Smith-Hynes Law Firm LLC

10639 Business 21, Hillsboro, MO 63050  (636)-797-4343 

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Top 10 Legal Mistakes in Divorce

Posted on December 3, 2015 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Author, Loriann Hoff Oberlin’s "Surviving Separation and Divorce," is a book written depicting the realities of the divorce process.  Since many clients have never been through the process before, it is daunting to envision what they will be faced with.  This author has developed a list of the top ten mistakes people make while going through a divorce that I explain in more detail.  I encourage anyone who is considering divorce or even those already going through the process to read this.

Mistake 1: Believing your spouse will be fair and cooperative.

Have no expectations on the outcome or the process, nor the frame of mind your estranged spouse once you begin the divorce process. The court system is designed without consideration for feelings or emotions attached.  While you certainly may be on friendly terms with your estranged spouse, all bets are off once the divorce process begins and both parties are out for themselves.  This doesn't mean you need to be greedy and vengeful, it simply means if there was ever a time to put yourself first, this is the time to do it!  The decisions you make in the proceedings will affect your life in a multitude of ways.  Do not give in to demands and pressures from the other party in hopes that "you can remain friendly" or out of fear of repercussions....after all, you are going through a divorce for a reason right?  Keep this in mind, listen to your attorney's advice and be prepared for claws to come out at some point from the other party. 

 

 

Mistake 2: Having totally unrealistic expectations or demands of what you will gain from the divorce.

Your attorney has your very best interest in mind while representing you.  He will likely get a feel for what you can expect to gain from the divorce and what will likely be considered unrealistic and will inform you of this.  Your attorney will not sugar-coat the situation and make false promises to you on what he THINKS the judge should do.  Knowing case law and the procedures of the court room, he will be honest with you on what you can expect to happen.  When going through the process, be as reasonable as you can with keeping the objective of problem-solving in your mind.  

 

Mistake 3: Not asking appropriate questions or signing documents without asking questions.

Although your attorney doesn't have a magic ball to forecast the outcome of your case, ask him/her what he/she believes are the chances the result will be in your favor.  What kind of information would help your case? Anything you can do during the process to foster a more favorable outcome?  If your attorney gives you a list of items you need to submit, please do your part to acquire this information as soon as you can.

 

Mistake 4: Withholding information from you attorney.

We've learned this rule very early in our lives.  Withholding information is essentially the same as a lie.  Your attorney isn't here to judge you, but to help you.  If he/she has 100% of the information about your case, it will benefit you in the long run. 

 

Mistake 5: Not checking facts or figures given you by attorneys and others.

Legal forms are daunting to read and most people will happily move through them as quickly as possible.  Don't make this mistake! Be very aware of what you are writing, what you are reading and what you are signing.  Most attorneys have assistants that help prepare court documents and will require you to sign them upon completion.  Make sure you fully read and agree to what you are signing prior to them being submitted into the court system. If you discover an error or inaccuracy, do not be afraid to speak up and let your attorney know.  It is much easier and cost efficient for you to revise documents prior to submitting them versus after.

 

Mistake 6: Allowing emotions rather then logic to rule your legal decisions.

Divorce is a sticky time in your life and can be emotionally charged.  We all say things we don't necessarily mean when we are angry or hurt.  When we feel like our world is crashing down around us, it is hard to stay focused on the bigger picture of remaining calm and collective.  Allow yourself time to grieve the loss of the marriage as well as the frustration of trying to build a brand new life for yourself and your family, but do not let your emotions and attitude dictate your settlement requests and court responses. This will only make matters worse.  Your eagerness to remain calm and cooperative through the proceedings will be beneficial and proactive.

 

Mistake 7: Expecting the legal system to be fair and the court will see things from your perspective.

This is not to be confused with legal system corruption!  It simply means that the judge will not automatically take YOUR side on all issues.  His job is to take objective information from both sides of the courtroom and make his final determination based on that and the best interest of all parties. 

 

Mistake 8: Allowing too much time to pass before enforcing a court order.

