<![CDATA[Pike Law Firm, PLLC - Blog]]>Sat, 30 Jan 2016 13:29:12 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[What You Should Expect in the Adoption Process]]>Wed, 29 Oct 2014 23:22:38 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/what-you-should-expect-in-the-adoption-processPicture
The decision to adopt a child is a big one. In fact, the journey begins right from when you start thinking of adopting a baby. For sure, there is a lot to learn in order to make the process a bit smooth for you. Explored in this article is exactly what you should expect in the adoption process.

Firstly, you should consider finding the right agency. Unless you enlist the services of a good agency, you are likely going to face difficulties with the adoption process. Remember that you will work closely with your adoption agency for several months, and therefore you need to do your homework pretty well in order to land the best service provider. Take your time to research several agencies before settling on one. Find out what types of adoptions they handle since agencies tend to specialize in either international or domestic adoptions. Get to know what support services the agencies offer and how they will prepare you for adopting a child from another country. Consider being very inquisitive if at all you want to make an informed decision.

It is good if you choose to speak to some of the parents who have used the services of your prospective agency before. In fact, you want to hear how the adoption process went for them. If they tell you that they had a bad experience, you should consider looking elsewhere.

Again, you have to prepare for your home study very well. Before adopting a child, you are expected to complete a home study. This is actually a summary of your overall health, family situation, and financial assets. The good thing is that your agency will guide you through all this. After gathering the requisite paperwork such as birth certificates and tax records, a social worker will be sent to your home to interrogate you and your family members. You will be asked several questions that you have to answer genuinely. For example, they may want to know how you are planning to fit the adopted child to your family life. The person may inquire about your parenting style and philosophy. Also, they may want to know about the reactions of your spouse concerning the adoption.

It is good to come out clean. This means that you should not tell lies about yourself and your family. Whatever the social worker asks you make sure you respond positively. Any false information that you give may be detrimental. Also, be transparent and honest to the agency and everything will be alright.

You are also expected to know about the costs. In fact, there is no any fixed price for adopting a child. For sure, the range of fees is wide open. If you are considering a domestic adoption, the price may be reasonable. For international adoption, the price may vary depending on the country where the baby comes from. Another factor that may influence the cost of adopting a child is the agency you choose to work with. So, it is good to inquire upfront to know how much it is going to cost you to adopt a baby.

Always practice to be patient. Remember the adoption process can take longer than you expected. In fact, a domestic adoption can take up to 2 years or even more. An international one may take up to 5 years or more. You may wonder why it takes too long. For a domestic adoption, your family must be painstakingly vetted by both the agency you hired and also the state agency where the baby originates from. International agencies must peruse all your paperwork. How long the vetting process takes depends on your country of origin since some countries do it quicker than others. Also, the age of the child you are adopting may determine the time it will take for the adoption process to get completed. For instance, if you are adopting an older child the process may be completed quickly.

As you embark on the adoption process, bear in mind that finding and adopting your dream child will not happen suddenly. But if you do the necessary like finding the right agency and giving out valid information you won’t face it rough in any way. Good luck in your journey!

<![CDATA[The Mediation Process]]>Fri, 11 Jul 2014 22:28:17 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/the-mediation-processPicture
There are 6 steps to a formal mediation; 1) introductory remarks, 2) statement of the problem by the parties, 3) information gathering time, 4) identification of the problems, 5) bargaining and generating options, and 6) reaching an agreement.

Introductory Remarks

The mediator will wait until both parties are present and then make introductions. The physical setting will be controlled so that no party feels threatened. Most mediators will ask that if children are present, they wait outside. The mediator will then give an opening statement. This outlines the role of the participants and demonstrates the mediator’s neutrality. Some mediators will make comments about what they see as the issue and confirm the case data if briefs have been pre-submitted. Next, the mediator will define protocol and set the time frame for the process. There will be a review of the mediation guidelines and the mediator will briefly recap what it is that he has heard as the issues.

