Common Misconceptions About Buying a Home

photo of a miniature house to show concept of a real estate closing in alabama

Buying a home, whether it is your first home or your fifth, is an exciting time. You might be turning to friends and family for advice and guidance during this process. While friends and family can speak to their own experience and may have some excellent advice, it is important to keep an open mind and not believe everything that you hear. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions out there and misleading information abounds. The following are common misconceptions about home buying that buyers need to be aware of so that they do not make a misinformed decision.

The process starts with searching for and finding a home.

Obviously, finding a home that is the best fit for your and your family is important and you might think that it is the first step in buying a home. However, this is untrue. It is not smart to start shopping for a home without first talking to a lender or bank to determine how much you can afford. A lender will be able to tell you what you are qualified for so that you do not fall in love with a home that is out of your price range. It can be difficult to find a house in your price range if you have already fallen in love with a home you can not afford. Do not start off your house hunting process with heartbreak.

Bad credit means that you can not buy a home.

Sometime people get in over their heads with credit cards or loans and their credit score is affected. Fortunately, bad credit does not mean that an individual can not buy a home. While good credit is certainly a benefit when purchasing a house, bad credit does not necessarily preclude a person from doing so. There are many factors that go into determining a person’s qualifications for a mortgage. A bad credit score will likely mean a higher interest rate, however. So, while it is not completely necessary to have an excellent credit score and there may be a lender out there for you, working on raising your credit score can help you save money on interestin the long run.

A real estate agent is unnecessary.

With the vast amount of information available on the internet, some people may think that they can handle the home search on their own. A majority of the time, the cost for a real estate agent is paid for by the seller. As a buyer, it can be helpful to utilize the free service of a real estate agent. The agent will likely have access to more homes for sale and homes ready to be toured than is publicly available on the internet. A real estate agent can help save you time, as well, by eliminating outdated listings, listings that are actually scams, and generally having the experience to effectively find potential homes you might like. While you may have none or limited experience buying a home, a real estate agent will have a vast amount of experience in negotiating contracts, getting the best deals, and making sure the buyer is protected.

The only upfront cost is the down payment.

Depending on the type of loan, the amount that is required as a down payment varies. Some individuals think that the required down payment is 20% across the board. This is not true. A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan only requires that there be a 3.5% down payment. This percentage is for buyers with a credit score greater that 580. Additionally, there may be some loans that do not even require a down payment. However, it is smart to make a substantial down payment to save money over the length of the loan. The down payment, however, is not the only upfront cost. An appraisal and closing cost are just a couple of the additional costs at the outset of buying a home. In some instances, closing costs and other costs can be negotiated to be included in the offer price to the seller, but this is not always the case. It is important to discuss this with your agent or attorney to determine if rolling the costs together is in your best interest.

The real estate attorneys at Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC are here to help you with your home buying needs. We know that as exciting as this time this might be, it can be daunting and full of misinformation. Contact us today to get your questions answered and allay your fears of buying a new home.

Best Interest of the Child

Teenager drug charge lawyerJust recently, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided a case called Pamela Hubbard v James C. Hubbard. It was a family law case that addressed the ability of a mother to move out of Alabama with the children. In this case, the father filed for divorce in 2013. During the divorce action, the mother requested that the court allow her to move to New Jersey with the children. The mother argued that relocating the children would be in the best interests of the children. The father argued that if the children moved to New Jersey, then he could not see them since they would be 15 hours away from him and he could not afford the airfare. In this case, after considering the evidence, the court decided that the mother could not move to New Jersey with the children. As you are likely aware, the evidence and circumstances of each custody situation are different though. Therefore, while discussing the specific facts of the Hubbard case may not be useful, a brief discussion on some relevant law is instructive.

Best Interests of the Child

Alabama has codified its child custody laws. Most of the outcomes regarding the custody of children after divorce or similar proceedings hinge upon what would be in the “best interest of the child.” That is what the court and Alabama law asks, and the parties must respond. When determining what the best interest of a child might be, depending upon the circumstances, the courts look at things such as whether there has been a history of child abuse by one of the parents, the ability of one parent to encourage love and affection between the children and the other parent, and more.

As briefly explained below, the “best interest of the child” makes an appearance elsewhere in addition to the initial custody determination.

