Leslie Copeland Law

Divorce

“After Care” For Divorce and Custody Cases

Family LawLeslie Copeland
800426_1.jpg

You’re probably reading this because your case has come to an end, whether you’re (finally) divorced or your custody case has been resolved. What do you do now? This guide is intended to help you navigate the days, months and years to come, so that you’re prepared if you ever need to come back to court. Not all of it will apply to you, but hopefully, some of it will.

Paperwork

  • Read your paperwork carefully. Then re-read it again periodically. Some of the language can be technical. Make sure you understand what you’re reading. If you have any questions, just ask. But remember the phrase, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Just because you didn’t read or understand your paperwork doesn’t mean you haven’t violated it. Be sure you are very familiar with what you’re supposed to do, and not supposed to do.

    1. What happens if you don’t follow your paperwork, you ask? Well, then you could be looking at the Big C - CONTEMPT. You do NOT want to be in contempt. If you violate the paperwork, the other party can make you come to court and explain why you didn’t follow it. And trust me, the judges are not sympathetic. They can fine you, and even jail you. So be sure you follow it to a T.

  • Make sure you have both hard copies and an electronic copy of your paperwork. I suggest keeping copies close at hand, whether in a file folder or on your phone. You might also want to give copies to your children’s school, daycare, doctor, or other providers, so everyone is on the same page about custody and visitation.

Child Support

  • Read your paperwork to find out who is supposed to set up the child support case. Almost all cases require that child support be paid through the Arkansas Child Support Clearinghouse. In order for it to be paid, first a case has to be set up. Then you and the other side should both receive paperwork in the mail explaining the different ways you can pay and the different ways you can receive. The first payments may come via check, but you can later set up direct deposit.  

  • Keep your child support case number handy. If you ever need to call the 1-800 number, this is the first thing they will ask for. Keep in mind that you can periodically request an accounting from the Clearinghouse, which will show all payments that have been made.

  • Pay your child support directly to the other party until the case is set up. Sometimes it will take a couple of weeks to get the case going. Until then, you should pay the other party directly via check or some other provable method.

Record Keeping

  • Keep good records of the communications between you and the other party. I cannot tell you how many times people come to me with complaints but then have lost the text messages to back them up. What you do is: screenshot the relevant text messages and then email them to yourself so that if your phone is lost or broken, the text messages are still saved somewhere. There are also apps that will download all of your communications, which is a great idea.

  • Screenshot relevant Facebook posts, and anything else that could be relevant later. You never know what you might need. If the other party or their family is spouting off on Facebook, screenshot it. If they leave you an ugly voicemail, save it to your email. Do not lose this stuff because you never know when you might need it.

  • Keep a calendar of relevant events. It is very handy for your attorney to have a timeline of when things happened. If the other party misses a visitation, or cancels last minute, or decides to go to Cancun instead of exercising visitation, write it down! A journal, calendar or diary that is kept contemporaneously is admissible in court. So write. it. down.

Co-Parenting

  • Do your part to work with the other party for the sake of your children. Ask yourself: What will the Judge think about my actions? Did I give the other party the benefit of the doubt? How will this affect my children? The best thing that you can do for your children is to have a good relationship with the other party. Be flexible. Switch weekends upon request. If there’s a problem with the kids, the first person you should call to talk to about it should be the other party.

  • Keep the other party informed, or, ask for information. If you are the custodial parent, take your role as a privilege and a responsibility. Keep the other parent informed of what goes on at home, at school, at the doctor, and at extracurricular activities. Even if they don’t respond, keep doing it. If you’re the non-custodial parent, this does not relieve you of your duty to find things out. You should know the names of your kids’ teachers, their doctor, their coaches, etc. You should go to parent-teacher conferences. Know what is going on in your kids’ lives.

  • Try an electronic calendar or co-parenting app. I have a different blog post about the different options. An electronic calendar can help you, the other party, the kids, and even stepparents be aware of where the children are and where they’re going to be. You can schedule and re-arrange holiday and summer visitation far in advance. The kids can know which parent to ask about sleepovers, etc. You can add things to the schedule, like school events or practices, without having to constantly text the other parent. I highly recommend you look into it.

