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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.

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.

Why Hire a Lawyer for an Amicable Divorce?

Handshake man - women

So you are considering a divorce. But you also realize that this is an amicable situation. So why is it necessary to involve lawyers if both parties agree to the terms and conditions of the divorce?

The fact of the matter is, divorces are not usually so cut and dry. And these are the type of things that you will really want to read the small print. Lawyers study for years to be able to understand the wording and significance of different agreements and while you may not want to get anyone else involved, you will most likely be saving yourself future pain and frustration.

Like in most big decisions, you’re agreeing to the terms have some big consequences. You will need the help of someone who can advocate for you for custody rights, the division of property and assets, and other issues. Especially if either party wants to file a modification later on. In that case, you will want to have someone on your side who is familiar with your experience.

Though you may consider the divorce amicable, if it turns out to be not-as-amicable as you thought later on, you are taking some risks. The simple truth of the matter is that in order to protect yourself from being taken advantage of, you need the help of experts. Come to the Huntsman Firm and protect your future.

How Debt is Divided Up

 

When thinking about how to divide assets and property, it is easy to overlook debt, and how it will be divided between the individuals.

If both parties in the divorce are able to come to an agreement about how they will split their debt, the court will usually honor that agreement. However, if they cannot come to agreement about how to divide it, the judge will determine how it is to be divided.

Equitable division

When debt is equitably divided, the judge considers all aspects of the debt, of the divorce, of each individual and their circumstances. It is important to know that debts will most likely not be split down the middle if the judge is the one who has to divide it; it is equitable, not equal. For example, if the item or service is used exclusively by one person, generally, the other will not be forced to pay the debt for it.

Debts entered into during marriage

All debt entered into after the marriage is usually deemed marital debt. The house, a boat, or a car are all things that may have debt attributed to them, and will often  be split between the two parties. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you and your spouse bought a boat together during marriage, and then you kept it for yourself afterward, you would also be primarily responsible for the debt associated with the boat.  Medical expenses on behalf of any minor children will also be split between the couple.  If one party keeps an item with debt, such as a vehicle with a payment, then both asset and debt may be awarded accordingly.  Parties need to remember that there is usually no benefit without the accompanying burden, and visa-versa.

Debts entered into before marriage, and personal debts

Any debts either party entered into before marriage will generally stay with the individual whose debt it is, so long as it has not been commingled. The same may also apply to debts entered into for solely one person, especially if it is not used as a marital asset. For example, if (while married) you went into debt to buy an expensive personal computer for your own private use, you will likely hold onto that debt upon divorce. Proving this can be difficult sometimes, because it is not always completely clear who had sole use of a product or service.

Legal issues are not  simple.  There is not an easy, bright-line on every issue, espite what a relative or bar-buddy may tell you.  You should get excellent  representation, and you will  at the Huntsman Firm.

 

Contested and Uncontested Divorce

Courtroom One Gavel

In Utah, there are two types of divorce; contested and uncontested. Both may be settled outside of court, and both may require the Court’s intervention.

Contested Divorce

This method is best for those not able or willing to come to some kind of amicable agreement over things like child custody, alimony, and property. It is also used when a petitioner wants a divorce because of some fault their spouse has, or when only one party wants to pursue a divorce. Contested divorces more often go to trial and both parties will be compelled to make a case in front of a judge in that case. Even “no-fault” divorces may end up being contested if the parties cannot come to agreement on the terms of the divorce.

There are some advantages to a contested divorce over an uncontested divorce. For example, if all of the terms of a divorce petition are backed and supported by fact and by applicable law, a party may do better asking a judge to rule than trying to compromise against unreasonable demands. A party who believes their spouse has undisclosed assets or is hiding drug, alcohol, or abuse issues can invoke the process of formal discovery. A trial with rules of evidence—admissible, relevant, credible facts—established–may be the best policy in the long run.

Uncontested Divorce

Negotiations usually occur outside of court in an uncontested divorce. This is often the best option when the divorce is mutual and both sides are able to amicably agree on all important matters such as child custody, parent time, alimony, debt, child support, property division, and other issues. The only time they usually require a court’s attention is for a final approval from the judge.

This approach is usually much faster because there are few, if any, recurring court appearances and usually no lengthy process of legal discovery or preparation for trial. Most uncontested divorces can be completed within the 90 day waiting period from the date the petition for divorce is filed. It can also be much cheaper for both parties than a contested divorce—but beware! Don’t just agree to any old terms with the hope it will all “work out.” It usually doesn’t. Don’t agree to vague terms such as “parent time as the parties agree”.

Mediation can be less emotionally and physically taxing as well, since it is done outside of court in an positive environment, and both parties may come to amicable agreement over important issues. It is often easier on couples with children as well. One of the biggest advantages of an uncontested or mediated divorce is that it puts you in control of your divorce, rather than being subject to the rulings of a judge. It will be better in the long run, as you will be less likely to file a petition for modification later on. Mediation is required in all contested cases. It may be used if a case is only contested in one area, for example.

If you have any questions regarding contested and uncontested divorce, or any other questions about family law in general, don’t hesitate to call the  Huntsman Firm at (435) 628-2846.

 

 

Before Filing for Divorce

Divorce can be an emotionally and physically draining process that lasts for a long time, and can be costly. Before you choose to follow through with a divorce, consider the following.

Divorce is an event that takes place between a petitioner and a respondent. Some common issues that may need to be dealt with in court are child custody, child support, parent time (parental rights), alimony (also known as spousal support), and division of debt, property, and any retirement or pension benefits.

Before filing for divorce:

Select an attorney who is in good standing with the Bar, and whose practice is dedicated to Family Law. Avoid “self-help” schemes. These will cause you untold sorrow later. Avoid the “cheap” or cut-rate lawyers or anyone who guarantees a certain outcome. No responsible lawyer can guarantee any outcome or do a responsible job fora flat fee of any kind. Insist that your lawyer carry errors and omissions coverage (i.e., “malpractice insurance”). Avoid like the plague any who do not.

Be guided by reason and good sense. Good luck whomever you choose.