Month: November 2014

Adoption in Alabama

The Adoption Process in Alabama

The decision to adopt a child is a very important one.  If you are considering taking on this important responsibility, it is important to understand what is required and what the process of adoption in Alabama entails.  Consulting with a family law attorney can give you the peace of mind you seek when embarking on the journey of taking a child into your home.

The concept of adoption

Adoption is the legal process through which adoptive parents are given permanent parental rights to someone else’s child.  Adoption means taking a child into your home as a permanent family member. It means caring for and guiding that child through his or her childhood and giving them everything they need to reach their full potential.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources is the state department responsible for securing adoptive homes for children who are available for adoption, following termination of parental rights.  There are several steps that potential adoptive parents must go through.  While the process is not difficult, a general understanding of what to expect can make the transition easier.

Meeting Adoption Requirements

In addition to being willing and committed to being a parent and providing the love and guidance a child needs, there are some basic requirements that every adoptive parent must meet.  Those requirements are as follows:

  • Over the age of majority (which in Alabama is 19)
  • If married, must have been married for at least 3 years
  • If married, at least one spouse must be a U.S. citizen
  • Have adequate housing & personal space for the adopted child
  • Healthy enough to meet a child’s needs.
  • Willing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history

When all of these requirements have been met, the next step is to officially submit an application to become an adoptive parent.

Submitting an Application

Once you are sure that adoption is something to which you and your family are deeply committed, the next step is to request an Application to Adopt. The completed application should be returned to the county Department of Human Resources, where you live.  Our firm is ready to assist you in completing and submitting your application for adoption, and guiding you through the entire process.

Group Preparation & Selection Meetings

After your Application to Adopt is received, the next step is attending Group Preparation and Selection (GPS) meetings. GPS is a program designed specifically to educate potential adoptive families regarding various relevant topics on their upcoming adoption experience. During this program, a social worker will also interview you and other family members in your home.

Approval as an Adoptive Resource

After a family profile and home study have been conducted for your family, the information gathered will be evaluated and a determination will be made as to whether you are approved as an adoptive resource.  Your county Department of Human Resources will send you written confirmation of your approval.

Background Information & Pre-Placement Visits

The State Office of Adoption determines child placement.  When you have been selected as a potential adoptive resource for a particular child, you will be given an opportunity to review that child’s background information.  Any questions or concerns you may have will be addressed, as well.  If you decide that your family may be able to offer a home to that child, pre-placement visits will be arranged.

Legal Proceedings for Court Sanctioning

Once the child has been successfully placed in your home for at least 3 months, the final step in the process is to obtain sanctioning by the court that the child is legally yours.  If you have questions regarding adoption, or any other family law issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (205) 998-5570.


Spousal Support

What is Spousal Support?

When you are going through a divorce, or even just starting to consider whether divorce is the best decision for you, fear of being unable to take care of yourself may be a serious issue.  This is especially true if you were not the financial breadwinner in the relationship.  In most cases, spousal support, or alimony, is available and there are many different types of support that may be appropriate in your situation.

What is the purpose of Spousal Support?

The purpose is to limit any unfair economic effects of divorce by providing continuous income to a spouse who is either unemployed, or earning lower wages than the other.  Another purpose can be to allow one spouse to continue the standard of living he or she was used to during the marriage. Unlike with child support, most states do not have very specific guidelines regarding spousal support.  The decisions regarding the amount of support and how long it should be received is left up to the discretion of the court.  In some situations, a spouse can receive more than one kind of support at the same time.

Types of Spousal Support

Spousal support is either short term or long term.  In some cases, financial support may be more necessary immediately after the separation to support the lower-earning spouse while the divorce is pending. In that situation, temporary support may be awarded.

In cases where the marriage only lasted for a short time, many judges will order short-term support that lasts only a few years, that ends on a specific date.  Rehabilitative support is a specific kind of short-term support designed to give a dependent spouse the opportunity to get back into the workforce. Rehabilitative support will end when the spouse is able to return to work, and the recipient must remain diligent in obtaining work. Long-Term or Permanent Support is rarely awarded, and usually only in cases where the judge concludes that the dependent spouse most likely will not return to the workforce.

