Divorce can be one of, if not the, most devastating times a family experiences. But staying in a relationship that no longer works, that is ultimately hurting you and your kids because of the fighting or atmosphere in the home, must be addressed as well. Birmingham divorce attorney Sam Dixon handles divorce cases with compassion and fire. Sometimes compassion is the best remedy, and sometimes fire is needed when the other side is playing hard-ball, or you are in an abusive relationship.
- Don't Let Your Spouse Get the Drop on You – Unfortunately, your spouse may have been preparing for a divorce for some time. You should, if possible, prepare for a divorce before you file for divorce. I guarantee you most attorneys your spouse sees will tell them the same thing. You should plan for your divorce just as you would any other major decision in your life. You should contact attorney Dixon at any time you may be considering a divorce. He will provide you options, possible pitfalls, realistic expectations, and prepare you for what can be a very complicated process for free.
Spouses will sometimes empty bank accounts, cash out money market accounts, start hiding assets the minute they file or months in advance of a divorce filing. We've even seen spouses clean out the entire house before a divorce was ever filed. Spouses often file erroneous Protection from Abuse Petitions or Ex Parte Motions for Custody, or Possession of the Marital Home. You should never take any action without first consulting with an experienced divorce attorney. These actions can have serious consequences on the divorce process, custody, visitation, and in the division of assets. Plan to succeed.
- Be Prepared to Fight -- In real life most people do not take divorce well. In rare occasions, it can be a relatively easy process that can be accomplished through an uncontested divorce where both sides basically agree to everything without difficulty. In most instances, couples going through a divorce fight over almost everything and try to gain the upper hand by any means necessary. That means you must be ready to fight during this process. Women especially, but men sometimes too, just want to do anything they can to get out of a marriage, and they end up giving away significant assets, alimony, retirement accounts, or even child custody or visitation.
We will, of course, follow your direction when it comes to compassion or fire, but we will also give you our opinion on which is the best for your situation. Sometimes you may want an amicable divorce and be willing to divide assets fairly or even give up child custody, but your spouse just wants to make your life miserable. They have probably been making you miserable for years at this point, and they want to inflict the most pain as possible while going through the divorce too. Or maybe your spouse doesn't want a divorce and you do, then they may also want to fight tooth-and-nail for every dog bowl or china collection.
Child-custody determinations are where we regularly see the most acrimony during a divorce process. Most parents want to maintain custody of their children. And in many cases, this can mean all-out war for your children's lives. If you believe you should have primary custody of your children and they should reside primarily with you, and that it's in your children's best interest to do, then anyone with the means will do everything they can to fight for their children. Thus, you must be prepared to fight fire-with-fire throughout the divorce.
- You've Been Served – If you have been served a divorce complaint, you must respond within 30 days or you could have a default judgment rendered against you. What that means is the filing party basically gets whatever they want and plead in the divorce complaint. It is extremely important that you immediately retain counsel as soon as you are served a divorce complaint.
The service of a divorce complaint and summons starts the divorce process. Once you are served, you must respond with an Answer to the complaint. In the answer you will usually deny all the material allegations made in the complaint and file a counter-claim for divorce yourself seeking other remedies. Normally, we will file an answer, counter-claim, a motion for temporary relief such as the possession of the marital home, temporary alimony, child-custody and alimony if applicable. This motion is called a motion for Pendente Lite Relief.
In our response to the divorce complaint, we often advise immediately filing discovery documents to determine the basis for the divorce requested and the relief sought, as well as to determine the evidence they may have to use against you during the divorce process. Discovery is also important to obtain information about all family assets that may be divided during the divorce process, such as retirement accounts, stock options, investment accounts, bank account records, true employment income, etc.
- File First – If possible, you should always file a divorce first. It gives you no procedural advantages in most cases absent some cause for concern regarding abuse or other immediate health or welfare concern of the parties or their children. But in filing first you can often protect assets before the other side is able to move or conceal, catch the other side off guard and not prepared to defend themselves, and by obtaining important information prior to your spouse learning of the divorce, just to name a few.
To file a divorce first you will need to obtain a lawyer, go over your options, prepare, and then file a divorce complaint and summons that requires the other side to answer. Just like in filing a counter-claim, we often file the temporary motion for relief that should be held in an expeditious manner to maintain the family home, who is paying the bills, custody and visitation, child-support or even alimony during the divorce process. Once filed, the other side gets those 30 days to respond but you will have already prepared yourself for this process.
If you or a loved one is contemplating divorce now or in the future, come speak to divorce attorney Sam Dixon today. We regularly handle divorce matters in central Alabama including Jefferson County, Shelby County, St. Clair County and other surrounding areas. We represent clients in divorce matters, child-custody, visitation, child-support, custody modifications, alimony, and much more. Please contact Dixon Law Firm at 205-616-8896.