Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Shared Custody

A recent report in the Washington Post indicates that more than 20 states contemplated implementing shared custody laws in 2017.

Shared Custody

Collaborative co-parenting agreements have become popular among divorcing couples over the last two decades, ending what had once been the typical “every other weekend dad” arrangement. State lawmakers are more frequently considering writing these types of co-parenting arrangements into law in the form of shared custody legislation. These bills would make shared custody arrangements a legal presumption, even if the parents disagree.

In Kentucky, for example, lawmakers passed a bill that makes joint physical custody and equal parenting standard in temporary custody orders while the divorce is being negotiated. In Florida, the state legislature approved a new bill to make equal time a presumption for child custody plans, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. In Michigan, lawmakers are mulling legislation that would make shared parenting time the baseline for custody negotiations.

Why Shared Child Custody?

The recent push for joint custody arrangements is partially a result of years of lobbying by advocates for fathers’ rights, who argue men have been overburdened by child support obligations and too often feel “alienated” from their children. The National Parents Organization has been a player in the fathers’ rights movement, but also has a wider focus on children’s rights and overall parental equality.

Critics of these legislative efforts say they relax protections against abusive or controlling spouses, and also take some legal discretion away from judges who are responsible for determining what is in the child’s best interest in each case.

Considerations for Your Pets During and After Divorce

While many of us think of our pets as being almost like our children, the law certainly does not hold them in the same regard. Pets are handled just like other household possessions in the divorce process. However, because of the strong emotional bond between humans and their animals, determining who gets custody of your pets could be a contentious process.

Legal precedent on pet ownership

There have been some high-profile court cases over the years related to what happens to pets during and after divorce. A 1995 case in Florida received considerable publicity when an appeals court overturned a trial court’s decision to allow a woman visitation to her family dog, which was a premarital asset of her ex-husband. The appeals court declared the woman had no rights as a dog “parent,” as the animal is considered personal property

Many national animal rights advocates believe courts should take the best interests of the animal into consideration, just as they would with a child — even though animals do not have the same legal rights as human beings.

Tips for handling pets after divorce

Regardless of the arrangement you come to regarding pet custody, it is important to work to help your pets cope with the divorce. Just like children, some animals can display signs of stress after a divorce, although the symptoms can be more difficult to identify.

The following are some tips:

  • Always consider what is best for your pet, with factors such as who is in a better place to be able to care for the animal and who is better able to pay for pet-raising expenses.
  • Consider your children’s relationship with the pet; for this reason, pets often go where the children go.
  • If you have more than one pet, avoid separating animals that are bonded to each other.
  • Continue to spend a lot of time playing with your pets.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Monday, July 16, 2018

Signing a Will

So long as you have followed all of the content rules your state requires regarding making wills legal, you have composed a valid last will and testament. The only thing left to do in making wills legal is the signing process. Follow these simple steps to ensure that your will is legally signed and validated.

Signing a Will

Have witnesses sign

As part of proper estate planning, make sure that you date and sign your own will in the presence of two witnesses who are over the age of 18. If you live in Vermont, you will need to do this in the presence of three witnesses. Most states require the witnesses to watch you sign your will together, before they sign. A few states allow the witnesses to sign the will later, so long as you tell them that it is your valid will and that it is your signature on it. It is best to do it all together, to avoid any potential challenges, later.

Most states require that the witnesses be people who are not named heirs in the will. Furthermore, if you had a lawyer draft your will, then you may not use that lawyer as a witness, either.

About half of the states allow what is called a “holographic” will. These are handwritten wills. As long as the testators of these wills handwrite them in their entirety, sign them and date them they make these holographic wills legal, even without witnesses. Holographic wills are the easiest wills to challenge, because there are no witnesses; so, it is best to try and avoid making a holographic will.

Have your witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit

There is no legal requirement of notary signing for your will. However, it is a good idea to have your witnesses sign what is called a “self-proving” affidavit. This is a statement that is sworn by your witnesses before a notary public. Having this affidavit relieves your witnesses from having to swear in probate court to the validity of your will.

