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On Do-It-Yourself Divorce

No two marriages are the same. Likewise, no two divorces are the same. When contemplating divorce, some may attempt to do it themselves (DIY).

The best advice one can give about Do-It-Yourself Divorce, is don’t.

Divorce cases are made up of many legal and financial complications. Irreversible mistakes can easily be made when attempting to do it yourself.

There are many issues that may need to be resolved during a divorce, including but not limited to:

  • Child custody, child support, parent-time
  • Alimony (sometimes called spousal support or maintenance)
  • Division of debt, property, and pension and retirement benefits

Even if a marriage has only lasted two or three years, there are no children, no assets or debts, and comparable incomes and no alimony, doing it yourself is putting yourself at risk. There may be future developments, such as inheritance, lawsuits, bankruptcy, or other matters which could affect custody, pension rights, or other matters. Each case has its own attributes requiring professional analysis and advocacy.

In many cases, the decision to divorce is unilateral, meaning one party wants the divorce and the other does not. It is also very likely that divorces are highly emotionally charged situations which can cloud judgement or alienate children, family members, and employers.

Carefully weigh your divorce options. The bottom line is that every family, and every divorce, is different. When proceeding with a divorce, it is vital to get the legal counsel needed in order to adequately protect yourself.

At The Huntsman Firm in St. George, Utah, we offer legal advice and representation that will give you the options you need along with the assistance you are looking for. We focus on family and divorce law. We are committed to giving each case the attention it needs, and we have the experience and knowledge to help resolve your case and give you the best outcome under the circumstances. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.

 

Your Guide to Alimony

In its simplest terms, alimony is spousal financial support. This is not necessarily an automatic thing. It is different than child support or splitting property or debt or other assets. A judge will determine alimony only after the requesting party has officially requested it, and if certain circumstances exist.

The couple’s standard of living at the time of separation is the guiding principle of how much, if any, alimony is awarded the requesting party. Usually, both individuals are unable to maintain this standard of living they enjoyed at the time of separation, so a requestor will usually  have to  prove his or her case with the help of a trusted and competent attorney.  

Courts will consider the following

  • Financial circumstances and needs of requesting spouse
  • Financial circumstances and abilities of spouse paying alimony
  • Earning capacity
  • Duration of marriage
  • Custody of children
  • If one spouse paid for another spouse’s schooling or training.
  • Whether one of the individuals engaged in wrongful actions or habits that led to the divorce

 

Upon clarifying these factors, an amount will be decided upon by the judge. It is difficult to say how much alimony will be awarded every month.  A reasonable award should be  enough to cover reasonable expenses, but income or imputed income of the recipient spouse will be factored in.

Alimony is generally   available to the requesting spouse only for as long as the couple was married. For example, if wife and husband were married for ten years, alimony would  generally  only be paid for a maximum of ten years. Alimony payments will also be terminated if the requesting individual begins to cohabitate with someone else, or remarries, or extenuating circumstances require equitable treatment.  Age of recipient spouse can also be taken into account..

For all of your questions and concerns about divorce and family law, contact the professionals at the Huntsman Firm.  R. Clayton Huntsman focuses exclusively on family law, and has practiced law for over 37 years.

How to Change Custody

 

If you have children and are getting a divorce, you will have to provide  a parenting  plan. Legal custody and physical custody will be awarded to you, to your ex-spouse, or to both of you jointly.. If you feel later on that the custody arrangement is flawed, is not working, and meet the requirements mentioned below,, you may consider filing  a “petition to modify”. This pleading begins a process of responses, settlement discussions, and possibly trial.  The  outcome will require consideration of the following:

  1. Material and substantial changes in circumstances.

If there has been a material and substantial change in the life of either the child or one or both of the parents, then a court may so find.. These changes can range from a new job, religious change, one of the parents getting remarried, or a drastic change in health on either the part of the child or the parent. Also, when a child is 14 years old in Utah, the court will give added weight to the preference of that child.  However, just because one or more material and substantial  changes in circumstances have been made, there is no obligation on the court to change the custody arrangement.

  1. The best interests of the child.

If a party can prove that a substantial change in the life of the child has taken place, then a court will decide if the proposed change will be in the child’s best interests.  But “best interests” can be somewhat subjective.  It is not unusual for both parents to claim the best interests of the child or children can only be with the parent asserting it.  

If you are able to show there has been a substantial and material (i.e., “important”) change in circumstances, and that the proposed parenting plan  is in the child’s best interest,  the court will be more likely  to modify.

