Phone: 256-927-7490

How to help a loved one through a divorce

Dec 13

Divorce can be an extremely difficult time for a family. It can be destabilizing in many levels. If you are witnessing a loved one go through this devastating time, it is a great challenge to give helpful support to deal with their emotions, change in routine, and legal proceedings. You want to make sure that you provide the right type of assistance that will help them through this difficult situation. One of the first steps is finding an Alabama divorce lawyer that can represent them well during the divorce.

Be There for Them
People who experience a divorce may feel socially lost. It seems like the friends once shared by the couple are now split into opposing sides. It can be very difficult to find social support and at the same time feel isolated from some people you once counted on being there for you.
Even if your loved one doesn’t want to socialize, be sure to include them as much as you can, no matter if they accept your invitation or not. Be careful not to push too hard, but make sure they know you are there for them when they need you.

Help Them Organize Their New Life
Just by being there for them for anything they need, it is a loving supporting deed they are sure to appreciate. Perhaps they are moving into a new home and need help packing. It can also be the case where they need to transition into a different type of childcare service. You could offer to watch their kids for a while or help with house work. Or, maybe they need help navigating through the legal proceedings. You may be able to do research for them and put them in contact with legal support. Finding an Alabama divorce attorney is a key step that should be taken diligently. A skilled attorney can relieve a great deal of stress that comes with the whole legal process of divorce.

Helping Them Get Through the Legal Battle
Once they contact an Alabama family lawyer, they will need to gather information and fill out the necessary paperwork. You can help them the most by continuing to give them the support that they need. Making sure that they have a skilled attorney in their side is also very important. Call us today at (256) 927-7490 to find out how we can help.

Second marriage with children | How can an attorney help?

Sep 13

A couple who is divorced with children and planning a second marriage must be aware of the legal implications. A second marriage brings up questions and possible issues with custody, child support, finance, not to mention any issues there may be with the previous marriage. If you are considering a second marriage with children, a family attorney in Alabama will be able to guide you through each step of the process.

How Can My Second Marriage be Validated?
When committing to a second marriage, one must ensure that the first marriage has been annulled and that it was indeed a successful divorce. Each party is allowed to be married to only one person at a time. The failure to legally end the first marriage results in the second marriage being voided in the eyes of the court.

If you are engaged to be married for the second time, it is a good idea to verify court records that show your first marriage was successfully dissolved. Your partner should also do a check of this sort to be sure that bigamy does not get in the way of the new marriage.

When a Custodial Parent Remarries
The biggest concern when the custodial parent remarries is how the child will adapt to their stepparent in the new home. It may be beneficial to rethink the child custody agreement in place. The child support payments may also have to be rearranged. It may be the case that the new spouse may be able to financially support the child.

Stepparent Adoption
It is natural for stepparent to adopt their spouses’ children once the new family unit is formed. In this case, the second spouse legally adopts the children of the biological parent. These types of adoptions are much easier than conventional ones. This is more likely to happen when the other biological parent of the child is not involved in his/her life. State statutes allow only two parents for the child, which means that if the adoption occurs, the other biological parent will have to give up their parental rights.

Consulting an Attorney About Your Second Marriage
It is important you understand your responsibilities and legal rights before remarrying and that you take into account the wellbeing of your children. Working with an Alabama family lawyer will help you decide how your child’s custody and adoption options can benefit your family, and how property can be categorized under the law. An experienced legal team will help you defend your assets and help you exercise your rights.

Injured in an accident? | Why you need an attorney

Aug 18

Unfortunately, accidents happen even if you are a good driver. As a result, injuries may occur with some being more traumatic than others. Whether you were injured in a car accident, or trucking accident, here is why you need an Alabama injury attorney.

Attorneys are Master Negotiators
In order to get what is owed to you, you need to hire an experienced injury attorney in Alabama. The first of many reasons is because attorneys are experts when it comes to negotiations.

There are some instances where the other party is responsible for your injury. What’s worse is that they’ll try to downplay the entire situation and offer a meager amount of compensation. This is where your attorney comes in to bargain and ensure you get what you are owed.