Notify your executor or personal representative

There is no requirement to file your will with the court. You should tell your executor (the personal representative who will carry out your will for you) about the existence and location of your will. Most people like to keep their will in a safe deposit box.

Residence requirement

As long as you created a valid legal will according to the state in which you live, then the will is valid in any state where you die. When you move to a different state, review that state’s laws regarding how to make wills legal and marital property (if you’re married). Most likely, you will find that your will is still valid. However, if that state has different requirements, you should revise your will accordingly.

For example, Greg lived in Utah where she created a valid legal will. He then decided to move to Vermont. Greg checked with Vermont’s requirements on what makes wills legal, and discovered that she needed a third witness, when she only had two in Utah. Therefore, Greg revised his will and used three witnesses, rather than two. Does this make sense?

Get Professional Legal Help Before You Sign Your Will

A defective will may not be discovered until it is too late to fix. Once you are dead and gone you won’t be able to explain what you meant, or correct mistakes. Contact a local estate planning attorney, who can help ensure that your estate is distributed in an orderly fashion according to your wishes.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have a business law issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free estate law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

When is it Right to Seek Full Custody?

While Utah Family Courts consider many factors when making a determination about child custody, the ultimate decision rests on what is in the best interests of the child.

When is it Right to Seek Full Custody

Ideally, both parents are awarded joint or shared child custody so they can play an active role in important activities, milestones, and decisions in the lives of their children. We’ve written about this before here. However, in certain circumstances, the court decides to award sole legal and physical custody, giving the legal authority to make major decisions for the children to one parent alone.

If a parent alleges that the other committed domestic violence or sexual abuse against any household member, and there is sufficient evidence to prove it, the court will deny child custody to the abusive spouse. But if the allegations are unfounded, the alleging parent could lose custody.

Parents can also seek and receive full custody of the children if any of the following grievances apply to their spouses:

  • Unwillingness to honor their parenting time
  • Unauthorized relocation or abduction of the child to a distant location
  • Substance abuse or other conduct that jeopardizes the safety of the children
  • Religious beliefs that threaten the health and welfare of the child

While Utah child custody applies to children under 18, the courts often consider the preferences of minor children, provided they are old enough to have an opinion.

Custodial Interference Can Be a Game Changer

In a decision entered in June , the Appellate division, Third Department, upheld a Family Court finding that interference by a custodial parent was a significant change in circumstances sufficient to alter a designation of primary custody.

In Keefe v Adams, a 2007 order provided joint legal custody to the parents of a son born in 2002. After divorce, primary physical custody was awarded to the mother, with alternating weekends and holidays with the father.

In 2009, the father petitioned for modification of child custody based on alleged interference by the mother and included the following complaints:

  • Child was relocated 42 miles away without notice to the father or agreement, hindering the relationship of father and son, and requiring the child to change schools
  • The mother was routinely 15 minutes to two hours late for visitation exchange, and verbally disparaged the father in front of the child
  • Evidence existed that the boyfriend of the mother was promoted as a substitute for the father

As a result, the Family Court found the behavior of the mother was damaging to the child and deleterious to the relationship of father and son. In the best interests of the child, the lower court ordered, and the Appellate Court affirmed, a change of custody awarding the father sole legal and physical custody with visitation to the mother.

This dramatic family law case underscores the necessity of vigorous legal representation if the parent of your child is being hostile or interfering—or if those charges are being leveled against you.

Fathers — A Matter of Rights

Without question, a father seeking sole or even joint custody of his children without agreement of the mother has a tough case ahead of him.

Utah courts[H1] decide child custody matters based on the best interests of children. Historically, payment of custody support and visitation was allocated to fathers while child custody was awarded to mothers. Even today—make no mistake—many settled and litigated cases fall along those lines.

But cultural perspectives and family law are changing. With a focus on father’s rights, our firm has participated in an upswing of victories on Long Island for fathers who want to be parents, not just visitors.

