Anne Lamkin Durward Elected American Academy Of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation President For 2019-2021

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC, is pleased to announce that Anne Lamkin Durward, a Senior Partner at the firm, has been made President-elect for the term of office for 2019-2021 for the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation is a charitable organization that provides grants for charitable organizations that work to protect children and families. According to its website, “The purpose of the Foundation is to provide financial assistance to organizations, by way of grants, in order to help families, parents and children adversely affected by the breakup of the family unit.”

This mission is accomplished by supporting projects pertaining to children in custody disputes, dependency cases and similar situations; supporting programs in schools, courts and organizations to help children cope with the stresses of divorce; teaching mothers, fathers and parental caregivers how to co-parent effectively; providing counseling to children of families experiencing domestic violence, drug, alcohol abuse and mental illness; and promoting relationship enrichment programs to help prevent the breakup of families.

Founded in 1990 by the Fellows of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which is comprised of the nation’s top family law attorneys, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation has given over $1.5 million in grants to charitable organizations throughout the United States since its inception, according to the AAML Foundation website.

“It is a great honor to be elected as the President-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation. This is an organization that has focused its efforts in providing financial assistance to charitable organizations that provide support for children and families across the United States, and I am excited to serve in this capacity and do what I can to further the mission of the Foundation,” Durward said.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers was founded in 1962 by highly regarded domestic relations attorneys with the intent to provide leadership that promotes the highest degree of professionalism and excellence in the practice of family law. The organization currently has over 1600 Fellows in 50 states. The focus of the Foundation furthers the desire of the AAML Fellows to help those charitable organizations that work with families.

Randall Nichols , Senior Partner for Massey, Stotser & Nichols said, “If you are being represented by a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, you can be sure that you are being represented by a leading practitioner in the field of family law. Across the country, judges and attorneys all generally recognize AAML Fellows as family law practitioners with a high level of knowledge, skill and integrity. The AAML Foundation, through its grants process, identifies charitable organizations that are making a difference for families, particularly children. The grants given each year make an impact in their communities and for the benefit of the families.”

Those who wish to learn more about Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC and the various legal services the firm provides can find more information on its website.

About Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC:

Founded in 1977, Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC provides legal services for individuals, families, and businesses in the Birmingham area. The firm's team of Alabama trial and transactional attorneys has a comprehensive range of experience and knowledge. Covering many issues in the legal arena, the firm offers representation in areas including business law, real estate law, mediation, insurance, construction, government, family law, estate planning, and probate.


Common Misconceptions About Prenuptial Agreements

prenuptial agreements being signed by handsThe time after you get engaged to be married is exciting. You are planning a wedding and preparing to spend a lifetime with the person you love. A part of this preparation for marriage should be considering whether you should have a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”). A prenup is a legal document signed by both spouses that outlines what will happen to property should the marriage end in divorce. Prenups often have a negative stigma around them, but we are here to eliminate that stigma. The following are common misconceptions about prenups in Alabama.

Signing a prenup means you expect your marriage to fail.

Entering into a prenup before marriage is does not mean that you expect or want your marriage to fail. Insurance is purchased for your home, car, and health in the event there is an unexpected tragedy or undesirable occurrence. A prenup operates in the same way. No one enters into a marriage with the expectation that it will fail. Nevertheless, it is practical to want to have a plan of action in the event that something happens within a marriage and a couple decides to divorce.

Prenups are only for “rich people.”

In the media, you often hear about prenups being signed between celebrity couples. This furthers the idea that only rich and famous people have a need for a prenup. Everyone can benefit from the execution of a prenup. You do not have to be a billionaire to want to protect your assets. Whether you have a billion dollars, or one hundred dollars, your assets matter to you. Alabama is an equitable distribution state. This means that marital property is divided equitably between a splitting couple. Equitable does not always mean equal, however. What a judge deems to be equitable distribution of property, you may not agree with. A prenup can eliminate this dilemma and potential conflict by stating what the division of property will be.

The wealthier spouse receives most of the benefits of a prenup.

Since a prenup is intended to protect the assets of a spouse, many people think that the spouse who is wealthier is the one who is more protected. This is not true. There is no requirement that the spouse with the wealth has to keep all assets in the event of a divorce. A couple comes to an agreement and provisions can be enacted to protect the spouse who has less wealth.

A prenup is always enforced in divorce proceedings.

Yes, couples sign a prenup with the intention that the terms of the agreement will be applicable in divorce proceedings. However, a couple’s circumstances can change, and the prenup could be found to be invalid during divorce proceedings. Both parties must enter into the prenup voluntarily, the prenup must be signed and in writing, and each spouse needs to have the opportunity to consult with an attorney before signing. Generally, courts will try to enforce a legally valid prenup.

