Family Law Blog

Had Children Before Marriage? You're Perfect for a Pre-Nup

Friday, March 16, 2018

To many couples looking towards marrying, a pre-nup is pretty close to a taboo word to bring up. Some feel like it is basically saying that there is a chance that your love might die and you want to plan for when it does. However, this may be true for couples that are planning to get married and officially start their lives, but not all commitments work that way. In many couples these days, often couples end up having children before they even think of marriage, and this makes them a perfect candidate for a pre-nup if they decide to tie the knot.

When you have children before marriage, it lends a certain amount of practicality and logistics to your relationship. You might want to provide better for your kids so you choose a smaller, cheaper wedding. You might understand that your marriage might not last, so you choose a pre-nup.

For many parents that choose to get married after they have children, they will always choose the route that is best for their children, and this includes if that marriage doesn't work out. By crafting a pre-nup when you are still very much in love, both sides of the couple can make decisions with a clear, unclouded head. In this pre-nup they can put certain provisions, such as terms for child custody inside that can make it so both parents get a fair split of not just the assets, but the children as well.

While many may tout "doing things out of order," it has been found that having children before getting married actually has a better chance of those marriages lasting since both sides tend to not look at their relationship through rose-colored glasses. If you are a couple that already has children and are looking to officially get married, but still want a pre-nup set in place, contact us today.

Forwarding Thinking in Your Divorce - Child Support Considerations

Friday, March 09, 2018

It has come down to this - all options have been explored and you have finally come to terms with the fact that you are getting a divorce. Amid the emotional stress and legal decisions, sometimes it is difficult to look at the long-term needs of your children, especially when you are overwhelmed with parenting plans, visitation schedules, financial support, and even more immediate details such as where you intend to live or how you plan to pay your bills. It is easy to get caught up in the here and now without considering what your children might require in the future. This is especially true for parents of young children who have not yet begun writing the endless stream of checks required for the activities for children in middle school or high school. 

What do you consider to be necessary for raising a healthy, educated, balanced child? Often times in a divorce, parents do not consider these questions with regard to when their children are older. Do you believe participation in athletics, music lessons, travel, mission work, or academic competitions are activities that your children need to prepare themselves for adulthood? What about the expenses associated with taking Advanced Placement Exams or even Dual Credit courses offered in high school? Do you want trade school or college to be an option for your children after they graduate from high school? If so, who is going to foot the bill for these expensive but enriching experiences? Perhaps you do not consider all of these activities to be central to the development of your children, and that is certainly reasonable, but if even some of them seem relevant to your expectations on what opportunities your children should have, it is important to consider them now. 

Addressing these issues on the front end, when parties may be more agreeable to reasonable solutions, can save you a great deal of arguing, disappointment, or future court proceedings. While you are establishing a parenting plan and the terms of child support, it is important to be forward thinking and to include terms that address these needs. Preparedness on the front end can save you time and expense on the back end, and consolation with an attorney is certainly advised. The attorneys at Jamra & Jamra are available to advise you on these and other considerations in your divorce. Please contact us today if you are ready to protect your children's future opportunities.  

Property Division, Who Gets Custody of - Fido?

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Divorce and child custody battles often go hand in hand, with property disputes a close second among causes of high emotional and financial impact. Houses, cars, 401K distribution and what to do with the family RV provoke understandably strong emotions. Throw in disputes over who gets the family dog and the emotional stakes are even higher.

In most states, pets are viewed as property. The ultimate ownership of pets is dependent upon many factors, including which partner bought the animal and whether kids are involved.

Many pet owners find this approach heartless given that the animal's welfare isn't necessarily taken into account. The big screen TV and the car may hold high dollar values, but they also aren't granted quite the same status in the minds of owners, or, in fact, the law. Destroying your own television set rarely comes with legal repercussions, but animal abuse is another matter.

According to a new Illinois state law following in Alaska's footsteps, animals will be treated much like children in divorce proceedings. Effective January 1st, 2018, in cases where a divorcing couple is equally attached to a pet, judges in Illinois are now permitted to take the animal's best interests into account, much as they would a child.

The new law applies only in Illinois, but the results bear close watching. Most likely, who will make the better owner will be the main criteria for animal custody decisions, but, as with children, one wonders if that decision could usher in a host of other issues, including visitation. 

While California law still views pets as property, the California Family Code Section 6320 allows pets to be included in protective orders. Some California judges also consider visitation a valid option in pet disputes, as happened in the case of Gigi, whose ultimate disposition included a "bonding study" and cost her owners 100,000 dollars in legal fees.

Custody and ownership as separate issues is the standard in most states and under most conditions, but as pets have become normalized as part of divorce settlements, laws have had to keep up with human emotional bonds. Contact us to learn more about how pets factor into divorce proceedings.

