Archive for July, 2019

Divorce Quick Guide…..the “Cliff Notes”

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Here is a quick guide as to divorce grounds in Mississippi……this list includes all recognized grounds and basic judicial interpretation of those reasons for legal rights to divorcing. Sometimes several are applicable to divorcing spouses.

FAULT-BASED GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE (Miss. Code Ann. 93-5-1)

Natural Impotency……..The Mississippi Supreme Court has held that divorce on this ground was not permitted where a woman’s physical condition made intercourse painful and where she pursued treatment. Sarphie v. Sarphie, 177 So. 358 (Miss. 1937

Adultery………Adultery is “voluntary sexual intercourse on the part of either spouse with a person other than his or her own spouse.” Owen v. Gerity, 422 So. 2d 284 (Miss. 1982). Adultery may be shown by circumstantial proof or a generally adulterous nature, combined with evidence of a reasonable opportunity to satisfy the infatuation of proclivity. McAdory v. McAdory, 608 So.2d 695 (Miss.1992). Direct evidence is not required. No need to have concrete proof!

Being sentenced to a penitentiary………..The statute was, several years ago, amended to read “sentenced to any penitentiary.”

Desertion….willful, continued, obstinate desertion for the marital space or domicile for a period of one year.

Constructive Desertion (as an option where physical desertion is not available)………Mississippi recognizes constructive desertion (where on spouse engages in conduct that forces the other to leave the marital home or renders the continuation of the marriage “unendurable”. (A subjective standard).

Refusal to have sexual relations (as a form of constructive desertion)…… This must be long-standing and without good cause, such as physical pain from intercourse.

Refusal to reconcile (as a form of constructive desertion and/or desertion).

Desertion may occur when on spouse leaves the marital home, then makes a good faith effort at reconciliation and the other spouse rejects the offer. Day v. Day. 501So.2d 353 (Miss. 1987).

Habitual drunkenness……..This one needs little explanation.

Habitual use of opium or “other like drug”….note that the Court of Appeals has broadened the definition of other “like” drugs. Marijuana is now considered a “like” drug by our courts due to the effects of its use.

Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment………The courts state that the cruelty required is not such as merely to render the marriage undesirable or unpleasant. Where both parties file on this ground, the chancellor must determine who is more at fault and grant the divorce to the other party. Hyer v. Hyer, 636 So.2d 381 (Miss. 1994).

Incurable Insanity at the time of the marriage, if the complainant was without knowledge of the insanity.

Marriage to some other person at the time of the purported marriage.

Pregnancy of the wife by another at the time of the marriage, without the husband’s knowledge.

Relation within the prohibited degrees of kindred, (a.k.a. incest).

Defenses to Divorce

Recrimination………Recrimination is the doctrine that if both spouses are guilty of fault, neither is entitled to divorce. Until 1964, this doctrine required that a Chancellor refuse to grant a divorce where both spouses were at fault. Miss. Code Ann 93-5-3 now provides that it is not mandatory that a Chancellor deny a divorce, even though the evidence may establish recrimination.

Insanity……..Insanity may be a defense to divorce based upon adultery, desertion, or cruelty.

Condonation……….Condonation is forgiveness of the marital fault by the wronged spouse, with the understanding that the conduct is not to recur. It is conditional, based upon the “good behavior” of the spouse at fault. If the conduct recurs, the defense is removed. Condonation may result from express forgiveness, or be implied from a resumption of the marital relationship after knowledge of the conduct.

Mere resumption of residence without resumption of sexual relations does not necessarily indicate condonation. Cherry v. Cherry, 593 So.2d 13 (Miss.1991).

Connivance………Connivance is one spouse’s implicit consent to the wrongful conduct of the other. The defense of connivance arises from the fault-based notion of a “wronged” spouse; if the innocent spouse did not object to the conduct, he or she has not been wronged. It typically applies to adultery claims.

Collusion……..Collusion occurs when the parties agree to frustrate the divorce procedure in some way, by creating grounds, or by agreeing not to defend a case, MS Code Ann 93-5-7 requires that for every divorce except those on the ground of irreconcilable differences, the parties must attach an affidavit stating that the action is not the basis of collusion.

Provocation……..This is a bar to divorce where the complainant provoked the conduct to the wrongdoing spouse most likely be used in response to a divorce action based upon desertion. This act allows a stay of proceeding for persons in the military and must be granted unless it can be shown that the applicant’s rights will not be materially affected by the proceeding.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer specializing in custody and custody modification matters. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

Do This, Not That…Common Custody Mistakes

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

“Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas”.

Eleanor Roosevelt

We receive about 4,500 phone calls a year, plus or minus. In 16 years of practice, my assistants and I have received prospective client intakes from more people than the population of a medium-sized city. Almost all of the calls have a common denominator; an inability to communicate with the “other” parent. It can be easily avoided…here is a basic blueprint. I hope it is helpful.

Every life struggle needs a hero. Why should it not be you? As a single parent, I have seen these challenges first hand. As a domestic lawyer, I have fought these battles for my clients just the same. So here are my thoughts and impressions about how to proceed when child custody is front and center in your life…and your kids’ lives even more importantly. So here is the entree’; what to do and what to avoid. If you follow this advice, parenting still won’t be easy, but life will be better for your children.