The opening statement during the introductory remarks will set out the ground rules for the mediation. These ground rules are what help the mediation move along smoothly. The mediator will usually ask that if attorneys are present, they can confer, but the clients should speak for themselves. Parties should not interrupt each other; the mediator will give each party the opportunity to fully share their side of the story.

Statement of the Problem by the Parties

After the opening statement, the mediator will give each side the opportunity to tell their story uninterrupted. Most often, the person who requested the mediation session will go first. The statement is not necessarily a recital of the facts, but it is to give the parties an opportunity to frame issues in their own mind, and to give the mediator more information on the emotional state of each party. If there are lawyers present who make the initial statement, the mediator will then ask the client to also make a statement. The rationale behind the statement of the problem is not a search for the truth; it is just a way to help solve the problem.

Information Gathering

The mediator will ask the parties open-ended questions to get to the emotional undercurrents. The mediator may repeat back key ideas to the parties, and will summarize often. This helps the mediator build rapport between the parties, especially when a facilitative style is used.

Problem Identification

This might also be part of other segments. The mediator tries to find common goals between the parties. The mediator will figure out which issues are going to be able to settle or those that will settle first.

Bargaining and Generating Options / Reaching an Agreement

Methods for developing options may include group processes, discussion groups or sub groups, developing hypothetical plausible scenarios, or a mediators proposal where the mediator puts a proposal on the table and the parties take turns modifying it. However, the most commonly used method is the caucus.

Once the participants are committed to achieving a negotiated settlement, the mediator will propose a brainstorming session to explore potential solutions. This can lead to a final agreement, which diffuses the conflict and provides a new basis for future relations.

The mediator may decide to hold private sessions with both parties in order to move the negotiations along. This caucus session will be confidential. The caucus provides a safe environment in which to brainstorm and surface underlying fears. The goal of the session is to find some common ground by exploring lots of options, and to bring about possible solutions for the parties to think about. Parties can also entertain alternative solutions to their problems without committing themselves to offer the solutions as concessions.

<![CDATA[Do I Need a Trust or a Will?]]>Wed, 18 Jun 2014 22:35:20 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/do-i-need-a-trust-or-a-willPicture
Two questions that I am often asked are, "What is a Trust?" and "Do I need one if I have a Will?" A trust is an entity created by a "Grantor" or "Settlor" (the words are synonymous), to hold property for the benefit of beneficiaries. The laws of Trusts are based both upon each individual state’s statutes, and the Common Law. Generally, there are two types of Trusts — Revocable Trusts and Irrevocable Trusts. The term "living" merely indicates that it was created by the Grantor when he was alive, as opposed to a Testamentary Trust, which is created from the Grantor’s Will, upon their death.

The two types of trusts are self-descriptive. When a grantor creates an Irrevocable Trust, he is irrevocably transferring whatever property he is choosing to transfer to the Trust. He has given the property away, and has not retained any rights to revoke the trust or to take back the property. Irrevocable Trusts are often used for gift and estate tax planning, medicaid planning, and asset protection planning. They are also useful in situations in which the Beneficiaries are not ready to receive the property outright, or in which the Grantor might want to protect the assets from a Beneficiary’s creditors. Depending on what the goal is, it is possible for the Grantor to also be Trustee of the Trust, but often he is not. But the key is that it is a permanent transfer of the property to the Trust by the Grantor which can not be revoked. If you and/or your spouse have significant assets, call me or speak with an attorney about whether an Irrevocable Trust is right for you.

A Revocable Trust (or Revocable Living Trust) is a Trust that can be revoked or amended by the Grantor at any time for any reason. The Grantor can cancel the Trust entirely, change its terms, and add or remove property to the trust. In most cases, as long as they are healthy and mentally competent, the Grantor is also the Trustee of their own Trust. A Revocable Trust becomes Irrevocable upon the Grantor’s death. Like a Will, it provides how property is disposed of upon the Grantor’s death, and how property should be managed if the Grantor is still alive, but becomes incapacitated.