Attorneys are Objective
Depending on the severity of injuries, you may need extensive rehabilitation. In these circumstances, attorney’s are neutral and do not make emotionally charged decisions. As such, an attorney can help you make sound, educated decisions that get you the compensation you deserve.

Attorneys Can Get You the Proper Medical Attention
If your injury does not warrant an immediate hospital visit, the first person you should contact is your attorney. Attorneys have a clear understanding of which type of medical follow up you may need after an accident. You can also use the doctor as a witness should you decide to take the case to court.

Attorneys Can Relieve a Lot of Stress
Trying to get your compensation can be stressful, especially if the other party is resistant to pay. Attorneys have years of extensive legal training and know how to negotiate, even with the most resistant of offenders.

Being involved in a car accident shoulder never be taken lightly. Even minor injuries can transform into major medical bills. If you have been injured in an accident, Attorney Shane Givens can help. Contact our office at 256-927-7490 for your consultation today.

 

Steps to take if you have been injured in an accident

May 17

Accidents are often a disorienting and terrifying experience. In a very short amount of time there are many aspects to consider, often all at once. If you have been injured in an accident, knowing the right steps to take is crucial.

Over 1 million car accidents happen over the course of a year. If you are injured from an accident, following a checklist can help you organize what is immediately important.

1.) Do not drive away from the scene. Even if the accident appears minor, stay where you are.

2.) Call the police. Even if you do not think an injury is serious, calling the police is a good idea. This can also help if you wish to file a claim with your insurance company.

3.) Do not speculate. Tell the police all the facts you remember, but do not guess or speculate what has happened. If you are unsure if you are injured, you can say “I don’t know”.

4.) Take photographs. Since most people have smartphones, this can easily be done after the accident. Make sure to take pictures of the vehicles as well as any possible injuries.

5.) Report. Remember to notify your insurance company. Insurance companies can tell you what type of coverage you have and how this benefits you in the immediate future.

6.) Seek medical care. Injuries may not be obvious directly after an accident. Seeking medical care can alert you to any injuries that might show up later.

7.) Call an Alabama accident attorney right away. An accident attorney in Alabama can help you understand what your rights are and how to properly move forward.

Medical care and living expenses can be extremely expensive after an injury. For proper compensation, hiring a firm with experience is in your best interest. Attorney J. Shane Givens can assist you in the legal process. For help with truck and auto injuries, the right team makes all the difference.

What Can I expect if I am convicted of a DUI?

Jan 30

Around the holiday season, the DUI rate inevitably rises.  When someone gets charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, he or she always asks, “What kind of punishment am I looking at?”  Like the answer to most legal questions, it depends.

Generally, a person can be convicted of DUI when he has either 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood, or is otherwise under the influence of alcohol, drugs and/or any other substance to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving.  The law is more strict when the person charged is under 21, a bus driver, or a day care driver (0.02 percent or more blood alcohol level), or a commercial vehicle driver (0.04 percent or more blood alcohol level).

Generally, upon a person’s first DUI conviction, he can expect either a jail sentence of not more than a year, and/or a fine of at least $600 but not more than $2,100. Jail time is not mandatory on a first conviction of DUI. Additionally, the defendant’s driver license will be suspended for 90 days. This is an absolute suspension because there is no law in Alabama which provides for or allows a work permit.

If the same person is convicted a second time within five years of his first DUI, he is required to serve a jail sentence of at least five days but not more than one year, or perform at least 30 days of community service.  The fine imposed will be at least $1,100 but not more than $5,100.  Further, his driver license shall be revoked (rather than just suspended) for one year.

On a third conviction, a defendant is required to serve at least 60 days in jail, which cannot be probated or suspended by the judge, but cannot be required to serve more than one year.  The fine imposed will be at least $2,100 but not more than $10,100. In addition, the defendant’s driver license will be revoked for a period of three years.