What Can an Unmarried Parent Do For Child Visitation?

Friday, February 23, 2018

For married parents that decide to split up, the divorce process includes proceedings to decide what happens to the children. However, for parents that never married, they do not need legal proceedings in order to stop seeing each other. The major downside of this is there is no legal order in place that says one parents has to let the other see their kids. However, while nothing legal may not be in place, unmarried parents do have options to put something in place so they can continue to have parental rights.

Establishing Paternity

By default in almost every state, the mother will have primary custody of her children in the event of an unmarried split. However, if the father files a paternity action in court to declare legal paternity, this will give them rights to have visitation or custody of the child. This will involve a paternity test as well as a public declaration before the court that you claim your paternal rights.

Establishing Custody or Visitation

The courts will always work within what is the best interest of the child, and most courts view a meaningful relationship with both parents as in the best interest. If you seek to take primary custody, the legal battles will be a little more complicated. You need to prove why the primary custodial parent is unfit and why living with you would be better for the child. However, if you are merely seeking joint custody or even just visitation, the court process will be significantly easier as the courts often want children to spend time with both their parents.

Both custody and visitation will have time schedules that are laid out with input by both parents, but ultimately approved by the courts. This will also include certain stipulations in which the primary custodial parent will need to make the other parent aware of such things like relocation since they will officially have legal parental rights like parents who had been previously married.

Are you an unmarried parent going to through a split and wondering how you can keep in touch with your kids? Contact us today to see what Jamra & Jamra can do to make sure your kids stay in your life.

Why Domestic Violence Victims Stay

Friday, February 16, 2018

People who deal with domestic violence are victims. Often, they live their lives in fear. Fear of the person who is supposed to love them the most. Fear of the unknown. Fear of leaving.

If you have never been a victim of domestic violence, you have no idea. Most people just think that they should leave. However, most of the time they don't and here are some reasons why.

Love. Most of the time, victims of domestic violence still love the person who is hurting them. They might not love them much at the moment, but they can easily recall why they loved them before!

Family. Often, there is a family involved, with children. Victims may stay because they don't want to break up their family. While some people leave because they fear for their children's lives, others don't want them to miss out on a relationship with both of their parents.

Money. Money is often a controlling factor when it comes to domestic violence. One partner may have all of the money so the victim has nothing to use to try to get away. They don't have any money to start a new life (or even get on the subway to run away).

Isolation. Most victims of domestic violence push their friends away so that they don't know what is going on. By the time that they want to run, they have no one to turn to. There is no one left to help them get away.

Shame. Many victims feel complete shame. They don't want others to know that they were so weak and were abused. For this reason, it is easier to stay with someone who hurts them than it is to walk away.

However, it doesn't have to be this way. Victims of domestic violence are stronger than they even imagine. They can leave, as long as they have help and support. If you are a victim, we will help you get out of your situation so that you can have a better life. Be sure to contact us for all of your legal needs.

Types of Domestic Violence

Friday, February 09, 2018

When people think of domestic violence, they think about a wounded woman cowering on the floor with her husband screaming or even hitting her. However, it doesn't have to get physical to be considered domestic violence.

Here are some types of domestic violence.

  • Physical abuse. Most people think of physical abuse when they think of domestic violence. It is common, though it is not the only way that you can become a victim of domestic violence.
  • Emotional abuse. Not all victims show their scars on the outside. Actually, it is even worse when others can't see them. Though many people don't really believe in emotional abuse, it can be the hardest one to bear. Many abusers treat their victims like they are worthless until they start to feel like they are.
  • Sexual abuse. Even if you are married, you shouldn't be forced to have sex. Whether you are forced to have sex when you don't feel like it or you are forced to do something sexually that you are not comfortable with, you are being sexually abused.
  • Financial abuse. It is a form of domestic violence when a person controls their victim through their money. While many people think about the man working so that the wife can take care of the children, they should both have a say in how the money is spent. However, with financial abuse, the man (or either partner) would control every penny that the other one spends, no matter who made the money.

If you or someone that you know is being abused in any way, it is time to get help. Help yourself (or them) today. Don't wait or it might be too late! Contact us for all of your legal needs. We will help you get a better life!

What Conditions Allow for Termination of Spousal Support?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Spousal support was designed and put in place to help half of a divorcing couple get back on their feet after a separation. In many marriages, there is one spouse who earns more and one who earns less for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one spouse decided to stay home and care for the children, leaving them without income and work experience in the event of a divorce. However, spousal support is not forever. It has the ability to be modified and even terminated. However, what are the conditions for termination when it comes to spousal support?