Absent a trust, a person's estate must go through the court system, often referred to as "probate," regardless whether a Will exists. The sole purpose of a Trust is to avoid probate upon the Grantor’s death, and to avoid a Guardianship if they are alive and incapacitated. In case you are wondering, you probably want to avoid probate unless you are ok leaving the fate of your estate to a random judge. However, in order to successfully avoid probate, all of a Grantor’s assets must be retitled in the name of the Trust. Any asset subject to probate not owned by the Trust would require to be probated. In addition, a Guardianship can likely be avoided by having a properly drafted and executed Durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Because of their ability to bypass probate, I usually recommend that clients invest in a Trust, and to make sure to properly fund and administer it, even if they already have a Will. If you have any questions regarding Wills, Trusts, or Power of Attorney documents, I will be happy to sit down with you to discuss your options.

<![CDATA[Telling Your Adult Children You’re Getting Divorced]]>Tue, 17 Jun 2014 20:52:42 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/telling-your-adult-children-youre-getting-divorcedPicture
Telling your children you’re getting divorced is never easy no matter their age. It’s not a matter of being easier or more difficult than telling young children, it’s simply that the issues, the concerns, and the reactions are different for adult children.

Whatever you do, don't just blurt out the d-word, especially if the children have been pretty much clueless about what has been going on. Think through everything and plan out the conversation.

There are three basic questions for guiding parents through how to tell their children:

1.  When are you going to tell them?
The typical recommendation is that you and your soon-to-be-ex tell your children together and at the same time. With adult children who are no longer living at home, this may be harder to do, so you have to think through these logistics and plan properly.

2.  What are you going to tell them?
The typical recommendation here is to keep it simple and avoid the details of who did what. That advice still holds true although it can be harder to follow with adult children who may have more of an awareness of what has been going and who will certainly have their own opinions which they will want to express.

3.  How will the divorce impact them?
Adult children aren’t going to be moving between two homes but they will want to know what your divorce means to family Holidays and vacations, the family home, and any of the ways you are currently supporting them such as going to college or helping with grandchildren.

Divorce always means having to renegotiate your relationship with your child so they see you as an individual rather than ‘mom and dad.’  This happens even if you and your ex are parenting as a team. This renegotiation is harder with adult children. If they are no longer living at home, then just the physical separation means less contact. Your children’s lives may already be full and they may have little time to support you. It’s going to be up to you to take the lead here to create the opportunities for more interaction and to make the effort to make this happen.

<![CDATA[Divorce is only temporary.]]>Mon, 19 May 2014 21:05:34 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/divorce-is-only-temporaryPicture
Your marriage is all but over. Maybe you have been unhappy for a long time or maybe this whole thing really just blindsided you. Everything you thought you knew about your future is about to change and it scares you. 

You have friends who won’t talk to you, you are too embarrassed to face the friends who will talk to you, your kids are being thrust into adult situations way too early, and your spouse is unrecognizable. You can’t sleep, you can’t concentrate at work, you think you are going crazy, and you don't see how you will ever feel "normal" again.

This is divorce and divorce is crap.

While your divorce does not have to entail an all-out war with your spouse, it is a conflict none-the-less that will have to be resolved. Usually, the conflict is within you. The combat is waged in your mind and in your heart. Divorce is spiritual. The energy surrounding your life is all out of whack, and frankly it sucks.

Know, however, that divorce is only temporary. You will not be going through it for the rest of your life. While there is chaos in the middle of the storm, the natural inclination of the world is to return to order. While your life seems unmanageable right now, the clouds will part and balance will return. While you feel unlovable for the things you have done or for that which was done to you, love will return. Your kids will survive, and if you love them well, they will love you back.

