Tag Archives: Divorce attorney

In Defense of Step-moms (and dads)

Remember Cinderella’s step-mom? “Light the fire! Fix the breakfast! Wash the dishes! Do the mopping! And the cleaning and the shopping!”* She was definitely not the kind of step-parent a child would ever want or need. She was the original “step-monster”.

I’m a step-parent, but to grown adult children with children of their own. But whether the children are very small or adults on their own, there is no tried-and-true manual for step-parents to “fit” into the new family dynamic. After all, each family is unique with their own way of doing things, patterns of communication, and traditions. And, maybe the step-parent is not entirely welcome, especially if the “original parent” feels replaced, angry, jealous, and/or threatened and communicates this directly or indirectly to the children.

Nothing could be worse for your children. Several years ago, a woman I know (we will call her Linda) met the fiancé of her former spouse.  Sadly, Linda took most every opportunity to criticize the woman.  She would not listen to reason nor dignity. Her child marinated daily in her mother’s hatred for the fiancé.

The fiancé appeared to love the child. She attended the child’s events at school, church and gymnastics.  She sent her home with treats, and otherwise demonstrated her attachment to her.  The child wanted to love the step-mom but Linda sabotaged it in every possible way.

The child’s father was no “winner”. Having been previously granted only supervised visitation, his ability to properly care for the child was in question. Linda failed to grasp that the fiancé could ensure her well-being during the father’s parenting time. We encouraged Linda to make an ally of the fiancé but she refused. The fiancé became the step-mom. She gave up trying to be friendly and joined her new husband in the ongoing war between the parents.  The child suffered and exhibited signs of emotional distress as a result of her parent’s antics.

Don’t be “Linda”. Love your child more than you hate their step-parent.

So, what do you do when the step-mom / step-dad appears? To be direct, you do not have a right to prevent your child’s other parent from dating or remarrying. They have all the same rights as you do to live a full life.

So, it is time for a little introspection.

First, do you welcome a step-parent in your child’s life? If not, why not? Be specific. Write it down. Odds are if you are unable to lay out the “why” on paper, it may be more of an emotional reason than a rational one. Note, it is not enough that you “just don’t want someone else in the child’s life”. If that is the only thing you can come up with, take a breath and put on your adult shoes. Life moves forward whether we want it to or not. Adulting is not always easy, but it is what we are called to do once we have children.

Second, take inventory of your emotions. Are you angry? Jealous? Threatened? And, if so, why? Are these emotions something you want your child to marinate in? Even if you don’t openly verbalize your unhappiness about the step-parent, your child will still pick up on the non-verbal cues.  Keep adult emotions and feelings away from the kids. They can’t fix it and the are very sensitive to the emotional well-being of the hand that rocks the cradle. In short, keep the kids out of it.

Third, is it the thought of your calling someone else “Mommy” or “Daddy”?  Please know, if you seek to maintain your place in that child’s life and take care of your obligations as a parent financially and emotionally, there is no reason why you won’t remain “Mommy/Daddy”. Yes, seeing your child get attached to a new dating partner can be hard (Divorced and Dating with Kids is the subject of another article). But, by creating and maintaining a respectful relationship with the new step-parent, you will know someone is ensuring your child’s well-being when you are not there, and that peace of mind is priceless.

Fourth, do you believe the step-parent is in any way a threat to the safety and well-being of your child? Does he or she have a history of drug use? Violence? High risk activities? Child molestation? Alcoholism? Criminal activity?  If you have any of these concerns, then stop reading and call your attorney right now.  The “best interests” of the child is the gold standard in parenting time allocation. 

Our hope is that your co-parent will be respectful and reasonable in how they handle introducing the new spouse into the family. Remember, it is not always the easiest task for the parents, step-parent or the child. Show each other some grace and give it some time. Take it slow. Open a dialogue with your co-parent about any concerns you have and collaborate – don’t try to dictate. This is not your decision. Yes, your child is involved but again, your ex has every right to move on in his or her life. Collaboration with your co-spouse will ease the transition.