Just because you hired an attorney, does not mean you are relieved of 100% of the leg work to get this finished.  There are documents to be signed, court dates to remember and make yourself available for, materials to gather, and documents to fill out  The court takes these matters seriously and so must you.  If you expect to receive the settlement agreement you are seeking, you have to be diligent with matters that your attorney brings to your attention.

 

Mistake 9: Forgetting tax ramifications of legal decisions and not hiring a financial advisor.

Unless you are a tax or financial expert yourself, it is highly recommended to consult with one regarding the issues related to your finances, as well as your estranged spouse. 

 

Mistake 10: Being a hindrance, not a help to your case.

You want this divorce finished as quickly and effortlessly as possible right?  Ask your attorney if there's anything you can do to help your case.  If you are calling and emailing your attorney 5 times a day, not only is this distracting his/her focus and time away from your case, it could quite possibly alienate the one person in the world who is looking out for your best interests.  Not only this, the majority of attorneys bill by the hour and phone calls and emails are included in this time.  Save your money in the event you need it for the court room.   If there is information your attorney has for you, rest assured, they will be in contact with you.

 


We Agree On Everything...Do I really need a Lawyer for my Uncontested Divorce?

Posted on December 1, 2015 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

There is no simple answer to this question really as all marriages and relationships are very different.  If you are one of the few and fortunate to agree on 100% of the issues at hand and can work together smoothly and effortlessly to make the process as painless as possible, then give yourself a pat on the back.  You are the 3%!

For the rest of us, most who have never been through the divorce process think about the big issues like: who gets the house, custody of the kids and support for the kids.  In reality, there are a mulititude of other related issues that must be agreed upon as well.  Look at this sample list of topics and if it doesn't make your head spin by the end of it, again, give yourself a pat on the back. 

I.  PREAMBLE

 

A. Identification of Parties to Agreement

 

B. Date and Place of Marriage

 

C. Separation Date

 

D. Status of Court Filings

 

E. Identification of Children

 

F. Intentions in Coming to Agreement

 

1. Settle All Issues Equitably

2. Best Interests of Children

 

G. Acknowledgment of Current Employment/Income Status

 

II. PARENTING

 

A. Decision Making (Legal Custody) and Primary Residence

 

B. Weekly Residential Schedule

 

C. Holiday and Vacation Periods (overall intention)

 

1. Spring and Winter Vacations from School

 

2. Summers

 

3. Halloween (Trick or Treating; Costume)

 

4. Thanksgiving Day/Weekend

 

5. Hanukkah

 

6. Christmas Eve/Day

 

7. New Year's Eve/Day

 

8. Easter

 

9. July 4th

 

10. Three Day Weekends resulting from school/legal holidays

 

11. Other Holidays

 

12. Children's Birthdays

 

13. Mother's and Father's Days

 

14. Parents' Birthdays

 

15. Flexible Time

 

16. Holiday Schedule Supersede Weekend Schedule

 

D. Substitute Child Care Providers

 

E. Transportation

 

F. Prompt Exercise of Time with Child

 

G. Right to Communicate with Child

 

H. Fostering Affection and Respect

 

I. Access to Information from Schools, etc.

 

J. Parental Cooperation

 

K. Parental Communication

 

L. Safety and Security

 

M. Future Conflict Resolution Process

 

N. Future Review of Parenting Arrangements

 

1. Annually

 

2. Remarriage or Cohabitation of Either Parent

 

3. Change in Employment Schedule

 

4. Possible Future Moves

 

5. Disability

 

6. Child's Wishes

 

7. Other

 

O. Child Support

 

P. Responsibility for Extracurricular Activities, Sports Equipment, Lessons, Clothes

 

Q. Education and Other Major Expenses for Children

 

R. Medical/Dental Insurance

 

S. Uninsured Medical Expenses

 

T. Life Insurance (to protect support responsibility)

 

1. Amount

 

2. Beneficiary

 

U. Dependent Deduction

 

V. Gifts to Children

 

W. Agreement to Make a Will

 

1. Percent of Net Estate to the Children

 

2. Legal Guardians

 

X. Savings Accounts/Trusts for Children's Benefit

 

III. SPOUSAL SUPPORT & INHERITANCE RIGHTS

 

A. Beginning Date and Amount

 

