Tag Archives: Divorce

2014 – Looking Back and Giving Back

2014 was a year for giving back to the community, to helping budding lawyers and paralegals alike, to continuing to serve those in need of legal services, and to celebrating the vibrant city we call home.  Here are some highlights of Meneray Family Law’s year:

PRESENTING AT LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL

As I have done for the past few years, I was part of a distinguished panel of Loyola alumni invited to present advice and instruction to students studying the Civil Law of Persons with Professor Monica H. Wallace.  This past semester we taught students how to interview clients, how to draft a divorce petition and how to present an argument in a child custody case.

NATIONAL PRO BONO DAY, LOUISIANA “LAWYERS IN LIBRARIES” EVENT

I volunteered this past October at the Plaquemines Parish Public Library to offer free “mini consultations” to residents of the parish seeking family law help.  Similar events were held in every parish in the State of Louisiana, facilitated by the Louisiana State Bar Association Access to Justice Committee.

MENTORING TULANE UNIVERSITY PARALEGAL STUDENTS

Continuing my belief that good lawyers make great paralegals, by giving them patient attention and instruction, I worked with student interns this past year, guiding them as they learned the complicated process of contributing to the work of a family law practice.

ORLEANS PARISH CIVIL DISTRICT COURT DOMESTIC MEDIATION PROGRAM

Last year I became a certified family law mediator, and this year I began working with the Domestic Mediation Program at the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.  It’s a new program, but I am confident that by using qualified mediators to help people resolve disputes without litigation, many people who could not otherwise afford to see their cases to conclusion will get results to assist them in parenting their children, obtaining child support and other relief.

CONTINUED COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

I am now in my second decade as a volunteer for WWOZ 90.7 FM, as host of the program “Sitttin’ In,” which presents modern jazz in an all vinyl format.  This year I joined the Board of Directors of the NOLA Project, an energetic local theater company celebrating its tenth year of presenting “theater for the bold.”  I am looking forward to continuing to work within the New Orleans community to celebrate its culture and diversity.

Whether as attorney, mediator, volunteer, teacher, disc jockey or theater lover, I love the New Orleans community and am committed to serving it.  When we do what we love, that commitment shows in our work.  I look forward to working with you and your families in 2015.

If you or someone you care about needs family law advice, call Liz at (504) 330-5522 today, or send her an email request at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com.

What is a QDRO and Why Would I Need One?

If your spouse had a retirement account during your marriage, you may be entitled to a portion of it if the two of you have a community property regime.  There are two steps to cashing out your marital portion of a retirement account.  First, there’s a community property partition, followed by a QDRO (pronounced quad-row) procedure.

How do you know if you have a Community Property Regime?

In Louisiana, all married persons start out in what’s called the community of acquets and gains, or community property for short.  Community property is all of the assets and debts you and your spouse acquire during the course of your marriage.  If you and your spouse want to hold certain property or debt separately, then you have to specifically contract to do that, through a pre-marital agreement or a declaration of paraphernality/separation of property agreement.  If you and your spouse have never signed any document that would make certain property or all property acquired during the marriage separate property, then you have a community property regime.

What Happens to Community Property Once Spouses Divorce?

Divorce ends the community property regime.  However, each spouse retains an ownership interest in the community property.  The way that ownership interest is determined and divided is a legal proceeding called a community property partition.  In this process all of the assets and debts of the couple are listed out, and values assigned.  The parties, either by agreement or with the help of the court, are given ownership and responsibility for all of the assets and debts, in as fair a manner as possible.

What Happens After the Partition of Community Property?

The court will issue a judgment of partition, stating each spouse’s rights and obligations to all of the assets and liabilities of the community.  The community regime is over for the items of property and debt that have been divided.

Where Does the QDRO Process Come In?

Once a spouse has been determined to have an interest in a retirement account of the other spouse, the QDRO procedure is begun to eventually direct the holder of the retirement plan to send payments from the account to the appropriate spouse.  This is done through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO.  Each company has its own set of procedures for processing requests for distributions from employee retirement accounts, and that procedure results in the court granting an order, which is approved, or qualified, by the company.  Once the QDRO is approved, the company will accept the order and begin their internal process to distribute the funds.

Can Meneray Family Law, L.L.C. Handle my Community Property Partition and QDRO Proceedings?