Review Your Lawyer!

  • If I haven’t asked you already, please consider leaving me a five-star review if you are happy with the services you have received. They make a big difference for a small business like mine. There are two places where you can review: 1) Google (where all good things come from; however, it is a bit more public) or 2) Avvo (which rates and reviews attorneys only, and you can leave an anonymous review). Thank you in advance for your feedback, and good luck!

What is Alimony?

Family LawLeslie Copeland
unique-divorce-guy-meme-divorce-is-not-funny-friday-dialogue-from-the-depths-divorce-guy-meme.jpg

Alimony has a bad rap. No one wants to pay it, but everyone’s always asking for it. So what is alimony, anyway?

Alimony, now more commonly called “spousal support,” is the financial support of a spouse during and after a divorce case. It’s commonly ordered in cases where one spouse has financially supported the other during the marriage. They will be expected to continue to do during the divorce case, and sometimes, afterwards.

How does the Judge determine if spousal support should be awarded? The two primary things we look at are: the ability of the supporting spouse to pay, and the need of the dependent spouse for the support. There is a document called an Affidavit of Financial Means, that both parties will fill out. For the supporting spouse, we are looking to see if they have enough income, after reasonable expenses, to pay support. For the dependent spouse, we are looking to see if they have a deficit after their income and expenses have been considered. If the supporting spouse can pay, and the dependent spouse has a need, voila! You have a case for alimony.

Is that all the Judge looks at? No. Although ability to pay and need for support are the primary things the Judge considers, he or she will also look at other factors, including: (1) the financial circumstances of both parties; (2) the couple’s past standard of living; (3) the value of jointly owned property; (4) the amount and nature of the parties’ income, both current and anticipated; (5) the extent and nature of the resources and assets of each of the parties; (6) the amount of income of each that is spendable; (7) the earning ability and capacity of each party; (8) the property awarded or given to one of the parties, either by the court or the other party; (9) the disposition made of the homestead or jointly owned property; (10) the condition of health and medical needs of both husband and wife; (11) the duration of the marriage; and (12) the amount of child support (if applicable).

How long does it go on? Well, it depends. The trend is toward “rehabilitative” alimony, meaning, long enough to help the dependent spouse get back on their feet. However, in certain cases, permanent alimony can be awarded, especially in cases of long marriages or where the dependent spouse is disabled or unable to be rehabilitated into the work force.

Who can I call if I need help? This one’s easy: call Leslie! She can assess your particular case and help you make informed decisions about what is best for you. Schedule a consultation and come talk to her today.

Getting Divorced? Better Change Your Will!

Wills Trusts & EstatesLeslie Copeland
Will Divorce Power of Attorney

There's a lot to think about when getting divorced. Who is keeping the house? What about the kids? One thing you may not be thinking about is changing your Will and other legal documents. 

When can you change your Will? Anytime you want. You do not have to notify your spouse that you are doing so. You do not even have to be divorced. As soon as you know you want to change your Will, that's the time to do it. 

Isn't that automatic when I get divorced? Nope. The law is going to assume that you still wanted to leave your spouse part of your estate, if that's what your Will says of course. Whatever the Will says goes.

What else do I need to change when I get divorced? Here is a short list: 

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Advanced Directive
  • Deeds and Titles
  • Life insurance beneficiaries
  • Retirement account beneficiaries
  • Bank accounts -> payable on death beneficiaries

Leslie Copeland Law handles all aspects of your family and the law, including wills, trusts and estates. If you're getting divorced, or need to change your Will or other legal documents, schedule a consultation to see Leslie today.

 

Covenant Marriage in Arkansas: For Better or For Worse

Family LawLeslie Copeland
Covenant Marriage Divorce Arkansas

Covenant marriage is legal in three states: Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana. In essence, it really does two things: makes it harder to get married, and makes it harder to get divorced.