B. Duration

 

C. Stepped Decreases

 

D. Tax Implications

 

IV. PROPERTY AND DEBT DIVISION

 

A. Distribution of Personal Property

 

B. Pensions, Annuities, IRAs, Social Security, etc

 

C. Distribution of Real Property

 

D. Debts

 

E. Income Tax Returns for the Current Year

 

F. Prior Tax Liability

 

G. Attorneys Fees and Costs

 

V. MISCELLANEOUS

 

A. Grandparents' Rights

 

B. Pet Care/Expenses

 

C. Future Modifications

 

D. Full Disclosure

E. Legal Representation Advised by Mediator

Now say you fully understand and agree upon the previous topics, it is time to file.  Do you know the process from beginning to end?  There is an abundant amount of documents to be filed and specific requirements for each.  Far too often clients come to us that have begun to manage their own divorce and then became frustrated with the amount of dead-ends they faced.  Documents that were rejected by the courts due to errors, missing information, missing forms, and on and on.

Have an attorney alongside you during this process isn't designed to turn uncontested divorces into a nasty contested one by any means.  It simply gives you the reassurance that you are not alone in the process and will ensure you, as well as your estranged spouse, that everyone is properly prepared for the divorce process and that the result is satisfactory and fair.



Does your law firm have a set fee for divorces in Missouri?

Posted on May 18, 2015 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 

The simple answer is no. Many potential clients call our office anxious to find out what their pending divorce might cost them if they retain our services. We recognize that your specific situation is going to be unique and therefore the retainer fee and overall cost will reflect that. Often times, both parties have amicably decided to part ways, whereas, other times, the parties may seem to disagree on almost every matter. While it is our greatest desire to have your case proceed swiftly on all issues, we also recognize this is not always possible.

 

Rest assured, by choosing Smith-Hynes Law Firm LLC, your case will be handled with the attention and sensitivity you deserve. We offer a FREE, no-obligation consultation to meet with one of our experienced attorneys who will walk you through the divorce process every step of the way. Call us today!  (636) 797-4343

 

Do I need a GAL appointed in my Missouri case?

Posted on July 25, 2014 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Many parties who are facing divorce and have minor children want to know if a Guardian Ad Litem (also known as GAL) is necessary in their case. Guardian Ad Litem's are typically court appointed and represent minor children in cases of a sensitive nature such as abuse, neglect or in contested domestic cases where the parents of the children do not agree on the terms of custody, support, visitation or as determined by separation or divorce. They act as separate entities and are considered the minor children's legal representative in Missouri courts, apart from the Petitioner and Respondants own attorneys and attend hearings. They have full discretion to cross-examine, subpeona witnesses and offer testimonies. Prior to the hearing, they may interview associates, family members and sometimes, when appropriate, the minor children themselves to determine terms of custody and appropriate visitation schedule.

 

If the parties can reach an amicable agreement regarding these issues, then chances are, no GAL will be necessary.

 

More information can be found at: http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C400-499/4520000423.HTM

Here at Smith-Hynes Law Firm LLC, we are proud to have one of only 10 court appointed GAL's in Jefferson County on staff.   Experience matters when it involves children, and we are diligent and proactive in sensitive cases such as this.  Call us today for a consultation. 

Grandparents Visitation Rights in Missouri

Posted on March 5, 2014 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Contributor:  April Wilde

March 4, 2014

When the parents of a child divorce, custody and visitation rights of that child come into question within the court system. Custody issues also arise when a parent dies or becomes otherwise incapacitated. Parental rights to custody and visitation are closely examined by the courts at this time and consider many areas before making a determination for placement.

 

So what happens to the grandparent’s rights for visitation when any of the above mentioned scenarios occur? This is a very sensitive and often times heart-wrenching experience. After all, why aren’t grandparents allowed to maintain a healthy relationship with their grandchild just because their parents fail to agree?

 

Each state in the U.S. has their own statues and exceptions pertaining to the rights of grandparents and we will discuss Missouri grandparents’ rights to visitation in specific. Missouri puts parents’ rights first in most cases and allows them to make their own judgment on how to raise their own children, including who they wish for their child(ren) to spend time with. Missouri law does NOT however feel that grandparents’ rights are unconstitutional and should be considered as they feel this relationship is only “minimally intrusive” in the family unit.

