Important Tax Considerations During a Divorce

When you decide to get divorced, it seems like the tough decisions never stop coming. Unfortunately, this is also true when it comes to your final divorce settlement and taxes. A number of decisions you make regarding your divorce could impact your taxes for better or for worse. Before you agree to finalizing any aspect of the divorce settlement, make sure you know how your taxes will be affected.

Having your own legal representation in a divorce is crucial. To discuss your case in greater detail with our experienced legal team, call Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927 to set up a consultation.

Your Filing Status

If you are not yet legally divorced by the time the end of the year rolls around, you will need to decide which filing status you and your ex-partner will use. Even if your divorce is finalized before you file your taxes, you are still considered married if you aren’t divorced by December 31. In some cases, choosing married filing separately is the ideal choice. This is especially true if your tax return offsets your spouse’s tax liability, since you probably don’t want your tax return subsidizing your ex-partner’s life. However, in general, filing married jointly is the best financial option. This, too, may come with repercussions.

Liability for Returns

This ties in closely to the first item on this list. If you and your ex choose to file jointly, you are both liable for all of the information on that return. That means that if your ex-partner lies on their tax return or doesn’t provide documentation, you are just as criminally liable as them. If you don’t trust them or have any reason to believe they might cut corners, it might be worth the extra cost to file separately.

The Child Tax Credit

Generally, the child tax credit stays with the person who has the child most of the time. If time is split 50/50, this may mean switching off years. Furthermore, there are some situations in which the non-custodial parent may take the tax credit. This should all be decided as part of the divorce negotiations.

Property Transfers

Depending on how property is split up, you may trigger different tax situations. In general, property transfers done because of divorce don’t affect taxation. There are exceptions, though, and you should discuss your best option with your attorney.

Retirement Funds

Many people choose not to split up retirement accounts during divorce, simply because of the complications of transferring them and figuring out how they affect taxes. To transfer part or all of a retirement account, you need a QDRO from the court. This limits tax consequences. Going outside the recommended route could lead to penalties.

Assets That Are Sold

If you and your ex-partner choose to sell assets and split the proceeds rather than give the actual asset to one party, you need to look at how that could affect taxes. Consider, for example, selling a vacation home. If the home is sold and the proceeds go to you, you may get hit with a capital gains tax. This may make your divorce settlement less valuable than you think it is. This means it may also give you more leverage when it comes to negotiations.

Spousal Support

Alimony payments are no longer a taxable/tax-deductible item since the federal tax law changes at the beginning of 2019. This means it does not positively or negatively impact the taxes of the giver or the receiver. However, in many situations, the higher-earning partner might agree to give up more in assets to avoid paying alimony. This may leave the party receiving alimony with unexpected tax consequences. For that reason, you should know exactly what you are giving up if you don’t pursue alimony and how that decision may affect you.

Prepare for Your Divorce with Coumanis & York

Divorce is stressful at best, and things can often get very messy. No matter what kind of divorce you’re anticipating, you need your own legal representation. Divorce represents a fresh start, and you don’t want to be hindered by mistakes made during the divorce process. To make the best decisions for yourself and your future, get in touch with Coumanis & York today. Call us at 251-260-3927 or contact us online to set up a consultation.

Taking Control of Your Finances During a Divorce

Divorce takes a toll on your mental health, your stability, and your finances. Some forget to take care of their finances during a divorce, assuming that there’s no point to it when everything is in free fall. However, this is actually the best time to take control of your finances and use them to prepare for a new stage of your life.

If you’re getting divorced and you’re not sure how to protect yourself throughout this process, let us help. Call the team at Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927.

Create a Brutally Realistic Budget

This isn’t the time to be overly optimistic about what your future will look like. You need to be incredibly honest while looking at your budget and considering what you can spend, especially if you’re leaving the family home and you need to figure out how much housing you can afford. After creating a budget that accounts for monthly bills and necessary expenses, add in periodic expenses.