Absolutely.  An unsettled community is a very uncomfortable thing for my clients.  They feel that they have this unfinished business, those loose ends of their marriage that they want to deal with.  And in the case of a QDRO, many clients worry about getting their portion of a retirement account and want to make certain that process is completed as soon as possible.  Call Liz today at (504) 330-5522 or send her an e-mail at liz@menerayfamilylaw, to make an appointment.

Holding it Together

Our Civil Code is very big on family.  And even though it was first written over 200 years ago, a basic principle of our family law is that children benefit from the care of both parents.  The law requires that parents make an effort to foster good relations between themselves and their children.  Parents are required to take care of their kids, and, incidentally, children have a duty to take care of their parents.

Somehow, though, when the subject of visitation comes up, there always seems to be an excuse as to why the other parent should not see their children:

“I’ve never gotten a dime in child support!”  

“He/she doesn’t deserve to see his/her kids!”

“We always argue when we see each other, and it’s better if he/she just stays away.”

I find that a lot of parents are mistaken on issues of custody law.  A parent with physical or domiciliary custody over his or her children does not have the right to put up barriers that keep children from knowing both parents.  It doesn’t matter if one parent has been negligent in paying support or if you still have your differences since breaking up.  The law wants you to work things out for the benefit of your children, and the law will help to facilitate the mending of broken family ties.

The child support question and “earning” the right to see a child

Does a parent have to pay child support?  Absolutely.  Does a parent’s failure to pay child support affect his or her right to visitation?  Not at all.  These are two entirely different matters in the eyes of the law.  Although frustrating to have a parent withhold support, the law provides a process by which child support can be collected by the State, so as far as it’s concerned that issue is being taken care of.  In the meantime, the law still requires parents to facilitate a relationship between children and both of their parents.  In other words, failure to pay support is not an excuse to remove visitation privileges.

Parental conflict as a barrier to parenting

Obviously if a parent is talking to me instead of the person he or she had a child with, there’s a conflict problem.  I certainly try to minimize conflict between parents when I can, and emphasize the importance of clear communication when dealing with the children they have in common.  The reason I do that is the law requires parents to not only communicate, but takes into account the extent to which a parent is willing to reach across the divide and keep the relationship between the child and the other parent alive.

Now, please understand that I am not talking about domestic violence here.  If you are in a situation where you or your children are in danger of harm because of violent behavior between you and the other parent, allow the court to resolve the issues involved.  You may need a protective order to help keep the peace, and supervised visits may be ordered to protect the children if the court feels it is necessary.  The court may also want to order counseling for you and the children to help the family cope with and prevent family violence.

You need a caring, trusting advisor in child custody and visitation cases

No matter what the underlying problem is, the two of you have a child together, and until that child is grown you will both have to make concessions in the best interest of that child.  That’s hard advice to swallow, but with a caring, trusted advisor on your side you can make the tough decisions the law requires you to make.

Meneray Family Law does nothing but work with family members to resolve these and other important family law matters.  Call Liz Meneray for a consultation today at (504) 330-5522 or e-mail her at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com.

And enjoy your kids, they grow up so fast!

“Is There Such a Thing as an ‘Uncontested Divorce’?”

People ask me this all the time, making a playful joke about using the word “uncontested” in a context that is generally rife with “contest.”   Although divorces are rarely without their tension, Louisiana law does afford spouses an opportunity to obtain an “uncontested divorce” in certain limited circumstances.  Uncontested means that the parties basically have agreed to disagree and move on with their lives.  They don’t have many issues at stake; they just want to go to court, and get their marriage dissolved as quickly and inexpensively as possible.   

How quick is quick?  Generally, once the paperwork is filed a divorce can be granted within ten to fifteen days.  One way to speed things up is to have your spouse sign a Waiver of Service and Citation.  This document tells the court that your spouse is aware of the divorce (because they will have been provided with a certified copy of the Petition) and does not wish to draw things out by making a sheriff serve them with paperwork.  If they don’t want to fight the divorce, there’s nothing more they need to do.  So long as no opposition is filed, the court will grant a final judgment of divorce rather quickly.  There are some statutory time periods that have to pass between the filing of the petition and the granting of the divorce, but they are short, and a judgment is rendered as soon as it’s clear your spouse will not be contesting the matter.

How inexpensive is inexpensive?  My fee for this type of divorce is a flat rate of $399.00, plus applicable court costs.  These cases don’t usually require much paperwork, and so little of my time is needed to get the divorce accomplished.  Therefore, I don’t think it’s fair to charge you more than that.  The clerks of court, however, have a different way of calculating what they charge, and each parish has its own fee structure.   You are welcome to consult with me about the charges in the parish where you live.

