How Much Does an Arkansas Divorce Cost?

Divorce is expensive. The biggest divorce cost is obviously the emotional toll. No matter how difficult a marriage has been, it is hard to end it.

The financial cost of an Arkansas divorce can also be significant, but it doesn’t have to be. There will be expenses involved, of course, but there are several factors that can make a big difference:

1.The Lawyer

Some lawyers minimize conflict; other lawyers create it. That’s why it’s so important to choose your Arkansas divorce lawyer carefully. It’s really a question of the lawyer’s business model. Some lawyers take easy situations and make them difficult, long, and, you guessed it, increase your divorce cost.

Unfortunately, the other lawyer can have just as much control over the situation as your lawyer can. If your spouse hires a difficult lawyer, you can expect more conflict and more fees.divorce cost

2. You

You also have a lot of control over the total divorce cost. Most Arkansas family lawyers charge by the hour, so more time = more money. If you call your lawyer every day to talk about your situation, you can expect it to cost you. That’s not because your lawyer is greedy or unsympathetic. Time spent on your case means that he or she can’t spend time on another case.

This illustrates another important thing to consider before hiring a lawyer. When you hire an Arkansas divorce attorney, you need to make sure that he or she has a communication policy. It needs to be clear how and how often you will receive updates about your case. If there’s no agreement how to communicate, you can expect there to be some confusion and, probably, some added costs.

You can also make your divorce more expensive by being difficult. Very few cases should actually require going to Court. The more you can agree on, the more money you can save.

3. The Court

Some courts are easy to deal with. Some court aren’t to deal with. If you happen to live in a county where things take longer and require more work, you’re likely to be charged more. If the lawyer has to travel a long way to go to court, then that will also make it more expensive.

4. Your facts

Some situations are just more complicated than others. If you have no kids and no property, that will make your divorce cheaper. If you have significant assets, including retirement accounts, real property, or own a business, you can expect more costs.

Children can also make a divorce more expensive in Arkansas, especially if you can’t agree on a child custody arrangement.

Speaking broadly because there are so many factors at play, this is what you might expect:

  • For a truly uncontested divorce, even with kids or property, you should expect to pay somewhere between $750 and $1250 to complete the process. I know lawyers that charge less and I know some that charge much, much more, but that is a good place to start.
  • If you have mostly agreed on everything but the case requires some back-and-forth, you might expect a few more hours of the lawyers time. This might add $500 or $750 to the cost of your Arkansas divorce.
  • If you need to go to a temporary hearing, you should expect another $750 or $1000 so that the attorney can properly prepare. If for some reason you need to go to for a full trial, you should expect the case to cost a few more thousand dollars.
  • These figures don’t factor in things like experts or private investigator fees, which might make it significantly more expensive. (Many experts are more expensive than lawyers.)

The most important thing you need to know about the costs of an Arkansas divorce is that a) they are manageable, and b) your lawyer should be completely up front with you about costs. If you think that he or she is not being completely upfront with you, you need to hire someone else.

Why Was I Charged for Someone Else’s Drugs?

One of the many strange things about criminal law is that it’s not illegal to use drugs; it’s just illegal to have them. But what does it mean to “have them”—also known as possession. If you’ve ever received a drug charge for constructive possession, you know that it’s not a simple question.

Most constructive possession cases start the same way: There are several people are in a car that is stopped by police. The police search the car and find drugs in the console. No one wants to claim the drugs, and so everyone gets charged. This is what’s known as constructive possession. Because everyone had access to the drugs, everyone can be charged for possession. If no one possesses the drugs, then everyone possesses them.

constructive possession

(Note: Another common scenario is the one where a gun is in the console. If you’re a felon and cannot possess a firearm, make sure you’re not riding around with a gun. You can also have constructive possession of a firearm.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I see these situations all the time. I agree that it is unfair, but it doesn’t stop a prosecutor from charging you.