Life evolves. You will want the same considerations when you fall in love again and or remarry. The shoe (glass slipper) will be on the other foot and you could be the step-monster, I mean step-mom.

Good luck!

 

*from Cinderella’s, “The Work Song” Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Court, Family Law, Litigation

Divorce – Questions and Answers

divorceWe frequently receive questions from people that are either in the process of divorce or are soon to begin a divorce.  We have decided to share some of those questions and answers here for those of you that may benefit from this information.

Here’s a question that we recently received and answered:

Can a wife claim abandonment in TN if husband has not lived at home for 1 month?

“Wife of 6 yrs has become addicted to drugs and children were removed from the home as a result. Husband moved out of home as well after being told by family court he should not allow the children to have contact with their mother until she fulfills treatment. The home has been under Chapt. 13 bankruptcy for over 2 yrs. Wife has been a stay at home mother for 1.5 yrs. She is now threatening to file for spouse abandonment to have husband’s wages garnished in order to keep the home as residence and provide herself with income. Husband has bank statements and records showing he has provided income to her while he has been absent from the home. The situation has been ongoing for just over 1 month.”

ANSWER:
By Harold E. Rushton,  Attorney at Law

You have posed some interesting questions regarding divorce and separation. First, the answer to your main question is no. One month is an insufficient period of time to establish abandonment grounds for divorce in Tennessee.  The law in Tennessee states the parties must reside separate and apart for at least (2) two years to establish abandonment grounds for divorce in Tennessee.

The facts as you have presented them do provide potential grounds for divorce of which the husband could raise.  Those grounds are drug addiction by the wife.  Under Tennessee law, habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs of either party, when the spouse has contracted either such habit after marriage are sufficient grounds for divorce.

If the husband is the primary parent, once he files for divorce, he may file a pendente lite action to seek support from the wife if she is failing to contribute support to the minor children and the burden is solely his to support the children. Whether relief is granted will depend upon his and her earning power, assets maintained by each party, etc. Those are all fact specific and must be determined by the court after hearing all of the facts of the case.

You really need to seek the advice of an attorney regarding this matter.  Here at The Rushton Law Firm, PLLC, we focus on divorce and separation so we can guide you through this process and help to protect your rights along the way. I hope that I have been helpful in answering your questions. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you should have any further questions.  We are located here in Davidson County, Tennessee and are happy to assist any time. I wish you all the best in the outcome of your case.

fullsizerender

Harold E. Rushton, Esq. is a Nashville, Tennessee based Divorce, Separation and Criminal Defense Attorney serving Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford, Dickson and Wilson Counties.

The Rushton Law Firm, PLLC  Phone:  (615)576-0071 or (615)815-9967

Leave a Comment

Filed under Litigation, Questions & Answers

The California Raisins on Truth, Lies, Dating and Divorce

People say believe half of what you see.  Son, and none of what you hear.  I can’t help being confused.  If it’s true, please tell me dear.”  

Okay, so maybe it was actually Marvin Gaye who vocalized that famous line in his song “I heard it through the grapevine”, but it still holds true.  California RaisinPeople are not always…. uh, forth coming about past marriages and especially the divorce(s).  If you have assets or children to protect, a little caution can go a long way towards protecting both your finances and your heart.

So, if you can’t believe half of what you see and none of what you hear, how do you know what the “truth” is?

A phone call to your local clerk’s office (which court houses divorce information differs by state) in the county where your love lives  or was divorced in, can reveal if your significant other has filed for divorce, is actually divorced and more.  The records also contain number of prior marriages, indicate who filed for divorce, the property division and more.  They are public records and the clerk’s office, depending on the size of the file, may be able to email or snail mail the document to you.

If the divorce was amicable or if the parties were committed to keeping their privacy, then the filings (the documents describing the position and responses of the parties in the case) will likely be short, concise, and “clean”.