If you want to learn whether your divorce can be filed under this uncontested procedure for the low rate of $399 plus court costs, call Meneray Family Law today at (504) 330-5522. 

‘I Think I’ll Dust My Broom’

I’ve been cleaning out my closets lately.  You know how it is; things get worn out, things become too tight (or if you’re really lucky, too loose), things go out of style, and sometimes you don’t know why you bought a thing in the first place.  So, you gather up those things and hope someone else can make use of them, but for you they’re just no good anymore.

There’s an old saying that comes to mind, “Dust my broom.”  If you need a change and want to start fresh, then you “dust your broom” and get on with it.  It can take awhile before you begin the cleaning, but you know once you get started you will feel so much better about having cleared away the clutter.  Once those boxes are off to Goodwill, or the last customer has left the yard sale, you can rest easy.

It’s that way with most things.  Your to-do list has probably been nagging at you for some time.

  • Do you need a will?  Do you need to update the will you have?
  • Do you want to donate property or set up a trust or foundation?
  • Do you have a living will that lets your family know what medical decisions you would want made in the event you could not speak for yourself?
  • Do you have a power of attorney so that someone can manage your affairs if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself?
  • Do you have a guardian chosen for your children if something should happen to you and your spouse?
  • Have you recently had a baby, gotten married or lost a spouse?  You may want to change the beneficiaries on your investments and insurance policies.
  • Are you getting married soon?  Do you want to separate certain property from the community with a prenuptial agreement?
  • Have you been contemplating a divorce?
  • Did you get a divorce in the last few years but never divided up your community property?  If you want to refinance that property you will need to clear title to it before you can refinance in your name alone.
  • Are you paying child support but want to know how a job change affects you?
  • Do you have a child with someone who has never paid support, or has stopped paying support?
  • Has it been a while since you’ve visited with your kids?  Would you like to be able to see them more regularly?

Give me a call at (504) 330-5522 if you’re ready to ‘dust your broom.’  I can help you get your legal house in order.

Independence Day

I filed a Petition for Divorce for one of my clients on January 4 of this year, and almost immediately she began to anticipate her big “independence day.”  “Will I be divorced by the fourth of July?” she wanted to know.  “Almost,” was my partial reply.

In Louisiana, a couple married without minor children may be divorced after living separate and apart for 180 days after service of the Petition for Divorce.  In this client’s case, her spouse was served with her petition on January 13, so we will be finalizing her divorce a few days later than July 4, but to her it will be “independence day” in her mind.

But what does independence entail?  It’s more complicated sometimes than just being “freed” of the person you’re married to.  As much as you may just want it “over and done with,” the divorce decree itself is only the beginning of a divorce.  What about the property you acquired together; what about the bills, the bank accounts, the retirement savings invested over the years of the marriage?  All of that has to be sorted out, and while you’re waiting for that final judgment of divorce, there are a lot of details that require your attention.  Unfortunately, once you begin the divorce process, your emotional state will make it difficult for you to give the hard and fast details the attention they deserve. 

That’s why when you contemplate divorce, it’s important to plan ahead.  Many of my clients learn all too quickly how difficult it is to live on one income instead of two.  Having some money set aside in advance, maybe taking out a credit card or two, can help you to have the funds you need to get through that tough transition period once you and your spouse decide to part ways.

You should consult with an attorney before making the decision to leave the family home or asking your spouse to leave.  There are a lot of details involved in divorce that you probably have not considered, and you want to think carefully about those details before the chaos of the final breakup.  You need someone who can look at your situation and separate the facts from your complicated emotions and help you make decisions that are in your best interest.  That’s what we’re trained to do – to be objective, to advocate for your position, and to look out for you while you’re going through this rocky emotional terrain.

At Meneray Family Law, we will sit down and frankly, but confidentially, talk out your case – what’s important to you, what you’re worried about, what questions you have – and we’ll be able to make a plan to move forward. No decisions need to be made during that hour or so we spend together talking.  It’s a time for us to learn about each other, what you need and what we can do to assist you.  You can begin to contemplate that independence you desire, and how best to achieve it.

If you’re thinking about divorce and want to begin making a plan, call us at (504) 330-5522 for a confidential consultation.