DO- Keep open communication with the other parent about childrens’ activities and progress.

DO NOT- Cut off your kids ability to talk to dad/mom or keep them in the dark. Children build self-esteem through belief that they have great parents…two of them.

DO- Remember that children are innocent.

DO NOT- Believe they understand adult problems, emotions, or opinions.

DO- Remember that your child is one-half of you, one-half of another.

DO NOT- Think that your child isn’t hurting because their other parent is not around…even if it is by their own bad choice.

DO- Realize that kids need love, even if the person loving them has serious flaws.

DO NOT- Require perfection from your ex…we all have flaws, but loving of our children is what matters most, your relationship may have been a simple moment in time, after all.

DO- Make sure to tell your kids that you love them, so does dad…or mom…and grandma.

DO NOT- Tell them that they were abandoned, that you are the hero, that you saved them from misery and suffering.

DO- Ask your children what they need from your ex, be it a new toy, a way to communicate, or a simple showing of affection.

DO NOT- Tell your children how you feel about the person who may have broken your heart, damaged your soul.

DO- Make sure your children enjoy being a child…it is a precious thing we all remember dearly.

DO NOT- Let them feel the real life burdens all adults feel every day.

Last thought…if all else fails, always take pride that you did your best and never gave up on the children brought into an imperfect, but beautiful world. Any judge will see you for your strengths first. That is the way it should be. In a custody battle, nice guys and gals finish first.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer specializing in custody and custody modification matters. He was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 2004.

Necessary Divorce Documents—The Short List

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Some of these may not be applicable, and often are not depending on the specifics of your case. Many of these are also applicable to any custody matter whether ever married or not. Perusing this list will give you a good feel for the things that can rightfully impact the outcome of your domestic case. Better safe than sorry! (Make sure to run through this list with your attorney to determine whether these are needed in your case.) So here they are, in no particular order.

Business income tax returns for past three to five years (federal, state, and local)

Individual income tax returns for the past three to five years (federal, state, and local)

8.05 Financial Declaration

Proof of spouse’s current income (last pay stub- several would be even better)

Proof of your current income (last pay stub- several would be even better)

Bank statements

Loan Documents

Stock portfolios

Benefits statements

Health insurance policies

Real property appraisals

Prenuptial agreement

List of personal property and approximate value, including home furnishings, jewelry, artwork, computers, home office equipment, clothing and furs, etc.

List of property owned by each spouse prior to marriage and value

List of property acquired by each spouse individually by gift or inheritance during the marriage

List of contents of safety deposit boxes

Wills

Living wills

Powers of Attorney

Advance Health Care Directives

Personal property appraisals

Automobile insurance policies

Homeowner’s insurance policies

Life insurance policies

Employment contracts

Completed financial statements

Monthly budget worksheets

Other bills (e.g., school tuition, unreimbursed medical bills, music lessons for children, etc.)

Utility bills

Credit card statements (3 year minimum)

Property tax statements

Mortgages and property tax statements

Stock options

Trusts and declarations

Retirement account statements

Pension statements

Certificates of deposit and account numbers

Separation agreement(s)

Although this is not an exhaustive list, it illustrates the complexity of attempting to sever marital bonds and approximate a baseline for distributing marital assets. Every case has unique nuances, but starting here will give you and your attorney the ability to ensure you are not taken to the cleaner, so to speak. If you need assistance in formulating a pre-divorce plan, I have 16 years of experience and the tools to ensure you are treated fairly every step of the way.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who specializes in child custody and divorce, including modifications. He is a two-time recipient of the National Family Lawyer Top 10 Award and is an N.B.I. Certified Domestic Relations Instructor. He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 9 year old son, Lucas.

Grandparent Visitation…How to Get MORE

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Last summer, we wrote an article about how deployment in a military capacity is quite specifically addressed by our state laws. I am going to republish it in part (it has some minor redactions) below because it is very telling as to the affect of a parent being unavailable to exercise visitation under certain circumstances upon grandparent rights. After the bulk of this somewhat technical article, I will briefly discuss other parent unavailability issues, primarily incarceration of a parent. So, here we go……(this is long, but bear with me, it will be worth it!)

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center (under the Office of the Secretary of Defense), the United States currently has approximately 200,000 active-duty troops deployed across 170 countries.

The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) was designed to resolve child custody and visitation issues that military families may face during a soldier’s deployment, temporary duty, or mobilization.

The UDPCVA is divided into five articles, with the first of these defining the foundational terms for the rest. Most importantly, Article 1 states that a parent’s “residence” is not changed during deployment and that deployment cannot be considered in deciding what is in “the best interest of the child.”

Article 2 discourages litigation on child custody and visitation issues by outlining procedural protections for simple agreements between parties.

This act also assists the UCCJEA* in preventing the issuance of competing orders via Article 3, which covers court procedures and includes the use of electronic testimony and the expedition of hearings.

