Merrell Law Firm, LLC

Hoover Area General Law Blog

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.

How DNA tests influence child support rulings

Alabama parents are generally required to financially support their minor children. However, there may be questions about who the father of the child is. In some cases, individuals may try to cast doubt about their paternity even if there is reason to believe that they are their children's legal fathers. If necessary, a judge can ask for a DNA test to confirm who a child's father is.

DNA tests are over 99.9% accurate, and samples are generally tested twice to ensure that the results of a given test are correct. To collect a DNA sample, a technician will swab the inside of a person's mouth or cheek. The painless process is usually just as accurate as a blood test without the need to poke or prod the person giving the sample. There is a record of everyone who comes into contact with the sample to ensure that a court will accept the results of a test.

Can joint custody work in practice?

Going through a divorce does not have to tear a family apart. When done right, it can strengthen the bond that each parent has with their child, while minimizing toxicity and facilitating independence. Maintaining parent-child relationships is often done most successfully through joint custody. Joint custody means that the courts award the rights and responsibilities of care to both parents after a split, rather than just one.

If you are interested in filing for joint custody but you have reservations regarding how it might work in practice, it is a good idea to spend time researching ways to maximize the benefits of joint custody. The following are behaviors you can adopt that will increase the likelihood of maintaining a joint custody agreement that works for everyone.

Privacy and confidentiality during divorce proceedings

In Alabama and across the United States, people frequently share personal information via social media platforms. Many couples planning to divorce have active accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Although it's fine to stay active on social media platforms, people getting divorced should take some precautions. Most online friends are not close friends. Accordingly, sharing personal and confidential information with distant acquaintances is not always advisable. For instance, people should refrain from posting negative comments about their spouses.

It's a bad idea to post a spouse's wrongdoings even when divorce is not an issue. Instead, people should speak with a marriage counselor, pastor, rabbi or close friend. In some states, data shared via social media platforms may count as evidence during divorce proceedings. Negative social media posts could prove to be incriminating during a difficult divorce. It is also a good idea to avoid sharing personal details with social media friends.

Bail and hefty fines can be devastating for the poor

For some, getting a traffic ticket is nothing more than a short-term inconvenience. However, for low-income individuals in Alabama and many other states, it can have a long-term impact on their lives. Those who are unable to pay a fine may be sent to jail, and these individuals may be required to pay a fee for each day that they are there. People can also be charged a supervision fee if they are put on probation.

These fees can be on top of the $500 or more needed to make bail. According to the Supreme Court, defendants cannot be forced to pay fines or fees if they don't have the means to do so. However, Tennessee law allows the state to suspend a person's license for failure to pay a fine. Many groups are working to reform the fine and bail system in an effort to provide relief to those who are struggling to pay their debts.

Equitable property division and separate accounts in divorce

Millennial married couples in Alabama may be among the 28% who keep their finances separate according to a Bank of America survey. This is more than twice as many as Gen X and baby boomer couples. However, according to experts, this will not necessarily mean their finances are considered to be separate property in a divorce.

In general, in an equitable division state like Alabama, money earned by individuals during the marriage is considered separate property. However, it is possible for an attorney to argue that this should be considered shared marital property. If a judge agrees, the property could be split equitably. This means it should be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. Couples who are concerned about maintaining separate property may want to consider a prenuptial agreement; these are also on the rise according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. When couples draw up a prenup, they have the opportunity to talk honestly about their finances.

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