Thomas Named "Super Lawyer" for Fourth Consecutive Year

Attorney Justin K. Thomas has been named a Mid South “Rising Star” by the exclusive Thomson Reuters Super Lawyer rating service for the fourth consecutive year.

Thomas was selected to the Mid South “Rising Star” list via a patented selection process involving peer nominations, independent research, and peer evaluations.  The “Rising Star” designation is reserved for attorneys under 40 years old who exhibit excellence in practice.

“I am humbled and honored to again be included on this list,” said Thomas. “I’ve worked diligently to provide the best representation for my clients as they go through these family law issues. It’s a privilege to do what I do and an honor to be recognized for it.”

Thomas, founder of the Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC in Germantown, Tenn., focuses exclusively on family law issues in Tennessee and Mississippi. Thomas graduated from Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis, J.D., in 2005 and the University of Memphis, B.B.A (magna cum laude), in 2002. He was named a Top 40 Under 40 Family Lawyer in Tennessee by the American Society of Legal Advocates in 2014 and is both a published author and graduate of the prestigious ABA Family Law Trial Advocacy Institute in Denver, Colorado. He is a member of the Memphis Bar Association, Mississippi Bar Association, and the American Bar Association. Thomas is known for providing clients with efficient, creative ways to resolve family law issues.

"Super Lawyers is proud to provide visibility to outstanding attorneys," said Julie Gleason, Director of Research, Super Lawyers. “The Rising Stars List takes that step to the next level by highlighting those attorneys who demonstrate a truly exceptional level of accomplishment."


Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC: Founded by Justin Thomas, the Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC focuses exclusively on family law in Tennessee and Mississippi and is known for providing clients with efficient, creative ways to resolve family law issues. For more information, call 901-537-0010 or visit www.thomasfamilylaw.net

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Super LawyersSuper Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a research-driven, peer influenced rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The mission of Super Lawyers is to bring visibility to those attorneys who exhibit excellence in practice. The Super Lawyers lists are published in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines across the country. The Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information, go to superlawyers.com.

 

How to discuss a prenuptial agreement

If you are approaching a marriage in Tennessee, you may find it difficult to think or talk about a prenuptial agreement. However, particularly if you have sizable assets, you should put safeguards in place to protect yourself financially in any case, including divorce. Here at Thomas Family Law Firm PLC, we can help you formulate and litigate a solid prenuptial agreement.

Business Insider points out that having a conversation about a prenuptial agreement may be awkward, but it does not have to jeopardize your relationship. It is important to emphasize to your partner that having this agreement in place does not mean you foresee your relationship ending in divorce. Rather, it is your attempt to be fiscally responsible. When you approach this topic, you should focus on sensitivity and honesty. Gauge your partner's reaction to the initial conversation. If you sense defensiveness or anger, you may need to postpone the discussion for another time. You should also be careful to frame your opinion in a gentle, understandable manner, rather than forcing the issue. Being too harsh or dogmatic may cause your partner to develop unnecessary doubts about your commitment to the relationship.

Remember that your discussion about a prenuptial should include the opportunity for both of you to voice your opinions. You should be transparent and honest about your reasons for wanting a prenup, but you should also allow your partner to share his or her concerns. Do not dominate the conversation. Ask questions in order to show that you are interested in your partner's thoughts, and seek clarification when necessary. Like any aspect of your relationship, approach a prenup discussion with an eye toward cooperation and mutual respect. More information about legal agreements before marriage is available on our webpage.

How to deal with shared custody

If you are going through divorce proceedings in Tennessee, one of the greatest concerns you may have is its effects on your children. Choosing to co-parent may be difficult for you to endure, but in most cases, it is most beneficial for the kids. We at Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC understand the intricacies of child custody and support, and we work to obtain the best results for your children.

Parents advises divorcees to take several proactive steps to make co-parenting successful. Although you and your ex probably have an emotional past, it is important to put aside your differences and work together when it comes to your kids. This could mean altering your schedule for one that works best for both parties, as well as communicating on a regular basis to ensure that your kids' needs are being met. You may need to collaborate with you ex in order to make transition between homes less difficult for your kids. You may also have to change your parenting plan if you realize the arrangements do not work well for everyone involved. Even if you feel the urge to win the children over to your side, do not speak badly about their other parent.

When the kids are with the other parent, you may feel empty and incomplete. However, instead of focusing on your loneliness, invest in hobbies or activities that rejuvenate you and help you to relax. If you have the opportunity to unwind from the stress of parenting alone, you will likely be more ready to do so when your children return. If your ex enters into a relationship, try not to feel threatened by the new influence in your children's lives. Instead, you may benefit from meeting your ex's partner and getting to know him or her. Although it is often difficult, stay positive about the other parent's interactions for the children's sakes. More information about the logistics of divorce with minor children is available on our webpage.

The importance of rehabilitative alimony for both parties

Very often, divorcing spouses in Tennessee are not capable of earning the same amount of income. They have different earnings capacities. Sometimes, the inequity is due to mutual choices made during the marriage, but not always.