Don’t forget car registration, vehicle repairs, subscriptions, school fees, and other expenses that you still have to budget for. You don’t want to start out life as a single person with more bills than you can handle because of a budgeting error.

Establish New Accounts

In many cases, simply removing your ex-partner from a bank account or credit card isn’t enough. You should go one step further and establish entirely new accounts. Even though banks shouldn’t grant access to those listed on the account, smooth-talking ex-partners have been known to gain access by saying that they were removed because of a clerical error or by overriding security questions.

Make Sure Your Documentation is in Order

You should begin this step as soon as possible once you’ve made the decision to divorce. Get copies of bank statements, retirement account statements, tax returns, insurance policies, and other financial documents. Put them in a safe place away from the marital home. You may need these to start changing beneficiaries and double-checking spending after you leave the marriage. If you worry about your spouse finding or destroying the documents, consider making a digital backup to a cloud-based service.

Prepare for the Worst

There are a lot of unknowns in divorce, especially when it comes to your finances. Until all of the paperwork is signed and the debts are paid, anything could change. Rather than planning for the best-case scenario where you get to keep the assets you want and divvy up the debts in a fair way, plan for the worst. Assume that you will lose access to some assets and that you’ll take a larger portion of the debt than expected. This allows you to make a cautious, conservative plan. If things go your way and you end up in a better situation, you will have extra funds and assets at your disposal.

Hold Off on Major Changes

Divorce has a way of making you want something new. Maybe you want to start investing aggressively, get a brand-new car, or buy a vacation home. Take a deep breath and hold off on any major financial decisions for a while. Your mind is likely not in an ideal state during divorce, and you want to wait on those decisions until you can think them through clearly.

Contact an Attorney

An attorney is one of the best resources you can have during divorce. Preparing your finances for the future isn’t helpful if you’re doing so based on false assumptions about what will happen during your divorce. Your attorney can take a long, hard look at your finances, the history of your marriage, and what the likely outcomes of your divorce are. From there, you can make practical plans that will help you create the life you have always wanted.

Take the First Step Toward a Healthy Divorce with Coumanis & York

If your marriage is ending and you’re not sure how to protect yourself and your assets, let Coumanis & York help. Our team has extensive experience with all types of divorces, including amicable, contentious, and high-asset divorces. Let us help you with your divorce. To schedule a consultation, give us a call at 251-260-3927 or reach out to us online.

Holiday Custody Issues During COVID-19

In case holiday custody struggles weren’t already hard enough, 2020 brought us COVID-19. COVID-19 has highlighted serious disagreements between co-parents, whether they disagree on the severity of COVID-19, how best to keep their children safe from it, or their role in limiting its spread.

At the holidays, when many people gather in multi-family celebrations, the risk of contracting COVID-19 is even higher. What do you do if your co-parent doesn’t take steps to protect your child from COVID-19 or your coparent thinks they have the right to keep your child from you because of the pandemic?

These are complex issues with no clear-cut answers. Learn more about holiday custody issues and for more personalized advice, contact Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927.

Don’t Stop Following Your Custody Agreement

If you are considering keeping your child at home because of unsafe holiday arrangements at your co-parent’s house, do not do so without a change in the custody agreement or written confirmation from your co-parent. You simply do not have the unilateral right to change custody arrangements without the approval of your co-parent or the court.

Recognize Risk Factors and Take Note of Them

Regardless of which side of the dispute you are on, take note of the risk factors of COVID-19 spread and try to understand your co-parent’s point of view. If you believe they are too cavalier about the disease and take unnecessary risks, jot those down and provide examples. You may use this when you speak to your lawyer. If you think your co-parent is being too harsh about their COVID-19 restrictions and you believe they may withhold visitation because of it, note the steps you take to keep your child safe and how you plan to protect them over the holidays.

Collaboration is Ideal

As is the case with virtually any custody dispute, collaboration is the best way to go whenever possible. No matter how different your points of view may be, it comes down to you both wanting what is best for your children. You may have different ideas about how to get there, but the goal is the same.

