cooling-off period, where tensions lessen over time. Eventually, parents may even be able to engage in co-parenting.

Does parallel parenting sound right for your situation? There are some logistics to consider. For instance, will you and the other parent divide responsibilities over medical, educational, and other major requirements? Or will you continue to share major responsibilities and only split tasks for day-to-day routines? Another item to consider is how you will communicate. For example, is an application like Our Family Wizard appropriate?

qualified attorney can discuss these many nuances, and work towards obtaining an agreement or court order that best reflects your family's needs. An experienced attorney can also let you know what has worked for other similarly-situated families in the past.

Need a consultation with an attorney for your parenting plan? At Law Offices of Elena Mebtahi, we offer free phone consultations.

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Can a Parent Have Joint Custody and Still Need to Pay Child Support?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Many times parents will seek joint custody of a child not just because they want to spend time with them, but because they think that it means they won't need to pay child support. However, the unfortunate truth, if you are trying to avoid child support, is that the courts treat child support and custody as two different considerations, as they should since they are two very different concerns.

The truth is that you can have joint custody, but you can also end up paying child support as well. The amount of child support you pay is determined using the income shares models. This model takes the income of both parents then uses it to determine support obligation. The benefit to child support, if you have joint custody, is that you may end up paying less. Since the parents share custody, the amount of child support is often lower due to both parents sharing the burden of providing food, shelter, utilities, clothing, and other needs while living at both parent's houses for the determined amount of time.

However, child support is typically paid by the non-custody holding parent, so in joint custody who pays? Typically, if you have joint custody, the parent who has less custody will pay child support to the primary care taker. However, if one parent makes drastically more than the other, they also may end up paying some child support as well.

If you are getting a divorce and trying to get joint custody or determining child support, contact us today. The Law Offices of Elena Mebtahi are dedicated to getting you the best possible outcomes in all Family Law cases.

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Will Dating During a Divorce Affect My Case?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Depending on the nature of a marriage, getting a divorce may seem like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders rather than something to be sad about. However, while you may be excited to get out there and mingle with other singles, by dating during a divorce you may risk reaping some negative consequences. Read More



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