It may not seem romantic, but in many cases, a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement may be a wise choice in order to give you and your spouse certainty throughout your marriage. Marriage can be complicated, and no matter how strong your marriage is today, you can not predict what the future will bring. A marital agreement can offer clear terms that dictate what will happen if the marriage fails. These agreements can do more than just decide how much money each person receives in divorce.
Also, some people choose to live together without getting married. This is becoming a more popular option for many. In these situations, a cohabitation agreement may be a good way to establish a legal framework so that both parties are protected if things go wrong.
Differences Between Prenup and Postnup
There is little difference between these two terms. A prenuptial agreement occurs before the marriage, whereas a postnuptial agreement is executed after you are already married.
What can a Pre- or Post-Nuptial Agreement do?
Some states, including Alabama, will not let you disinherit your spouse. Rules like the “elective share” establish a minimum amount of money that your spouse stands to receive if you die, regardless of a will. A marital agreement can be a great tool for late life marriages, when you have assets from your prior life that you wish to preserve for your children or other family members. Here are some other things a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement can do:
Protect Inheritances. While most of the time an inheritance is not considered a marital asset, it can be if the money gets mixed in with the rest of your combined assets. As an added layer of protection, those who are anticipating a large inheritance may wish to protect this by using a marital agreement.
Avoid Assuming Spouse’s Debts. When you marry someone, you marry their debt, as well. A well-drafted marital agreement will allow you to clarify what is and is not part of your marital estate. If one spouse has large debts tied to investments, student loans, or a business venture, the other spouse may wish to have a prenuptial agreement to make sure that if things go badly, he or she will not be forced to pay for those debts.
Allocate Income and Other Issues. There are a lot of unforeseen issues that can arise during a marriage. A marital agreement can outline how the following things will be dealt with, right from the start:
- Business interests
- Retirement accounts
- Real estate investments
- Management of credit card spending and payments
- How a divorce will be handled (mediation, litigation, etc.)
Why Use a Cohabitation Agreement?
Even if you are just planning to live together long term, keep in mind that you may be sharing finances, a home, you may have children together, and you will likely make a lot of important decisions together. If you break up after living together for a long time, it can be devastating. Unlike a marriage, if one partner is making all the money, he or she will leave with that income and any property titled in that person’s name, leaving the other partner often in a bad position. There are few legal rights afforded to dating partners who live together, so a cohabitation agreement can resolve issues like:
- Who will keep the house or apartment?
- How will money be divided?
- Who keeps pets?
- Who gets personal property and vehicles?
Get Experienced Help With Your Marital or Cohabitation Agreement
With decades of combined experience advising couples on marriage and divorce issues, the attorneys of Five Points Law Group stand ready to help you create a clear and lasting agreement to support and protect your relationship for years to come. Call us today to get started.
Stepfamilies are common these days, and for many children, a stepparent may be the only mother or father that child has ever known. The biological parent may have abandoned the child years ago, been incarcerated, or suffered an untimely death. Whatever the reason, stepparents often wish to make their family unit stronger by adopting a stepchild. This can be a wonderful and joyous occasion, but there are still legal hurdles that must be overcome when attempting to adopt a stepchild.
Five Points Law Group is here to help if you need assistance with the adoption process in Alabama. Our Birmingham Family Law Attorneys can help navigate the adoption process and help you strengthen your family.
Benefits of Adopting a Stepchild
Many times, a stepchild adoption is about giving the child a sense of place, and a feeling of belonging. There may be half siblings who share both parents, leaving the stepchild to feel like an outsider. Likewise, it can solidify legal relationships, as well. There is no better way to tell a child you love him or her than by adopting the child as your own. Adoption also confers equality of certain rights, such as the right to automatically inherit from your estate or your ability to share in decision-making, such as talking to school teachers or healthcare providers.
Often Overlooked Effects of Adoption
After an adoption, the law considers the child to be your child, the same as his or her natural parent. Therefore, after a divorce, the court could actually award custody to an adoptive parent over a natural parent. Therefore, a natural parent seeking to allow a new spouse to adopt should consider the strength of the marriage, the person’s character, and whether it is in the best interests of the child to be adopted.
Likewise, if you have other children (perhaps from a prior relationship), adopting a child will give that child equal rights with your other children, meaning he or she will share in your inheritance. If your own children are old enough to appreciate this decision and what it means (adults or late teens), you may want to have an open and frank discussion with them.
Consent of the Biological Parent
One of the tougher hurdles to overcome is getting the biological parent’s consent for the adoption. If the biological parent is deceased, this is fairly streamlined. However, if the person is alive, it can be difficult to get him or her to give up parental rights. Beyond death or other types of termination of parental rights, there are a few exceptions to consent:
- Court determination of incompetence
- Natural father has declined paternity in writing
- When a father’s identity is unknown to the mother
Keep in mind that things like incarceration, even for really bad crimes, is not enough to automatically terminate paternity. If you foresee a problem with consent, you should consult an attorney early in the process to gauge your chances and your options.
Most Stepparent Adoptions are Straightforward
These adoptions are supposed to be “streamlined” so that families can be made stronger. Courts generally have a preference for these kinds of adoptions. When the stepchild has been living with the ste parent for at least a year or two, and the marriage is stable, courts tend to expedite adoption because many of the typical formalities do not need to be done, such as pre-placement and post-placement investigations.