Approach any discussions with your ex-partner with this in mind. Rather than going after them about how they are hurting you or how they are endangering your child, approach them with the sense that you are in this together and you can work out an agreement that benefits everyone. In many cases, simply being acknowledged and included in the conversation is enough to create space for an agreement.

Look for Alternatives

In some cases, compromise simply isn’t possible. Consider a case where the custodial parent is immunocompromised and truly cannot risk getting COVID-19 because their risk of dying is so high. In this case, a court order for temporary custody changes may be required. However, try to be flexible and find ways for your child to spend time with loved ones in a safe manner. Virtual visitation is an option. You may also want to “trade” the holidays for extended visitation when the pandemic has ended.

How Your Lawyer Can Help

No matter where you are in this process or what side you fall on, you need to discuss it with your attorney. Your attorney can review your custody agreement and help you find options. They may help you draft a letter to your co-parent asking for cooperation or assistance, and if that fails, they can help you pursue legal remedies.

This is a difficult time, and it is particularly challenging for co-parents who have to navigate custody and visitation. Try to extend grace to yourself and your co-parent, but do not back down from what is best for your child.

Turn to Coumanis & York for Help with Your Custody Case

Are you facing serious custody issues over COVID-19? You aren’t alone. Parents all over the country are in the same situation you are in. Coumanis & York is here to help you fight for what is right. To schedule a consultation, call our team at 251-260-3927 or contact us online. We are ready to go to work for you!

Are Personal Injury Settlements Considered Marital Property in an Alabama Divorce?

Divorce provides more questions than answers. If you or your spouse have received a personal injury settlement during the course of your marriage, you may be wondering if that settlement is divided up in the course of your divorce.

The answer, as it is with many divorce-related questions, is it depends. For more personalized advice regarding this and other family law needs, call Coumanis & York at 251-260-3927.

There is No Cut-and-Dry Answer

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer regarding whether or not personal injury settlements are marital property. This is because personal injury settlements offer compensation for a wide range of losses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

Some of those are considered shared losses and expenses, and so would be considered part of the marital division of assets. Others are considered to be losses suffered exclusively by the victim, and they would not be divided up in a divorce. How much of a settlement is or is not marital property depends largely on the breakdown of the personal injury settlement.

What is a Marital Asset and What Isn’t?

In a personal injury settlement, several types of compensation are considered marital assets:

  • Lost income and wages
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of spousal support
  • Loss of consortium

These are losses that are widely accepted to be felt by both the victim and their spouse. When a victim has $10,000 of medical bills, that’s something that affects their spouse, as they would also be on the hook for paying those expenses without a settlement. Similarly, lost income is a loss that impacts both parties, as the other spouse would likely to have to ramp up their work to make up for the loss of wages.

Other categories may not be considered marital assets, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Adaptive equipment and prosthetics
  • Future medical expenses (although this is not always the case)

Items in this category are usually considered to be solely the victim’s losses. For example, the spouse of a victim cannot feel their pain and suffering, so they should not be compensated for it.

Figuring Out Property Distribution

If your division of assets involves a personal injury settlement, it is important to disclose that to your attorney as early as possible. They will need to dig into the documentation of the settlement to figure out exactly how much is considered a marital asset.

Remember, too, that Alabama uses the principle of equitable distribution. This means that, even if a significant chunk of the settlement is marital property, you are unlikely to see a 50/50 distribution. If one party earns $200,000 per year and had three homes coming into the marriage and the other party earns $30,000 per year and does not own any non-marital assets, the latter is likely to take a much larger portion of the marital assets.

You may also want to discuss other options for fair distribution with your attorney. If some of the settlement is marital property but most is non-marital, your share might not be much. In some cases, it makes more sense to let the other party have the entirety of the settlement and ask for spousal support instead. Depending on your income and assets, you might prefer a monthly payment in lieu of a settlement payout.

Whether you are the one with the personal injury settlement or your spouse is, it is essential to work closely with an aggressive divorce attorney to ensure that you are treated fairly throughout this process. A lot goes into the fair division of assets in a divorce, and if you do not have an attorney who is ready to stand up to your ex-partner’s attorney, you could find yourself losing everything you have worked to build.

