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Supreme Court Rules Same Sex Couples Share Parental Rights to Children Born During Their Union

On March 7th, the Supreme Court of the United States rsame sex mother rightseversed the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court in the case of VL v EL. VL and EL are two women who, during the course of their long-term relationship, bore three children through donor insemination. In this case, VL, the non-biological mother was granted an adoption in Georgia. The couple later split, and VL sought visitation from EL. EL, now residing in Alabama, denied VL visitation on the grounds that the adoption was not valid in Alabama.

On September 18, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against visitation, stating that the adoption performed in Georgia in 2007 was considered void in Alabama. This judgment broke a long-standing precedent that judgments entered into in other states would remain valid. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution requires states to honor judgments made in other states. The case had formerly been heard in trial court and twice in the Court of Civil Appeals.

On November 16, 2015, VL asked the Supreme Court of the United States to consider this case, given that no other state had ever before refused to honor a same-sex adoption granted in another state. In December, the Supreme Court ordered that VL be granted temporary visitation rights and that the judgment of the Alabama Supreme Court be suspended.

On March 7th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that the Georgia adoption was legal and that VL bears full adoptive rights. This marks a major ruling and a victory for the rights of LGBT individuals and couples throughout the United States. This ruling protects the rights of same-sex parents, even after those parents relocate to a different state that may have different laws.

As families in the United States become more diverse, it is important that parents’ rights- whether same-sex or not- be protected by the law. If you believe your parental rights are being infringed upon, or you are being bullied out of your parental role, contact an experienced Alabama family law attorney. A parents’ rights are to be cherished and protected, not manipulated and sullied. Contact the Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC today online or at 205-623-1001 for a consultation.

What Can I Do if My Spouse is Hiding Assets?

Hidingmoney-163502_640 money in a divorce is not just wrong – it’s illegal. If you believe your spouse is hiding money in your Alabama divorce case, here are some tips you can follow to uncover the truth. In many cases, one spouse alone is responsible for managing the money and paying the bills. Often, the other spouse has very little idea of the total assets and debts. In a divorce, this spouse can be at a disadvantage financially. After all, it’s easy to hide something if no one knows it exists. That is why anyone considering divorce should take stock of all assets and debts immediately to help avoid the issue of hidden assets.

Step 1. Retrieve records, paperwork, and statements.

Retrieve your tax reports, bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements, and loan statements for the last three years. If you or your spouse owns a business, get the business tax reports and financial filings as well. The IRS allows you to access prior tax returns easily. Often you can view and print bank statements, credit card statements, and loan statements online. If you cannot, simply call the institution and ask them to send you the statements. They may tell you they charge a small research fee, however if you plead your case, they sometimes will provide these statements free of charge.

Step 2. Analyze all statements thoroughly.

This is the tedious part! Grab a notebook, a highlighter, and a pen. Begin with any loan statements. Search for any unusual or suspicious withdrawals. If you find any, highlight them. Then, find the most recent statement and write down the balance. Next move on to your credit card statements and do the same. Finally, review your bank statements. Look for unusual cash withdrawals or large expenditures. Also keep an eye out for recurring charges that do not look familiar. If you are unsure about a charge, often a quick search on Google will help you identify the vendor. Highlight any unusual purchases or withdrawals, and again make note of your balances. Finally, review your tax returns. Unless your spouse is hiding money from the IRS as well, these should indicate income. If you are familiar with the business, you can analyze the tax returns. However, you may want to hire an accountant as these can be technical and difficult to understand.

Step 3. Hire a forensic accountant, if necessary.

A forensic accountant investigates accounts and financial records in order to determine if they are accurate or if they show evidence of deception. A forensic accountant is fairly expensive, and should be reserved for cases involving significant assets. In such cases, however, a forensic accountant can be invaluable! A forensic accountant can sniff out signs of fraud, such as overpaying creditors or creating fake debt. If your case involves a business or sizeable assets, a forensic accountant can ensure those assets are fairly valued and that you, therefore, receive what you deserve. A forensic accountant can also testify in court to these facts and, given their background, their testimony carries great weight.

After you have arranged and analyzed your financial records, an experienced Alabama divorce attorney can help you determine if you need a forensic accountant on your case. At the Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC, we will work diligently to ensure that you receive a fair divorce settlement. Contact us today at (205)623-1001. 


How Do I Minimize Costs in My Divorce?

As an Alabamadocument-428334_640 family law attorney, I understand that money can be an issue for couples facing divorce. As the individuals prepare to go their separate ways, they may be even more cognizant of the need to save money. Divorce need not break the bank, but you also should ensure that you have adequate representation to protect your rights.

In general, an uncontested divorce is less expensive than a contested divorce. To be eligible for an uncontested divorce in Alabama:


  • You must have been an Alabama resident for at least 6 months if your spouse lives out of state.
  • You and your spouse must come to an agreement regarding the division of property and debt, custody of any children, and child or spousal support.
  • You and your spouse are NOT required to separate in order to file divorce. You may continue to reside together if you choose..

Sometimes, couples can work together and come to an agreement that is fair to both parties. In fact, it can be as simple as jotting details down on notebook paper. Once both parties are satisfied, either party can have an attorney draft the divorce documents.

In general, the attorney that composes the documents only represents the party that hired them. For example, if the husband hires an attorney to draft the uncontested divorce documents, that attorney represents the husband. In such a case, the wife could potentially proceed without representation. This, however, is incredibly risky. Even if both parties reach an agreement, each party should retain their own representation in the divorce. This ensures that the rights of each party are protected and that both individuals truly comprehend the agreement prior to proceeding.

I’ve seen that I can buy a divorce kit off the internet and do it myself for less money. Can’t I just do this?

