Untying the Knot: An Overview of the Divorce Process and Your Legal Options

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday May 9th, 2023.

Divorce can be an emotionally and financially taxing experience. Knowing your legal options available to you can make the journey less daunting. Here is an overview of the divorce process and its related legal considerations.

  1. Grounds for Divorce

Most states allow individuals to file for divorce on “no-fault” grounds, meaning you do not need to prove that either party was at fault. You also may be able to file on more specific grounds such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment.

  1. Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce in any state, one must meet its residency requirements. These typically involve living there for an established amount of time prior to initiating proceedings.

  1. Legal Separation

In some states, you have the option to file for legal separation instead of divorce. Legal separation allows you to live apart while remaining legally married – an excellent solution if you’re uncertain whether to get divorced or need time to work through marital issues before making a final decision on either.

  1. Mediation and Collaborative Law

Mediation and collaborative law are alternative dispute resolution methods that can help couples avoid litigation. Mediation utilizes an impartial third-party mediator who facilitates settlement; collaborative law utilizes attorneys and other professionals in an attempt to reach an amicable agreement outside of court proceedings.

  1. Litigation

If negotiations, mediation, or collaborative law fail to lead to an amicable resolution between spouses, litigation may be the only solution to finding resolution. While litigation may be costly and emotionally draining, it may also be essential in order to settle issues related to child custody, spousal support payments, or asset division.

When contemplating divorce, it’s a good idea to seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. They can guide you through the legal process while protecting your rights and interests.

Wickersham & Bowers provides comprehensive family law services, such as divorce, child custody, support payments, spousal support payments and property division. Our attorneys recognize the emotional and financial strain that accompany divorce; therefore, they strive to assist their clients through this process with dignity and empathy.

Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday April 11th, 2023.

Domestic violence is a devastating problem that impacts millions of people each year. It is an abusive pattern used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another person. Domestic abuse can take many forms, such as physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment. If you or someone close to you is facing domestic violence, take immediate action for yourself and your family’s safety.

One way to protect yourself from domestic violence is obtaining a restraining order. This legal document commands the abuser to stay away from their victim and refrain from contact. It may also include provisions like requiring them to live a certain distance away from their residence, workplace, or other places they frequent.

To obtain a restraining order, you must file a petition with the court. In your petition, you should describe any abuse that has taken place and why you need this measure. Additionally, evidence such as police reports, medical records or witness accounts may be needed to support your claims.

Once the petition is filed, a hearing will be scheduled where you have an opportunity to present your case directly to a judge. After reviewing all evidence, the judge makes an informed decision as to whether a restraining order should be granted. If granted, this order typically lasts between one and three years.

There are numerous advantages to obtaining a restraining order. Most importantly, it provides legal protection from the abuser and their actions. If they breach the terms of their order, they could be arrested and charged with a crime. Furthermore, having a restraining order gives victims and their families an increased sense of safety and security.

However, it’s essential to remember that a restraining order does not guarantee safety. An abuser could still violate the terms of the order or continue their abusive behavior. Thus, having a safety plan and taking other steps are paramount in protecting yourself and your family from harm.If you are struggling with domestic violence, there are numerous resources to help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 support and assistance; local organizations may offer emergency shelter, counseling services, or legal representation. 
At Wickersham and Bowers, we provide expert guidance and council when it comes to domestic violence. 

What You Need to Know About Divorce and Division of Property

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Wednesday March 15th, 2023.

Divorce is a complex process that can be emotionally and financially draining. One of the most complex aspects of divorce is the division of property. When a couple decides to end their relationship and get a divorce, they must determine how their property will be divided. This can be a contentious and complicated process, but it is important to understand the basics of property division to ensure a fair and equitable outcome.

Steps to Follow for Property Division

The first step in property division is to determine what property is considered marital property and what is separate property. The property you acquire during marriage is marital property, including assets such as homes, cars, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. Separate property is a property that was acquired before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage.

Once the property is classified, the next step is to determine the value of the assets. This can be done through appraisals, market research, or other methods. It is essential to have accurate valuations of all assets to ensure an equitable division of property.

After the value of the assets is determined, the next step is to divide the property. There are several methods for dividing property, including selling assets and dividing the proceeds, dividing assets based on their value, or dividing assets based on need. The process of division will depend on the specific circumstances of each case.

It is important to note that property division is not limited to tangible assets. Intangible assets such as intellectual property, patents, and copyrights can also be subject to division. Additionally, a debt must also be considered in the property division. Debts incurred during the marriage, such as mortgages and credit card debt, must be divided just like assets.

In some instances, couples are able to agree on property division without going to court, such an arrangement is known as a settlement agreement, and it can save time and money. However, it is essential to consult with an attorney before entering into a settlement agreement to ensure that it is fair and equitable.

Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Wednesday February 15th, 2023.