Get Assistance with Your Divorce Case

Whether you’re just starting to consider divorce, or you are already in the middle of the planning process, it’s never too early to contact a divorce attorney. The team at Coumanis & York is here to provide the aggressive representation you deserve during this difficult time. To set up a consultation and find out how we can help you, call us at 251-260-3927 or get in touch with us online.

How Will a DUI Affect My Employment Status?

In case it wasn’t enough to have to worry about your driver’s license, your ability to pay massive penalties, and the possibility of going to jail, you also have to worry about losing your job after a DUI. The decision to get behind the wheel of a car while impaired can impact every area of your life, but that doesn mean that your future should be ruined because of it.

That’s why it’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney after a DUI arrest. At Coumanis & York, we aggressively defend every client to protect their rights and their future. Learn more now by calling us at 251-260-3927.

Jobs That Require Driving

There’s bad news if your job involves driving; you are likely to lose your job and not be able to work in a job that requires driving for a while. Hiring a driver with a history of DUI convictions is simply too big of a risk for many companies to take. This, of course, includes truck drivers and delivery drivers. However, it also includes those who must drive between multiple job sites in the course of their work.

For example, jobs that involve driving where a DUI could have an affect might include social workers, home health aides, district managers, traveling salespeople, and consultants. Even if driving is not the primary purpose of your job, being unable to do so safely may disqualify you from many positions.

Licensed Job Titles and Career Paths

Those in licensed positions are also at serious risk of losing their jobs or restricting their career growth with a DUI. Licensed careers include nurses, social workers, dentists, cosmetologists, real estate agents, teachers, and many other popular jobs. These jobs are each controlled and governed by their own licensing board and each licensing board has the freedom to set their own requirements. You’ll likely be required to report your DUI arrest and, should things go unfavorably, your conviction.

Depending on which licensed career you’re in, consequences may differ. You may get a slap on the wrist and be permitted to continue working as long as you don’t get a second DUI. You may have to work with supervision for a set period of time or have your permitted duties limited. In the worst-case scenario, you could lose your license and be unable to drive for your job.

Other Positions Requiring Background Checks

With other jobs, consequences vary. The majority of jobs now require at least a cursory background check, which is likely to reveal your DUI. However, not every employer cares about DUI convictions. They may be more concerned about violent crimes or crimes involving fraud and theft. But again, there is no way to know ahead of time. What we do know is that a DUI conviction has a very good chance of inhibiting your career options and forcing you to change your future plans.

How to Protect Your Future After a DUI

If a DUI is likely to damage your career, what can you do? The best thing to do is fight your DUI charges by hiring a criminal defense attorney. Too many people think that the charges will go away on their own or that all they have to do is tell the truth to be treated with leniency. The fact is that anything you say during a criminal investigation can only be used to harm you.

The investigators you talk to won’t use anything you say to argue for your innocence, no matter how benign it is. At every turn, you will be fighting people who are determined to see you convicted.

You need a criminal defense attorney whose only goal is to get your charges dropped or at least reduced. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows that there are many ways DUI cases can fall apart, and they will explore different options for your defense.

It is important to point out that after a DUI arrest you need to act promptly if you want to protect your rights and your career. The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the less time they have to negotiate options for you, research your case, and build a solid defense case.

Turn to Coumanis & York for Your Criminal Defense Needs

Our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers is here to help you through your DUI case. Whatever your circumstances, everyone deserves a strong defense. To discuss your case, call us at 251-260-3927 or contact us online.

Why You Should Not Give a Breath Test During a DUI Investigation

Advice given to those who are stopped for driving under the influence runs across the entire spectrum. You have people saying that you should comply with every request, take all requested tests, and be as cooperative as possible. On the other end, you have those who say you should not answer any questions or engage in any tests until you are legally required to.