A fourth or subsequent conviction of DUI is considered a class C felony, and is punishable by a mandatory jail sentence of not less than 10 days, and a potential prison term of not less than one year and one day but not more than 10 years.  If the sentence does not exceed three years, confinement may be in the county jail at the judge’s discretion. However, if the sentence is one year or less, confinement must be in the county jail. The fine imposed must be at least $4,100 but not more than $10,100.  Also, the defendant’s driver license will be revoked for a period of five years.

In each case, the defendant’s mandatory minimum fine and sentence is doubled if he is over 21 and a child under 14 was present in the vehicle at the time of the offense.

In addition, any person convicted of DUI shall be referred to the court referral office for evaluation. The defendant shall, at a minimum, be required to complete a DUI or substance abuse program approved by the Administrative Office of Courts. The Department of Public Safety cannot reissue a driver license to a person convicted of DUI without receiving proof that he or she has successfully completed such a program.

This column is intended for general information purposes only.  It is not intended, nor should it be construed as personal legal advice.  The answers to most legal problems rely on the specific facts of your situation; therefore, it is very important that you personally see a lawyer when these situations arise.

 

How Do I Get a Restraining Order?

Jan 30

I have received a lot of questions recently about how to get a restraining order. Contrary to popular belief, a restraining order is generally not something you can just walk up to the courthouse, Sheriff’s office, or lawyer’s office and pick up. In fact, in most cases you can’t get a restraining order unless there is underlying case filed in court.

Of course, most requests for restraining orders come from a victim who has been abused by someone else in some way. Depending on the type abuse, the situation is handled differently. If law enforcement has charged the abuser with a crime like assault or domestic violence, then the matter is handled in criminal court. If not, then the victim must seek to bring the matter before the civil court in some way.

In criminal cases dealing with violent crimes, the court will usually automatically impose a type of restraining order on the defendant. In most cases, the defendant is ordered to stay away from the victim and have no contact with them while the case is pending. This order is usually not as specific as most people think. For example, the defendant will probably not be specifically ordered to stay a certain distance away from the victim, and may not have to leave the Wal-Mart if you both are in there at the same time. If the defendant does make contact, especially to harass or intimidate or to abuse the victim in some way, his bond may be revoked and he may have to sit in jail awaiting a hearing on the matter.

In civil court, you have to have an underlying case, like a divorce or a suit for damages related to an assault to request a restraining order. A civil restraining order from a divorce, for example, usually involves the court ordering that both parties not annoy, bother, harass, or otherwise disturb the other party. These orders come in various forms and depend greatly on the situation. Some even order that parties can’t use social media like Facebook to talk bad about the other party (believe it or not, people usually can’t resist doing this kind of thing).

The exception to the rule is a protection from abuse order, which contains provisions most people associate with a bona fide restraining order. A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil order that protects you from abuse by a current or former intimate partner. There are very specific rules regarding obtaining a protection order and keeping one. Next week, we will look more closely at how to obtain a protection from abuse order.

Am I Common Law Married?

Dec 05

Many times, the solution to domestic problems like custody, property disputes, and visitation of children revolves around whether the parties are married. More times than you would think, when I ask “are you married?” I get the answer “yeah, we’re common law married.” In reality, however, most people have no clue what it takes to establish a common law marriage. In fact, there are many misconceptions floating around about common law marriage.  For example, some people think that having a child together and/or that living together for some certain length of time automatically creates a common law marriage. These facts alone, however, do not create a marriage. In fact, a couple can live together for many years and have many children, but still not be common law married.

To create a common law marriage, a person must prove three things: First, both parties must have the legal right or “capacity to marry.” Second, the couple must hold themselves out to family, friends and the community as being married. Third, each person must intend to be married to the other person. A common law marriage is just as legally binding as a ceremonial marriage and it can only be ended by a divorce or by the death of the husband or wife; but how does someone actually prove these three things?

For a person to have the “capacity to marry,” he or she must be an adult (i.e., must have reached his or her 19th birthday). The couple must be of the opposite sex from each other, must be of sound mind, and must not be married to someone else.

