Merrell Law Firm, LLC

Hoover Area General Law Blog

Dividing retirement and other assets in divorce

Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful and anxiety-producing events that a person can experience. It can cause stress mentally, emotionally and financially. The financial stress, though, is among the most readily reduced as the parties can gain piece of mind through preparation and understanding. People in Alabama can reduce the amount of financial stress associated with divorce by understanding how retirement assets are likely to be divided and by planning for the required changes.

First, there are differences in the legal treatment of different kinds of retirement assets. When individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, are divided, the division is referred to as a transfer incident to divorce. When other plans, such as 401(k)s, are divided, on the other hand, that usually requires a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO. Correctly handling the division of different types of accounts can have significant tax implications.

As a stay-at-home spouse, you have property rights in a divorce

Not that long ago, women were almost always the ones who stayed home to take care of the family home or young children. However, the modern economy is much more diverse than the economy even a few decades ago, and many women are making great wages that allow them to support a family.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mother or father, you have rights under Alabama law. In the event that your marriage starts to falter or you decide you want to divorce, you need to educate yourself about your rights, as they will play an important role in your financial stability immediately after you file for divorce.

Learn how to communicate better with a toxic ex

Many co-parents in Alabama have found that challenges arise when raising children in two different households, even if a separation or divorce was amicable. When a person is dealing with a toxic ex-spouse, though, they may feel like the challenges are so overwhelming that it affects their ability to parent well. Here are a few tips to help individuals who are dealing with a toxic ex-spouse.

The first thing a person should remember is that they do not have to respond to everything that a toxic ex-spouse says or does. When the divorce is finalized and custody arrangements have been set in place, the relationship is no longer the same. Parents need to be on hand when emergencies arise in order to be there for their children, but it is sometimes best to simply ignore bad behavior, sarcasm or insults.

2 men busted for meth during traffic stop

On Oct. 17, Alabama authorities arrested two men for allegedly taking part in a drug trafficking operation. The arrests took place during a traffic stop in Brookside.

According to the Brookside Police Department, officers pulled over a vehicle at around 12:30 p.m. on Interstate 22. During the stop, they performed a search of the vehicle and reportedly found a significant amount of crystal methamphetamine inside. They additionally found used syringes, over 200 baggies typically used for drug distribution, meth pipes and straws, lock-picking tools, handcuffs, electronics, raw diamonds, multiple pieces of jewelry, a stolen gun and other potentially stolen items. They also found several hidden compartments in the vehicle that could be used to transport drugs.

Community service sentences can pose problems

In many Alabama cases, community service is seen as a light sentence or a reprieve from costly fines or jail time. When people cannot afford to pay fines, community service sentences present an alternative that can prevent them from racking up considerable debt. However, one study by UCLA's Labor Center and School of Law indicates that community service can have some of the same detrimental effects on low-income communities and communities of color as other types of criminal sentences. In particular, some of the problems associated with community service are very similar to those caused by expensive court fines.

The study examined 5,000 people who were ordered to perform community service as part of their felony or misdemeanor sentencing from 2013 to 2014. They were given community service sentences in lieu of fines, and the performance of these labor hours was considered to work off the fines. During the period studied, people in Los Angeles County were ordered to perform 8 million hours of service, and government agencies received 3 million hours of labor during that time. Just the hours of labor performed took the equivalent of 1,800 paid jobs, further entrenching unemployment and relying on criminal sentencing to perform important functions of these agencies rather than hiring sufficient employees.

Buying out the family home during a divorce

Part of getting a divorce in Kentucky is determining the value of assets and then dividing these between each spouse. The marital home is typically one of the major assets that a couple owns. It is common for one individual to buy the other person's share of the house in a divorce, especially in divorces that involve couples with children.

Couples will need to work with professionals when it comes to determining the value of their home. Each spouse usually chooses and then hires an appraiser. The appraisers will look at things like the condition of the home and any special amenities it includes in order to determine its fair market value. After getting these estimates, the couple will be able to determine how much the home is worth.

Why sole custody is often not the best route to take

In the past when couples divorced, Alabama courts typically awarded the mother custody of the children. The father was usually given visitation rights — often limited to only a couple of weekends each month.

This was not just the custom here in Alabama, but all over the United States. Then, in recent years, the pendulum started to swing back in the other direction. Now, courts typically award joint custody to both parents and allow the children to spend roughly half of the time with each parent.

Laws require scrutiny of informant testimony

A movement is underway to examine the veracity of information offered by jailhouse informants, in part because of DNA testing that has exonerated people who were convicted based on informant testimony. Those who have been charged with crimes in Alabama might gain from increased scrutiny of informants. Several states have tightened regulations on the use of jailhouse informants because they are more likely to have ulterior motives.

Some of the new rules that have passed include mandatory pretrial hearings about whether the prisoners' testimony is allowable and requiring the prosecution to disclose deals that were made to bring about the testimony. Alabama has not yet passed any such laws, but the movement is gaining momentum nationally and may have an impact on future criminal trials in the state. According to the Innocence Project, almost 20% of former prisoners who have been freed by DNA evidence were originally convicted, at least in part, because of false informant testimony.

The financial impact of a divorce

A divorce can be a significant source of stress for Alabama residents who are going through one. However, it may easier to deal with it by thoroughly preparing for the end of a relationship as soon as possible. First, individuals will want to make sure that there is a plan in place for dealing with a marital property. This means deciding who will keep the property and who will pay for its upkeep until it is sold.

If the house is to be sold, a couple should decide how to split the proceeds or pay off any balance that remains after the sale. It is also important to consider the tax treatment of any assets or alimony payments received during or after a marriage ends. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act removed the need for recipients to claim it as income. It also removed the ability for a payer to take a tax deduction on his or her federal return.

Many apps release user information without warrants

Some people in Alabama might be surprised at how much information companies that make apps will provide to law enforcement. The only states that require probable cause and a warrant to search private user data are California, Utah and Washington.

Home security company Ring, which has been purchased by Amazon, goes a step further, openly sharing data with law enforcement. The company's security services allow users to see who is ringing their doorbell. However, Ring comes with a communication portal for law enforcement that permits them to request the footage. If users say no, law enforcement only needs to go to the company to request the data. Many other companies only require a subpoena to release user information, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some companies only offer limited information without a warrant, but many will turn over IP addresses along with names and contact information in response to a subpoena. Snapchat says it will share any information it considers necessary.

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