This is partially because of differences between each state’s laws. Knowing what to do during a DUI stop in Alabama can mean the difference between dropped charges and a conviction. If you’ve been arrested and you don’t know what to do next, we can help. Call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.

The Difference Between Field Sobriety Tests and Post-Arrest Tests

Before you understand why you should not take a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop, you have to know the difference between field tests and post-arrest tests. While on patrol, police officers carry a portable breath test with them to use during stops where they suspect a driver is impaired. These tests lack a slope detector, so it is very easy to get a false positive read. The breathalyzer test used at police departments is much more accurate and reliable.

Here’s another key difference: you can refuse the roadside breath test without penalty. You cannot refuse the breath test they order after an arrest without consequences. Alabama has an implied consent law. This means that you consent to a breath or blood test after an arrest as a condition of receiving a drivers’ license. If you refuse the test after an arrest—also known as an evidential test—you will face license suspension and other possible penalties.

How a Field Breathalyzer Test Can Hurt Your Case

You may wonder what the harm is in taking a breath test. If you haven’t been drinking to excess, a breath test could absolve you, right? That isn’t necessarily the case. Remember, if a police officer stops you, they are looking for the evidence they need to arrest you. They aren’t looking for evidence to exonerate you and send you on your way.

When you submit to an optional breath test, you are handing them the evidence they need to make an arrest! These machines are not always accurate, so you could actually harm the case for your innocence by taking a test.

Without sufficient evidence, the police cannot arrest you for driving under the influence. If you take the test, you give them the evidence they need. If you refuse the optional test, they cannot force you to take one until they arrest you.

This principle is similar to the commonly given piece of advice that you shouldn’t speak to a police officer about a criminal situation without a lawyer present. This is because anything you say or do can be used against you as they build a case against you. Your choice to take a roadside breath test will not help you; the very best possible outcome is that it has a neutral effect, which is not worth the risk.

What to Do During a DUI Traffic Stop

Instead of handing over evidence to the police and weakening your own chance at freedom, follow these tips if you are stopped for driving under the influence.

  • Do not take any field sobriety tests. This includes the eye gaze test, the standing on one foot test, and the walking in a straight line test. These are like roadside breath tests. They can only hurt you, not help you.
  • Be respectful during the traffic stop. Being confrontational or argumentative with the police is never a good idea. Even if you are completely in the right and you were stopped unfairly, do not get aggressive or start an argument.
  • Make sure you have your required documents ready. When you are stopped, get out your driver’s license, insurance, and registration.
  • Be ready to call an attorney if you are arrested. DUI charges are serious. Be ready to call an attorney if the need arises.

How Coumanis & York Can Help You After a DUI Arrest

We’re here to help if you or someone you love has been arrested for driving while impaired. Hiring an attorney is the best way to protect your rights throughout this process. Get in touch with us now by calling us at 251-990-3083 or reaching out to us online.

What Factors Will Affect My Child Support Payment in Alabama?

Whether married or not, both parents have a continuing legal responsibility to provide financial support to their children. Like most states, Alabama has laid out clear rules to determine the financial duties of single, divorced, or separated parents and for making sure that parents pay child support.

However, the interpretation of these rules can be somewhat complicated. Consult an experienced Alabama family law attorney for assistance if you have trouble navigating through the myriad forms and calculations for child support.

Child support calculations depend on various factors, which vary between states. The below-mentioned aspects are almost always taken into account when determining child support payments in Alabama.

Considering Both Parents’ Income

In the calculation of child support in Alabama, both parents’ actual income and the earning capability of a parent who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, is taken into consideration. For instance, an educated parent who is licensed to work as a medical practitioner, but decides to work for only four months in a year, will still have their child support payments calculated based on the figure that they could reasonably earn if they worked throughout the year, based on their training, education, and experience.

The above consideration ensures that child support calculation in Alabama is not unfairly biased when a person chooses to earn less than their earning ability merely to reduce the child support amount due from them.

Custodial Arrangements

The parent with the child’s physical custody in Alabama will incur more expenses in taking care of the child, such as clothing, groceries, and extracurricular activities. The calculation of child support aims to ensure that all the needs of the child are met. Therefore, the custodial parent will usually receive child support payments.