For all your needs and questions regarding divorce, parentage, custody, and other family law issues, contact the Huntsman Firm.

same name couple divorces

Same Name Couple Divorces

A couple by the name of Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt, filed for divorce after three years of marriage. Needless to say, they did not need to worry about changing their last names.

The Story of Kelly and Kelly Hildebrandt

The fact that they share the same first and last name is one of the reasons they got together in the first place, and it may likely be one of the reasons they decided to split up. Kelly Katrina, from Florida, ran into the Texan, Kelly Carl, after searching on facebook for people who shared her first and last name. Their relationship began long distance with emails and phone calls and then met face to face two months later. After some time, Kelly and Kelly became engaged and immediately their unique situation gained media attention.

Kelly Carl stated that he is unsure if his marriage was negatively affected by the media attention, but that he wouldn’t want a future spouse to deal with everything he had been through before. Ultimately, the couple stated their split was due to irreconcilable differences.

Divorce Cases in General

While this divorce case truly is one-of-a-kind, it is also true that every divorce case is unique. No two divorce cases are exactly the same, nor should they be treated that way. When it comes to getting legal advice, it is vital to seek experienced, committed and focused professional help. Getting legal advice from friends, family, or others who may have also been through a divorce is very risky. Every individual brings unique facts, history, and case circumstances to the court. Application of statutes, cases, and principles of equity requires skills and attention only a well-qualified and experienced attorney can provide.

The Huntsman Firm provides legal advice and representation in court to give you the options you need along with the assistance you are looking for. We focus exclusively on family and divorce law, and are committed to giving each case the attention it needs. We have the experience and knowledge to help resolve your case and give you the best outcome under the circumstances. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.

How to Protect Yourself When Leaving an Abusive Marriage

If you are caught in a violent relationship, your first priority should be to get yourself and your children to safety. To be safe from harm, you need to find housing somewhere the abuser can’t find you, whether it’s a women’s shelter, a hotel or the home of a friend the abuser doesn’t know. Never go to your parents’ house or to stay with a close friend, because he can find you there. The majority of battered spouses or partners are women, but if you are a battered man, the same advice applies to you.

Plan for Safety

Sometimes you have time to plan and you can put aside cash, preferably somewhere other than your house. Leave clothes and other important items with a friend in case you need to leave the house quickly. Document every incident of physical or emotional abuse in your household, whether it involves you or your kids. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends that you make a list of safe people to contact, memorize phone numbers of people or places to call for help, keep change and cash with you at all times and establish a code word to alert others for help without alerting the abuser.

You should also take important papers with you, such as your credit cards and checkbook, social security cards, birth certificates, copies of deeds, proof of income, copies of bank or credit card statements and any documentation that proves past abuse.

Additional Suggestions from the NCADV

  • If you’re staying in your home, have the locks changed
  • Don’t stay alone
  • Change your routine frequently
  • Think about how you’ll get away if confronted by the abuser
  • Meet the abuser in a public place
  • Contact people you trust at your workplace and your children’s school so they are alert to anything unusual

Child Custody

If you share legal custody of your children with an abusive spouse or partner, you need to make arrangement for neutral pickup sites or for others to pick up and drop off your kids. If you have sole custody of your children, but the judge has ordered some type of visitation rights, ask for conditions to be placed on that right. Consider a restraining order if you don’t think it’s safe to be in the same place as your spouse, and in extreme cases, ask the court to appoint a visitation supervision monitor.

Getting Through the Holidays with Your Ex-Spouse

After a divorce, approaching the holidays becomes difficult. You probably don’t want to spend time with your ex, but it’s important for your children to spend the season with both parents. If you’ve had certain traditions for years, things are going to change after divorce. To enjoy the holidays and create a good experience for your children, be flexible and open to change.

Avoiding Conflict

If you get along well with your ex, a holiday gathering with both of you and your kids makes sense. However, any risk of conflict means it’s better for each parent to have a separate holiday celebration with the children. Another important thing to keep in mind is how much alcohol you drink at these gatherings, as too much could cause you to become argumentative or hostile.

Make Plans in Advance

Discuss your holiday plans and schedules well in advance to prevent any misunderstandings or arguments about who has the kids at what time. Keep your kids in the loop early on so they know who they’ll be with and where they’ll be going.

Let Your Kids Have Influence

Let your children have input into the holiday plans. Think about their favorite traditions as you’re planning. Children need to feel reassured and have some sense of control amidst the family changes. Maintaining traditions in both households gives children a sense that not everything is changing and some things will stay the same.