In addition, this article allows for the designation of visitation rights to a nonparent where the court finds that doing so would be in the best interest of the child and Article 4 explains the termination process for these rights following deployment. Finally, Article 5 summarizes the information within each article.

Mississippi Code § 93-5-34 states that “Custody and visitation procedure upon parental temporary duty, deployment, or mobilization” follows the guideline provisions of the UDPCVA on these issues and answers my earlier hypothetical question regarding who would take care of the children similarly to Article 3. It states that “(4) If the parent with visitation rights receives military temporary duty, deployment or mobilization orders that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent’s residence or otherwise have a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise rights, the court otherwise may delegate the parent’s visitation rights, or a portion thereof, to a family member with a close and substantial relationship to the service member’s minor child for the duration of the parent’s absence, if delegating visitation rights is in the child’s best interest.”

To answer the second question regarding the end of deployment, the same section of Mississippi Code contains a provision like Article 4 of the UDPCVA, stating that “(3) When a parent who has custody, or has joint custody with primary physical custody, receives temporary duty, deployment or mobilization orders from the military that involve moving a substantial distance from the parent’s residence having a material effect on the parent’s ability to exercise custody responsibilities:

(a) Any temporary custody order for the child during the parent’s absence shall end no later than ten (10) days after the parent returns, but shall not impair the discretion of the court to conduct a hearing for emergency custody upon return of the parent and within ten (10) days of the filing of a verified motion for emergency custody alleging an immediate danger of irreparable harm to the child; and

(b) The temporary duty, mobilization or deployment of the service member and the temporary disruption to the child’s schedule shall not be factors in a determination of change of circumstances if a motion is filed to transfer custody from the service member.

(c) Any order entered under this section shall require that:

(i) The non-deployed parent shall make the child or children reasonably available to the deployed parent when the latter parent has leave;

(ii) The non-deployed parent shall facilitate opportunities for telephonic, “webcam,” and electronic mail contact between the deployed parent and the child or children during deployment; and

(iii) The deployed parent shall provide timely information regarding the parent’s leave schedule.

Ok, so what effect would incarceration have on grandparent visitation in our state? What about if a parent or both are in a mental institution? What if they are, in a coma, God forbid? There is little case law wherein other unavailability issues have been hashed out by our appellate courts, although based on my experience courts are willing to bolster grandma and grandpa’s time for any of the above reasons even though no statute exists as it does for military deployments. My advice is to raise this issue with your attorney, it is a solid argument almost every time.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Domestic Attorney with 16 years of trial experience. He will be speaking at the National Business Institute on July 18, 2019.

*For more information about this statute, go to our search bar on the home page of our site.

Parental Alienation…a Syndrome, or Plain Old Contempt?

Monday, July 1st, 2019

This question and conversation comes up quite frequently in domestic cases where parents simply cannot agree…on much of anything. Spending excessive legal fees and lost sleep simply may not be worth it if you plan on “firing the first shot”. The battle that ensues often exacerbates the problem, not curing it or the underlying issues…the “root cause”, as it were. Animosity, and expense (even the cheap lawyers are not cheap by most folk’s standards), grows the more DISagreeable you two are willing to be. In the end, some level of compromise is needed…by both …unless you are realllllllly wealthy, even if so I always prefer some level of agreeability, even if on some minor issues.

I would like to point out that there is a strong and decidedly clear legal distinction between what can and cannot be construed as a “syndrome”, and the advice I have may surprise you. Much relates to the simple mistake of overstating your case. Often the softer approach yields stronger benefits …in the long run at least. After 1,300 domestic cases I have learned that this matters from my own prior overzealousness, a mistake many rookie lawyers learn from, quickly.

The term syndrome has been intertwined with alienation of a parent, but there is likely a better way to advance your case without using medical and psychiatric terminology……that being reducing costs by playing the hand you are dealt in a more clever, less physiologically complex format. Syndromes are well defined and often hard to pinpoint (and prove)…..we will get to that later. What is easy to show is mom or dad disparaging the other to the little ones…regardless of the court ordered language (the judgment), it is always intrinsically terrible in the eyes of a Mississippi Chancery Judge without very good reason. Emphasis on VERY.

So here we are, on the life battlefield, somewhat even because of our own decision making flaws. The kids matter so much, we have to see that we are their only guide to a wonderful life, education, and happiness. It can be accomplished. With that said, let’s outline the next blog on this subject, which is slated for 3 weeks away, just after we finish our series on grandparent rights.

The long and short of it is simple …we will explore 2 courses of action and attempt to decipher which fits a particular pattern of facts best. One course requires a ton of medical testimony, the other most likely will not. We will examine what can be done preemptively to avoid the most expensive and stressful path. Stay tuned and we appreciate you very much.

I hope you will check back soon if these issues pertain to your difficult situation…..I can shed a little light, hopefully more. I will start by charting a relatively simple path toward resolution that will not break the bank. A little information is never a bad place to begin any challenge, and God bless our children.

Matthew is a 16 year practitioner of domestic law. He is a single father and is passionate about the role parents play in their children’s outcomes. He speaks at National Business Institute on July 18.