Merrell Law Firm, LLC

Hoover Area General Law Blog

Divorce settlements and stay-at-home mothers

Alabama is not a community property state, so when couples get a divorce there, each spouse is entitled to an equitable but not necessarily equal share of marital assets. How to determine what is equitable can be difficult when one spouse was the breadwinner and the other stayed home to raise children. While it may be fairly straightforward to assess the earnings of the spouse who has worked outside the home over the years, it can be more difficult to put a value on the other spouse's contributions.

Usually, the spouse who stays home is the woman. More than one-fourth of mothers in the United States do, and one in every 10 has a master's degree or higher. Studies have looked at how this value might be assigned and how people think it should be assessed. In one study, participants read a basic scenario with a stay-at-home mother but different variations. Overall, women tended to think the mother should be awarded more in a divorce. Men tended to award the mother more when she had a higher educational attainment.

Smart home devices and domestic violence

Technological advancements have made our lives easier in many ways. Our cell phones, for instance, make calls in addition to being powerful mini computers. Smart homes also help us manage our lives in many ways, including remotely turning off that light you forgot was on before leaving home.

As smart homes have become more prevalent, so has the use of smart homes by domestic abusers to harass their victims remotely.

Lack of accuracy, privacy in facial recognition technology

The rise in the use of facial recognition technology and the lack of standards or regulation around its use means that people in Alabama and throughout the country who have been convicted of crimes could be tracked in certain public places. Even people who are merely suspected of shoplifting without being charged could be barred from stores that chose to do so. The ban could extend far beyond the initial store and could include all the stores in the network.

One of the major issues with facial recognition technology is that there is not a single standard of accuracy. Therefore, while it might be expected that law enforcement would use more accurate technology than what is in casual commercial use, this is not necessarily the case.

Refinancing or assuming a mortgage in a divorce

Divorcing spouses often wish to remain in the family home they have lived in for many years. This presents no challenges when an agreement can be reached and primary residences are owned free and clear, but matters become more complicated when a mortgage is involved. In these situations, Alabama spouses usually decide between assuming a joint mortgage and taking out a new loan. Departing spouses generally require joint mortgages to be assumed or paid off as they would otherwise remain financially responsible and could be pursued for payment if the loan fell into arrears.

People sometimes believe that assuming a mortgage is a relatively straightforward process that involves little more than making phone calls and signing a few documents, but that is usually not the case. Most lenders will demand full documentation of all income and assets, and applications may be denied when bankers are not convinced that a newly-single party has enough income to cover the monthly costs of maintaining the property.

Study finds that young people are much likelier to be arrested

Young people in Alabama and around the country have a much greater risk of being arrested than do older adults, according to a study. People who are younger than age 26 are much likelier to be arrested, and the rates of arrest for women and Caucasian people are increasing the fastest.

Researchers with the RAND Corporation conducted the study. The researchers found that people who were between the ages of 26 and 35 were 3.6 times likelier to have been arrested than people who were over the age of 66.

Home insurance may cover your burst pipe

Freezes usually occur once or more during the winter. When that happens, water in your pipes will turn to ice and expand. This increases the likelihood of a burst pipe.

If your home has a burst water pipe, will your insurance cover it? And if your insurance company balks at repairing damage, what recourse do you have?

Personal beliefs don't always disqualify jurors

Jurors in Alabama and other states are supposed to listen only to the facts of a case and follow relevant law when determining a verdict. However, a ruling in Massachusetts says that jurors are allowed to use their life experience when hearing evidence or deliberating in the jury room. As long as a juror can remain unbiased, he or she is generally qualified to serve regardless of their opinions on a given matter.

The ruling came in a case involving a black man who was convicted on a drug possession charge. A prospective juror said she believed that the system was rigged against young black men. She was disqualified for making such a statement. However, it was later acknowledged by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that it would be impractical to not draw on life experience when hearing a case.

Planning for college expenses after a divorce

Alabama parents who get a divorce are generally not required to pay for their children's college educations, but it may be a matter of concern to some parents anyway. Living in separate households can be costly, and parents may need to prioritize day-to-day living expenses and child and spousal support above college. However, there are still steps parents can take to plan for their child's college education.

This might involve changing college plans. An expensive private college may no longer be a possibility after divorce. However, parents and their children should research what kind of loans, scholarships and grants are available.

Divorce mistakes to avoid

Alabama couples who are going through divorce should beware of potentially costly errors. For example, one man who said he could not afford a certain settlement later made financial boasts on social media that hurt his case. Another common error is not getting the financial paperwork necessary when it is available. Information such as how much was paid for the home and account numbers may be useful years after the divorce as well as during it.

Understanding how tax laws may affect divorce negotiations is also important. For example, because withdrawals from a Roth IRA are not taxed on retirement, this type of account is worth more than a traditional IRA. Taxes on spousal support have also changed since starting in agreements made in 2019, it is not longer deductible by the payer or treated as income to the recipient.

Advocates seek to reform misdemeanor system

Though felony criminal cases in Alabama receive most of the news publicity, it is the misdemeanor cases that take up most of a court's workload. A misdemeanor is a less serious criminal charge that can be punished by no more than a year in jail.

Justice reform advocates have pointed out some of the more unfortunate consequences of the present misdemeanor prosecution system. As misdemeanors constitute nearly 80 percent of the United State's caseload, judges cannot or will not devote substantial time to most individual cases. That's why some courts will discourage defense attorneys from raising constitutional issues. This can be true even when the issue raised has merit.

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