The police and the prosecutor both know that a constructive possession case is a weak one. They don’t usually go to trial because juries also think it’s unfair. The main purpose of the charge is to get the other occupants of the vehicle to testify about where the drugs came from.

You will have a good chance of beating the charge if it’s not your car and the drugs or gun was actually in the console. If it’s your car or the items were under your seat or in your portion of the car, it becomes a little more difficult.

If you’ve been charged with constructive possession, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer immediately. There are problems with constructive possession that a lawyer can use to reduce or eliminate the charge.

What Should I Wear to Court?

I am usually in court a few times per week. It happens so often that I don’t really tend to think much about what I wear to court. It’s more like a formula:

Start with a boring dark suit
+ boring white/blue shirt
+ boring tie that has red in it
+ boring dark shoes

= Standard-issue Lawyer’s Uniform.

what should i wear to court

But most people are not in court all the time. They may have never been in court. They may not own any boring suits or boring ties. Or any suits.

And no one should feel like he or she needs to look like a lawyer in court. No one should feel intimidated by what other people wear to court. I have seen people judged by their appearance while in a courtroom, but it wasn’t because they weren’t wearing a suit. It was because they didn’t care.

That is the real issue—can the judge look at what you’re wearing to court and decide that you care about what’s going on enough to treat is seriously?

To that end, I’ve got a few suggestions. These are arranged in order of importance:

  1. Your outfit should not contain any profanity or offensive language. (It’s really better to just not wear anything with any writing on it.)
  2.  Your outfit should cover up your body from roughly your neck to your feet. This is particularly important if you have tattoos. This means no cleavage, no holes, no rips, no shorts, no short-sleeved shirts, no midriff, and no visible undergarments.
  3.  No piercings outside your ears.
  4. Your hair should be mostly the same color. Acceptable options include black, brown, blonde, and red. The important thing is that your hair is combed and is a color that occurs naturally in humans, even if it’s not your natural color.
  5.  Your outfit should be clean.
  6.  Your outfit should fit.

The goal is for you to look like a reliable, believable, responsible person. Are there people who dress well who lie? Of course. After all, most politicians dress up every day. And are there people who look terrible who should be believed? Of course.

Nevertheless what you wear to court does say something about you. You should dress as nicely as you can without looking uncomfortable.

It makes a difference.

When Can I file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Arkansas?

If you are facing serious financial hardship, you may be thinking about filing for bankruptcy. There are several different kinds. The most common type of bankruptcy in Arkansas is what’s known as Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Only certain people qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however.

If your monthly income is more than median for the state of Arkansas, you must pass what’s called a “means test” to show that you’re not abusing the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy process. The law presumes that it’s abuse if your average monthly income over 5 years, with certain exceptions, is more than $12,475 or 25% of the your unsecured debt. (Assuming that amount is at least $7,025.)

chapter 7 bankrupcty

You can rebut a presumption of abuse only by a showing of special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income. If you can’t overcome this, you’ll have to file another type of bankruptcy.

Another thing that will prevent you from filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is one of the following two things. First, if you’ve had a bankruptcy dismissed in the last 180 days. Second, if you have not received approved credit counseling within the last 180 days, you’re not eligible.

To file for an Chapter 7 Arkansas Bankruptcy, you can be an individual, partnership, or a business entity. It doesn’t matter how much debt that you have. The point of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is to give you a fresh start by getting rid of your debt. (There are some kinds of debts that you can’t discharge, however, like student loans or property liens.)

If you’re thinking about filing for an Arkansas Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you probably have a lot of questions. That’s why we’re here. There’s a lot of issues that may come up that we just can’t cover in a blog post. We understand bankruptcy law, and we would love to offer you a free consultation to discuss your options.