But the non-custodial parent could also be entitled to a child support payment, which will depend on the custody arrangement details and if the parents’ incomes are wildly disproportionate.

Age, Number, and Marital Status of Children

It is expensive to raise a child in Alabama. Therefore, child support is determined on the basis of the number of kids that the parents are legally obligated to support. When one child attains the age or status that the parents are not obligated to financially support them any further, the child support figure will be decreased to reflect the fact that the parents are now duty-bound to monetarily support one less child.

In general, child support agreements allow parents to stop financial support when the child attains the age of majority. But some states require that the child graduates from college or marries before the support can end.

Standard of Living of the Child before the Divorce or Separation

Family law courts also assess the standard of living for the child in Alabama. All child custody and support proceedings aim to uphold the child’s best interests. Thus, the court will attempt to ensure that the child achieves the same standard of living after the divorce or separation to mitigate the negative effects and disruption on the child.

The Child’s Needs

Aspects, such as age or medical status, influence the amount of financial support a child requires. For instance, considering a child who is still too small to go to school, the family court will typically direct what part of daycare costs each parent is liable for.

Similarly, a custody agreement will usually determine which parent is responsible for providing medical insurance and how any miscellaneous expenses are to be divided. The court will also direct how additional expenses should be managed for special needs children.

What Other Factors are involved in the Calculation of Child Support in Alabama?

Alabama family law courts are designated “courts of equity.” This means that they can and do take into account all pertinent information and circumstances to ensure the most fair and impartial outcome of the case. 

The following factors are commonly taken into consideration:

  • Financial support obligations for children from other relationships
  • Necessary traveling visitations with the child
  • Retirement contributions

Further, it is vital to understand that there are limitations on how frequently child support determinations can be re-calculated as enabling parents to request modifications to child support at any time and as often as they desire could lead to an overload of cases for the judicial system. While the time limit differs between states, it is typically a few years. Therefore, a child support arrangement must be made appropriately the first time itself.

Talk to a Qualified Alabama Family Law Attorney

It is vital to ensure that the interests of the children are upheld during a paternity or divorce case. At Coumanis & York, we have extensive experience in this field and a thorough knowledge of the family law and divorce cases in Alabama.

Our attorneys have a nuanced understanding of laws pertaining to child support. We work closely with our clients to understand and resolve family legal issues in a constructive, positive, and inclusive manner. To speak with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 251-990-3083.

Tips for Avoiding a Boating Accident

A fun and relaxing day on the water can quickly turn into a nightmare when you collide with another boat, run out of fuel, or lose control of your boat. Boating accidents can be extremely dangerous, often leading to serious injuries or fatalities. With these tips, you can boat more safely and spend more time enjoying time with your loved ones.

If you or someone you love is injured in a boating accident, it’s important to reach out to a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. Call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083 to set up a consultation now.

Never, Ever Boat While Under the Influence

A day on the boat with a 12-pack or a couple bottles of wine may sound heavenly, but nothing impacts your judgment quite like alcohol. This is especially true when you’re on a boat, far away from anywhere you can get fresh water to slow yourself down. On a hot day, dehydration and alcohol consumption can cause you to become inebriated far more quickly than you might expect. Alcohol is a factor in a shocking amount of boating accidents, so stick to water or soda when you’re navigating.

Know the Rules and Laws Where You Are Boating

Whether you are boating somewhere you know like the back of your hand or trying out a new body of water, take some time to review local laws and statutes. You should expect that others will be following those same rules and do the same yourself. Failing to do so could not only cost you money in citations, it could put you in danger of a crash.

Do Not Get Complacent

Complacency is the enemy when you are in charge of a multi-ton vehicle. You should definitely spend time with your friends and family, but do not ever stop checking out your surroundings and making sure you know where you are. Getting too comfortable could put you in the path of an obstacle or cause you to lose track of where you are. By the time you realize you’re lost, out of gas, or in danger, it could be too late to change course.

