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    An initial consultation, up to one hour, is FREE for general estate planning, estate administration, probate, GUARDIANSHIP or a family law matter if you bring your completed Questionnaire with attachments and all decision-makers attend; otherwise, we charge by the hour.  An initial consultation for long term care planning with Medicaid &/or VA Pension costs $500.  We charge by the hour, in one-tenth of an hour (6 minute) increments, for all time spent on real estate, corporate and other business matters, or for any advice outside the initial consultation when you have not engaged us under a flat fee agreement.  Any quote we give you for a flat fee is binding if we receive all requested information and are engaged to commence work within 30 days.  We accept Visa and MasterCard but assess a 2% surcharge when doing so.  Please come to any initial consultation prepared to pay the initial consultation charge (for Medicaid/VA, real estate, etc.), and/or one-half of any flat fee, or a retainer for hourly work.

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Adoption

Adoption can be a wonderful experience!  It creates the legal bond of parent and child where one did not previously exist.  Navigating the complexity of the legal requirements can be tedious but we would be thrilled to guide you through it.  There are generally two types of adoptions in Arkansas:  relative and non-relative.  A “relative” adoption occurs when the relative of a child seeks to adopt that child.  One of the most common relative adoptions is when a stepparent adopts his or her stepchild.  Such an adoption will not sever the relationship between the child and the custodial parent who is married to the adopting stepparent, but it will sever the legal relationship between the child and the second biological parent, and will terminate the child’s right to inherit from that biological parent (and his or her ancestors).  A “non-relative” adoption occurs when the person seeking to adopt the child is not related to him or her.  A non-relative adoption will sever all legal relationships between the child and his or her biological relatives, including the right to inherit from them.

 

PROCESS

Adoption proceedings and filings are confidential; they are sealed from public view.  An adoption proceeding is initiated by filing with the proper court a petition for adoption, together with other documents required by statute.  The person seeking to adopt is called the petitioner.  Once a petition for adoption is filed and a hearing is set, certain parties must be given notice of the hearing.  The petitioner and the person to be adopted must attend that hearing, at which the court takes testimony and considers other evidence, and determines whether all necessary parties have been notified and have given consent, and whether an adoption should be granted.  If the adoption is granted a Decree of Adoption is entered.  The adoptive parents must then submit the Decree to the Arkansas Department of Health and request that a new birth certificate be issued to show the child’s new name and the adoptive parents’ names.

 

CONSENT

A petition for adoption requires the consent of the mother of the child, the father of the child (in most instances), and any person who has legal custody of the child.  If a biological parent consents to the adoption that written consent is signed by that parent and filed with the court clerk.  Such consents can be revoked for a period of ten (10) days after being signed.  If the biological parents of the child were not married to each other a search of the Putative Father Registry must be conducted and the results of said search must be filed with the court clerk with the petition for adoption.

 

HOME STUDY

Arkansas law requires that a home study be completed on the person(s) seeking to adopt.  This home study must be completed by any child welfare agency licensed under the Child Welfare Licensing Act or by a licensed social worker.  However, a court can waive the necessity for a home study in the case of a stepparent seeking to adopt a stepchild or in the case of a relative seeking to adopt a grandchild or sibling.

 

Premarital Agreements

Arkansas statutes permit individuals who intend to marry to agree by written contract that certain property will not become “marital property,” and to limit any division of property or spousal support obligations upon either party’s death or in the event of divorce.  However, for such agreements to be binding, they must meet certain statutory requirements.  Chief among these is that each party to the agreement must make a fair and reasonable disclosure of his or her assets and financial obligations, and have independent legal counsel advise him or her regarding the agreement.  A premarital agreement cannot alter child support obligations.  In addition, if it causes one party to be eligible for public assistance a court may require the other party to pay spousal support even if that contradicts the terms of the agreement.