If you want to support or restore your position in the life of your children, take note of the following approaches we have successfully used to enforce the rights of men:

  • Relationship matters: In relying on best interest factors, a court looks for quality of relationship between parent and child. Do not let legal counsel overlook the close and warm ties you have with your child.
  • Preference: By teen years, courts give greater weight to living preferences expressed by children. Arranging an in camera interview between child and judge can help the court understand the real needs and desires of your children.
  • Flexibility helps: Flexible work schedules can give fathers a better shot at custody.

Despite changing times, fathers’ rights cases are still complicated. Make sure your attorney is not afraid to protect your rights aggressively—and those of your children—when necessary.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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Understanding Alimony

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Uncontested Divorces

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Divorce Process

Divorce Lawyer

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Divorce Process

A divorce starts with a divorce petition. The petition is written by one spouse (the petitioner) and served on the other spouse. The petition is then filed in a state court in the county where one of the spouses resides. It does not matter where the marriage occurred. The petition includes important information regarding the marriage. It names the husband, wife and any children and states if there is any separate property or community property, child custody, child support, and alimony or spousal support.

Divorce Process

Serving the Divorce Petition

The petition (or the divorce papers) must be served on the other spouse. This phase of the process is called “service of process.” If both spouses agree to the divorce, the other spouse only needs to sign an acknowledgement of the receipt of service. However, if the other spouse refuses to sign or is difficult to locate, you can hire a professional process server to personally deliver the papers.

Completing service of process starts the clock running on your state’s waiting period. It also sets automatic restraining orders on the spouses and helps establish the date of separation. At this point, the spouses are not permitted to take any children out of state, sell any property, borrow against property, or borrow or sell insurance held for the other spouse.

Divorce Petition Response

The other spouse is known as the “respondent.” Although it’s not required, the respondent can file a response to the petition saying he or she agrees. Filing a response shows both parties agree to the divorce. This makes it more likely the case will proceed without a court hearing, which could delay the process and cost more. Generally, if a response is not filed within 30 days, the petitioner can request that a default be entered by the court. The responding spouse can also use the response to disagree with information presented in the petition.

Final Steps of a Divorce

Both spouses are required to disclose information regarding their assets, liabilities, income and expenses. If the divorce is uncontested and the spouses can agree on the terms of the divorce, there is only a bit more paperwork to file. Once the court enters the judgment, the divorce is final. However, the marriage is not formally dissolved and the spouses cannot remarry until the end of the state’s waiting period. If there are disputes that cannot be resolved, court hearings and maybe even a trial will be required.

Legal Requirements for Divorce

Under most state laws, a divorce (or “dissolution”) action must be filed and decided in court. All states have a “no-fault divorce” policy. In other words, the courts are not concerned with which spouse was guilty of marital misconduct.

The following legal requirements are necessary to file for divorce in most states:

  1. Residency: The spouse filing for divorce must have resided in the state and county for a certain period. Six months is a common state requirement, and three months is typical at the county level.
  2. Waiting Period: Most states have a mandatory waiting period from the filing to the finalization of a divorce. In other words, you cannot file and finalize a divorce on the same day. The average waiting period is 6 months but can be anywhere from 0 to 12 months. After the waiting period, the divorce is finalized and both parties are free to remarry.
  3. Legal Grounds: States generally recognize two legal grounds for divorce: (1) irreconcilable differences and (2) separation. “Irreconcilable differences” simply means there are marital difficulties that cannot be reconciled and have led to the permanent breakdown of the marriage.
  4. Jurisdictional Requirement: An action for divorce must be filed with the proper court. The appropriate court is typically in the county where either the wife or husband has resided for at least 3-6 months prior to filing for divorce.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Uncontested Divorces

Uncontested Divorces

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse achieve an agreement about the greater part of the issues in your divorce. Once you’ve achieved these agreements, you don’t need to go into court and contend. Rather, you document court shapes and a “conjugal settlement agreement” that details the agreements you’ve made about how you need to isolate your property and obligations, what your custody courses of action for your children will be, and whether support payments will change hands. Your settlement, and your final divorce, will have to be approved by a judge, which shouldn’t be any problem. The judge will usually approve a settlement agreement unless it’s clear that the terms are completely unfair to one person or were arranged when one person was under duress.