Create New Traditions

New holiday traditions will make the season special and show that you can embrace the changes in your life. Volunteer work, crafts and community activities are all good ways to celebrate the holiday season with your children.

Reach Out for Support

Take care of yourself during the holidays. Get rest; eat healthy food and exercise, as this gives you more patience to be loving and respectful. Don’t hesitate to reach out to close friends or family members. You can even visit a mental health professional if you’re having a particularly difficult time.

Financial Tips during a Divorce

1. Get professional help

Divorce is highly emotional, which means you might not always be thinking clearly. Having a team of experts by your side will help you rationally navigate the divorce process. A divorce attorney, certified divorce financial analyst and mental health counselor are all great resources during this stressful event.

2. Organize your important documents

As soon as you have made a decision about divorce, collect the following:

  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Tax returns
  • Retirement account balances
  • Appraisals for valuable items

You should also look for money being secretly withdrawn from bank accounts and double-check tax returns for unrecognized income. Then look for line items on IRS forms that might be worth money and should be factored into the settlement.

3. Get a copy of your credit report

Credit reports should be carefully reviewed and spouses should look for loans or accounts they don’t recognize. If these issues are noticed, your lawyer can help you determine whether or not you’re responsible for any debt that has been incurred without your knowledge.

4. Establish your own credit score

Your credit score can drop after a divorce, especially if you don’t have accounts only in your name. Apply for your own credit card before your divorce is finalized, although your score will take a hit. You can use this card to make a few purchases and immediately pay them off. Just make sure you don’t incur debt and rack up interest charges, as this will make a bad financial situation even worse.

5. Create a new budget

You shouldn’t assume your expenses will be cut in half because you’re divorcing. Housing, transportation and utilities will likely stay the same if you choose not to move. Expenses like insurance can even go up after a divorce. Sometimes divorcees can keep the same standard of living, but most of the time changes need to be made.

6. Review your estate plan

If you’ve listed your ex as a beneficiary, you need to change that before the divorce is final. You don’t want your ex-spouse to get your assets if something happens to you. It also may be necessary to designate a new power of attorney and update your health insurance forms for health decisions. This will ensure that your ex is not left in charge of your finances and medical care if you become incapacitated.

7. Wait on major financial decisions

After a divorce, take time before making big decisions. Many people act rashly during a divorce without considering long-term effects. Don’t make dramatic decisions fueled by emotions during and after a divorce, as this can destroy your finances forever. You’re already losing your marriage; don’t also lose your finances.

Fathers’ Rights in a Divorce

Due to historical gender roles where women were considered the primary caregiver, it is still most common for mothers to be granted primary custody instead of fathers. This gender bias often leaves many caring and involved fathers disconnected from their children. If you are a father going through a divorce, you should know that you have natural rights and responsibilities regarding your children during and after divorce. These rights do not need to be court ordered, they are guaranteed by the United States constitution and the laws of your individual state from the moment you became a father.

Unless a court rules otherwise, your rights as a father include the following:

  • Being an involved influence in your children’s lives, interacting and spending time with them
  • Loving and nurturing the children without harassment from the other parent
  • Deciding where your children will live
  • Participating in the parenting of your children
  • Access to your children’s school and medical records
  • Participating in children’s extracurricular activities
  • Custody, care and control of your children
  • Choosing your children’s school
  • Determining your children’s religious faith
  • Making decisions about your children’s medical and dental care
  • Following your own beliefs and parenting style without interference
  • Guiding and disciplining your children
  • Choosing what is best for the children

Along with these rights, fathers have the following responsibilities as a parent:

  • Supporting children
  • Providing food, shelter and clothing
  • Seeing that children receive appropriate medical treatment
  • Giving your children access to good schooling
  • Protecting children from harm and neglect
  • Fostering their relationship with the other parent
  • Giving them all the love, nurturing and encouragement you possibly can
  • Keeping in contact with your child
  • Doing everything within your power to keep your marital problems and negative feelings from impacting your child
  • Behaving in a manner that helps your child trust you

You have the same legal rights as your child’s mother before and during the divorce. As a father you have the right to stay in the home you share with your children. You also have the legal right to refuse to allow their mother to remove them from the home. No matter what your ex-wife wants, your right to father your children is constitutionally protected.