Spousal support termination can be achieved through a variety of different conditions. These conditions include:

  • Self-Sufficiency Through Employment - Once the spouse receiving spousal support payments has obtained a job that allows them to be self-supporting, it can be petitioned by the courts to terminate or otherwise modify spousal support. However, even if a spouse is employed doesn't mean they are receiving enough to support themselves fully.
  • Getting Re-Married - Getting re-married is automatic ground for termination when it comes to spousal support. However, never try to game the system by putting off marriage. Courts will agree to termination if you are simply cohabitating with a romantic partner as well.
  • Retirement - If the paying party is ready to retire, they can request that spousal support be terminated or reduced in order to match their lower retirement income. However, the paying party must be retirement age or otherwise unable to work. They cannot retire early for the purpose of eliminating spousal support payments.

If you are seeking to modify spousal support payments or are getting divorced and want spousal support on the table, contact us today. Let the Law Office of Jamra & Jamra help get you the results you desire.

Does Child Support Include College Education?

Friday, January 19, 2018

In many cases, child support is seen as a way for the custodial parent to better care for their child after divorce. It helps with various expenses that come with raising a child. However, when getting a divorce with older children, the custodial parent may wonder if child support should include expenses such as college education.

In truth, child support can include payments for college education. However, when children are young and their parents are getting a divorce, often the courts will leave the issue of who pays for college until the child is older. This is often done because circumstances can greatly change over that time period and the courts do not know if or what kind of college that child will pursue.

However, once that age has come, both parents may need to return to court to discuss the issue of tuition. Unlike child support payments, both parents will be expected to pay their fair share of a child's tuition. This means if your ex-spouse has attained a higher paying job since child support started, they may be expected to pay more towards college expenses. However, even the custodial parent will need to pay a share as well. Issues factored in to this include what sort of education the child is pursuing, their academic record, and any financial aid they are receiving, such as scholarships. Depending on these factors, the parents may have to pay more or less, but the amount will be split regardless.

If you are pursuing a divorce with older children, their college education is undoubtedly a worry. If you want to talk through your divorce and child support options, contact us today to see what the Law Office of Jamra & Jamra can do for you.

Spouse is Employed, But No Spousal Support is Being Paid

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

After a divorce, spousal support is put in place to help you restart your life. However, while there are exceptions made for spouses that lost their jobs for reasons beyond their control, if your spouse is employed, they should be paying. Perhaps you gave them a little leeway in terms of payment, but what do you do after a few reminders haven't manifested in payment?

 If spousal support payment is not being made, your only most effective option is to return to court, but even then receiving payment is not a guarantee. While your spouse may be employed, sometimes the court will state that they do not have the funds to adhere to their spousal support payment, particularly if there is a substantial amount past due. However, a judge may initiate any of the following to see that payment is followed through.

  • Wage garnishment
  • Offsets of tax returns
  • Garnishment of retirement accounts
  • Spousal support reduced to a money judgment
  • Suspension of passport, driver's license, or professional license until payment is made

If your ex-spouse has the funds in order to be paying their spousal support, all of the above will be used by the court to make sure they pay you what is due. If they have been consciously withholding payment while also having the means to pay it, you may also receive past due payments to help make you whole.

If you are getting divorced or have an ex-spouse that is not making spousal support payments on time, contact us today. Let the Law Firm of Jamra & Jamra help make sure you get the spousal support that you need so you can get back on your feet after a divorce.

Challenges of Early Life Divorces

Friday, January 12, 2018

You know what they say, your younger years are for making mistakes. However, for most people, those mistakes don't include a bad marriage, or rather, they don't realize it is a mistake until much later. However, if you get married young and realize it was a mistake, getting a divorce in your 20's can provide some unique challenges.

One of the most unique challenges you will face is the social stigma. Friends and family will likely have the "I told you so" of it all ready to go once the filing has begun. For many, this may pressure them into staying in an unhappy marriage because they don't want deal with the negativity. However, one of the benefits of realizing a marriage is not working while you are young is that you have plenty of time to start over. Don't let it ruin you for other relationships, but rather use it to know what you want out of your next one.

Furthermore, another unique challenge you face through an early divorce is the financial strain of the process. You may not have to deal with stock portfolios or retirement accounts quite yet, but many young divorcing couples find the divorce process more expensive than they can afford. This means it might be difficult to come up with funding for the legal process, but typically in early divorces, there is not much in the way of asset division. Neither you or your spouse have become accustomed to a lavish way of living because the wages in your early years are somewhat low. Typically this means asset division is easier, but you should both plan for post-marriage life before divorcing. Money may be tight and you should both allow yourself enough time to make arrangements.

While early divorces are stressful and expensive (though not more or less expensive than if you were married 10+ years), you still should not be afraid to go through with it. You deserve to be in a marriage where you are happy. If you are young and considering a divorce, contact us today.