little positive boy at the monkey bars and his father watching and helping
One of the most repetitive calls a divorce lawyer receives is the call about summer visitation. In most cases, non-custodial parents have expanded time with their children in the summer, usually four weeks taken in two separate two week intervals. However, rarely does a non-custodial parent also receive his/her regular weekday or weekend visitation during the school summer break. In other words, summer visitation (like most holiday visitation periods) supersedes any regular weekday or weekend visitation.
Due to the recent shortening of school summer break, more and more Divorce Decrees are allowing the non-custodial parent to exercise their rights to visit with their children on a week-on-week-off basis during the school summer break. This provides the non-custodial parent approximately the same amount of summer visitation, but does so in way that prevents the custodial parent from having to go two weeks without seeing his/her children.
The Final Decree should state with specificity whether or not the non-custodial parent shall receive his/her expanded summer time with their children in addition to his/her regular visitation. The reason being, Courts want to avoid the non-custodial parent stacking his/her four weeks (or every other week) with the regular visitation, thereby essentially having the minor children the entirety of the school summer break.
Regardless of whether your Final Decree provides for an expanded summer visitation period, or a week-on-week-off summer schedule, you must read the language carefully before you start making plans that include your regular weekday or weekend visitation, or else you may find yourself in a contempt situation before you know it.
Divorce is Done, But Clean Up is Just Starting
torn divorce decree and cash, with broken wedding ring
Once a Final Decree of Divorce is entered, most clients let out a huge sigh of relief. However, your work is not done.
Your next step is to clean up the rest of your legal documents to reflect your new marital status. Specifically, now is the time to rewrite your Last Will and Testament, your Power of Attorney, and your Advanced Healthcare Directive (i.e., your living will). Often times your divorce attorney can assist you with this, and she may even reduce your out-of-pocket cost if she is still on retainer.
You also need to take time to ensure that you no longer have your former spouse designated (unless otherwise Ordered by the Court to do so) as the beneficiary on your life insurance policies, retirement accounts and/or investment accounts.
Lastly, double check that any and all deeds and titles are properly executed and filed listing your new marital status. Doing a final clean up after the divorce does create some additional work and headache, but I assure you that you will double your pain and suffering if you sweep this under the rug!
Divorce in dictionary
In Alabama, there must be grounds (or causes) for divorce for the circuit court to have the power to enter the divorce. These grounds, found at Code of Alabama 1975 § 30-2-1, are either fault-based or no-fault based. No-fault grounds are the most common grounds for divorce, and are as follows:
Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or Incompatibility.
Fault-based grounds, even if they occur during the marriage, are used as grounds for divorce less frequently than no-fault grounds, due in part to the fact that these grounds must be proven at trial. These fault-based grounds are:
- Incapacity or Impotency;
- Voluntary abandonment;
- Imprisonment in penitentiary;
- Commission of crimes against nature;
- Habitual drunkenness or drug addiction;
- Pregnancy at time of marriage;
- Violence and reasonable apprehension thereof;
- Separation without support.
If you are contemplating divorce, and you believe that any of the fault-based grounds above are present in your marriage, discuss them with your attorney at your initial consultation. Your attorney will be able to give you advice and counsel on what grounds your divorce should be filed.
Initial Divorce Consultation
This is a list of the top ten documents every client should bring to his/her initial divorce consultation.
Of course, the more you bring, the better informed your attorney is and the better advice she can provide.
However, this is a good place to start:
- Most recent tax returns, including W-2s, 1099s, K-1s, etc.
- Most recent pay stubs, showing any amount withheld for the cost of the family’s health insurance.
- Most recent appraisal on the marital home, or the Tax Assessor’s valuation notice.
- Most recent mortgage statement for any existing mortgage, showing payoff amount and monthly payment owed.
- Copy of existing life insurance policies, whether term or whole life, and the beneficiary designation.
- Most recent statements for all known bank accounts, whether savings or checking.
- Most recent statements for all known investment and retirement accounts.
- Most recent loan and/or credit card statements, showing principle balance owed, required minimum payments, and to whom said debt is registered.
- Title to any and all vehicles owned, including boats.
- A list of any family heirlooms and/or any personal property worth an excess of $500.
Remember, when scheduling a divorce consult, it is always best to ask if you should bring any documents specific to your situation. However, if you have these ten items, you can rest assured that your consultation fee will be well spent, and that you will leave your consult armed with the information and advice to make the right decisions.