How Juvenile Court is Different from Adult Court

The juvenile justice system is different than the normal criminal justice system. Juvenile court deals with minors who have been accused of violating a criminal statute and the proceedings are civil, rather than criminal like in an adult case. Juvenile offenders are accused of committing a delinquent act instead of being formally charged with a criminal offense.

When a prosecutor or probation officer files a civil petition that charges the juvenile with violating a criminal law, the juvenile case will officially begin. If charges are proved in juvenile court and the youth is determined a delinquent, the offender will come under the power of the courts. After this, the juvenile court has complete authority to do what it considers in the best interest of the juvenile delinquent. Juvenile court will usually maintain legal authority until the juvenile becomes an adult, but in some cases they will retain legal power for even longer.

Who is Eligible for Juvenile Court?

In most states, any youth under the age of 18 is considered a juvenile. However, in some states the age is 16 or 17, and in Wyoming the maximum age is 19. Most states consider children under the age of seven incapable of determining the difference between right and wrong or forming guilt. Parents pay compensation to anyone victimized by the acts of a very young child. Courts often deem parents unfit to care for a child who commits a crime at a young age and place that child into the custody of relatives or foster care. If a judge feels that a child was capable of forming criminal intent, they will be sent to juvenile court.

Cases in Juvenile Court

Juvenile delinquency cases: This involves minors who commit crimes, meaning offenses that an adult would be tried for in regular criminal court. Procedures in juvenile court are significantly different from those in adult criminal court.
Juvenile dependency cases: These cases involve minors who are abused or neglected by parents or guardians. The judge will ultimately decide whether or not the minor should be removed from a problematic home environment.
Cases involving status offenses: This only applies to minors and involves offenses like truancy, curfew violations, running away and underage drinking.

Common Juvenile Offenses

More than half of juvenile arrests are made for the following violations:

  • Theft
  • Simple assault
  • Drug abuse
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Curfew violations

Only about three percent of cases heard in juvenile court are violent offenses like rape, robbery, murder and aggravated assault.

Generally, the vast majority of juvenile court cases have involved male offenders, but the number of girls entering the system has risen in recent years. Girls now account for 27 percent of all juveniles facing proceeding in juvenile courts in the United States.

Juvenile Court Procedures

The procedures in juvenile court are drastically different from those of adult criminal court. The police, prosecutors, juvenile court intake officials and court judges have broad discretion to take more informal steps when handling the case. As a result of this, many young offenders never reach the point of a formal hearing. Juveniles do have the right to an attorney, but in most states they don’t have the right to have their case heard by a jury. Serious offenses are transferred to adult court in a procedure called a waiver. In these cases, juveniles have the right to a hearing.

Modifying Your Child Custody Agreement

In the United States, there are two parts to custody: physical and legal. Physical custody refers to where the children physically live and legal custody refers to the parent having the right to make important decisions about the child. Unless there is violence in the family, the child has special needs, the parents live far apart or there is another extenuating circumstance relevant, joint custody is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. A child custody agreement is legally binding and demands that both parents share the child according to the terms of that agreement.

However, there are cases when someone might want to modify child custody in the best interest of the child’s safety and well-being. The court will typically only change a custody agreement if something dramatically different is happening with one parent, referred to as a “material change in circumstances.” Material changes include a long-distance move, change in living conditions, change in the environment or a change in the parent’s ability to provide a decent home and good care for the child.

A specific example of a material change that would warrant custody modification: The primary parent was completely fit to provide care during the time of the original agreement, but has since developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol which inhibits them from caring for the child properly.

Modification Time Frame

The court usually considers it best for children to have consistency, and for this reason, most will not make a change within a certain time frame of the creation of the original agreement. The waiting period will vary by each state, but one to two years is most common. Of course, if a child is in imminent danger the process will be sped up so they can be safely relocated to a responsible caregiver.

Essential Questions for Modification

General factors to question:

  • Parents’ conduct and moral standards
  • Which parent is more likely to act in the child’s best interest
  • Which parent will allow the child frequent, continuing contact with the other
  • The depth, quality and overall nature of the parent-child relationship

More specific questions:

  • Will joint legal custody or joint physical custody be better for the child’s physical, psychological and emotional needs?
  • Which parent has the better ability to give first priority to the child’s welfare?
  • Are the parents able to reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest?
  • Can both parents encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and other parent?
  • What is the distance between the parents’ homes?
  • What are the child’s preferences?
  • Are the parents mature and willing enough to protect the child from their own conflict?
  • Can parents cooperate with each other and make joint decisions?
  • Is there any history or future potential of child abuse, spousal abuse or kidnapping?