The Always Angry Spouse – Tales From The Dark (Divorce) Side

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.                   3 minute read

Family law case facts never surprise me. Digging deep is what I do.

Every family law case has a unique set of facts. There is almost always two (or three) sides to a story. Sometimes people focus more on emotional issues than on getting to the root cause of the friction in their relationship. I have had potential divorce clients come in for a consultation, then enter therapy for themselves and take good care of themselves. Sometimes a potential divorce client successfully reconciles with their spouse or partner. This is always a good thing, whenever possible.

Unfortunately, sometimes reconciliation is not possible. That is where I come in.

“I told you 2% milk, and you come home with 1% milk! How could you do that to me!”

I have handled family law cases where the daily living situation is no longer tenable for one or both spouses. One case involved a person who became increasingly agitated at virtually nothing. In one case, I had a client who would arrive home after a long day working in a high-stress job, only to have his stay-at-home spouse start yelling at him, for virtually no logical reason about the most minor insignificant things. He came in for a consultation after he realized that his spouse was abusive and hostile towards him, and things were getting worse. One night he arrived home with 1% milk, after his spouse sent him a text message earlier that day to buy 2% milk on his way home. “They were out of 2% milk, and it was getting late”, he told me. Something needed to change.

Sometimes underlying issues can be fleshed out and cleaned up. Sometimes not.

It is amazing what can happen when people realize what they can change and what they cannot change. Sometimes people blame their spouse or loved ones for problems that they themselves own. Sometimes people come to a relationship with deeply rooted baggage that only they can examine and repair. It may take work, and it may take help from a competent and caring mental health professional, but some people are willing to put in the work to save their relationship and become a better version of themselves. In some cases, this is not possible.

Consulting with an experienced family law attorney does not mean you are ready to file for divorce. However, it will help you understand your options and help you formulate a strategy going forward.

If you have read this far, you are likely thinking about contacting an experienced divorce or family law attorney. An in-depth consultation is usually a good idea before filing any documents, or hiring any attorney to represent you. It is almost always best to understand all of your options through the lens of a family law attorney who is licensed to practice in your state. Forget the well-meaning advice from friends and family members. Friends and family may love you, but they do not know the law, and cannot assess your legal situation as an attorney can.

Feel free to contact my office at 610 256 4843 if you would like to set up a brief phone call or an in-depth face-to-face consultation. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Pro Tip: Stay Informed In Your Family Law Matter

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.          3 minute read

The best case outcomes in many family law matters depend on active, ongoing client involvement and two-way communication between attorney and client. A good working relationship between attorney and client is often essential for a good outcome in family law matters.

Unlike some other areas of law practice, family law matters depend on open, ongoing, two-way communication between lawyer and client. Divorce and child custody matters are often emotional. Events often take place during family law litigation that could impact the outcome of a case. Unless the client and his or her counsel have an open line of communication, the chances for the best possible outcome can decline.

Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

Common reasons why some clients are reluctant to keep their counsel abreast of new developments in their family law matter. 

a) Some clients feel like they will be overcharged for sending their lawyer a short email or asking a simple question. If you find yourself in this situation, bring it up to your lawyer without delay.

b) Sometimes a client will think that newly discovered information will hurt their case, so they say nothing and hope it goes unnoticed. This is a big mistake. Let your lawyer decide what is important. If you don’t keep your lawyer informed, you could get blindsided at trial.

c) Some family law clients are simply not in an emotional state to stay on top of the issues involved in a high conflict family law matter. This is common. The best thing to do is seek professional help. Mental health treatment can be a key component to becoming the best person you can be. There is no shame or stigma for reaching out for professional help, especially in times of great stress. Do not wait.

Your family law attorney should be your trusted advocate. Forming a great working relationship can often impact the result in your family law matter. I invite your inquiry. Feel free to contact my office at (610) 256 4843.

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Why you want a Smart / Savvy Lawyer, not a Rude / Obnoxious Lawyer

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.       5 minute Read

Smart, focused, savvy lawyers nearly always beat rude, obnoxious, bombastic lawyers in Family Court. 