Just know that you are a champion. The fire will extinguish and the heat will have changed you for the better. There is greatness within you and you will discover it on the other side of your divorce. You have friends and family who love you unconditionally. Open yourself back up and enjoy life. It will get better.

<![CDATA[Getting Through The Divorce Process With Your Sanity]]>Wed, 07 May 2014 15:47:44 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/getting-throughthe-divorce-process-with-your-sanityPicture
Making the decision to divorce and to no longer stay in an unhappy marriage is the first step in the divorce process. Once that decision is made, you need guidance and an understanding of what lies ahead once the divorce process begins. Having this guidance and understanding will help you keep your sanity throughout the process.

If you and your spouse have children and assets, child custody and the division of marital assets are going to be the biggest aspects of the process you will go through during divorce. On the other hand, if you have no children or very little in the way of assets, the divorce process should be simple and relatively quick. Regardless, it is vital that you not only know what to expect, but have a clear understanding of how to protect your legal rights. Don't walk into a dark tunnel without a flashlight.

Below are a few tips that will help you prepare for and get through the divorce process:

• Know the divorce laws. What are you entitled to in a divorce? What is the judge likely to do concerning child custody? How much will you pay or be owed in child support? Is it ok to date during the divorce? It's critical that you hire a competent attorney that can guide you through the process. A wrong move could cost you greatly. It's not worth trying to save a few dollars on the front end if you get screwed on the back end.

• If you have children, become familiar with the different types of child custody. For you parents out there who want to share in the parenting of your child, make sure your attorney understands that you want to petition the court for joint custody so that your attorney can explain to you what is involved.

• Before separating, make copies of all pertinent financial documents. If you don't have them already, you should contact your financial institution and request a copy of all bank account statements, credit card statements, and all retirement and investment account statements. This will help to speed the process along. Also, have a copy of any mortgage documents and proof of any other properties you and your spouse hold jointly. It is important that you keep a copy of everything you give your attorney in a file of your own.

• Refrain from any behavior that will reflect badly on you if you and your spouse end up actually going to court. Dating should be left for after you have a final decree of divorce. Many people separate from their spouse and jump into a rebound relationship. Although a lot of states have no-fault divorce laws and any dating you do can’t be held against you, ARKANSAS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE STATES. Even if Arkansas was a no-fault divorce state, it is still in your best interest to wait before seeking out new relationships. The divorce process is riddled with emotional stress and legal stress. The last thing you need distracting you from the business at hand is a new relationship.

• Learn how to deal with any conflict you have with your spouse. Anger and hostility have no place in the divorce process. Coping with the divorce process is difficult, but learning to do so will make the process less stressful on all concerned, especially for any children involved.

• Last, but most importantly, take care of your children. If you have children, put their needs first. Every parent has an obligation to his or her children to make the divorce process one that keeps the divorce from causing harm. Do not talk negatively about the other parent to the children or where they can hear. Don’t ever allow yourself to believe that children are resilient and will bounce back. Trying to make your children turn on the other parent can have long lasting negative effects. You may think that your spouse is a deadbeat, but your child still needs a hero. Bite your tongue.

The trick to keeping your sanity during divorce is preparation. Preparing yourself both legally and emotionally for what is to come. Do that and you and your children will come through the process with fewer battle scars.

<![CDATA[Help! My Spouse Refuses to Provide Information in our Divorce!]]>Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:56:56 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/help-my-spouse-refuses-to-provide-information-in-our-divorceIt is actually pretty common for one of the parties in a divorce or other family law matter to refuse to provide necessary information needed to get the case resolved. Sometimes the other party is just lazy and doesn't want to gather the information, but mostly he/she is trying to hide something in hopes of getting away with bad behavior. Luckily, a Motion to Compel can be filed to force the disclosure that information. Once a Motion to Compel is filed with the divorce court, a judge will decide whether the party will have to comply with the request so that the divorce can be finalized. Usually a Motion to Compel has a request for attorneys fees or sanctions in it, since the filing of this type of motion was caused by the bad behavior of the other party, for which he/she might have to pay your attorneys fees and costs for having to bring the motion in the first place.