When one spouse does not want the prenup enforced, it is up to the other spouse to prove that the contesting spouse entered into the agreement voluntarily at the outset. Additionally, it must be shown that the individual thought the agreement was fair and agreed to the terms in the beginning, even if the other spouse will be receiving more of the assets. Unequal distribution of the assets is not grounds to invalidate a prenup. If one spouse has coerced the other into signing the agreement, however, the prenup will likely not be enforceable during divorce proceedings.

Child support and custody can be decided in a prenup.

The state of Alabama does not allow for child support and custody arrangements to be decided in a prenup. Situations involving the child must be done in their best interest, and there is no way to do that at the outset of a marriage. A judge needs to consider the current situation of each parent and what best suits the needs of the child.

If you are getting married and have questions about a prenup, the attorneys at Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC are here to help you. We know that a prenup can have a bad reputation, but that reputation is unwarranted. It is smart to be practical about the situation and prepare for all contingencies. Our team of dedicated attorneys want you to feel confident about your future. We are dedicated to ensuring that legal documents are executed properly and are unlikely to be deemed unenforceable in a court of law. Contact us today.

Best Lawyers 2020 Awards for Three MSN Attorneys

custom graphic best lawyers for 2020 attorney photosBIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC, is proud to announce that three of its attorneys have been selected by their peers for inclusion in the 26th edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

The attorneys honored are Senior Partners Anne Lamkin Durward, Randy Nichols, and Partner Jim Kee. Anne and Randy were nominated for Family Law, and Jim for Construction and Insurance Law.

"We are so proud that Randy, Anne, and Jim have been nominated for these prestigious awards. It is a true testament to their dedication to their practice areas and to making sure that our clients have the best representation,” said Rick Stotser, Senior Partner from MSN Attorneys. “Their unwavering commitment to their clients is what has made them stand out year after year.”

Since 1977, Massey, Stotser & Nichols has built its reputation for offering a wide array in legal services and support in Birmingham and the surrounding areas. In June 2019, MS&N merged with local Birmingham firm, Kee Law Firm, LLC, to expand legal services for its clients. Working together and drawing from each other's experiences, the combined firm will be able to provide clients with a greater level of legal support.

The Best Lawyers organization was founded in 1981 and is aimed at highlighting the extraordinary work done by lawyers across the country. Being nominated for Best Lawyers is a lengthy process that includes a full peer evaluation of professional expertise. If a nominee receives sufficient peer reviews, they then undergo a further authentication process to ensure nominees are truly in good standing and currently practicing.

Those who would like to learn more about the attorneys who were recently named Best Lawyers can visit the firm on its official website.

About Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC:

Founded in 1977, Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC provides legal services for individuals, families, and businesses in the Birmingham area. The firm's team of Alabama trial and transactional attorneys has a comprehensive range of experience and knowledge. Covering many issues in the legal arena, the firm offers representation in areas including business law, real estate law, mediation, insurance, construction, government, family law, estate planning, and probate. Visit to learn more.


A Guide to Real Estate Closings in Alabama

Purchasing a home, or another type of real estate, is an exciting time in one’s life. The decision to invest in real property is likely to be the biggest that person will make in their lifetime. They have spent copious amounts of time researching properties, visiting properties, and making the decision of which piece of property will be the best fit for them. The entire process of purchasing real estate can be complex and difficult to understand. A qualified real estate attorney can be helpful in making sure that everything is done in the proper manner, order, and time. While the entire process is complex, real estate closings often pose a particularly difficult challenge. There are numerous documents, titles, and funds that need to be exchanged between the buyer and seller. With dozens of documents and transactions floating around, it could become easy for the inexperienced buyer or seller to make a mistake. When purchasing a piece of real estate, it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to make sure that mistakes do not happen.

Documents Required at Signing

At any real estate closing, numerous documents must be signed by buyer, seller, or both. The following documents need to be completed before the closing is official:

  • Contact information for all parties involved, including the seller, buyer, and the realtor. Contact information also includes the contact information for lenders, broker, and bankers that are involved in the transaction.
  • The signed contract: This is the contract between the buyer and seller for the piece of real estate. Additionally, if there are any addendums to the contract those need to be completed/brought to the closing.
  • Home Owners Association contact information and the guidelines associated with it
  • Loan payoff information: This includes all information that relates to the loan to which the seller is agreeing. It includes the loan number, account number, and the social security number of the buyer of the real estate.
  • A copy of the mortgage, will, trust, deed, or power of attorney that is required to complete the real estate closing.
  • Hazard insurance contact information from the buyer

The above are required documents at every real estate signing. However, not every sale of property is exactly the same and additional documents may be required. The following are a few documents that may be required at signing in some situations:.