Cost of an Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is the least costly divorce that you can possible get. However, even it will make some real progress on your wallet. You’ll have to figure out how to prepare and file the court papers, you’ll have to pay filing fees, and you may want to get some help from a divorce lawyer . You might also buy books or other materials to help you. (Your court’s website may provide free help, too—it’s worth looking, as many court websites have useful information.)

Get Help with your Divorce

You’ll likely have the capacity to deal with your uncontested divorce with almost no assistance from a legal advisor, however you might need to request that a legal counselor investigate your paperwork and, maybe, to audit your settlement agreement. Many couples use a counselor or a mediator to help them come to agreement on property and custody issues. And if you or your spouse has retirement benefits through work, you might need to hire an actuary to value them or a lawyer to prepare the special court order you’ll need to divide them.

Assuming you use professionals for these tasks, you should be able to get everything done for between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on where you live and how much lawyers charge as well as the court filing fees and service fees.

Stay Away from Legal Document Preparers

A legal document preparer can really mess up your divorce paperwork. Be very careful.  In numerous states, document preparers, paralegals, or notary or typists (different names for a similar activity) can enable you to plan court frames for a divorce. They cannot give you legal advice, but they can direct you to helpful resources and then make sure the forms are properly filled out so that your court process goes smoothly. Because they can’t give you legal advise, and some of them have no idea what they are doing – other than selling you some paperwork – you really should speak with a divorce lawyer.

How Long Will an Uncontested Divorce Take?

In the event that you and your spouse both remain over every one of the undertakings you have to deal with, you ought to have the capacity to conclude your divorce when the holding up period (each state has one) is finished. So depending on your state’s requirements, you could be finishing your divorce within a few months, or you may have everything done and just be waiting around for the date when you can file the final papers.

Free Consultation with Divorce Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Understanding Alimony

All spouses have an obligation to deal with each other in some form or fashion, and that obligation carries on even after divorce when one spouse needs financial help from the other, as support installments.  In Utah, sometimes you can escape alimony – but if you’ve been married for over 7 years, and one of the parties has been a “stay at home” mom or dad – there is a chance you may have to pay alimony.

Types of Alimony

In Utah, alimony is referred to in three different ways: as alimony, spousal support, and maintenance. Temporary maintenance is an order that one spouse must financially support the other while the divorce is being finalized. Once the divorce is finalized, the temporary maintenance stops and the judge decides whether permanent alimony is appropriate. A spouse could receive temporary maintenance but no permanent order once the divorce is finalized, or could receive no temporary maintenance during the divorce but later receive a permanent order. Judges decide whether or not to order spousal support based on individual circumstances of each case.

How Alimony Works

To decide whether spousal support is appropriate, the judge will look at the needs of the spouse asking for support and whether the other spouse has the financial ability to provide financial help. For example, if your income is lower than your spouse’s but you are able to support yourself, you may not be entitled to alimony. The court will also look at other factors when making a decision about support:

  • the length of the marriage
  • each spouse’s age and health status
  • each spouse’s present and future earning capacity
  • the need of one spouse to incur education or training expenses
  • whether the spouse seeking maintenance is able to become self-supporting
  • whether caring for children inhibited one spouse’s earning capacity
  • equitable distribution of marital property, and
  • the contributions that one spouse has made as a homemaker in order to help enhance the other spouse’s earning capacity.

The court will also look to see whether the acts of one spouse have inhibited or continue to inhibit the other spouse’s earning capacity or ability to obtain employment. The most common example of this would be domestic violence. If one spouse’s abuse of the other affected that abused spouse’s ability to maintain or to get a job, the court might consider those actions in making its order.