Avoid Excessive Speeding

Excessive speed is a factor in many boating crashes, but people still continue to seek that adrenaline rush. All it takes is one second to lose control of your boat and cause a tragedy. When choosing your traveling speed, make sure you account for the weather forecast, the number of other boaters on the water, and water conditions.

Make Sure You Have Enough Gas

Running out of gas while at sea is, at best, embarrassing. At worst, it can happen when you’re so far from shore that you cannot call for help or rely on anyone to find you. Avoid the situation entirely by bringing more fuel than you need. Calculate your route, figure out how much fuel you will need to safely complete the trip, and then add some more as a safety buffer.

Keep Extra Safety Gear on Hand

When an accident occurs, you’ll never wish you had less safety gear with you. Be prepared for whatever may come your way by calculating how much safety gear you would need to provide for everyone on board. Then, just like you do when thinking about how much gas you’ll need, bring extra. If someone finds an ill-fitting life jacket, you’ll have extras. Some people go light on safety gear to make room for other items but avoid this temptation. It doesn’t matter how well your family swims or how confident you are about your knowledge of the body of water you’re on, an emergency can happen any time and in any situation.

Call Coumanis & York to Discuss Your Options After an Accident

An accident can forever change your life, and you should not be left with all of the financial burden if you weren’t liable for the accident. That’s where Coumanis & York can help you. We will fight on your behalf to help you get the compensation you deserve. To set up a consultation today, call us at 251-990-3038 or get in touch with us online. We look forward to meeting with you.

Can a DUI Be Expunged in Alabama?

With the laws regarding expungement changing in Alabama multiple times over the last several years, those who have been arrested or convicted of driving under the influence might wonder if they have a chance at a fresh start. Learn more about DUI expungement in Alabama, if it’s an option for you, and what your next step is.

If you’re considering pursuing expungement or weighing your options regarding a current DUI case, let us help. Call the team at Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.

Deferred Prosecution

Deferred prosecution refers to programs that allow those arrested under certain charges to complete a pre-trial diversion program. This option is generally only available to first-time offenders and those who did not cause bodily injury while driving under the influence. If you violate the terms of your diversion program, the court moves forward with the trial process.

If you complete your program without issue, this generally results in charges being dismissed. This may allow you to pursue expungement. However, in this situation, you must wait for one year after the completion of your program to apply for expungement.

Expungement After a DUI Conviction

If your DUI arrest leads to a conviction, expungement is not an option for you. Currently, Alabama expungement laws only allow for expungement when charges are dismissed or when an individual is acquitted after trial. If you were convicted of driving under the influence, that will remain on your record for the rest of your life.

Expungement After a Case That Was Dismissed Without Prejudice

Having a case dismissed without prejudice is slightly different from having it dismissed with prejudice. A case dismissed without prejudice can still be refiled at a later date, so this essentially leaves the door open for prosecutors.

Because of this uncertainty, you must meet certain restrictions to apply for expungement after cases are dismissed without prejudice. The case must have been dismissed two or more years before you file for expungement. The case must not have been refiled. You must not have convicted of any other crime during the previous two years.

When Charges Are Dismissed

If charges are dismissed with prejudice, you can begin the process.

The process is the same across the board. You must file a petition and attend hearings scheduled by the court. While deciding whether or not to grant your expungement, the court will consider 10 different factors. These factors include the nature and severity of the crime, the date of the offense, how old you were at the time of the offense, and if it was an isolated or repeated incident.

Why You Need an Attorney

Hiring an attorney before you begin the expungement process is highly recommended. In addition to an administrative fee of $300, you’ll likely have to pay other county court fees to submit your petition and have it considered. Furthermore, this process can be very mentally draining and take a substantial amount of time.

Working with an attorney allows you to consider your case from every angle, think about whether or not expungement is likely to be granted, and find out whether or not there are ways you can strengthen your case. This allows you to make the most of your petition and avoid errors that could result in a denial.