First, before you can enter into a covenant marriage, you have to submit to authorized marital counseling by a therapist or preacher or similar person, and you have to sign a declaration that says this:

"We do solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for so long as they both may live. We have chosen each other carefully and disclosed to one another everything which could adversely affect the decision to enter into this marriage. We have received authorized counseling on the nature, purposes, and responsibilities of marriage. We have read the Covenant Marriage Act of 2001, and we understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling.

 

With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do hereby declare that our marriage will be bound by Arkansas law on covenant marriages, and we promise to love, honor, and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives."

 

Your counselor also has to sign a declaration that says that he or she has explained to you the nature and purpose of covenant marriage and the grounds for termination of the marriage. These grounds specifically include ONLY the following:

  • (1) The other spouse has committed adultery;
  • (2) The other spouse has committed a felony or other infamous crime;
  • (3) The other spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the divorce or a child of one of the spouses;
  • (4) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years (or two years and six months of a minor child is involved);
  • (5) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years from the date the judgment of judicial separation was signed.

In sum, unless there has been adultery, a felony or abuse, you have to wait for two years of separation. In the meantime, you can get a judicial separation (which may come with some spousal support).

In my experience, people are often wearing rose-colored glasses when they enter into a covenant marriage. They are in love and assume that they always will be. I have seen covenant marriages completely fall apart in a matter of months, only for the couple to have to wait for two years in order to get divorced. My advice is to be very careful when entering into this kind of marriage. And if you're trying to get out of one, get yourself a good lawyer.

5 Quick Facts About Divorce in Arkansas

Family LawLeslie Copeland
Divorce Alimony Child Support Custody Arkansas

Here are 5 basic things you need to know about getting a divorce in Arkansas: 

#1 - Residency. To file for divorce, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state of Arkansas and must have been a resident for at least 60 days before filing. That person must also continue to be a resident during the divorce proceedings. 

#2 - Time Frame. A common question from clients is, “How long does it take to get a divorce?” While there is no one answer, it will take at minimum 30 days, but it almost always takes longer. A less complicated divorce typically takes between 45 and 90 days. A complicated divorce can take several months, or even a year or more to be finalized.

#3 - Grounds. To get a divorce in Arkansas, you have to prove that you have grounds for divorce. The most common ground for divorce is general indignities, which refers to your spouse treating you in such a way as to "render married life with them intolerable." The second most common ground is separation for at least 18 months. Other grounds include incarceration and adultery. Arkansas does not have a “no fault” divorce. The grounds for divorce in Arkansas must be specifically proven or agreed to.

#4 - Property. In Arkansas, we have what’s called “equitable” division of marital property. This means that the court will take all factors into consideration when dividing a couple's property, including the age and health of the parties, their income and employability, and the length of the marriage. The court will typically return property owned by each of the parties prior to the marriage, but not always. There is a lot of leeway in dividing property in order for the parties to negotiate. So do not assume that ownership of property will necessarily determine who gets the property in divorce. The court will attempt divide the parties' property as a whole as fairly as possible.

#5 - Child Support & Alimony. As to child support, the non-custodial parent (with whom the child does not live) is routinely ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent (with whom the child does live). The amount of child support is set by the Family Support Guidelines and is determined according to the non-custodial parent’s income. Even if the parent doesn’t work, a certain amount is “imputed” or assumed to be their income. The judge can grant more or less child support based on the child’s needs.

As to alimony, it is up to the court to decide whether alimony should be granted and how much. The primary factors the court considers are the need of one spouse for alimony and the other spouse's ability to pay. But the court will consider others factors too, such as the parties’ income, earning abilities, health, and the length of the marriage. When granted, the trend favors temporary, rather than permanent, alimony in order to help the spouse get back on their feet.

Every marriage is different, and so is every divorce. There are a variety of factors at play that could make a meaningful difference to you, now and in the future. Schedule a consultation with Leslie today and see how she can help you.