 

REQUEST A CONSULTATION

If you would like our assistance with an adoption or a premarital agreement, please request a consultation and we will send you a Questionnaire.  If you bring the completed Questionnaire with you to the appointment, with any requested attachments, a consultation is free up to one hour. At that time, we will review your Questionnaire, answer your questions, and give you a brief overview of the process. If you engage us, we will ask you to sign an Engagement Agreement and pay a retainer (typically $1,500) against which we will bill expenses and our time on an hourly basis, in one-tenth of an hour (6 minute) increments. You may be asked to replenish this retainer from time to time as fees are earned. If the matter is concluded without us earning all money then on deposit we will promptly refund any excess. We will accept a Visa or MasterCard but we assess a 2% surcharge when doing so. We would be honored to help you at this joyous but stressful time.

 

Divorce & Separation

 

DIVORCE

Divorce is rarely a happy occasion but having the right attorney to assist you can make a world of difference.  The complexity of each divorce is based on the circumstances of each marriage.  Does there need to be a custody determination for any children born of the marriage or legally adopted by the spouses?  Are there assets or debts to be divided?  Does one party need spousal support?  These are just a few of the issues that must be resolved in any divorce proceeding.  Read below for a very basic understanding of the requirements and issues presented in a divorce.

 

CONTESTED VS. UNCONTESTED

You often hear divorces referred to as contested or uncontested.  An “uncontested divorce” means that both parties agree to:

  •  obtain the divorce;
  •  all aspects of division of debt and property;
  •  whether either spouse will get spousal support and, if so, how much and for how long;
  •  all decisions related to the custody, support, and visitation of any children born of the marriage or legally adopted by the couple; and
  •  whether life insurance or other collateral is required to secure any spousal or child support obligations.

Basically, the parties must agree on precisely how they want to resolve all issues.  A “contested divorce” means there is at least one issue regarding which a court must make a ruling based upon the facts of the case, the evidence presented, and applicable law.

 

GROUNDS & RESIDENCY

Arkansas requires that a person seeking a divorce must have grounds.  This means the person requesting the divorce must specifically plead his or her reason for seeking the divorce and then prove those grounds to the court prior to the entry of any divorce decree.  The most common grounds for divorce include separation for at least eighteen months, adultery or general indignities.  Covenant marriages require a specific set of grounds.

 

In order to be granted a divorce in Arkansas one of the parties to the marriage must have been a resident of the State of Arkansas for at least sixty days prior to filing for divorce.

 

PARENTING CLASSES

Many courts now require that parents with minor children attend a parenting class before a divorce will be granted.  This parenting class is usually chosen by the court and typically meets for a single four hour session.  For parents who do not live in Arkansas permission can be sought from the court for that parent to take an online class.

 

SEPARATION

Married persons can seek to have a court grant them a “divorce from bed and board.” This is what most people refer to as a legal separation or an action for separate maintenance. This action is different from divorce proceedings in the ultimate outcome – the parties remain legally married.  But the process is generally the same as with a divorce proceeding.   Courts still make a determination as to the division of debts and assets, the custody of children and visitation rights, and matters of spousal and/or child support.  And the person seeking the divorce from bed and board must still prove grounds and residency.

 

Custody & Visitation

 

CHILD CUSTODY

When making determinations about child custody the court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child.  As long as it is in the best interests of the child, a court generally awards custody so that the child has frequent contact with both parents.  This may mean an award of joint custody.  However, the term joint custody can be a misnomer.  Joint custody can be true joint custody – where both parents have equal parenting time with the child – or it can mean that one parent maintains primary physical custody of the child and the other parent exercises visitation based on a set schedule.

 

CHANGE IN CUSTODY

In cases where custody has already been established and one parent is seeking to change custody, Arkansas law requires the parent seeking the change to prove that there has been a material change in circumstances.  A material change in circumstances is very broadly interpreted and is very situation dependent.  Custody proceedings are typically very stressful and litigious – and can get expensive.  There are various issues to take into consideration before filing for a change of custody.  If you are thinking about filing, or have questions, please give us a call today to schedule an appointment before you take any action.

 

VISITATION

One parent can be awarded full custody rather than both parents sharing joint custody.  In most situations the parent not receiving custody will receive “standard visitation” – every other weekend from Friday through Sunday, alternating holidays, and extended time in the summer.  Visitation is usually set based on the circumstances of each case.  Therefore, the distance between the parents and differing work schedules, as well as the schedules of the child, can be considered.