If you are looking into expungement as an option for a DUI case that is still in progress, you should also hire a lawyer for that. Some people plead guilty to speed through the process, assuming that they will be able to have their record expunged down the road. If that’s what you’re thinking, contact an attorney now. A conviction cannot be expunged, and beyond that, there are dozens of ways a DUI guilty plea can affect you for the rest of your life. This is not an area where you want to gamble with your future.

Find Out How We Can Help

Expungement is one way to give yourself a fresh start and move on from past mistakes. If you qualify for expungement in Alabama, we’re here to guide you through the process. Set up a consultation now by calling Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083 or getting in touch online.

The Impact of Social Media on Your Legal Case

Social media is all around us these days. Most Americans regularly use social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These are very popular sites where people like to share photos, videos, status updates, and news with their family members and friends, and for the most part, they are fun and harmless. When you are involved in a legal case, however, social media activity can be very dangerous.

People have a tendency to share way too much information with their family and friends on social media. They freely give their opinions, talk about how they are feeling, share pictures of vacations or memorable events in their lives, and tell their network about important things that happen to them.

This being a habit for many, it is understandable that those who frequently use social media would want to inform their family and friends if they got injured in a car wreck, they are getting a divorce, or if they got pulled over for drunk driving. But this can be a major mistake for many reasons.

Social Media can Produce Highly Damaging Information

Let’s say you got hurt in an auto accident and one of the first things you do after you get home is post some photos of the accident scene with comments criticizing the other driver who caused the accident, but also reassuring your family and friends that you will be okay. You file a claim for damages for your injuries, and as the case goes on, you feel increasingly depressed because of not being able to work and the physical pain you are experiencing.

To help lift your spirits, you and your family decide to take a vacation to a place where you can relax and hopefully get some relief from your pain. Then you post photos of the trip showing you and your loved ones laughing and enjoying yourselves while having drinks at a poolside.

This might all seem like normal behavior, and it is. But the problem is that if the other side gets a hold of these posts, they can twist them around to damage your case.

For example, an optimistic person would naturally want to reassure their loved ones that their injuries are not really that bad and that they will be okay. However, this type of comment might be used by the other side to say that your injuries are not as bad as you say they are. And if you claim emotional distress, photos of an enjoyable vacation will not be helpful with this assertion either.

Comments, images, and videos that are posted during a divorce or criminal proceeding can also be used against you. For example, derogatory comments about your spouse could negatively reflect on your character, or posts of you drinking alcohol excessively could undermine your DUI defense. Everything you put out on social media is discoverable by the other side and admissible in a court of law, which is why it is best to do as little as possible electronically if you are involved in a legal case.

Once you Post Something, it is There for Good

It is important to understand that when you do something online, it cannot be undone. You can try to delete some post that you think might be damaging, but this could backfire as well. What you posted may have been saved by someone before you deleted it, and deleted information can also be retrieved when the information is requested by authorities. When a deleted post is uncovered, the other side can use that as proof that you tried to get rid of it, which could be seen as an attempt to destroy evidence.

Your Privacy Settings Might Not Save You

You might think that the warnings about social media use during a legal case do not apply to you because you use strict privacy settings. But this is not something you should feel very secure about.

First of all, social media companies routinely change their privacy policies, and you might find out after it is too late that your information was not as private as you thought. Furthermore, prosecutors and defense attorneys have investigative teams that are very good at uncovering social media information, and they know a lot of tech savvy tricks to accomplish their goal.

The bottom line is that someone with the resources, know-how, and motivation can usually get a hold of another person’s social media posts if they want to. For this reason, it is very unwise to count on your privacy settings to save you.

Your Legal Case and Social Media

If you are involved in any type of legal proceeding, the best practice by far is to unplug from social media until your case is over. This way, you will not accidentally do something that could harm your case. If you cannot totally quit social media, at the very least limit your activity to just browsing other people’s posts, and ask your family and friends not to tag you in any photos that they put up. Finally, always listen to the advice of your attorney with regards to social media postings and all other activities you should or should not do while your legal case is ongoing.