What You Need to Know About Miranda Rights

If you’ve ever watched an episode of “Law and Order” or “Cops,” you probably know that the police are supposed to read someone their rights when they get arrested. You may also know that these are called your Miranda rights. They’re called Miranda rights because they came out of a famous Supreme Court case called Miranda v. Arizona. In that case, the United States Supreme Court made a law that requires that each person must be informed about his or her 5th Amendment rights.miranda rights

There are several parts to a proper reading of your Miranda rights in Arkansas:

  1.  You have the right to remain silent.
    This means that you cannot be forced to speak. A police officer can ask you a question, but you cannot be forced to say anything. And you shouldn’t say anything.
  2. Anything that you say will be used against you.
    If you say something that is harmful to you, rest assured it will be used against you. The police have a great memory and they won’t forget what you say.
  3. You have the right to have an attorney present for questioning.
    This is your right and you should use it! A good criminal defense lawyer will not let you say anything that could come back to haunt you. Once you ask for a lawyer, the questions have to stop.
  4. If you can’t afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.
    Just because the State of Arkansas might provide you a lawyer, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire your own. A public defender cannot give your case the attention that a criminal defense lawyer can.

Once you are read these Miranda rights, you need to be very, very careful about what you say. No matter how good you are, you aren’t going to talk yourself out of a pair of handcuffs. All that you need to say is “I want to speak to a criminal defense lawyer.” Anything else is just asking for trouble. Even if you have to go to the bathroom, make sure you ask for a lawyer first. Once you ask for a lawyer, the questions should stop. If they don’t, those questions won’t be able to be used against you..

Again, the best thing you can do is ask for a lawyer and be quiet. If you did say something, it is all the more important that you call a criminal defense lawyer. He or she will be able to determine whether you were given your proper Miranda warnings. If you weren’t, he or she might still be able to get your statements thrown out.

What Issues are on the Ballot in Arkansas?

Arkansas 2016 Ballot Issue General Election November 8, 2016

Arkansas 2016 Ballot Issue General Election November 8, 2016

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that there is an election coming up on November 8. It’s going to be a doozy.

And it’s not just the presidential race that is getting attention. There are several hotly contested issues that Arkansas voters will have the opportunity to decide when they go to the polls. Among them are medical marijuana, economic development, and term limits.

The University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture Extension published an unbiased research-based guide to the 2016 Arkansas Ballot issues. If you haven’t already done your research on the Arkansas ballot issues, this would be an excellent place to start. Just click on the image and it will take you to a PDF version of the 2016 Voter Guide.

 

Issue No. 1 – Terms, election and eligibility of elected officials

Issue No. 2 – Allowing the governor to retain power and duties when absent from the state

Issue No. 3 – Job creation, job expansion and economic development

Issue No. 4 – Medical-injury lawsuit laws – REMOVED FROM BALLOT

Issue No. 5 – Authorizing three casinos – REMOVED FROM BALLOT

Issue No. 6 – Medical marijuana amendment

Issue No. 7 – Medical cannabis act

Head to the polls on November 8th armed with the knowledge of what you’re voting for!

What to Do If You’re Facing a Probation Revocation

Under Arkansas law, you can be sentenced to probation to avoid going to jail. If you are on probation, you want to make sure that you do everything you can to avoid a probation revocation. As you probably know, your probation can be revoked for many reasons, including failing drug tests, missing appointments with your probation officer, failure to complete treatment programs, or picking up a new criminal charge.probation revocation

Once your probation officer decides to pursue a revocation, he or she will file a Petition for Revocation with the court. At that point, the court must hold a hearing on the petition for revocation within 60 days. There are a few things you need to know about this hearing:

  1. The court will tend to side with the probation officer.
  2. The State does not need to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the standard in a probation revocation is a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is much easier to meet.
  3. You can be represented by an attorney at your probation revocation hearing.

There are over 2,000 people who enter the Arkansas Department of Corrections each year because of a probation revocation. It is very important that you take it seriously or you may end up in jail, even for a little slip-up.