Visitation rights can include different ways the grandparents may be restricted from visiting their children. It can be due to divorce or separation between their parents. It can also include restriction orders in the child’s best interest.

Grandparent’s Visitation Laws

Almost every state offers grandparents the right to request visitation rights from the court to maintain a good relationship with their grandchildren. State laws vary depending upon the circumstances under which permission is required.

In many states, grandparents are restricted from meeting their grandchildren and require a court order for visitation. This is usually when the parents are separating or divorcing, or one or both parents have died.

In other states, spearing parents have a right to restrict grandparents from visiting their children. Such restriction can only be done for the children’s best interest. But most states allow the grandparents to request visitation regardless of the separation or death of the parents.

Application Process for Visitation

Grandparents apply for visitation rights to the court. The application can be considered based on the nature of the application of contact, the relationship between the child and the grandparent, and the safety of the children. The court ensures that the grandparents must not be potentially harmful to the kids.

If one or both parents raise an objection regarding the grandparent’s request for visitation, a proper hearing will be conducted to resolve the matter. Both parties provide evidence during the hearing as to why or why not the grandparents should be in contact with the children.

It is essential for the grandparents to have professional legal assistance to convince the court that they have a good and healthy relationship with their grandchildren and should be granted the right to visit them.

The court considers all the aspects of the situation when it comes to granting permission. They must ensure that the relationship between parents and their children is not affected if the grandparents have visitation rights. The overall well-being of the child is the priority of the court. Most of the time, if the visitation request is denied, it is under extreme circumstances.

Can I Change an Alimony Agreement?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday January 16th, 2023.

Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, is the funds a spouse is obligated to provide to the other spouse after divorce. Alimony is different from child support in many ways. The reason is that you can change the authority of the court over the amount of support you will provide. In the case of child custody, the court can make modifications to the agreement.

Requesting Alimony Modifications After Divorce

There are many situations under which a person may request a modification in alimony. Under certain circumstances, the court accepts the modification. Such circumstances can be due to any financial emergency, bankruptcy, etc. Financial emergencies can be in the form of substantial medical bills that a party has to pay because they are not covered by insurance.

Make sure that if you request a change in spousal support, you must have a legitimate reason for it. If there is no proper evidence behind your request, it will only lead to a waste of money, time, and resources. A simple complaint that you are not receiving enough funds or you suddenly feel like you are paying too much will not convince the court to follow through with the modification.

Apart from that, there are circumstances under which spousal support can be terminated. It is only possible if the receiving spouse starts living with another partner who is providing more than the previous partner. In that case, the dependent spouse no longer needs financial support from the previous spouse.

Another situation under which spousal support can be terminated is if the receiving spouse remarries. The spousal support agreement is immediately removed when the receiving spouse remarries because they are not dependent anymore. An alimony agreement also gets terminated by the court if one of the spouses dies.Change in the alimony agreement can be requested based on two conditions. Either there is a significant change in the income of the giving spouse or a significant change in the needs of the receiving spouse. Either way, proper evidence and a fact-based request are required to convince the court to proceed with the hearings.

Can I Move Out of State with My Children After the Divorce?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Friday December 9th, 2022.

Divorce comes with many complications, and having children adds up to it. Usually, after divorce, you plan to move on with your life, but moving out of state can be tricky if you have children. The court primarily decides child custody based on the parenting plan.

It depends on whether you have sole custody, joint custody, split custody, or visitation right. It is easier to move states if you have sole custody of the children and can make decisions. Still, the terms must be decided in court.

Court Permission to Move Out of State

It is obligatory in many states to get permission from the court before moving to another state with your children. The request is accepted or rejected according to the modification order. Even if you have sole custody, you will still need the court’s permission before moving out of state.

In most cases, you need to get permission from the other parent in order to get the request accepted. If both parties agree to this decision, granting permission from the court is merely a matter of filling out the necessary documents. The agreement papers are included in the modification plan and reviewed and signed by the judge.

If the other parents object to the move, it may become difficult to convince the court. However, avoid using written agreements between both parents without court permission. If the other parent changes their mind in the future, it can cost you a whole trip back to the original state.

What to do If the Other Parent Objects?

The court grants permission for the move under different considerations.

  • It will be easier to move if the move is mandatory and due to employment purposes. Assuring the court with a better income and lifestyle for the children helps you even more.
  • If the visiting time of the other parent is less, e.g., a few times a month, the move becomes easier.
  • If the state you are moving to is near, e.g., a couple of hours away, it can also help you get permission from the court.

Can I Change a Child Custody Agreement?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Monday November 14th, 2022.

Your life can change drastically after a divorce. The circumstances under which you are raising your children can vary considerably. Sometimes, the situation requires a change in the parenting time and child custody agreement set by the court.