To “hold yourself out to the public as being married” usually requires showing that you live outwardly as if you were married. When a judge has to decide whether a couple is common law married, he or she will weigh many factors to decide their “intent to marry.” The judge must rely on the answers to questions like: Did the couple live together? Did the woman use the man’s last name? Did the couple sign contracts together to buy a home or a car? Did the couple file joint tax returns? Did the couple have joint bank accounts? Did the couple refer to each other as husband and wife? Did they share household duties and expenses? Did they have and raise children together?

Intent to marry is probably the hardest element of the three to prove. This is because by the time a judge gets involved, inevitably one party is representing that they had no intent on being married to the other. Usually, the judge will use the answers to the questions above to determine whether each party intended on being married. As stated earlier, the answer to any one question does not determine if you have a common law marriage. When taken together, however, the answers help a judge decide if a couple intended to be married. Ultimately, a person only knows for sure if there is a common law marriage when a judge says so.

Domestic Violence Laws in Alabama

Dec 05

Domestic violence laws in Alabama prohibit certain acts of physical violence between an aggressor and a victim, including a parent and child, husband and wife, and couples in a dating or engagement relationship. The crime of domestic violence can carry serious penalties. In order to be found guilty of a domestic violence offense, a defendant must commit a specified violent act and the defendant and victim must share a certain relationship.

Alabama law recognizes three degrees of domestic violence, as well as the felony of domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation. In order for the prosecutor to charge domestic violence in the first, second, or third degree, the alleged aggressor and victim must be in one of the following relationships: current or former spouses, parent and child, parent or parents of a child, current or former household members, and couples who are or were in a dating or engagement relationship. Domestic violence by strangulation can occur between people in the relationships explained just above. However, if the defendant and victim were dating or were engaged, they must have been in the relationship within ten months of the offense. In addition to the relationships just described, domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation prohibits certain violent acts between a stepchild and stepparent.

Domestic violence in the first degree may be charged when the aggressor commits either first-degree assault or aggravated stalking. A defendant convicted of domestic violence in the first degree is guilty of a Class A felony, which carries a maximum of life or 99 years in prison. Defendants who have prior convictions for first-degree domestic violence must serve a minimum of one year in prison for subsequent first-degree domestic violence convictions before being released on probation or parole, or receiving a reduction in prison time for good behavior.

Domestic violence in the second degree can occur when the aggressor commits second-degree assault, stalking (not aggravated), intimidates a witness, commits first- or second-degree burglary, or commits first-degree criminal mischief. Second degree domestic violence is a Class B felony, carrying up to 20 years in prison. For second and subsequent convictions for second-degree domestic violence, the defendant must serve at least six months in custody before being released on probation or parole, or receiving credit for good behavior.

Domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation occurs when an aggressor, by strangulation or suffocation (or attempting to strangle or suffocate) commits an assault with the intent to cause physical harm; or commits the crime of menacing. This crime is a Class B felony and careis the same punishment as second degree domestic violence.

Domestic violence in the third degree occurs where the defendant commits the crimes of third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment, criminal coercion, harassment, criminal surveillance, harassing communications, third-degree criminal trespass, second- or third-degree criminal mischief, or third-degree arson. Domestic violence in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail. For second and subsequent convictions for third-degree domestic violence, a defendant must serve a minimum of ten days in jail. According to the law, if you’re convicted three times for third-degree domestic violence, the misdemeanor charge turns into a felony.

Laws You May Not Know About

Oct 17

I have had several people request that I write about “little known laws.” Here are a few that may interest you (all references made are to the Alabama Code):

Anyone who maims or injures themselves to “excite sympathy or to obtain alms or some sort of charitable relief” is guilty of a class C felony.  §13A-14-1.

Any person who gives a minor a bowie knife shall be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00. §13A-11-57.

Anyone who carries a concealed slingshot shall be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail for six months. §13A-11-53.

A person who possesses, obtains, receives, sells, or uses a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun is guilty of a Class C felony. §13A-11-63.

