Archive for Family Law

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Hodges Trial Lawyers is experienced in trying cases dealing with grandparent visitation petitions. Whether defending or suing on your behalf our talented domestic relations specialist Kourtney Ballew will fight for you. We understand that it is important to protect your children from hazardous relationships as well as support and fight for the healthy relationships within the family. After the passage of House Bill 334 grandparents have a higher burden of proof in order to win visitation rights. Considering this it is important to hire a law firm that understands the new law and is willing to fight for you and your family. In both Madison and Limestone county Hodges Trial Lawyers is prepared to represent you.

Why Common Law Marriage is Being Abolished and What You Need to Know About It

Common Law Marriage going away
A new law passed the Alabama legislature and was signed by Governor Bentley on May 10th of this year that abolished Common law marriage in Alabama. If you are currently in a common law marriage do not fear, the new law ensures that existing marriages will be recognized. Alabama will consider any marriages to be valid if they are entered into by January 1st of 2017. After January 1, 2017, people will no longer be able to be married under the common law rules.

A common law marriage is a partnership in which each partner has the “capacity to be married” meaning they 1) are not currently married, 2) must be 19 or older, and 3) must be of sound mind. The couple must also have intent to marry meaning that the partnership is intended by both the husband and wife. The final requirement for a common law marriage is that the couple must hold themselves out as married to their family, friends, and community. Evidence of this could be that the couple casually refers to each other as husband and wife. The wife taking her husband’s last name, jointly filed tax return, joint bank accounts, or testimony given by friends and family that the couple are considered to be married are all considered evidence of a common law marriage.

The common law system of marriage is being abolished because it is inefficient, confusing, and can product a thicket of costly litigation in the event of a divorce. The system creates a great deal of uncertainty and can be very expensive to determine the status of a couple with so many variables of proof. This law had its merits in the past when it presented a great difficulty to travel to the court house or when the average person could not read a document. However, today it is relatively inexpensive to go to the court house and obtain a marriage license.

Grandparents’ visitation rights

Alabama lawmakers have approved a new bill which gives grandparents the right to petition for visitation rights with their grandchild.  Prior to this legislation, grandparents were unable to petition for visitation with their grandchildren if the parent(s) refused to allow visitation.  The new law states that a grandparent may file for reasonable visitation with their grandchild if any of the following circumstances exist: (1) an action for a divorce or legal separation has been filed or the marital relationship between the parents of the child has been severed by death or divorce, (2) the child was born out of wedlock and the petitioner is a maternal grandparent of the child, (3) the child was born out of wedlock, the petitioner is a paternal grandparent of the child, and paternity has been legally established, or (4)  an action to terminate the parental rights of a parent or parents has been filed or the parental rights of a parent has been terminated by court order.

 Since a parent has the right to deny or limit visitation with grandparents, the grandparent seeking visitation must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the grandparent has established a significant and viable relationship with the child and visitation with the grandparent is in the child’s best interest.  In order to establish a significant and viable relationship with the child for purposes of visitation, the grandparent must meet certain criteria under the new law.  The attorneys at Hodges Trial Lawyers will be happy to discuss your legal options regarding grandparent’s rights and visitation.

Divorce-Default Proceedings

You may need to enter into a default proceeding if your spouse refuses to sign the paperwork for your divorce. Regardless of your spouse’s reasons for refusing to sign, they cannot legally prevent you from getting a divorce. A default proceeding is like a forfeiture. The Court will assume that if your spouse had any disagreement regarding the documents, your spouse would have made them known. Since your spouse has not cooperated, the Judge is now forced to rule in your favor. If your spouse is refusing to sign, or being uncooperative, our attorneys can assist you with your divorce.

What Are the Different Types of Custody?

There are different types of custody, and they can be confusing. There is legal custody, and there is physical custody. Legal custody means you have the right and obligation to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing (ex. school, medical care, religion). Physical custody means you have the right to have the child live with you. Either of these may be joint- meaning the parents share, or sole- meaning only one parent, and you may have a combination of the two. For example, you may have joint legal and physical custody where both parents share in the decision making and the child spends about an equal amount of time with both parents. This situation is ideal for parents that live in close proximity and who communicate well, or you may have joint legal and sole physical meaning both parents share in the decision making, but the child spends considerably more time living with one parent that the other. This is typical of parents who live far apart.  If you have joint legal custody and one parent is excluding the other from decision making, that parent may be taken back to court to ask a Judge to enforce the custody agreement. If you have questions about custody or would like to petition for custody of your child, our attorneys can evaluate your situation and advise you of your options.