Divorce involves nearly every aspect of your life. All of your property and debt will be at stake, as well as your children and their future. Even if you and your spouse can agree to everything, there are still things like court filings and deadlines that must be met in a timely manner. Remember, an Alabama family law attorney can represent you and make certain that your rights are protected.

My spouse and I cannot agree on everything- does this mean our divorce will be costly?

Sometimes, despite the best interests of both parties, you simply cannot find common ground with your spouse. Perhaps you can agree on most aspects of the divorce, but an issue or two have left you frustrated. Or, maybe you both genuinely want to work together but simply cannot seem to make ground. In these cases, one cost-effective solution is mediation. Mediators are trained, third-party providers who perform in a neutral capacity to help both partners come to a satisfactory arrangement.

Divorce need not be costly! To discuss your case with an experienced Alabama family law attorney, contact us online or by phone at (205) 623-1001.



Can a Father Get Custody in Alabama?

road-995343_640Historically, Alabama courts have strongly favored awarding custody of children to the mother. More recently, however, family situations have changed and evolved, and many men have taken on the role of primary caretaker.

Now, family law judges try to promote joint custody plans, with the children spending roughly the same amount of time with each parent. The Alabama Joint Custody Statute indicates the intention of the state to support the rights of both parents to ongoing contact and childrearing. Further, numerous studies have shown that children do best when both parents play an active role in childrearing. In some cases, however, it may be more appropriate to award sole custody to either the mother or the father. A family law attorney can help you understand your rights as a parent, and guide you through this challenging process.


The court attempts to award joint custody whenever appropriate, but considers a number of factors, including:

  1. Whether or not the parents can reach an agreement regarding custody arrangements.
  2. If the parents are able to discuss the interests of the child amicably.
  3. The ability of the parents to support and nurture the child’s relationship with the other parent.
  4. Any abuse directed toward the child or other parent, either in the past or the potential for future abuse.
  5. If traveling from one household to another regularly is a practical option.

In determining custody, the judge also considers the safety of the child; the age and gender of the child; the ability and desire of each parent to provide for the child’s physical, social, moral, and educational needs; the age, health, and character of each parent; the willingness of each parent to adhere to agreements with regards to parenting; the child’s preference and relationship with each parent; the environment of the homes; any expert testimony; and the effects of the custody arrangement on the child. Your family law attorney can help you present yourself and your situation positively before the judge.

How can I present myself in a positive light?

  • Provide Stability – Judges love to see a stable environment. It is important to have a stable job and provide a regular, healthy routine for the child. That means providing regular, nutritious meals, getting the child to school on time, providing a set bedtime, maintaining regular dental and medical check-ups, and encouraging extra-curricular activities.
  • Bonding Activities – Instead of hiring a babysitter, arrange to spend the time you have with your child in a positive manner. Go to the zoo or a museum, read books together, go to the park, or join a baseball team.
  • Remain Calm – Custody disputes can be emotionally taxing, and you may hold anger or resentment towards the mother of your child. It is important, however, to maintain a calm, cool demeanor. You want to project that you truly want to promote positive and happiness in the environment.
  • Encourage Family Stability – Children thrive when they have relationships with both parents. Even if you believe the mother should not have custody, support your child’s relationship with her. Do not ever speak negatively about the other parent in front of your child.

Remember, the court wants the same thing you do – for your child to thrive in a healthy, happy environment. If you are struggling to gain custody of your child, contact us online or at (205) 623-1001.

Alimony and Divorce in Alabama

Alimony in Alabama

In Alabama a spouse may receive alimony after divorce.  There are two forms and many areas to consider when deiciding what type of alimony is appropriate. 

Alimony comes in two forms:

  1. Alimony in gross
  2. Periodic Alimony


A major difference in the types of alimony is that Alimony in Gross is a non-taxable event.  The receipient does not have to pay tax on it as income and the paying spouse cannot use it as a tax deduction.  Whereas Periodic Alimony is a taxable event.  The recipient has to pay tax on it as income and the paying spouse can deduct it from their taxable income.  Also, Alimony in Gross is a non-modifiable event.  Once it is set it must be paid as ordered.  Some people refer to it as a lump sum property settlement which it can be compared to that since it is a non-modifiable and non-taxable event.

Alimony can be awarded through a pendente lite hearing at the beginning of a divorce case and adjusted or terminated at the final hearing.  A pendente lite hearing is a hearing that can be held at the beginning of the case to give temporary relief to the party that needs income to get on “their feet” while the divorce is pending. 

Alimony in Gross:  When Alimony is awarded as “alimony in gross” it is for a specific reason.  It is in some way a compensation for marital rights.  The idea is that marriage itself has value and it continues to build in value through the years.  If the judge feels that one side has gotten “the short end of the stick”, they may award alimony in gross.  It is a definite “lump sum” amount to be paid during a definite period. 

Periodic Alimony: This form of alimony is considered support for a spouse who cannot maintain the status quo without assistance from the other spouse.  The status quo comes out of a long line of cases that directs the court to “insofar as possible” attempt to maintain the standard of living of both parties that they enjoyed during the marriage. 

Periodic Alimony terminates at the happening of specific events such as:

  1. Death of either party;
  2. Remarriage by the recipient of the alimony payments; or
  3. Open cohabitation of the receipient with members of the opposite sex. 

Characteristics of Periodic Alimony are:

  1. No definite end – could be paid for the rest of your life absent a termination event mentioned above occurring;
  2. No set sum – no ceiling to the amount to be paid.  The amount is configured on the “shortfall” or deficit of the party requiring support.
  3. In some cases, no amount of time required to be married.

To prove that Periodic Alimony should be awarded:

  1. Your attorney must prove need by the party requiring support.  This is the threshold burden that must be proven before you may proceed; and
  2. That the other party has the ability to pay the money to meet the need proven

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