Changing the Child’s Principal Place of Residence

Although during the child’s life, the parents may have issues regarding child support, that is not necessarily the only issue that a post-divorce relationship may encounter. There are times when a parent who has physical custody may want to move away from the other parent and take the child with him or her, thereby changing the principal residence of the child. Alabama actually has a set of laws dealing with this exact issue in what is called the Alabama Parent-Child Relationship Protection Act. Through it, the state pushes the general philosophy that even after divorce, children need both parents. Therefore, unless there is violence or child abuse involved, according to the state, it is not in the best interest of the child to change his or her primary residence. That is the presumption. However, the parent who intends to change residence can try to argue against it by explaining why the court’s conclusion and Alabama’s presumption would be incorrect in his or her specific circumstances and the move would actually be in the best interest of the child.

Need Legal Advice?

Legal situations regarding children are rough and involve a lot of emotions. You love your children and want the best for them. Let us help you give them the best. If you are contemplating divorce, fighting for custody, want to change your children’s principal place of residence for the better, or anything in between, then let the family and domestic relations law team here at Massey, Stotser, & Nichols, PC help you out. Contact our office today.

Can I Change My Child’s Last Name?

reasonable person lawyer birmingham Sometimes, what we think we want turns out not to be what we want at all. This “want” can range from employment and living arrangements to changing a name. As it pertains to changing your child’s last name, there may be several reasons why you would want to make such a big change. You may want to change your child’s last name because one of the parents has decided to give up his or her parental rights. You may want to change your child’s last name because someone whom you have married has decided to adopt your child. Regardless of the reason you have for wanting to change your child’s last name, it is important to know whether the state of Alabama allows for children’s last names to be changed at all. If you or a loved one is seeking information in this area, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Birmingham family law attorney so that we can strategize about the best possible outcomes for your situation.

Changing Your Child’s Last Name in Alabama


In Alabama, an adult, which is any person over the age of 19 years old can apply for a name change of a minor or anyone under the age of 19. To change your child’s last name in Alabama, the child must be a legal resident of Alabama, typically for at least six to 12 months. Once citizenship has been established, you must provide a certified copy of your child’s birth certificate to the court and both parents must sign a consent form. In the event that one of the parents is unknown or cannot be located, then an attorney is required for the name change.

Lastly, if your child is 14 or older, then he or she must sign the legal document and consent to the change, as well. It is important to note that even though there are consistencies throughout the state, the county that you and your child live in will determine the requirements as to the documents that are needed for you to obtain the name change for your child. Also, if the court finds that the child’s name being changed is not consistent with public interest or that a parent is trying to escape his or her obligations, the court may deny a request to change your child’s name. Because of this, seeking advice and representation from an attorney in the beginning can save you time, money, and energy.

Need Legal Advice?


Regardless of the reason for changing your child’s last name, Alabama has specific requirements that must be adhered to before a name change can be accepted. Changing your child’s last name can be a simple task or a difficult one depending on the parties involved and the documentation that you have. Because of this, it is invaluable to seek legal advice and representation if you are considering changing your child’s last name. If you or a loved one would like to change the last name of your child, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced family law attorney at Massey, Stotser, & Nichols, PC to help you navigate through this process.

Nondisclosure of Assets in Birmingham

For most people, divorcing someone that you thought you would spend your entire life with can be difficult. Having to determine custody if there are children involved, as well as having to divide up marital assets and losses can be difficult to overcome. These situations can be made easier when both divorcing spouses have come to an understanding and a written agreement has been made between the parties to be amicable and when assets and losses are generally known by the parties.

But what happens when you discover that your divorcing spouse has not disclosed all of their assets? If you or a loved one have been denied emergency treatment, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Birmingham family law attorney so that we can strategize about the best possible outcomes for your situation.

Nondisclosure of Assets

One of the many challenges that divorcing couples must face is dividing up their marital assets and their marital losses. Some couples are able to cooperate with each other and choose how they would like to divide up custody as well as their assets. However, this is not always the case with divorcing couples. Alabama is an equitable distribution state. That means, generally, in Alabama, the rule for divorcing couples is that the division of marital property is to be equitable, though it may not necessarily be equal depending on the facts. For the most part, if the undisclosed facts are so significant whereas one party is extremely harmed, there is a duty to disclose all assets.

Each spouse is supposed to be open and honest as to all of their assets, unfortunately this is not always the case. Divorcing spouses can choose nondisclosure by hiding or understating certain marital property, by overstating their debt, by reporting actual expenses that are not true, as well as reporting that their income is actually lower than what it really is.  Hiding assets can be reckless and can lead to a more drawn out and uncomfortable divorce. Because all situations are different it is in your best interest to seek legal advice and representation if you are going through a divorce that is less than amicable.