 

According to Chapter 452 Section 452-402 of the Missouri Revised Statutes regarding grandparent’s visitation rights, it states:

“The court may grant grandparent visitation when:

(1) The parents of the child have filed for a dissolution of their marriage. A grandparent shall have the right to intervene in any dissolution action solely on the issue of visitation rights. Grandparents shall also have the right to file a motion to modify the original decree of dissolution to seek visitation rights when visitation has been denied to them; or

(2) One parent of the child is deceased and the surviving parent denies reasonable visitation to a parent of the deceased parent of the child; or

(3) The child has resided in the grandparent's home for at least six months within the twenty-four month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition; and

(4) A grandparent is unreasonably denied visitation with the child for a period exceeding ninety days. However, if the natural parents are legally married to each other and are living together with the child, a grandparent may not file for visitation pursuant to this subdivision.”

In addition, the courts may use a guardian ad litem in the court proceedings to question the grandparents. The courts will also consider past grandparent involvement with the child."

 

Exceptions:

• The child is legally adopted by someone other than blood or step relative.

• The court has determined that the visitation will not be in the child’s best interest or by allowing visitation, would effect the child’s physical or mental well-being

• If the parents of the child are married, or living together as a couple, it is presumed that both have the child’s best interest in mind. Therefore, their opinion will be considered and grandparents’ visitation may be restricted accordingly.

 

 

 


 


 


 


Attention Illinois Drivers

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Did You Know?? Attention all those who talk on their cell phones and drive in the State Of Illinois....new law has passed that prohibits use of cell phone while driving. If you are caught doing so, this will result in a $75 fine. The only permitted acceptable use of a cell phone while driving is by utilizing the blue tooth feature or speaker.

What are Conflict Checks and Why Do They Matter?

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

February 25th, 2014

Contributor:  April Wilde


Conflict checks are routinely conducted by law firm staff before entering into a contract with a new client. They look up the client’s name as well as the opposing party information to investigate whether we ever represented the opposing party, and if so, the nature of that case. Why does this matter you ask? This is the question asked time and again by current clients as well as former clients. After all, nothing is more frustrating then choosing an attorney that you feel would best be able to represent you in your case and then finding out we can’t help you!

 

The answer is this. First and foremost is the issue of fairness and loyalty to previous clients. As a professional in this industry, there are certain rules of conduct that must be adhered to as defined by the American Bar Association. We routinely see this most in family law cases such as divorce, custody and support as well as subsequent modifications. Negative results may take place in regards to the outcome of the case when professional or personal interests are at stake. This is not a comfortable position for any of the parties involved. After all, you want to be able to freely make contact with your attorney without worry of other influencing factors that may jeopardize your representation.

 

There are a few exceptions to potential conflict cases whereas the parties can give written consent knowing there is a possibility of a conflict involved however they are rare. Attorneys face potential disciplinary action if they fail to abide by the rules of conflict. According to Supreme Court Rule 4-1.7 regarding Conflict Of Interest: Current Clients, it states,

“(a) Except as provided in Rule 4-1.7(b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.”

 

Smith-Hynes Law Firm LLC regrets that it cannot help every single client that walks through our doors but now that you understand more about conflict checks, perhaps it will ease your mind knowing that we will always put YOUR best interests first.

 

Smith-Hynes Law announces Highway Apoption

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (2)

Here at Smith-Hynes Law Firm LLC, we are dedicated to giving back to our community any way that we can.  We are continually asking ourselves, what can we do to make a difference in someone else's life?  After much pondering, we have decided to adopt a stretch of highway on Highway 21 near Hwy A in Hillsboro as part of Missouri's Adopt A Highway program.   We are doing this in effort to help maintain a pollution free environment for all of this that call Jefferson County home.  After all, our children are growing up here too.  

So be on the lookout for the new signs popping up on the highway along that stretch of road and if you see us out there collecting trash, be sure to honk!

911

Posted on September 11, 2013 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)

We will never forget!


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