Termination of Spousal Support

Even when a support order does not include a specific termination date, spousal support will end if the recipient dies or remarries.  In some states, if the recipient cohabitates with another person the support will end.

If you have questions regarding alimony or spousal support, or any other divorce issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (205) 998-5570.


Alabama’s Expungement Law

Alabama’s New Criminal Record Expungement Law

While it is true that Alabama has recently passed a new law that allows certain aspects of an individual’s criminal record to be expunged, or wiped away, there are many requirements and exceptions that must be understood. There are so many Alabama residents who have been arrested and although their charges were dismissed, they still have an arrest record. The Alabama criminal defense attorneys at our firm are knowledgeable of the ins and outs of this new law and are available to help you determine whether you, or someone you know, can benefit.

Who is eligible under the new law?

If you have been charged with a non-violent felony, a misdemeanor criminal offense, a traffic violation, or a municipal ordinance violation, the record may be expunged (erased) if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • the charge was dismissed with prejudice,
  • the charge was no-billed by a grand jury,
  • you were found not guilty of the charge,
  • the charge was dismissed without prejudice more than five years ago (felony) or two years ago (all others) and has not been refiled.

If you were charged with a non-violent felony, you may also have the record expunged one year after completion of a diversion program like drug treatment, mental health treatment or veterans court. Also, if you have a non-violent felony charge, it is required that you not have been convicted of any other felony or misdemeanor crime, any violation, or any traffic violation, excluding minor traffic violations, during the previous five years.

Felony charges that cannot be expunged

Violent felonies, including the following, are not eligible for expungement:

  • capital murder, murder, and manslaughter,
  • assault,
  • kidnapping,
  • rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse
  • robbery and burglary,
  • arson,
  • stalking, and domestic violence

How does it work?

First, a petition must be filed with the Circuit Court where the criminal charge was originally filed. The petition needs to include a sworn statement that the person meets the expungement requirements set out in the law, a certified copy of the arrest record, and a description of the charges to be considered. Also, a filing fee of $300.00 must be paid when filing the petition, along with any court costs. The types of records that will be erased include arrest records, booking or arrest photos, index references for public records searches and other documents or electronic files concerning the arrest or charge.

Can someone object to the petition?

There is an opportunity given to both the District Attorney’s office and the victims to object. If an objection is filed within 45 days of your petition requesting expungement, the court will set a hearing in order to consider the objection and make a ruling. If there is no objection, the court generally considers your petition and makes a ruling without a hearing.

If you have questions regarding criminal records, or any other criminal defense matters, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (205) 998-5570.

Collecting Child Support

Collecting Child Support: Know Your Rights!

Child support is the money paid by a non-custodial parent to help meet the needs of his or her child.  Once a custodial parent has obtained a Child Support Order from a court or administrative agency, requiring the non-custodial parent to pay child support, some parents need assistance actually collecting on that order.  Our law firm has substantial experience in this area and we are ready to help you obtain the money you are entitled to.

What types of services are needed in collecting child support?

There are several steps that must be taken from the point a legally enforceable order for support is obtained.  The first step, in some cases, is locating the non-custodial parent.  Once found, it may be necessary to establish paternity before the order can be enforced against that parent.

Once the non-custodial parent is located, the process of collecting and monitoring payments is the next step.  Child support issues are often ongoing and last many years. Even after you begin receiving payments, there may be a need to adjust the amount of support depending on the changes in the circumstances of the non-custodial parent.  We can help you every step of the way.

Who is eligible to receive child support in Alabama?

Anyone who is a caretaker of a child may be able to apply for child support for that child.  It is not always necessary to have legal custody of the child.  It depends on the situation.  Pregnant women may also apply for support before the child is born.  The right to child support is not dependent on the income of the custodial parent or caregiver.  In other words, there are no income limits to eligibility.

What do I need to have in order for you to work on my case?

The most important thing is proof that you have the responsibility for and control of the child.  This can include the child’s birth certificate, naming you as a parent; proof of guardianship or custody; a letter from Social Security stating you are the child’s representative payee; or a statement from the child’s school stating that the child lives with you.

If you have questions regarding child support, or any other family issues, contact attorney Brad J. Latta online, or by calling (205) 998-5570.