As a family law attorney who has been involved in some epic battles, I want to share some insight. When all is said and done, the smart, focused, savvy and hard working lawyers nearly always beat the rude, obnoxious and bombastic lawyers in family court. Most excellent family law attorneys do not get caught up in the mindless and counterproductive fighting brought on by their adversary. The best lawyers are focused on winning their cases, and achieving favorable outcomes for their clients.

When lawyers fight with each other, progress grinds to a halt. Yet the meter is still running for the client.

When lawyers fight with each other, the client does not benefit. Skilled litigators are not baited by opposing counsel.

I am not sure why some divorce, child custody, and family law attorneys think that they must “put on a show” for their clients. I can’t tell you how many nasty letters and emails I have received from opposing counsel where they make absurd allegations about my client that are neither truthful, nor relevant to the issues in the case. Some letters even make ad hominem attacks on me for skillfully protecting and advancing my client’s rights. I find it interesting that some lawyers actually believe that the nasty, bombastic letters they send me will somehow positively impact the outcome of the family law matter in favor of their client. These letters are nothing more than an ill-advised or ignorant attempt by opposing counsel to demonstrate to their client what a “nasty shark” their client has hired. Then the “nasty shark” lawyer bills their client for the totally ineffective letter. The smart, savvy, and hard working lawyers are not at all impacted by nasty shark tactics. The smart and savvy lawyers can (and do) nearly always beat the nasty shark in every area of family law cases.

Nearly all nasty, obnoxious letters I receive are from opposing counsel who either a) do not know me well, and/or b) they do not know any other way to act. Some lawyers only have one mindset, and they only know one method to approach every case. They cannot understand the difference between motion and progress. Avoid hiring these types of lawyers to handle your family law matter, unless you enjoy wasting time and money.

These attorneys love to “put on a show” for their client. In nearly every situation, the nasty letters do nothing more than inflate the billable time opposing counsel charges their client, while doing nothing to resolve the legal issues in the case. In other words, inflammatory letters exchanged between lawyers are rarely (if ever) effective in resolving important legal issues and moving a family law case forward. They are only an effective tool in costing clients time and money.

Family Law Attorneys who Encourage Fights – A Big Red Flag When Choosing Legal Counsel

Family law cases get emotional. Divorce and child custody issues are rarely easy for either party. Emotions run high. If your attorney is encouraging fights over trivial matters, that is a red flag. Great lawyers can and do make terrific arguments on points that really matter to help you get a favorable outcome in your case. That is the bottom line.

Why proper due diligence matters when selecting a family law attorney – breaking up is often hard to do

On occasion, I am contacted by people who are not happy with another attorney they hired, or how their family law matter is progressing.  Often, they are trying to change family law counsel, midstream. Trying to change your attorney in the middle of a family law matter is often rooted in two problem issues; lack of the client doing proper due diligence when initially selecting their current family law attorney, and / or lack of good two-way communication between the client and their counsel. Excellent two-way attorney-client communication is often essential for obtaining the best possible result in family law matters.

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Make sure that you and your family law attorney are headed in the same direction. Your attorney must understand the specific facts of your case, your goals, and what issues are important to you.

CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY WISELY

I cannot overemphasize the importance of wisely choosing your attorney before hiring him or her. Taking the time to properly investigate and interview more than one family law attorney is one of the best things you can do to help yourself. Ask questions. Attend your initial consultation prepared. You should never feel pressured or obligated to hire an attorney until you are ready, and you have done your homework. In my opinion, many excellent family law attorneys know this, and they will never have a problem if you want an opinion from another family law attorney prior to making a decision regarding who you want to hire.

Once you choose a family law attorney, sign a letter of engagement, and begin working with that attorney, breaking up can be both hard to do and expensive. Discharging your attorney and hiring new counsel, prior to successfully concluding the original professional engagement, is neither good for the client, nor good for the attorney. That is why performing proper due diligence, and ensuring a good overall fit, prior to actually hiring an attorney is critical.

The initial face-to-face meeting with an attorney is very important. Mutual trust and understanding carry the day. Trust your instincts. Search vigorously, select wisely. Your future may depend on it.

Here below, is one of the short videos I posted on YouTube, regarding choosing counsel in family law matters. If you are seeking legal counsel, I hope you find it helpful. I wish you much luck and success.