  • A copy of a Termite Letter
  • Information regarding the home warranty
  • Repairs that the buyer requires to be complete before the closing – this can also include invoices for repairs already made.
  • Approval letters that permit one, or both, of the parties to be able to utilize a Power of Attorney.

Alabama Law

There are only two states in the United States that require an attorney to be the one to draft and prepare all of the legal documents that are used or involved in a real estate transaction. The term “legal documents” generally refers to deeds, titles, Power of Attorney, and Termite Letters. This is not an exhaustive list, but the general list of documents that need to be prepared by an attorney.

In addition to Alabama law requiring certain documents to be prepared by an attorney in a real estate transaction, there are benefits to having an attorney help you throughout the process of purchasing real estate. For example, while purchasing real property, there may be times when an attorney’s negotiating skills will be useful. If the home, or property, requires repair before purchase, an attorney can help you to negotiate who will be responsible for paying for the repairs. Additionally, an attorney can help to explain any hard to understand legal jargon in documents. Contracts and other legal documents are not always the easiest to read and understand, but an attorney can help you digest the information and know exactly what you are signing. Finally, an attorney will be helpful in any other situation that requires legal knowledge to give you the best result in your real estate transaction.

If you are purchasing a piece of property in Alabama, trust the real estate attorneys at Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC. We know that the purchase of real property is equal parts exciting and daunting. Let us handle all of the complexities involved with the purchase so you can focus on the excitement of acquiring new property.

What Happens to the Pets in a Divorce?

Studies estimate that 68% of families throughout America include a pet. Whether that be a dog, cat, bird, or other animal that provides companionship, this is a large percentage. You might not think about what would happen to your pet in the event of a divorce, but it is a conversation that is becoming increasingly popular. There are many points at which a divorce can become contentious or hostile. Most people do not think that this point is when discussing what will happen to the family pet, but tempers have been known to flare when discussing pet custody. Pets are often a source of joy, and it is reasonable that both parties to a divorce would like to retain ownership of said pet. Are there laws in place to determine pet custody? Is a pet considered property? Knowing the rights you have to your beloved pet could help you navigate the divorce process.

Property v. Custody

Even though many people think of their pet as their child, unfortunately the state of Alabama does not recognize that. Pets are considered property of individuals. Some states have started to implement “custody” like procedures for pets. Some states and jurisdictions will consider the best interests of the pet when deciding which of the spouses will retain ownership or custody after the divorce. Unfortunately, pet custody laws that have been implemented in other states have yet to reach Alabama.

Even if Alabama is not ahead of the curve in adopting laws surrounding the custody of our pets, that does not mean that there are no options available to those fighting to retain ownership of their pets in a divorce. There are laws that are put in place to protect the property of individuals in a divorce. Since pets are considered property, these laws apply to them, as well.

Alabama is an equitable distribution state. In divorce, this means that the marital assets of a couple will be split equitably between them. It is important to note that equitable does not necessarily mean equal. Instead, the distribution of marital property must be fair based on the couple’s unique circumstances. Judges use a variety of factors to determine what is a fair distribution. Your pet could become a subject in this discussion. Judges will look at the personal finances of each individual, the earning potential, marital standard of living, what each spouse has contributed, and a variety of other factors in dividing assets.

There is a situation in which the family pet would not be considered part of the marital assets to divide. If one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage, the pet would not be considered marital property. Marital property refers to the assets that are acquired during the marriage, not the assets or property that each spouse owned individually before the marriage. If you were the owner of a pet, married someone, and then get divorced – you are still the owner of that pet. Even if you both enjoyed the company of the pet, it is legally yours.

Some couples may not want to leave the decision of who is going to be the owner of the dog up to a judge. In these instances, trying to come to a mutual agreement about pet custody is probably the best option. During negotiations, the custody of the pet can be brought up and both sides can try to come to an acceptable decision. In any event, it is important to consider the best interests of the pet. Your pet is like your child and you only want what is best for it. Keeping that in mind might give you a clearer picture of who might be the better pet parent. Is one spouse home more and doing the bulk share of caring for the pet? In most instances, the spouse who is caring for the pet most of the time is going to be the best choice for custody. Visitation of the pet can also be mutually agreed upon, whereas in court, the judge is not likely going to grant pet visitation rights in the divorce decree.

If you are going through a divorce, the divorce attorneys at Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC are here for you. We know that emotions can run high during divorce proceedings, especially if the custody of your beloved pet becomes an issue of contention. We work diligently to get the most favorable result possible under the circumstances for you. If there is a way for you to retain custody of your pet, we will work diligently to get there. Contact us today for a consultation.