If the divorce was not amicable, then the filings will likely be extensive and contain a lot of “dirt” on the marriage, the parties, and contested issues. Details regarding abuse, instability, drug use, affairs, poor parenting, financial issues, bank records, and so forth will be laid out in (embarrassing) detail.  Reviewing the full case file, including subsequent lawsuits between the parties, will give you a good idea of who your significant other is under pressure and an idea of their character as well.

What you do with this information?

It is up to you.  What is seen cannot be unseen.  Either way, you will be able to make informed decisions regarding your relationship and won’t be hearing the news through the grapevine.

-TLHR

Leave a Comment

Filed under Litigation

Don’t take a Selfie with the Judge

cell phone banYesterday, I visited the Wilson County Justice Center in Lebanon, Tennessee on behalf of a client.  Upon approach, we noticed four different signs announcing cell phones or other recording devices were banned from the building.  Note, it was not just the courtroom, but the entire building.  As we approached security, the guards politely asked if we had cell phones on us.  Fortunately, they were in the car but the computer in my bag raised an eyebrow.  I flashed my all-access-I’m-an-attorney bar card and all was well (attorneys, employees and a few others are exempted from the ban).

Suspecting a good story behind the heavily advertised ban, I asked the ladies in the clerk’s office what prompted the zero tolerance policy.  Apparently, in at least one instance, spectators in the courtroom texted witnesses waiting outside what the witness on the stand said.  On top of that, judges did not like spectators taking pictures of the proceedings or of the judge personally.  I imagined a witness snapping a quick selfie with the judge in the background and Aunt Lelia snapping a picture of cousin Jack’s latest arraignment to share instantly with Mama and ’em or possibly on facebook.

A judge may make rules for her or his court.  Failure to follow those rules could result in contempt of court which could carry a fine or jail time.  See our article on pajamas in the courtroom or other cell phone-related contempt of court rules for Circuit Court in Davidson County, Nashville, Tennessee.  To be safe, you should always check local rules for your court to ensure you follow the rules perfectly.  A quick internet search on your phone could help you keep that phone.

According to this article, a violator is subject to a 10-day jail sentence and/or forfeiture of their cell phone.  And, as the cell phone is also a status symbol, some of them can be pretty costly (some iPhones retail in excess of $800+).  That is a pretty heavy investment to simply be locked away in a vault.

The moral of this story is simply don’t bring your cell phone or recording device into the Wilson County Justice Center in Lebanon, Tennessee.  The justice there is swift, the folks there are friendly but they take the cell phone ban seriously… and so should you.

-TLHR

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Court, Litigation

Petition for Civil Contempt of Court

You know it is coming, or at least you should. You were involved in a lawsuit but thankfully, you reached a signed settlement agreement that dictated what each party would do to resolve the litigation permanently. But…. time passed and you didn’t do some or any of the things you agreed to do. Why? That’s not the point now. What matters is you have been served with a Petition for Civil Contempt of Court and it is time to deal with the repercussions of your delay. civil contempt of court

What do you do now? Do what you agreed to do in the settlement agreement – and do it quickly! Sheer refusal or lame excuses will not go well with the court. Assuming you knew you had a duty to perform (you did sign the agreement) and you have the current ability to perform the task, your refusal or failure to perform under the settlement agreement can carry civil or criminal penalties. Yes. You. Jail. Not only could you get a dressing down by the Judge, you may also get a few days behind bars to think it over and “purge yourself of contempt”. In other words, you may not get out of jail until you perform under the settlement agreement. In fact, we are familiar with one local case where a former spouse failed to pay alimony under a Marital Dissolution Agreement (the settlement agreement) and was “housed” by the court for over two months until he made a substantial down payment on the overdue alimony.

If you have legitimate reasons for failing to perform – you can’t sell the house because it was destroyed by a tornado or you can’t deliver 10,000 widgets as agreed because a widget blight destroyed the entire international widget crop – then you have some room to work with here. Your attorney can confer with opposing counsel to determine if substitute action will suffice or perhaps all parties could modify the settlement agreement to reflect the substantial change of circumstances.

So, either way, it is time to act.  Doing so will save you time, expense and anxiety over the case.  Do what you need to do, get it behind you and move on with life.

