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Thursday, August 18, 2016

How will your criminal case impact your custody and visitation case?

     Criminal proceedings and Domestic Relations often go hand in hand. Many people incur criminal charges as part of the divorce process or during custody and visitation disputes. Jilted spouses are quick to run to the Magistrate, often filing bogus or mundane criminal charges out of spite. When you are facing criminal charges, this may impact the underlying custody or visitation cases.

     Some of the most common criminal charges that pop up in custody proceedings include; Assault and Battery, Drunk and Disorderly, Misuse of Telephonic Communications, and Larceny. When people are splitting up, things are often said or done which could potentially open them up to criminal liability. Most of these charges are misdemeanors. Many misdemeanors carry the possibility of jail time. Whether or not your charge carries potential jail time is determined by the severity of the offense. There are four levels of misdemeanors, with Class 1 being the most severe. 

     These criminal proceedings can be taken into consideration when dealing with custody and divorce proceedings. The reason for a breakup may impact distribution of property or division of debts. Additionally, some crimes may make one parent seem unfit to care for their child. It is important that you handle these matters immediately, prior to the Domestic Relations matters making it before the Court.

     In order to handle these proceedings, seek out a local Criminal Defense attorney to help you work out a deal with the Commonwealth Attorney. Some cases may be dismissed, others deferred, and even others may be reduced to a different charge. It is ultimately up to the Commonwealth Attorney to agree to these outcomes.

     Even if you handle these cases in advance, the other party can still talk about the things that were done in front of the Judge handling the Domestic Relations matters. That is why it is also important to have a Family Law attorney to help mitigate that damage.

     To summarize; if you are facing criminal proceedings that arose out of a Domestic Relations disputes, immediately seek out an attorney who can help you handle both areas of law. It is ideal that the criminal matters are taken care of in advance as to mitigate any potential impact they may have.
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Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Life of a Claim: A Step by Step Guide to the Average Court Case

     Pursuing your interest in Court can be extremely nerve racking. One of the reasons people have anxiety about Court is that they do not know how things work. Many arrive at court without knowing what the steps in the process are, or what is expected of them. This article will explain the basic steps of the average court case, and what you can expect from each stage. Please note, this is not a walkthrough, and you should not rely solely on this in pursuing your claim in Court. If you have legal questions, hire a local attorney.

     The first step in a Court Case is the filing of a claim. As previously discussed, there are a number of factors which determine where you should file. In Circuit Court, a case is typically initiated by filng a "Complaint". This Complaint details what your claim is all about. It lays out the facts which make up your claim and inform the Court why you are there. There are a number of requirements for having a validly drafted Complaint. In General District Court, a case is initiated by filing a Warrant. The specific type of Warrant you are looking for depends on the type of case. Landlord & Tenant disputes typically involve Unlawful Detainers or Tenant's Assertions. Getting your property back from unlawful possession involves Detine. Warrant in Debt is used to pursue contract claims. There are a number of options available. In Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, a case is begun by Petition or Motion. There is additional paperwork which must accompany the Complaint.

     After a case is filed, there will need to be "service of process". This means that the opposing party must be informed of the proceedings. Typically speaking, most rely on Sheriffs to have papers served.

     The next step is getting an initial hearing before a Judge. In Juvenile and Domestic Relations and General District Court, you are given an initial return date when you file. At this date, further proceedings may be scheduled, or judgment granted depending on the nature of your claim. This is typically not the trial date. In Circuit Court, a case will sit on the docket until you ask the Judge to take specific action. There are a number of things a person can ask a Circuit Court to do; such as scheduling when things should be accomplished by, setting a hearing for judgment, etc.

     After the initial hearing, a trial date will be set. Prior to this trial date, there will be a process known as "discovery". Discovery is the process by which attorneys typically gain access to information necessary for trial. Attorneys are able to get people to turn over documentation, require people to come testify at Court, or to take depositions, which are basically interviews. The type of discovery best for your case depends on the type of evidence you need to proceed and win your case. There is no one size fits all method of discovery.

     Another process that takes place prior to trials is known as "motions practice". This is something Attorneys do to challenge the sufficiency of the process you have utilized. If there is a deficiency, it may cause your case to be dismissed, which could seriously harm your claim.

     At trial, both sides will be able to put on evidence. The Plaintiff typically goes first. The Plaintiff, or the person who filed suit, may call witnesses and ask them questions. After you are done asking them questions, the other side is allowed to do so. You keep calling questions and putting on evidence until you have run out. At this point, it is the Defendant's turn to put on testimony and evidence. Like the Defendant, you may cross examine and ask questions as well. Some questions are not allowed, and attorneys can object to those questions.

     At the end of the day, however, you should hire an attorney. Primarily because failure to follow the rules at any one of those stages may mean you lose your case. Consult a local attorney whenever you have a claim against someone.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Marriage and Debt Part 4: Collections

     As previously discussed, debt can be a big issue for couples that are either thinking about getting married, are currently married, or are in the process of getting divorced. Part of this process may involve creditors, or people who have claims against one spouse or the other. What happens when a creditor tries to go after the family?

     Generally speaking, a creditor has a number of ways of going after the assets of family members. If a lawsuit has been filed and it has been reduced to a judgment, the creditor may; attempt to take money from your bank accounts, attempt to take money from your wages, attempt to take personal property of yours, or even foreclose on your house.

     However, a creditor is limited to the types of activities they can engage in if the debt is only owed by one of the Spouses. If, for instance, the Husband owes money to a loan shark, the loan shark cannot turn around and try to take money from a joint/marital bank account. There are specific laws that prevent this kind of activity.