Need Legal Advice?

Divorce is never easy and is made a much harder process when you’re divorcing spouse is not being cooperative. It is known that during some marital assets are hidden and underestimated, however, that does not have to be the case in your circumstance.

Seeking legal representation can help ensure that you are receiving what is rightfully yours. Because all situations are different, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Birmingham family law attorney at Massey, Stotser, & Nichols, PC to help you with your case. Contact our office today!


Birmingham Grandparent Visitation: FAQ

reasonable person lawyer birmingham Grandparent visitation rights are governed by Alabama Code § 30-3-4.2 (2016). Essentially, the law protects the primacy of a parent’s right to deny visitation with a grandchild, but allows a grandparent to challenge that denial under some circumstances.The previous version of the law was struck down by the Alabama Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. The revised law went into effect in 2016.

In enacting the statute in 2016, the Alabama legislature recognized that a fit parent’s decisions are entitled to special weight due to a parent’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the rearing of his or her child. Nonetheless, the Legislature also recognized the importance of the extended family. The Legislature passed the Grandparent Visitation Act with the intent to balance the constitutional rights of parents and children by imposing an enhanced standard of review and consideration of the harm to a child caused by the parent’s limitation or termination of a prior relationship of a child to his or her grandparent.

Here are some common FAQs regarding grandparent rights in Alabama.

Under What Circumstances May a Grandparent File Suit to Gain Visitation Rights?

Grandparents may file an original action lawsuit or may intervene in an existing divorce or custody or other domestic relations case and ask the court for reasonable visitation rights with respect to the grandchild if any of the following circumstances exist:

The parents are divorcing

The parents have died

The grandchild is born out of wedlock — if the grandparents are on the father’s side, paternity must be legally established OR

Parental rights have been terminated or parental rights of a parent or parents are being sought to be terminated by the Alabama DHR Child Protective Services

Under What Conditions Will the Grandparent Succeed?

The law makes it clear that, if a fit parent decides to deny or limit visitation of a grandparent, that decision is presumed to be “in the best interest” of the grandchild.

However, a grandparent can offer evidence that challenges that presumption and must prove that

has established “a significant and viable relationship” with the grandchild AND that grandparent visitation is in the best interest of the child.

To establish “a significant and viable relationship” with the grandchild, the grandparent must prove that:

Grandchild lived with grandparent for at least six consecutive months with or without a parent present within the three years preceding the filing of the petition OR

Grandparent was the caregiver to the child on a regular basis for at least six consecutive months within the three years preceding the filing of the petition OR

Grandparent had frequent or regular contact with the child for at least 12 consecutive months that resulted in a strong and meaningful relationship with the child within the three years preceding the filing of the petition OR

Other facts proving a strong and meaningful relationship

To establish that grandparent visitation is in the “best interest of the child,” the grandparent must prove all of the following:

Grandparent has the capacity to give the child love, affection, and guidance

The loss of an opportunity to maintain a significant and viable relationship with the grandparent has caused or is reasonably likely to cause harm to the child AND

Grandparent is willing to cooperate with the parent(s) (if applicable) if visitation with the child is allowed

What is a Grandparent?

All the recognized categories of “grandparent” are recognized and the term “grandparent” has the normal meaning. The Act defines “grandparent” as “the parent of a parent, whether the relationship is created biologically or by adoption.”

What is Harm to the Grandchild?

As used in the statute, “harm” A finding by a court that, without court-ordered visitation by the grandparent, the grandchild’s emotional, mental, or physical well-being has been, could reasonably be, or would be jeopardized.

What is the Standard of Proof?

Everything that a grandparent is required to prove must be proven by “clear and convincing evidence.”

What Happens if a Grandchild is Adopted?

The right of the grandparent to seek visitation terminates if the court approves a petition for adoption by an adoptive parent

Contact Massey, Stotser & Nichols, P.C.

If you need more information about grandparent visitation rights, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Massey, Stotser & Nichols, P.C. MS&N is a full service, Birmingham, Alabama law firm that serves families in the cities of Birmingham, Alabaster, Ashville, Bessemer, Clay, Fultondale, Gardendale, Homewood, Hoover, Leeds, Moody, Mountain Brook, Oneonta, Pelham, Pell City, Pinson, Springville, Trussville, and the surrounding areas. Visit our website at for more information about our practice groups including business law, real estate, accident, and personal injury law. To schedule a consultation, use this form on the Firm’s website or call 205-838-9000.