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“What state law will be used to interpret and enforce my prenup?”

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

No, this isn’t a bar exam question. It is real life. How many adults do you know who have lived in the same state their entire life? Probably not too many. People are more mobile today than ever. A properly drafted and properly executed prenuptial agreement will help answer what state law will control in the event the prenup needs to be enforced. Since we live in a mobile society, and state laws vary widely, this issue could “make-or-break” the enforceability of your document.

Prenuptial Agreements are carefully crafted documents, tailored to suit your specific situation and your specific needs and goals.

I love when people inquire about prenuptial agreements. It shows they are taking a cautiously optimistic, yet pragmatic view regarding how life can and does change. People change over time. Circumstances change. Laws change. In the unfortunate event of divorce (or death), a properly drafted and executed prenuptial agreement can make the divorce process easier, more efficient, and help ensure you do not lose all that you have amassed. Properly drafted, and executed, a prenup is one very useful document.

Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.
Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

Prenups make sense. When properly written and executed, prenups save time and money. They can help you exit from a non-functioning marriage without paying a king’s ransom to your lawyer and/or being potentially victimized by a non-cooperative, or unrealistic, soon-to-be ex-spouse. Prenups can help protect assets that you have earmarked for your children from a prior marriage. Prenups can help protect your assets from being depleted by the well meaning, but often slow churning, and over-burdened court system. As a very general rule, the less time you spend in court fighting over divorce related issues, the better off you will be at the end of the divorce process.

I believe the best legal advice is forward thinking, with the aim to keep you out of court as much as possible. A well drafted and properly executed prenup should be part of a pragmatic, forward thinking strategy.

Prenuptial agreements are never standard or “boilerplate” agreements. 

No two prenuptial agreements are exactly alike. Everyone has different assets, different goals, different financial histories and different family histories. While most prenuptial agreements are put in place in the event of divorce or death, no two marriages share an identical set of facts and circumstances.  You should never take a prenuptial agreement written for someone else and simply substitute your own information.

Like all contracts, the parties must enter into a prenuptial agreement voluntarily. Prenups require full disclosure. No surprises. 

If you are thinking about springing a prenuptial agreement on your significant other during the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, you can forget it. In most, if not all jurisdictions, a prenuptial agreement will not be enforced if the party seeking to have the prenup set aside can prove they were not given adequate time and a reasonable opportunity to review the document with independent counsel of their own choosing. Presenting a prenup for the first time and demanding it be signed a few days prior to a wedding is inviting trouble down the road. Some jurisdictions require a minimum amount of time for the parties to retain separate counsel,  to examine, and to sign a prenup. The earlier you handle discussing and putting a prenup in place, normally the better. Getting a prenuptial agreement properly wrapped up before the wedding invitations are mailed is one suggestion that deserves serious consideration.

If you are planning to marry and would like to learn more about how a prenuptial agreement can help protect you, please feel free to contact me via email at jonathancnobleesq@gmail.com or call my office at 610 256 4843 to set up an initial consultation.

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A VC’s Term Sheet and a Prenuptial Agreement – both define important legal rights at exit

New businesses are started every day around the world. Some businesses will become hugely successful (i.e. Twitter, Google, Amazon, Facebook), others, not so much. Many start-up businesses seek funding to help grow their business. The source of start-up funds often comes from a venture capitalist, also known as a VC. Angel investors are similar to venture capitalists, but they usually provide seed-stage funding (less than $1,000,000). Often, angel investors are high net worth individuals with excess liquid capital they want to invest. As this blog post is being written (May 2015), the amount of angel investment money and venture capital money available to fund new ventures has never been higher. However, it still remains very difficult for many start up companies to raise money from angel investors and VC’s for reasons beyond the scope of this blog post.

Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.
Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

When founders and VC’s choose to work with each other, some people, (myself included), believe it is similar to a marriage, with one major exception. Investors almost always expect their investment relationship in the companies they finance (known as their “portfolio companies”) to eventually end. VC’s properly prepare an exit strategy from day one.

Unlike a marriage, nearly every single investor has the primary goal of someday exiting the company they once funded.  For many reasons, some investors remain on the board of directors of their portfolio companies even after the company has gone public or has been acquired.