Understanding Alimony

Length of Alimony

Impermanent upkeep orders end when a last judgment for divorce is entered. Regardless of whether you’ve been accepting provision while your divorce was in process, you will just keep getting installments if the judge makes a changeless request for it. Permanent alimony ends either on a date specified in the order, at the death of either spouse, or when the spouse receiving alimony remarries

Either of the spouses can ask the judge to modify the permanent order if there is a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if the spouse receiving support gets a better paying job, the court may reduce the payment amount or even terminate the payments.

The state of Utah provides an online guideline calculator for temporary spousal support. The calculator only looks at each spouse’s income and does not take into consideration any of the factors listed above, so you’ll get an estimate but not necessarily the exact amount the judge would order.

Alimony is tax deductible to the paying spouse and must be reported as income by the receiving spouse.

Free Consultation with an Alimony Lawyer in Utah

If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Power of Attorney and Living Will

There are two types of documents that can make end-of-life decisions easier for you and your loved ones: the power of attorney and the living will. When you create these documents, you will have the peace of mind that your end-of-life care will be carried out as closely as possible to what you wish. You can also be confident that your loved ones won’t be stuck making tough decisions that could divide them just when they need each other most.

Power of Attorney and Living Will

Living Will in Utah

A living will doesn’t actually do anything that most people commonly associate with wills, like distribute property. Instead, a living will lets those around you know what kind of care you do, or do not, want to have in the event that you are unable to communicate your wishes because of a debilitating injury or illness.

Your living will can be very specific or very general. You can spell out exactly what kind of procedures you want or don’t want, or you can make a general pronouncement and leave it up to those around you to determine how to proceed.

If you elect to go with the general approach, it is particularly important to craft a power of attorney. Even if you attempt in your living will to spell out what you want in every conceivable circumstance, however, you should still have a power of attorney in place. No one can predict every eventuality, so it is important to have someone you trust in place to make the hard choices you didn’t foresee.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

With what is known as a durable power of attorney for health care, you can designate an agent that will make decisions that weren’t covered by your living will. It is important to note that your health care agent can’t overrule any of the provisions of your living will. Your agent can only supplement your wishes if something comes up that you didn’t anticipate in your living will.

If you have already designated a power of attorney for financial decisions, keep in mind that conflict can arise between your financial and health agents. It’s best to choose individuals that you know can work together and who have your best interests at heart.

Drafting a Advanced Healthcare Directive

In order to create either a living will or a power of attorney for healthcare, most states only require that you are an adult (typically 18) and are competent when you create the document.

When a Living Will or Power of Attorney for Healthcare Begins

Both of these documents take effect when your doctor declares that you lack the “capacity” to make your own health care decisions. The standard is different in every state, but typically you no longer have the capacity to make health care decisions if:

  • You do not understand the nature and consequences of the health care decisions you are required to make
  • You cannot communicate your decisions orally, in writing or through gestures

Another option allowed in some states is to name a healthcare agent, who can act for you at any time if you grant them the power. This is a popular option with spouses and allows for immediate decisions to be made without having to have a doctor declare you incapacitated. Your healthcare agent can’t override the healthcare treatment wishes you set forth in your living will, and must always abide by your best interests.

When a Living Will or Healthcare Directive Stops Working

Your living will and the power of attorney for healthcare are generally extinguished upon your death. This also means that your healthcare agent, if you designate one, can only make healthcare decisions for you while you are alive and incapacitated. Some states allow your healthcare directives or agents to remain effective after your death only for limited purposes, such as the disposal of your remains.

Otherwise, your living will generally only ends if it is terminated by you or a court. The power of attorney for healthcare can similarly be revoked, but may also be affected by a divorce. Some states automatically revoke a divorced spouse as a healthcare agent, and any alternate you name would become your new healthcare agent. To avoid confusion, designate a new healthcare agent upon a divorce and always name alternate agents when drafting the original document.

Free Consultation with a Utah Power of Attorney Lawyer

If you are here, you may need help with a power of attorney for healthcare decisions or an advanced healthcare directive in Utah. If this is your situation, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506