 

MODIFICATION OF VISITATION

Visitation may need to be changed for a variety of reasons.  One or both of the parents may relocate.  A parent’s work schedule might change. In some cases visitation was never established and the non-custodial parent would like to begin visitation.  In other cases there may be reasons one of the parents may not be able to properly exercise visitation rights with the child(ren) due to dangers in his or her home, instability, drug use, etc.  In any case, a pleading must be filed with the court asking for the visitation to be established or changed.  This generally begins a process of litigation.  Having the right attorney on your side can make the process easier to manage and more tolerable.

 

Property Division & Support Obligations

 

DIVISION OF PROPERTY

When a Decree of Divorce is entered the court must make a determination regarding the division of martial property.  Most property and assets acquired during the marriage are considered to be marital property.  However, property that one of the parties acquired before the marriage, or that one party inherited (even during the marriage), is typically not considered marital property.  Marital property is usually divided equally between the parties unless the court decides that an unequal distribution is necessary.  The court will look at various factors in determining an unequal distribution.

 

CHILD SUPPORT

One parent can be ordered to pay child support to the other parent (even if joint custody is awarded when there is significant income disparity).  Arkansas uses a child support chart to determine the exact amount to be paid but courts have discretion to deviate from that chart for various reasons.

 

SPOUSAL SUPPORT

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is money a court can order one party to pay to the other party. In a broad sense, spousal support is based on the needs of one party versus the other party’s ability to pay. Decisions whether a person is to receive spousal support, how long any support must be paid, and the amount of any support, are based on a variety of factors which the court must examine.

 

REQUEST A CONSULTATION

If you would like our assistance with a family law matter, please request a consultation and we will send you a Questionnaire. If you bring the completed Questionnaire with you to the appointment, with any requested attachments, a consultation is free up to one hour.  At that time, we will review your Questionnaire, answer your questions, and give you a brief overview of the process.  If you engage us, we will ask you to sign an Engagement Agreement and pay a retainer (which can vary from $1,000 to several thousand dollars) against which we will bill expenses and our time on an hourly basis, in one-tenth of an hour (6 minute) increments. You may be asked to replenish this retainer from time to time as fees are earned. If the matter is concluded without us earning all money then on deposit we will promptly refund any excess. We will accept a Visa or MasterCard but we assess a 2% surcharge when doing so. We would consider it an honor to help you.

 

 

 

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Thank you for visiting our website.

The attorneys of Ball Corley PLLC proudly serve the entire State of Arkansas with respect to:  Estate Planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, HIPAA authorizations, living wills and visitation directives); Elder Law (Medicaid, veterans administration pension and long term care planning); Probate; Trust and Estate Administration; Guardianships; Family Law (adoption, divorce and separation, child custody and visitation, support obligations, post-decree modification and paternity); Premarital Agreements; Collaborative Law; Mediation; LGBT Laws; and Real Estate Transactions.

Notice and Disclaimer: This Ball Corley PLLC website is intended only to give general information which we believe may be helpful; it is not intended to be advertising or a solicitation, or to provide legal advice. If our website includes any links to other sites they are for information only and should not be interpreted as an endorsement. Although we try to keep the information on our website current it may not always reflect the latest laws, decisions or dollar amounts. And, the general rules provided may not apply to your specific situation; for every general rule there are multiple exceptions to that rule. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you consult with us or another qualified licensed attorney rather than taking any action in reliance on any information contained in this website. Neither your visit to our website, nor your phone call or email to our office, will create an attorney-client relationship with Ball Corley PLLC or its attorneys; such a relationship can be established only by our written agreement to represent you.

If you contact us via phone or email, please do not disclose any information which you deem to be confidential. Only after we have agreed to represent you are we governed by Rule 1.6 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct regarding Confidentiality of Information. That Rule requires that we hold in strict confidence any and all confidential information revealed to us by our clients, subject only to certain narrow exceptions (such as to confer with your CPA, investment advisor or another professional). We are also bound by Rule 1.18 and other Rules of Professional Conduct.

You may print or reproduce materials found on this website in their entirety, without any modification, for your personal and/or educational use only if you include this Notice and Disclaimer in such reproduction.

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