Certain provisions contained in a VC’s term sheet act like a prenuptial agreement for investors. A term sheet controls the economics of the investment deal when the relationship between the portfolio company and the investor ends. In many ways, prenuptial agreements act in the same manner as a term sheet. 

In very basic terms, before money changes hands between the investor  (VC or angel) and the founders of a company, a document known as a term sheet must be negotiated and signed by both. The term sheet is a critical document for both the founder and the potential investor. The term sheet controls the economics of the deal and often, control of the company. Basically, the term sheet sets forth the economic terms when the company experiences a liquidity event. The term sheet establishes who is entitled to how much money when the company is acquired, merged, issues an initial public offering (IPO), or the company is otherwise liquidated. Modern day investors could not function without a term sheet.

In the technology sector, it is not unusual for some investors to earn 25 to 50 times back on their initial investment if a company they funded becomes successful. If you were an early investor in Google or Facebook, that could translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in profit. The term sheet becomes critical when valuing the everyone’s share of the company.

What does a term sheet have in common with a prenuptial agreement? 

Venture capitalists and angel investors make investments with the expectation they will eventually exit. In contrast, people do not marry each other with the expectation that they will eventually divorce. However, statistics tell us about 50% of first time marriages in the United States end in divorce. The divorce rate is even higher for second and third marriages.

Given the high likelihood of divorce, having a prenuptial agreement in place is simply a good economic decision. For high net worth individuals, it can save tens of thousands of dollars, (or more) in legal fees and costs in the event your marriage ends.

At first, it may seem difficult to approach the subject of entering into a prenuptial agreement. In reality, many people are surprised to discover the idea is welcomed and even embraced by their significant other.

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Social media can create marital problems

by Jonathan C. Noble, Esq.

More than one-third of divorce complaints in the United States include some form of social media as factor in divorce. According to a recent survey, the word “Facebook” appears in over one-quarter of divorce actions. It seems that the digital age has created a vehicle for marital unrest to creep into the sanctity of holy matrimony. Recently, one woman filed for divorce because she alleged that her husband of two months refused to change his Facebook relationship status from “single” to “married”. Hopefully, she lives in a “no-fault” state.

Jonathan C. Noble, Esquire
Jonathan C. Noble, Esquire

The rules of evidence are important.

The rules of evidence play a vital role in the admissibility of certain documentary evidence. E-mails, text messages, tweets, snap-chats, Linked In messages, What’s App communications, Facebook postings, Tweets on Twitter, and the like provide some of the best evidence in family law matters. However, all documents introduced at trial are governed by the various rules of evidence. Simply put, the probative value of any piece of evidence must outweigh the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion, or misleading the fact finder. All potential documents you want introduced in evidence must also be relevant and authentic. Courts are given wide latitude when making rulings on the admissibility of evidence. A skilled lawyer can navigate the rules of evidence and put your case in the best possible light.

Authenticating documents in family law cases – a potential trap for the unwary. 

Before documents can be admitted in evidence and considered by the trier of fact, they must be properly authenticated. There are several methods to authenticate documents in a legal proceeding. This is another area where skilled legal counsel can employ a pretrial strategy to greatly improve the chances that relevant evidence is admitted in evidence and properly considered.

Custody cases and Social Media – think twice, then think again before acting. Do not be your own worst enemy. 

There have been many reported custody cases where one parent does things to undermine their position. Some people do things without thinking. Some people cannot control their urge to disparage their former spouse on social media sites or in written communications. Other people cannot resist the urge to post photos of themselves doing things that undermine their credibility or that potentially damage the court’s view of their fitness for parenting their minor children.  Simply put, it is always better to refrain from doing anything that can be documented, authenticated and admitted in evidence and work against you in any legal matter. I recommend taking the mindset that you should expect that the finder of fact will be reading anything you put into the cyber world. Once your document, photograph or other electronic communication is out there, it is not always possible to retrieve. Think twice, then think again before acting on social media or before sending any electronic communication. Using common sense and focusing on the best interests of your child usually works well in custody matters. You can help yourself a great deal simply by not being your own worst enemy. Think about it.

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