DIY Separation Agreement: Don’t Let Your Divorce Become a Pinterest Fail

March 23rd, 2017

DIY Divorce graphicOften when someone comes in to discuss a divorce, he or she will want to say that the divorce is “uncontested”.  It is no secret that an uncontested divorce costs a great deal less than a contested divorce.

Unfortunately, to have an “uncontested” divorce, you and your spouse must be in agreement as to all the divorce issues: fault grounds, spousal support, equitable distribution and the child issues of custody, visitation and child support.  If you and your spouse disagree about any one of these items, you do not have an uncontested divorce… yet.

To facilitate an uncontested divorce, where you and your spouse can come to an agreement, I usually recommend that you and your spouse negotiate and sign a separation agreement, specifically one drafted by an attorney.  Why an attorney?  In truth, if you and your spouse were to agree upon terms, written on a napkin, and sign the napkin, that would be a legally-binding document.  It may be hard to enforce in Court, though.

Additionally, what you may be agreeing to, and signing may be two different things.  For example, you or your spouse may agree that “wife can have the house”.  In husband’s mind, this may mean that wife pays the mortgage; in wife’s mind it may mean she “gets” the house after the husband pays the mortgage.  Without further clarification, “wife can have the house” does not say who will pay the mortgage, at all, so you are left without an agreement as to that point.  Another way this happens is when you agree to a legal term, and you don’t know what it means.  This most often happens when a couple agrees to “joint legal custody”.  What if “joint legal custody” means something other than what you thought you and the other parent were agreeing to?

Finally, an attorney can put into an agreement protections that might not have been there otherwise.  For example, how do you and your spouse go about modifying your agreement should circumstances change?  There’s a provision for that.  What if one of you drafted it and the other one felt pressured to sign it?  There’s a provision for that.  What if it was written in Virginia but you both live in different states now?  There’s a provision for that.  I am not suggesting that attorneys are not human, but many of the provisions you and your spouse may leave out come standard in attorney-drafted documents.

In sum, do not allow your divorce to become a Pinterest fail by drafting your own separation agreement, on a napkin or otherwise.  Hire a professional so that you know you are protected and that what you agreed to will become the basis for your divorce.

Do I have to do court ordered community service?

February 27th, 2017

Sometimes I have people come into the office and they tell me that they can’t do community service because they have a health problem.  Perhaps they hurt their back or something else and they feel that they should be given a chance by the court to just bypass the community service requirement because of their special situation.

The court doesn’t really give people a pass just because they don’t want to do something, or it’s hard for them to do it.

What can you do?

If you have been ordered to do community service, you will need to  do something to help the community.  You have probably been assigned a representative from the court services unit or the probation office and they can help you with ideas of where you might be able to do your community service.

Picking up trash on the side of the road is only one thing that is available.  You might help at a food bank either getting food ready to put on their shelves, or put food in bags for clients.  You might also help out at a church or community center in a lot of different ways including getting the weekly bulletin or monthly newsletter ready to be delivered.  During the winter months, you can also help at homeless shelters or church communities that provide temporary housing and food for the homeless.  Many thrift stores use volunteer help to put price tags on items or other tasks around the shop.

The most important thing is that you need to find something to do that will fulfill your community service requirements.  If not, you might just find yourself in jail.

Can I give up my parental rights?

February 4th, 2017

I often have young men come into my office to ask if they can give up their parental rights to a child because their ex is pregnant.  Often the expectant mother has told the young man that he can give up his parental rights if he will just leave her and the child alone (and she promises not to ask for child support at any time in the future).

First of all, there really aren’t any parental rights until the child is born.

Also, you can NOT sign over your parental rights unless there is someone else ready, willing and able to take over (an example would be an adoption).

If the mother says you are the father, but you are not married, then you have the right to sign or not sign the birth certificate.  If you sign the birth certificate, you are stating that you will accept being the legal father of this child with all of the rights and responsibilities that come with being a father.  If you do not sign the birth certificate, then you are not the legal father until and unless other actions take place.

The mother can take you to court for child support, at which time you can request a DNA test to make sure you are the father.  If the court determines that you are the father via the DNA test results, they can then order you to pay child support.  If the court determines that you are not the father via DNA test results, then the court can not order you to pay child support based on the DNA results.

You can also go to court and accept responsibility for the child by stating under oath that you are the father without going the DNA route, but take note that you cannot take a DNA test later and overrule this statement so you had better be sure this is what you want to do.

If you have questions about this, or any legal topic, please contact the office of Beavers Law, P.C. at 757-234-4650 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.  You can also visit us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com.

A New Year, A New Company!

January 1st, 2017

We work with a lot of individuals and small business owners and we often tell them that you should periodically re-evaluate your situation.

At Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law, we did just that.  We re-evaluated our situation and determined that we really needed to become a Professional Corporation.

Why?  We have worked wonderfully as a sole proprietorship for over 8 years and when we considered a change in the past, it just didn’t seem to be necessary.  However, things change.  We get older and the ease of being a sole proprietorship also means that if anything happened to Kristina Beavers, the firm itself would need to be dissolved.  This would not be a good thing for our attorneys or our clients.

So, we have decided to incorporate and we are now officially ‘Beavers Law, P.C.’   This means that if anything happens to Kristina Beavers, the firm will continue and the attorneys and clients will be able to go on as before.

This means more details for us to watch out for, more mandatory meetings and annual reports to be completed.  But we think this is worth it to ensure the continuity of our service to our clients.

Please join us in welcoming in a New Year and a New Company!

We are also adding more attorneys and new office locations in Hampton and Williamsburg for your convenience.

If you have any questions, or wish to speak to one of our attorneys, please contact the office at 757-234-4650.

Plan for the unexpected

December 26th, 2016

We learned today that another celebrity died.  This one was very unexpected and it took everyone by surprise.  That can happen to us too!

So what can we do to plan for the unexpected?

We can make an appointment with our Estate Planning Attorney to find out what sort of plan we need.  Do we need a Will?  Should we have a Trust?  If we have a trust, are we sure that it is funded correctly?  Do we need to re-title our real estate and other assets so that the probate process can be minimized?  Do we want to make contributions to our favorite charity?  Do we have children or pets that we want to ensure are taken care of properly? (and no, the answers are not always the same for everyone)

These are all questions that should be asked and answered by a qualified Estate Planning attorney.

Remember that the Estate Plan is not for you, once you have passed away you are no longer worried about the details.  The Estate Plan is to help your family and loved ones carry on after you are gone.  This is the Plan of how you want your assets to be distributed after you are no longer able to handle these arrangements yourself.

If you have any questions or want more information about Estate Planning, please contact Beavers Law, P.C. at 757-234-4650 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.