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Birmingham Divorce Law Blog

Beware of moving assets during or just prior to divorce

For many Alabama spouses, the timeframe leading up to a divorce is one filled with planning. Taking a proactive approach to structuring one's post-divorce life can make a world of difference in the months and years to follow and is a great idea. When making preparations, however, it is important to avoid taking any financial action that could be interpreted as depleting marital wealth.

This can be more complicated than it seems. Many actions that are perfectly reasonable can be construed as an intentional act, if and when one's spouse decides to paint things in those strokes. For example, a wife who spends her yearly bonus to furnish the apartment that she is moving into at the beginning of the divorce process likely does so in the belief that it was her earned bonus and not money that came from the family's savings account or other assets. However, the court is not likely to view things in the same light. Up until the time of separation, most income and assets are viewed as marital wealth and cannot be used for the purposes of one individual.

A prenuptial agreement is not the only means of protection

Virtually every Alabama resident is aware of the power of a prenup in protecting against financial loss. For those who have not tied the knot but are simply living together, it is easy to assume that a similar level of protection is not available. In reality, however, cohabitation agreements can provide many of the same protections that a prenuptial agreement offers, especially in regard to purchasing a home.

When an unmarried couple buys a house, they are not protected under the set of laws that govern divorce and property division. That means that if they end their romantic relationship and cannot come to terms on how to divide the value of the home, serious legal trouble can result. If one party can make a stronger claim on the home than the other, it is possible that an unfair division of equity can result.

Same-sex couples still face child custody obstacles

Many Alabama readers are aware of the recent legal changes that have paved the way for same-sex couples to marry. Even though the United States Supreme Court has addressed the matter and concluded that same-sex couples are entitled to marry, nontraditional families still face significant legal challenges. In regard to child custody cases, spouses who live in certain states can face an uphill battle when it comes to gaining rights to their children.

An example is found in a southern family that consisted of two women and two children. When the couple made the decision to expand their family, it was decided that one of the women would adopt a child on her own. This was prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, which left the couple with few options. Years later, the couple decided that the same woman would conceive and carry a child through in vitro fertilization.

Father distressed over child custody modification outcome

In a case that reached one state's highest judicial level, a man has been denied primary custody of his children, who are residing with a convicted sex offender. The matter has sparked debate across the country, as few parents in Alabama or elsewhere can imagine living in a scenario in which they are left feeling helpless to protect their children from harm. The child custody case may prompt legislative action in the state where the family resides.

At the center of the matter is a father who became concerned when he learned that the mother of his two teenage daughters had married a man with a prior conviction for molesting a child. Even more distressing was the fact that the child in question was the man's 15-year-old stepdaughter at the time the crime took place. Because the man's daughters are now 15 and 17 years old, the father felt that they were at risk by living in the same home with their new stepfather.

Rethinking common beliefs about divorce and what follows

One of the most harmful things that spouses can do to themselves at the end of their marriage is to fall into the trap of believing misconceptions about what their single life might look like. In reality, no one knows what the future holds, which underscores how futile it is to obsessively worry about one's post-divorce life. A far better investment of that time would be to turn one's attention to the legal aspects of his or her Alabama divorce.

One of the biggest fears that people have when approaching a divorce is the concept that being single will be a terrible experience. They may fear being alone, or they may hate the thought of having to make new social connections and forge their way in the world as a single person rather than as part of a couple. These fears are rarely based in fact, and they only serve to make spouses anxious and unsettled about their future. For many people, being single turns out to be far more fulfilling than they may have suspected.

Father loses child custody rights after leaving town

When parents are unable to see eye to eye concerning the care and custody of their shared child, things can quickly get out of hand. Child custody is an emotional state of affairs, and parents in Alabama and across the nation struggle to come to terms with having to share time with a former spouse or partner. It is easy to make child custody decisions that are based on emotion rather than reason, but doing so can have long-term detrimental effects to a parent's child custody rights.

An example is found in a West Coast case that has made headlines across the nation. With the consent of the child's mother, a father took his seven-year-old daughter for an out-of-state trip. When the time came to return the child, the father decided that he wanted to keep the girl in his care. At the time, there was no child custody agreement in place between the parents.

Gaining professional financial advice during an Alabama divorce

Understanding the ins and outs of property division options can be a challenge. For many in Alabama, that aspect of divorce is the most difficult to weather. Fortunately, help is available from professionals who are trained in the financial aspects of divorce. Known as certified divorce financial analysts (CDFAs), these advisors can help guide spouses toward the choices that are best suited to their unique needs and goals.  

A CDFA begins by meeting with their client to discuss their current financial standing, their projected financial needs and long-term goals. Next, various property division options will be discussed, with the pros and cons of each explained in detail. Whether it is the cost of maintaining and eventually selling the family home, the tax ramifications of cashing out retirement accounts or the division of marital debt, each decision can be weighed in light of the spouse's financial goals.

Adoption challenged in unique child custody case

When it comes to virtually any legal matter, jurisdiction is everything. This is especially true in family law matters, where the laws can vary from one state to another, and where there could be a clear advantage to having a case heard in Alabama versus a different jurisdiction. An example is found in a child custody case in which an adoption was challenged and eventually overturned.

The case centers on a little girl born to an unmarried couple. Shortly after her birth, the couple had paperwork drawn up to establish the man's paternity. However, within a year the mother decided to place the child for adoption. The father was notified and refused to give his consent.

2 tax issues to consider during an Alabama divorce

Dividing a family's assets is one of the biggest challenges for a divorcing couple. There are multiple approaches that can be taken, and each Alabama couple has a set of goals when it comes to splitting up their accumulated assets. When it comes to brokerage accounts, there are also serious tax consequences associated with various divorce choices. Couples should be aware of the tax obligations that accompany each option and make decisions that preserve the greatest possible share of wealth.

One mistake that many couples make is dividing shares of stock by simply splitting them down the middle. This approach ignores the fact that shares are often bought at different prices. When the time comes to sell those stocks, capital gains tax will be computed based on the difference between the purchase price and the sales price. This means that a spouse who walks away with stocks that were purchased for lower prices could incur a larger tax bill than the spouse who received the higher cost shares, even though the face value of the shares is the same at the time of property division.

New loan type could ease divorce concerns for some spouses

For many divorcing spouses, the primary concern is keeping the family home. Many people have a great deal of time, effort and money invested in their houses, and there are some who are willing to do almost anything to retain the properties during divorce. Unfortunately, retention might not be an option for some in Alabama. A new type of lending product currently being considered by British lenders could change that reality, and many American spouses are waiting to see if the "divorce mortgage" seems likely to cross the Atlantic.

When a couple has built up a significant degree of equity in a home, that equity must be divided during the property division process. This is usually accomplished when the retaining spouse cedes his or her interest in other assets to the departing spouse. However, when there are few assets other than the home, the party who wishes to retain the family home is placed in a difficult financial position.

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