Having an attorney to handle your probation revocation gives you a huge advantage. The criminal defense lawyer will be able to cross-examine the probation officer. If it is clear that the PO just has it out for you, the lawyer can make this very clear to the judge.

A criminal defense lawyer will also be able to bring in other evidence of how you are doing. For instance, if you missed an appointment with your PO because you were doing something else that is productive, the lawyer can also make sure the judge hears this. You may have factors that make you look better to the judge and make your slip-up less of an issue.

A criminal defense lawyer also may be able to strike a deal with the prosecutor if your case doesn’t look good. As we all know, there are too many prisoners and not enough prisons. Ultimately, a prosecutor doesn’t really want to put someone behind bars who doesn’t belong there. A good lawyer will be much better able to negotiate and strike a bargain than you will.

If you are facing a probation revocation and have questions, please contact us. It is a serious matter and you need to know exactly what you’re up against.

How Do I Serve Someone?

 

“It may be the devil, and it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” – Bob Dylan

Although I think Dylan was making more of a theological statement than a legal one, it is true: At some point point in your life, you are probably going to have to serve someone. You might as well know what’s up.

serve

(Nerdy aside; Skip if desired) One of the cool things about our legal system is that you have due process. This essentially means that when someone sues you, you have a right to know about it and know what he or she is saying about you. You also have the right to be “heard”—to go before a judge and argue your point.

That is why we have rules about how to serve someone. The rules make sure that the person being served

1) knows what is being said about them; and

2) knows how and when they have to respond.

These are not the kind of rules on which you can fudge. You’ve got to follow them very closely, which is the point of me bringing it up in the first place. If you want to serve someone and you’re not a lawyer, a road map might be helpful.

First, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the right documents to serve. This normally includes a Complaint and a Summons. The Complaint is what starts a lawsuit, and it contains all the reasons why the court should do what you want. The Complaint is important because it tells the other party why they’re being dragged into court.

The Summons is different. You have to serve a Summons so that the other party knows what to do once they’ve been served. The Arkansas Supreme Court has a “form” summons that you can download from its website and simply fill in the information. This makes the Summons part easy. No reason to be creative here.

Now that you have a Complaint and Summons filed, you’ve got to get that stuff to the other party. You have several options for this:

 1) Hire a process server. This is my preferred method because it’s clean and easy. In Central Arkansas you can plan on spending about 50 bucks for service. Most of the process servers will even file their affidavit of service, too—which means you don’t have to do anything else.

2) Have a police officer serve the documents. It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that law enforcement personnel have better things to do than serve people. For this reason, I shy away from this method. They aren’t as motivated as the people who get paid to do it.

3) Mail them. You can mail the documents to the opposing party as long as you mail them with a return receipt requested and have the delivery restricted to that person. You can then file the little green card that you get back from the postman.

One last thing that is important, however, is what to do if you don’t know where a person is.

If you don’t know where a person lives, you can serve him or her through a warning order. The first thing you’ve got to do to serve by warning order is to file an affidavit with the court saying that you’ve tried to find them. You can attach to this affidavit any returned envelopes or other evidence that you’ve actually tried to find them.

The clerk will then issue a warning order, which is a notice that’s published in the paper. It has to be a publication of general circulation in the county where you filed the law suit. I’m not exactly sure what that means, so to be on the safe side you should just use the largest newspaper in the county. It has to run for two consecutive weeks

The newspaper will then publish it and send you a proof of publication. Then you’ve got to file that with the Court and mail all the stuff (affidavit for warning order, warning order, proof of publication, complaint, summons, and pretty much anything else you can think of) to the person with restricted delivery.

If you don’t believe me or just want to know more, you can go here and read Rule 4.

How Do I Keep Someone Away From Me?

It’s no secret: Family quarrels bring out the worst in people. Many have said that family disputes are usually pretty good people on their worst behavior.