It is illegal for anyone to use pepper spray in the commission of a crime. §13A-6-27.

Anyone who knowingly profits from unlawful gambling activity as a player commits the crime of simple gambling and is guilty of a class C misdemeanor, unless he was engaged in a social game at a private place.  §13A-12-21. However, a person commits the crime of promoting gambling if he profits from unlawful gambling other than as a player and is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. §13A-12-22.

Anyone who finances, advertises, sells tickets to, operates, or purchases a ticket for a hog fight is guilty of illegal hog fighting, which is a class A misdemeanor upon conviction for a first offense and a class C felony for a second offense. §13A-12-6.

Anyone who displays in public any bumper sticker, sign or writing which depicts obscene language descriptive of sexual or excretory activities is guilty of a class C misdemeanor. §13A-12-131

Anyone who promotes, engages in, or is employed at a bear wrestling match is guilty of unlawful bear exploitation, a class B felony. §13A-12-5.

According to §13A-12-1, these acts are prohibited on Sunday: charity work, shooting, hunting, card playing, racing, and compelling a child to perform any labor except customary domestic duties. Anyone violating this law shall be fined not less than $10.00 nor more than $100.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail, or sentenced to hard labor for the county, for up to three months.

And finally, §13A-14-3 makes it unlawful for any person to promote, advertise or conduct any type of marathon dance contest continuing or intended to continue for a period of more than eight consecutive hours. Violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than 90 days and/or by a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00. My friend Kevin Turner was really upset about this one.

This column is intended for general information purposes only. It is not intended, nor should it be construed as personal legal advice. The answers to most legal problems rely on the specific facts of your situation; therefore, it is very important that you personally see a lawyer when these situations arise.

 

Abbreviations for Criminal Charges

Oct 17

A few months ago, Sheriff Jeff Shaver and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department created an extremely useful website where you can find out information regarding the Sheriff’s department. The website is located at http://www.cherokeecountyalsheriff.com. One of the most frequently viewed areas of the website by far is the daily arrest records. The arrest records section of the website is so popular that you can, like me, get the arrest report emailed to you each morning.  I am discovering, however, that most people do not know what the abbreviations are for many of the charges found on the arrest report. Below is an explanation of some of the more common abbreviations and what they mean

“NWNI” – Negotiating a Worthless Negotiable Instrument. This charge is more commonly known as writing a bad check. NWNI is a Class A misdemeanor. Anyone convicted on NWNI can also expect to pay court costs, the face amount of the bad check, collection costs, and possibly a fine as determined by the judge.

“UPODP” – Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia is defined as any equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use in growing, producing, storing, or using illegal drugs. Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is a Class A misdemeanor.

“UPOM” – Unlawful Possession of Marijuana. There are two varieties. 2nd degree UPOM is a Class A misdemeanor and is usually charged for first time offenders with smaller amounts of marijuana. 1st degree UPOM is a Class C felony and is charged for repeat offenders, or for those with larger amounts of marijuana.

“UPOCS” – Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance. This includes meth, cocaine, crack, etc. UPOCS is a Class C felony.

“UDOCS” – Unlawful Distribution of a Controlled Substance. This crime involves selling, distributing, and/or transferring a controlled substance. UDOCS is a Class B felony.

“FTP” – Failure to Pay. This means that someone who has previously convicted of a crime has failed to pay their fines, court costs, and/or restitution as ordered by the Court. The court issues a warrant for the individual and they are brought before the judge to explain their non-payment.

“FTA” – Failure to Appear. A criminal defendant has failed to appear at his hearing and the judge has issued a warrant for his arrest so that he may be brought before the court. When you see an FTA and FTP on the arrest report, the underlying charge usually follows. For example, an FTA on a UPOM means that a defendant has failed to appear on a Possession of Marijuana Charge.

“Violation of Release Order” – This means that a criminal defendant who is on bond, or has been released from custody under certain conditions, has failed to meet one or more of the conditions given to him at his release. The judge issues a warrant for this person and he is brought before the court to explain his actions.