Peace of mind is priceless.

-TLHR

Leave a Comment

Filed under Litigation

What to Wear to Court – Not Pajamas

pajamasIf you are reading this, you likely have an upcoming court date and aren’t sure how things work – including what to wear.

Different courts have different rules, but across the board, it is important to dress appropriately and in a way that indicates your respect for the court.  If you are not attired properly, the bailiff (the court officer) could ask you to leave the courtroom until you have corrected your clothing issue. For example, in most courts, you are not allowed to wear hats, halter tops, midriff shirts, untucked shirts, low hanging pants or other attire that shows too much skin or is otherwise too casual for the courtroom.

A Clerk of Court in Pennsylvania recently had signs posted in the court room indicating that pajamas are not appropriate court attire.  Really!  Pajamas!  You would think that would be an obvious “what not to wear” but clearly, in that courtroom, it had happened one too many times.

So, what do you wear? A suit is nice.  But if you wear one or not, always be tidy and presentable. Men can safely dress in slacks and a button down shirt. Ladies can wear the same or a skirt (make sure it is knee length or just above – no mini-skirts, please) and low-heeled shoes.

Again, the overall tone is to show the court respect both by your actions and your attire.   Just keep the pajamas at home and you should be fine.

See the no-pajama article by clicking here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Litigation

What To Wear To Court (not Pajamas)

If you are reading this, you likely have a court date on the horizon and aren’t sure how things work – including what to wear. It is good you are already getting ready for your court date and working on being prepared.

Different courts have different rules, but across the board, it is important to dress appropriately and in a way that indicates your respect for the court.  If you are not attired properly, the bailiff (the court officer) could ask you to leave the courtroom until you have corrected your clothing issue. For example, in most courts, you are not allowed to wear hats, halter tops, midriff shirts, untucked shirts, low hanging pants or other attire that shows too much skin or just is too casual for the courtroom.

pajamasA Clerk of Court in Pennsylvania recently had signs posted in the court room indicating that pajamas are not appropriate court attire.  Really!  Pajamas!  You would think that would be obvious “what not to wear” but clearly, in that courtroom, it had happened one too many times.

So, what do you wear? You don’t have to wear a suit, but being tidy and presentable is always a good idea. Men can safely dress in slacks and a button down shirt. Ladies can wear the same or a skirt (make sure it is knee length or just above – no mini-skirts, please).

Again, the overall tone is to show the court respect both by your actions and your attire.  Just keep the pajamas at home and you should be fine.

T. Leigh Hearn-Rushton

See the no-pajama article by clicking here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Court, Family Law, Litigation, Service of Process

Dear Facebook. I want a divorce!

You may have started your relationship online but can you end it that way too? Yes, in New York, a woman served her soon-to-be former spouse with divorce papers via facebook.

facbook messages images

Here in Tennessee, one is typically “served” in person, through their attorney, or by leaving service of process with a person of suitable age and discretion who lives with the Defendant. Note that service of process procedures can and do differ by state. After all, one needs a head’s up if your spouse is divorcing you or you have some other pending legal action against you.

But what if you can’t find you former flame or even where they live? See the article below for a woman who found herself in this position for a number of years. The only thing she did know was that her husband regularly checked facebook.

Last year, a New York court allowed her to achieve service of process for a divorce by sending the documents via facebook. The social networking site even documents if the message was read and at what time. Imagine opening your facebook private messages to find you are being sued for divorce. It is taking “You got Served!” to a whole other (electronic) level.

Is service of process for a lawsuit by facebook the coming norm?

Unlikely. Service, even through a process server, is to ensure one has personal notice of a pending legal action. The key words here are “personal” and “notice”. Our system is designed to ensure you have adequate and proper notice of the legal action so that you can prepare a defense and/or otherwise address the issue at hand.

Again, in most cases and states, while this type of service won’t be accepted anytime soon, it is a little something for you to think about the next time you check your fb account….

 

See Washington Post Article here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Civil Procedure, Family Law, Service of Process