Often, that difference will cause one spouse to endure a much lower standard of living after the divorce that the other spouse. Alimony, which can take many forms, is a tool to help even the standards of living of the spouses after the divorce. One very important kind of alimony is rehabilitative alimony.

Rehabilitative alimony favored

Tennessee Code section 36-5-121, Decree for support of spouse, provides the opportunity for a spouse in a divorce to receive rehabilitative alimony. It makes clear that a financially disadvantaged spouse should be the payee and receive rehabilitative alimony whenever feasible.

By rehabilitating, the law generally seeks to have the payee spouse gain an earning capacity that will increase his or her post-divorce standard of living. The rehabilitative alimony payments combined with the reasonable efforts by payee spouse should join to meet the goal of increasing earning capacity sufficiently.

Consideration of two different standards of living

One level of the sought-after standard of living for the payee spouse to achieve is the standard enjoyed during the marriage. Another level, when necessary, is to achieve the level of post-divorce standard of living that the payor spouse is expecting to enjoy. This second standard comes into play when the payor spouse also cannot meet his or her prior standard of living, post-divorce.

As shared by the Tennessee Bar Association, it is possible for a court to also order alimony in futuro in addition to rehabilitative alimony. This may occur when rehabilitative alimony is only partially successful. However, when fully rehabilitated, a payee spouse should not receive alimony in futuro.

The duration of the marriage is also a consideration when deciding how long the rehabilitative alimony payments must continue. For instance, a marriage of 14 years may not justify rehabilitative alimony for 15 years duration.

 Intended uses of rehabilitative alimony payments

The actual payments of rehabilitative alimony are with the intention of helping to pay for additional education or job training of the payee spouse. That education is then the foundation for that spouse becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent. As such, successfully implemented rehabilitative alimony can benefit both spouses. The payor spouse will not suffer paying alimony permanently, nor in futuro.

Protecting a small business during marital asset distribution

When a Tennessee family or couple or just one member of the family unit owns a small business, a subsequent divorce can become very complex. This is because there is now an asset that may be subject to distribution along with the other assets of the marriage.

What business-type assets owned by a party that can fall within the confines of business ownership subject to distribution are many, including the following:

  • Corporations
  • Partnerships
  • Professional practices
  • Limited Liability Corporations
  • Sole Proprietorships
  • Franchise or agency agreements

It is important for parties to a divorce to get any business that is a marital asset properly valuated. A professional business valuator performs the appraisal. To slack off on this part of the divorce can easily mean an unfair division of marital property later.

According to Entrepreneur.com, a party may lose all or much of his or her small business, even the party who started and ran the business, when divorce hits.

Factors that can affect how much business one can keep

Some realities to consider in order to protect one’s later share of this kind of marital asset include the following:

  • The more a spouse contributes to the business, the more likely he or she will get a bigger share
  • The less an owner takes in salary over the years, the more the other spouse may get in distribution later
  • It is possible to agree to give up other marital assets, to retain more or all of the business
  • A party may use the neutral court-appointed appraiser, but follow up with one’s own for a second expert opinion

Other traditional tools of asset protection

In addition to the facts noted above that one can use to plan in advance, there continues to be the exceptional standard tools that can affect the distribution of assets later if a divorce occurs. These include pre-nups and post-nups as well as buy-sell agreements and whole life policies. Proper early planning, with an eye for what can go wrong with a marriage, may be the best practice to preserve a small business from the destruction of divorce.

 

Who wins in a divorce?

We are sometimes asked, “Who usually wins in a divorce case?” The feeling we get is that the winner is whichever side has the most aggressive lawyer, in the shiniest suit.

Sorry to say this, but in our opinion divorce isn’t something people “win.” For most, it is the biggest failure they ever experience in life – whether they get the house or not. Having your life assets divided down the middle, and your children having to accommodate this rupture in their world, is not something to kick up your heels over.

Having said that …

We do have an answer to the question “Who wins?”

The winner, in our experience, is the person who goes through the divorce focused on the future, and not the past.

This is a question not just of attitude, but of legal strategy. The truth is that contentious divorces often bog down in the intense emotion people are feeling. In a bad divorce, both sides listen to the other, alert to statements and accounts that illustrate how insensitive irresponsible or hypocritical the other side sounds.

People in this mindset may direct their lawyers to go after their soon-to-be exes like a chainsaw massacre. They want to use the legal process to inflict pain, to settle scores. Of course, this tends to make the other side dig in harder and try to return the favor.

A better approach

But imagine a contest between someone who’s caught up in feelings of bitterness and revenge, and the other side is thinking about the new life waiting at the end of this process.

This person has put the divorce in their lawyer’s hands. The lawyer insulates them against the pain and argumentativeness of the divorce process. While one side seeks to score points about the years gone by, this side is thinking about how to live in the next phase of life.

Some people can’t do this – they have been hurt too badly, and they can’t control their feelings. If I could have one wish, it would be that these unhappy people could take a breath and think about the opportunities awaiting them.

As their counselor, I do advise them to leave the arguing to me. Think about the second chance at life that is coming your way. When you can do that, you are already the winner.

