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Divorce is not always easy because there are so many legalities involved in the process. Child custody, property settlements and parental responsibilities are some of the legal issues that come into the picture when getting a divorce. It can be mentally and emotionally taxing and the last thing you want to do is struggle with the process. A divorce lawyer comes in handy during this trying phase of your life. The divorce attorney represents and guides you through the process, making it easier for you to handle. But to enjoy a smooth process, you must find yourself a reliable attorney.

1. Talk to friends and relatives

2. Know what your needs are

3. Do your research

4. Create a budget

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Collaborative Divorce - Dealing With Divorce in a Subtle Manner

Child custody is a very emotional subject and even more so for single parents who are not married. Custody battles can become very nasty when the father does not accept paternity, when unmarried parents do not live together or when a relationship comes to an end.

Child Custody Laws

We will focus on custody laws relating to mothers and fathers who have never been married to each other, with children born out of wedlock. Divorced couples may also be known as single parents, but the same laws do not always apply. As laws differ from country to country we cover general principles only. In the United States each state has its own. If you live elsewhere in the world, do an internet search for child custody laws applying to single parents.

The Rights of the Child

The basic principle remains the same for all child custody laws. The rights of the child come first. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that in all legal matters, countries should act in the best interests of the child. Children of single parents have the same rights as children born in wedlock.

Evaluation tools for awarding custody

Courts do not use a fixed list of rules when awarding custody to single parents. A judge may consider the following factors or situations:

  • age of the child
  • best interests of the child
  • child's preference
  • relationship between child and each parent
  • primary caregiver to date and impact on the child of any change
  • ability of the parent to provide a comfortable, stable and caring home
  • relationship between parents
  • parents' preference
  • evidence of alcohol or drug abuse by either parent

Find out the custody laws for your state or country. Even if you are in a good relationship with the father or mother of your child, unmarried single parents living together should formalize all child custody issues.

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I am a do-it-yourselfer. I love working around my house: Painting, building, and even stuccoing. But there are exceptions, like plumbing. I hate plumbing.

One thing I have learned about my handyman hobby is that I should expect to buy twice the building materials that I should need to complete the project. Experience tells me that I will use all of those materials. My habit is to try to build the first time, fail, and then to try it again. Almost invariably, I will end up building or fixing up the same thing at least twice -- once or twice for practice, and then "for real."

Some who would never consider fixing a garage door or stuccoing a wall would unthinkingly prepare a will or trust using many materials found in bookstores. Bookstores abound with quick-fix be-your-own-lawyer books and CDs, featuring forms and fill-the-blank forms and programs for wills, trusts, and powers of attorney for healthcare decisions. Some of these materials are even state specific, offering different provisions for residents of different states.

Some of these do-it-yourself materials are fine, and may even be useful. If correctly used, many of these forms might work for a do-it-yourselfer. But suppose your case is different? Suppose you fail to properly use the form?

One thing I have noticed about building materials is that the old rule of thumb generally applies: you get what you pay for. The same is true in estate planning. But it is also true that legal documents such as wills and trusts oftentimes do not "speak" until the author is deceased or incapacitated. Because of this fact, in the case of estate plans the handyman analogy of buying double the building materials breaks down. If a wall is improperly built, it can be torn down and redone. But if a will is improperly drafted, or if it fails to state the intent of the author, there is often no opportunity for a second try. Rather, in many cases, when the author of the will or trust is incapacitated or deceased, the planning "solution" either fails, or has completely unexpected and unwanted consequences.

Still, to be a good consumer of legal services, self-education is essential in communicating needs to an estate planning professional. The following is an overview of some of the major estate planning topics that should be applicable in most states.

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Whither Will or Trust?

Like anything, there are pros and cons when choosing between a will and a trust. Most of the pros and cons relate to cost:

  • Wills are generally less expensive than trusts to prepare. Trusts are usually more extensive documents, and require property transfers when "funding" them.
  • Trusts are usually less expensive to administer than wills. However, probating a will can be expensive, depending upon the size of the estate. While there are costs associated with trust administration, it is usually less expensive than filing a petition to probate a will.

Depending upon the circumstance, trusts can provide similar benefits as certain types of conservatorships. If a settlor becomes unable to handle his or her own affairs, the successor trustee can step in and make the necessary decisions to manage the settlors' financial affairs. Wills do not offer this benefit. However, if a person suffers from dementia, for example, a conservatorship "of the person" may still be necessary.

There are benefits to each approach. Also, the law governing wills and trusts may vary from state to state. You should consult with a competent estate planning attorney to choose the right approach for you.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice, and the use of it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any liability that might arise from your use or reliance on this article or any links from this article is expressly disclaimed. This article is not to be acted upon as if it were legal advice, and is subject to change without notice, or may include obsolete or dated information, or information not relevant to your jurisdiction. If you require legal services, you should consult with an attorney.


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