To simply answer the above question, yes, the child custody agreement can be changed. It can be requested by one parent or by both parents.

You must know that once the court sets the child custody agreement, it legally bounds the parents to follow that agreement. Hence a change in that agreement should be appropriately done through court.

Requirements for Modifying the Agreements

Child custody modification is easy as long as you have solid evidence to support it. Any drastic change in your life, e.g., a long-distance move due to a job, a permanent change in your job timings, any medical condition, or due to the child’s own preference.

But make sure that the change is in the best interest of the children. 

Steps to Follow

The first step is to fill out a request form for a change in order, along with the reason for the change. If you are modifying the existing order, enter the previous case number and attach essential documents like the child custody application form, school grades, letters from the counselor, etc.

File the application form and the documents to the court, along with paying the fees. The fee is usually paid by the parent requesting the application. Once you get a hearing date, mail a copy of that document to the other parent. 

The main objective during the court should be to explain the reason for changing the timings or custody agreement and how it is best for the children.

In Case of Mutual Agreement from Both Parents

In the case of mutual agreement from both parents, the matter can also be settled without going to court. However, doing that can cause misunderstanding in the future in case one parent decides to back off on the agreement.

Hence, it is best to settle this matter through court, where parents can mutually request the change for custody.

Emancipation 101

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday October 18th, 2022.

Emancipation can generally be defined as an act in which a person usually a slave or a minor is set free from the authority of another person. It can be regarded as the liberation of the bounded individual from the duty to serve and obey their owners or parents.

Emancipation minors who are eligible to be given the same rights as adults. Most states have statutes specifically designed to govern emancipation. As much as the statutes may vary from state to state, most states allow for emancipation under the court’s review. This implies that all states have laws that define when, how, and the circumstances in which a child can be emancipated from their parents.

At What Age Can One Be Emancipated 

There is no fixed age for emancipation. However, some states such as California require that you must be at least 14, to apply for emancipation while in other states such as Mississippi there is no minimum age requirement. However, a minor is normally assumed to have been emancipated when to the age of either 18 or 21, this is dependent on the state.

What Happens If the State Does Not Have Specific Laws That Govern Emancipation? 

The court may act as an arbitrator of emancipation claims if the state does not have particular laws that govern emancipation. One will need a petition to be emancipated under the judicial decree. The petition can be done by either the person seeking emancipation, the guardian of a minor, or an acquaintance. The petition is filed at a county court. It must be accompanied by evidence of the conduct of both the minor or guardian that violates the rights and responsibilities of the guardian to the child and the child to the guardian.

Implicit Vs Explicit Emancipation 

Emancipation can either be thought of as implicit or explicit. Implicit emancipation occurs when one marries, is convicted of a felony, joins the armed forces, reaches the age of majority which is majorly 18 or 21 in most states, or permanently moves away from the parents. Implicit emancipation does not require a court order to be valid. Explicit emancipation cannot occur without a court order from a judge. It involves the liberating entity’s declaration before witnesses and a public officer that they intend to set the bound individual free.

Invalidating a Prenup

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Family Law on Tuesday September 13th, 2022.

Prenuptial agreements are typically created with participation from both spouses and can be very advantageous for all parties. Prenuptial agreements can occasionally be made in bad faith, with one spouse solely considering their own interests. 

What is a Prenup?

An engaged couple may enter into a prenuptial agreement or prenup before they get married. The agreement specifies each party’s assets and property. When deciding who receives what assets in the event of a divorce, the couple will consult the prenuptial agreement. 

What Makes a Prenup Invalid?

A court may invalidate the terms of an agreement if it finds that something illegal occurred during the filing or creation of the document.

Here are four reasons a judge may invalidate your prenup:

Failure to disclose assets:  One spouse’s failure to reveal the full extent of their assets prior to signing the prenuptial agreement is a frequent reason why prenuptial agreements are declared illegal. If neither spouse waives their right to review, the other must be informed of all assets and obligations for the disclosure to be deemed valid. The financial details cannot be purposely hidden, such as a prospective spouse transferring assets or giving them as gifts.

Signing without representation: Some states demand that both parties’ legal representatives be present when the agreement is signed. Without a lawyer present at the signing, the agreement can be wholly void unless one party explicitly relinquishes their right to legal counsel.

Coercion: A prenuptial agreement that was signed under duress or under the influence of a future spouse may be void. Threats or physical force used to compel someone to sign a document are referred to as duress and coercion. Duress and coercion include demanding someone sign a prenuptial agreement before they walk down the aisle and denying them the chance to evaluate the terms or obtain independent legal counsel. 

Improperly filed paperwork: A prenup should always be handled by an attorney that is well-versed in the process. A poorly drafted agreement or improperly filed paperwork can be all it takes for a judge to invalidate the document.

Please contact our office today for a consultation if you need help drafting a prenuptial agreement.