Reviewing the factors considered when awarding alimony

Many in Memphis may assume that when a couple chooses to get a divorce, one side will automatically be awarded alimony. This assumption likely arises due to a number of misconceptions, chief among them being that whomever was the primary provider in a relationship is obligated to support the other. Most might assume that to the husband. Statistics seem to back up that belief, with the Huffington Post reporting that 380,000 women in the U.S. receive some form of spousal support as opposed to only 12,000 men. Yet that is not always the case. 

To understand why the court chooses to award alimony, one must comprehend its purpose. Alimony is only meant to help one whose decisions to contribute to marriage put him or her at an economic disadvantage should his or her union end re-establish him or herself financially. Thus, the court considers a number of factors before choosing to award such support. According to Section 36-5-121(i) of Tennessee's Code regarding domestic relations, these include: 

  • The earning capacity of each party involved, included each's individual financial obligations and needs
  • The financial resources available to each party, including each's separate assets, awarded marital property, and income earned from pensions, retirement or profit sharing plans as well as other sources
  • Each parties level of education (or the time required for one side to achieve an education the would allow him or her to secure gainful employment)
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The current age, physical condition and mental status of each party 
  • Whether or not one has obligations inside the home (such as raising children). 

Other factors the court considers when deciding to award alimony include the standard of living a couple enjoyed while married, along with the contribution each made to the marriage (as well as to the marriage ending). 

Former couple feuding over comments and Instagram posts

Those who are going through divorce proceedings in Memphis are often encouraged to be careful of what they say about their soon-to-be ex-spouses as well as what they share through social media. Any flippant, hurtful or obscene comments or content may end coming back to harm them as their cases are being determined. It might be difficult to ask someone to put the strong negative emotions they feel towards their former spouses aside for what could be an extended period of time, yet in the end, restraint may help avoid what may already be an ugly situation from getting any messier. 

Messy may be the ideal word to describe the proceedings that have been going on currently between a man and woman in California. While the couple never actually married, they did have a child together. Currently, the man (a former reality television star) pays $20,000 a month in child support. Media outlets covering the case claim that sources say the man claims the money goes to pay for the nannies who watch the child while the mother goes out to party. The woman, through her attorney, fired back saying that he was trying to defame her. Later, the man posted explicit photos of the woman on his Instagram account, which he later removed as such content could have gotten him in trouble under the state law that prohibits revenge porn. In response, the woman took out a restraining order against him, citing the posted photos and claims that he had assaulted her. 

Oftentimes, feuding couples may need third parties to help them set aside their squabbles and work through their disagreements. Those needing such assistance in a divorce case may find it in the form of a family law attorney. 

Source: USA Today "Rob Kardashian, Blac Chyna settle part of their toxic dispute" Puente, Maria, Sept. 15, 2017

Speaking to your children about your divorce

If you are getting ready to go through a high asset divorce, you might be facing various different challenges, from uncertainty about the way that the court will split up your marital property to concerns about child support or some other issue. However, if you have children, you might also be worried about how your decision to end your marriage or the inevitability that your marriage will come to end could affect them. Divorce can certainly have an impact on children, but there are steps you can take to potentially reduce any repercussions, such as carefully talking to your kids.

If you are unsure of how to approach this topic, it may be helpful to try to view divorce or whichever family law issue you are dealing with from your child's perspective. If they have any questions, or if you anticipate any areas of uncertainty, it could be very beneficial to carefully address the matter and do what you can to let your child know that they will still be loved. Divorce can create emotional and financial struggles for parents, but they can also lead to certain difficulties for children when parents neglect to prepare appropriately.

Although some parents might feel as if divorce would be too difficult for their kids to deal with, it is essential for parents to make the decision that is best for them and their children. If you browse over to our divorce page, you will be able to read more about various family law issues.

Debts and divorce

Debt is something that countless people in Memphis deal with, and if you are like most of them, it can occasionally lead to some marital strife. Many of those that have come to us here at The Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC in the past have seen such strife impact their marriages to the point of seeking divorce. If that accurately describes your situation, then you may view divorce as a way to get out from under the debts that your soon-to-be ex-spouse has accrued. Reality, however, may not match your expectations. 

Just like many of your assets, debts are considered to be marital property, and thus subject to property division in your divorce. That may leave you shouldering a greater share of your marital debt than you believe you are directly responsible for. Yet the court does not simply divide all debts incurred during your marriage equally down the middle. It does consider each of your individual roles in assuming it. Some of the factors it considers include: 

  • What was the purpose in assuming the debt? 
  • Which of you incurred it? 
  • Which of you benefitted the most from it? 
  • Which one of you is best able to repay it? 

One thing to remember, however, is that simply because your spouse is assigned the responsibility to take care of a marital debt, you are not absolved of liability from it. Indeed, Section 36-4-134 of Tennessee's Domestic Relations Code states divorce does not affect a creditor's ability to proceed with debt collection action against both you and your spouse even when your spouse has been determined to be responsible for a particular debt in your divorce decree. 

You can find out more about managing your assets and debts following divorce by continuing to browse through our site.