Motions to compel are filed when your spouse does not provide things you are entitled to in the divorce process.  For example:

1.  A financial affidavit, sometime called an Affidavit of Financial Means, which is often a requirement for divorce and child custody proceedings in Arkansas.

2.  Mandatory disclosure, including tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, pay stubs, and the like,  including other financial information to which you are entitled to.

3.  If your spouse refuses to take the required parenting class and file a certificate of completion.

4.  If better or more complete answers to requested interrogatories are necessary and not provided, the divorce court judge may compel better or more complete answers.  The divorce court judge can also compel a party to comply with a request to produce certain documents.

5.  The court can also compel attendance at mediation and require the erring spouse to pay for the other party.

Motions to compel are case specific and depend upon what is required and what is not complied with in the divorce process.  Don’t forget to ask for an award of attorneys fees in motions to compel. If the judge finds the actions of your spouse to be repugnant, you will likely get at least some of your attorneys fees paid.

<![CDATA[Things You Shouldn’t Do During Divorce]]>Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:27:22 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/things-you-shouldnt-do-during-divorceIt only makes sense that during the divorce process there are things you want to make sure you do. But what about the things you shouldn’t do? It has been my experience when working with divorcing clients that they tend to focus on what they should do and forget that the things they shouldn’t do can be as important.

1.  Do Not Be Inflexible:
When negotiating a divorce settlement or determining child custody you must be willing to compromise. Everyone goes into a divorce knowing what they want; no one comes out of a divorce getting all they wanted. If you are unable to be flexible during negotiations you take the chance of walking away with far less than you could have negotiated.

2.  Do Not Dismiss Your Ex’s Needs:
You may no longer want to be married to him/her but that doesn’t mean you should ignore their needs. You aren’t the only party to the divorce. The legal idea behind a divorce is to dissolve a marriage, not leave the other person destitute. Taking their needs into consideration and being fair minded will go a long way in keeping your divorce from turning into all out war.

3.  Do Not Spend Money:
Divorce is expensive. Plan ahead financially and start saving for the long-term. Take your monthly discretionary money, money you are used to spending at will and sock it away in a bank account. If you do and your divorce turns into a long, drawn out financial suck you will have some padding to help get you through.

4.  Do Not Behave Badly:
I actually have this one is my retainer agreement with my clients, and they always laugh when they see it. But, this is one some folks have a hard time wrapping their brain around. It is quite simple, though: do not do anything before, during, or after your divorce that will reflect badly upon you. Respect yourself, your ex, and the Family Court system. Those who are able to navigate the divorce process with dignity find it easier to move on and rebuild their lives once the process is over.

5.  Do Not Engage In Conflict:
Divorce is a legal process that is packed with emotional upheaval. During the divorce process focus on the legal aspect of what you are going through. If your ex is angry, refuse to respond to their anger with anger. Neither your attorney nor the Family Court Judge is interested in the conflict between you and your ex. They are legal representatives of the court, not marriage counselors. Don’t expect them to become a party to any emotional conflict between yourself and your ex.

<![CDATA[Cooling Off Period]]>Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:05:44 GMThttp://www.pikefirm.com/blog/cooling-off-periodPicture
I get a lot of calls from potential clients that know nothing about the divorce process in Arkansas or how long the process usually takes. Usually the first question I am asked is "How soon can we get a divorce?" Divorces in Arkansas can take place relatively quickly. You do, however, have to wait through a cooling off period of 30 days after the initial Divorce Complaint is filed. After 30 days, a final hearing can be scheduled for the divorce to be finalized. The cooling off period is different for each state, so if you are trying to get a divorce outside of Arkansas, you will need to research that state's cooling off period.