In a perfect world, people would have their dispute, reach a reasonable compromise, and then leave each other and each other’s stuff the heck alone. But we do not live in a perfect world—not even close.order-of-protection

That’s where things like an Order of Protection and No-Contact Order become important.

(Note: These are different from a Restraining Order under Arkansas law. (Or, in the words of Louis Tully, esteemed attorney for the Ghostbusters, a “judicial restrangement order—that blue thing I got from her!”)

Order of Protection

You can request that an Arkansas court give you an Order of Protection if you allege an immediate and present danger of domestic abuse. It does not cost anything to file for an Order of Protection (usually it costs $165 to file a new case in Arkansas).

Immediate simply means that the person’s threats or actions suggest that the abuse will occur in the near future. The term “domestic abuse” is very broad: It can mean physical harm or the infliction of fear of physical harm. Domestic doesn’t just mean your immediate family. It can be people you use to live with, relatives by marriage, someone you dated, etc.

Normally a judge will go ahead and grant what’s called an Ex Parte Order of Protection—meaning you don’t have to serve the other person first. This Order of Protection is just temporary. The Court will then set a hearing for the Order of Protection and it’s your job to serve the other person. If you don’t serve them, the Order of Protection will just go away.

To get a permanent Order of Protection, you’ll actually have to show up at the hearing and prove to the judge that the person really did commit an act or threaten domestic abuse.

No-Contact Order

A No-Contact Order is issued when someone is charged with a crime. (You can’t go get a No-Contact Order—the prosecutor requests it from the Court.) A No-Contact Order prevents the person charged with certain crimes from having any contact with the victim.

As a practical matter, it is important not to treat an Order of Protection lightly. Once you file for one, it is public record for the entire world (your boss, your kids, etc.) to see. Forever. Many people will file for one just to get back at a spouse or significant other. The effects of requesting an Order of Protection, however, usually last a lot longer than the fight itself.

On the other hand, domestic violence is a serious (and seriously underreported and ignored) problem. If you’ve received a legitimate threat from someone close to you, it is your right to use the Courts to protect yourself.

People don’t usually hire lawyers to handle Order of Protection hearings, but sometimes they do—particularly if someone has made false allegations about him or her. If you find yourself in that situation, please call us. An Order of Protection can affect your relationship with your job, your kids, and even affect your ability to own firearms.

How Can I Terminate Parental Rights?

I have discussed it before, but it’s worth repeating: Family Law has a strange mythology. One of those myths is the myth of terminating your parental rights (or “signing your rights away”). I don’t know where it comes from and—despite my best efforts—I haven’t figured out how to make it go away. This is a big body of knowledge that everyone seems to “know,” little of which is true or even close to true. Some of it’s TV. Some of it’s family. The rest?—I don’t really know where it comes from.

parental rights

 Somewhere along the way, everyone (or at least a lot of people who call me) decided that your parental rights and responsibilities are something to be given away, like a coat or a book. They are not. You do not give your parental rights away—they must be taken from you.

There are two ways that someone’s parental rights may be terminated:

  1. The child is adopted.
  1. DHS terminates someone’s parental rights through a Dependency/Neglect case.

In an adoption, one of the following things are happening:

a) a court is replacing two biological parents with two new biological parents. This is what you might call a “traditional” adoption.

b) A court is replacing two biological parents with one biological parent. This is a “single-parent adoption.”

c) A court is replacing one biological parent with a non-biological parent who’s married to one. This is a “stepparent adoption.”

In each of these scenarios, at least one person is going from parent to non-parent. From a legal perspective, it is as though the parent never existed—his or her parental rights have been terminated.

The other way that someone can lose his or her parental rights is through a DHS proceeding. This process normally takes around a year, at which point there is a final Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) hearing. This doesn’t happen by accident.

The point of all this is simple: If you are a parent, you stay a parent until a Court says so. You are still responsible for supporting the child until a court says’s you’re not, and any back-due child support sticks around even after your rights are terminated.