Trust a Team of Experienced Birmingham Adoption Attorneys
If you are needing help with a stepparent adoption, let Five Points Law Group help. We are trained and experienced in the quickest, most efficient strategies for successfully maneuvering the family court system in Alabama. We can help you avoid critical errors, so that your adoption case proceeds smoothly. Call today to speak with an attorney about your case.
Child Custody and Support
Children undoubtedly complicate divorces. Without children in the picture, a divorce is far less emotional. When you are just fighting over personal objects like furniture, cars, and bank accounts, the stakes are lower. When you are fighting over your own children, emotions can run hot. If you are seeking a divorce and have children involved, you need skilled and compassionate legal assistance right from the beginning.
At Five Points Law Group, we have years of experience carefully navigating the court system and helping couples do what is right for their children. This process typically includes two challenging issues – child support obligations and child custody.
How do Alabama Courts Decide Child Custody?
In Alabama, the courts will look to the “best interests of the child” to determine which parent should have physical custody. However, the inquiry does not end there. Other issues that must be resolved include:
- How much time each parent should spend with the child
- Whether visitation should be awarded
- If visitation is awarded, how frequent should it be?
- Should visitation be supervised or not?
- Which parent will the child stay with for holidays?
- Who will make the majority of major decisions, like school, medical, etc.?
Once the court decides these issues, there is also the question of how the parents will pay for the continuing care and upkeep of the child.
How do Alabama Courts Decide Child Support?
Once the court has made a determination about where the child will live and how much time he or she will spend with each parent throughout the year, the next issue to decide is how the child will be supported. Many things go into calculating and determining the amount of child support, if any, that will be paid. There is a statutory calculation used by courts to assess the noncustodial parent’s ability to pay and the appropriate amount to be paid.
Child Support and Custody Pitfalls and Enforcement
Many people make the mistake of thinking that child support is “payment” for the right to see the child, or they make the mistake of thinking that they can withhold a child from seeing the other parent until support payments are made. It cannot be stressed enough that child support and custody are not mutually dependent. If you are the custodial parent and your ex is not making support payments as ordered, you do not have a right to stop letting that person see his or her child. Doing so almost always is a violation of a court order. The appropriate remedy is to go to court and enforce the court order for support.
The same is true of a noncustodial parent. If you are being deprived the right to see your child, despite a court order, you do not have the right to stop child support payments. Instead, you should contact a local family law attorney and seek to enforce the court order giving you time with your child. In fact, by continuing to meet your obligation, you may be able to make a strong argument for even more time with your child. When handled properly, some parents have been able to get courts to rethink the original custody arrangement altogether.
Getting Help with Custody and Support Orders
If you feel your ex is not honoring a court order for child support or custody and visitation, then you should continue to follow the court order to the letter. In the meantime, contact Five Points Law Group today. We can help petition the court for enforcement of the original order. In some cases, modification of the order may be appropriate. Do not try to handle this yourself. Too much is at stake. When you are ready to talk, we are here to listen.
LGBTQ Family Issues
Following the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, many Americans mistakenly believe that all LGBTQ family issues have been resolved. Sadly, this is not the case. The Supreme Court made it legal for same sex couples to marry in all 50 states. However, this still leaves many day-to-day issues for nontraditional families. The attorneys of Five Points Law Group want to help. If you have unique challenges facing your family, whether they be custody, support, divorce, or a difficult adoption matter, contact us today. Our experienced team of attorneys will carefully and compassionately listen. Here are just a few examples of unique LGBTQ family issues we may be able to help with:
Complicated Custody Battles
In traditional, opposite sex marriages, courts are used to two parents, one of whom is a mother and one of whom is a father. As courts are increasingly faced with the reality that not all families look alike, there are situations in which two men or two women may be in a custody battle over a child. These scenarios challenge the court’s preconceived notions of who may be best suited to raise a child. In many cases, neither parent is the “natural” or biological parent. In these situations, there may be a surrogate parent involved, who relinquished parental rights but later changed her mind. As you can tell, things are not always black and white, and as families continue to become more blended and unique, it will be even more important to work with attorneys who have the skill and understanding to work through complex legal obstacles to obtain results.
When a same sex couple adopts a child, courts may attempt to apply more scrutiny than is appropriate. While the law may make it perfectly legal to adopt a child, one should not expect old prejudices to immediately fade away. Some judges, court personnel, and even guardians ad litem charged with representing the best interests of children may hold strong religious or cultural beliefs that shade their perceptions of nontraditional families. They may attempt to raise unsubstantiated concerns, rely on unwarranted and biased “research,” or simply look for problems where none exist.
Although much progress has been made in recent years, adoptions are still usually more complicated for members of the LGBTQ community. Working with a skilled attorney can help to avoid unnecessary delays and protect your rights throughout the process.
Same Sex Divorce
You would think that divorce would be the same for everyone, and in many ways, it is. However, consider that many same sex partners may have two wedding dates. They may have lived together for decades before legally marrying. Or, some couples may have acquired significant assets during a legal “civil union” before being legally allowed to marry. These matters can confuse or complicate a divorce action.
Getting Knowledgeable Help
If you need skilled and experienced legal representation for your family law matter, contact Five Points Law Group today. Our attorneys will listen to you and look for the most efficient and amicable resolution possible. If a peaceful resolution can not be found, we are not afraid to aggressively fight for our clients through tough litigation. Call today to speak with attorney about your case.