     This goes back to the distinction of marital v. separate debt. If a debt is incurred by only one party to the marriage and the creditor does not have judgment against both spouses, then they cannot enforce their judgment against the combined assets of both spouses. This makes marriage an excellent tool for protecting assets from creditors.

     However, the divorce process may remove at least some of those protections. At the end of a divorce, the spouse who owes the money may have to give up some of the property he acquired as part of the divorce proceedings to creditors. Once the property becomes his, the creditor may reach it.

If you are facing issues with creditors, seek out a local Consumer Protection Attorney for more information.
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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Marriage and Debt Part 3: The Marital Estate and Bankruptcy

     "The marital estate" is a phrase used to describe the debts and assets that can be attributed to both spouses. It consists of all the property rights which can potentially be distributed during a divorce, or which may be protected from the creditors of one spouse. With some exceptions, Spouse A will not be liable for the debts of Spouse B unless they co-sign on the agreement. The most notable exception being medical services.

     Just as creditors of one spouse may not reach the other, creditors of both spouses may be able to reach the assets of the marriage. If a couple re-finance a jointly owned house, the mortgage holder would be a marital creditor.

     These general principles get rather complex when one spouse begins thinking about Bankruptcy proceedings. If one of the spouses is being hounded by creditors and cannot contribute to the marriage, it may be in their best interests to file for Bankruptcy. What kind of impact does that have on the other spouse? Whenever someone files for Bankruptcy, they take a huge hit to their credit. This could impact things like re-financing the marital house to pay for things like a child's college tuition.

     As such, it is important for both spouses to talk in great detail about the decision to file for Bankruptcy. There are a few options available to the spouses. If both spouses are having creditor problems, but they do not have any marital creditors, they could both file individually. If there are a significant number of marital creditors, they may choose to file jointly.

     Whatever option the married couple ends up choosing, this illustrates that there are a number of different types of creditors that are involved in the Bankruptcy process. It is important for both spouses to sit down with a local Bankruptcy attorney if either of them are facing serious creditor issues.
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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Marriage and Debt Part 2: What is Bankruptcy?

     Bankruptcy is a complex area of Federal Law that is all about giving people a fresh start. For instance, if your monthly payments on your debt exceed the amount of money you are bringing home, it may or may not be a good idea to declare Bankruptcy. To understand how marriage and Bankruptcy interact, you must first understand the basics of Bankruptcy.

     There are a number of different types of Bankruptcy filings available to debtors; Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13. These forms of Bankruptcy can be further split into two types; reorganization and immediate forgiveness. Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 are forms of the reorganization type. In this type of Bankruptcy, debtors must continue to make payments to a "Trustee" who is appointed to mange their finances. These plans may take between three and five years to finish. Chapter 7 is a type of Bankruptcy that allows you to discharge your responsibility for debt much faster.

     Chapter 7 sounds like the easiest of the three options, but there are some very strict guidelines for determining whether you qualify. The Bankruptcy courts utilize a "means test", which examines information such as your income level, the median income for where you live, and your debts. If you are below a certain threshold, you are allowed to file for Chapter 7.

     Whichever type of Bankruptcy you qualify for, your debts may be "discharged" at the end of the process. This does not mean that the debt completely goes away. It merely means that the creditor cannot attach to your personal bank accounts, wages, or personal property anymore. If the creditor is a "secured creditor", such as a mortgage holder, they may still have the option of foreclosing on the secured property, such as your house.

    Given all these types of Bankruptcy plans, it is important to work with an attorney who is specially licensed to handle cases before your local Bankruptcy courts. If your debts are getting to be too much, seek out a local Bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options. The attorney will need to examine what kinds of debts you have to determine if Bankruptcy is right for you.
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Documents Every Family Needs: Power of Attorney

What is it?

     A Power of Attorney is a document that allows a person to make specific types of legal decisions on your behalf.  A Power of Attorney does not allow a person to make all legal decision on your behalf; such as medical decisions or representing you in a Court of Law. You do not become an attorney by being a Power of Attorney. A person who holds a Power of Attorney may sign contracts on behalf of another person or access that person's financial information. This is useful if a person becomes incapacitated and their bank accounts or assets need to be managed. For instance, if your Mother owns rental properties and you need new tenants, but your Mother is in the hospital.

What are the types?

     There are two types of Power of Attorneys; General Power of Attorney and Limited Power of Attorney. A General Power of Attorney allows for a person to perform more activities than a Limited Power of Attorney. Limited Power of Attorney may only allow a person to access one account or one rental property. A Power of Attorney can also be "durable". This means that you can still act as Power of Attorney if the person becomes incapacitated. If a Power of Attorney is not durable, then you cannot do anything if the person is incapacitated.

Do I need one?

     It is best to have a Power of Attorney if complex financial decisions need to be made on your behalf. Alternatively, if you are a cautious person it is also a good idea to have a Power of Attorney. If you are looking for a Power of Attorney, seek out an "Estate Planning" attorney in your local area to help determine what type you need, and who best to appoint as a Power of Attorney.

Note: Do not rely solely on this information in creating your own Power of Attorney. This is but the briefest of overviews on the subject. Always seek out legal help with legal documents. Each case is unique. 
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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Documents Every Family Needs: Heirs and Assets

     This is the second post in a series of articles which discuss the types of documents that every family should have prepared when dealing with issues related to planning for the future or for a divorce. One of the most important aspects of dealing with legal issues is knowing what all your assets are and what you want to have done with them. Assets are a big part of divorce and estate planning proceedings. If you do not know what all your assets are, some may slip through the cracks of your estate planning documents.

     That is why it is important to begin an ongoing list of heirs and assets. This list should include the name, address, and contact information for all your next of kin. In addition, it is important you start compiling the information related to various retirement plans, credit card accounts, bank accounts, personal property, and real estate.

     When a person passes away or they are going through a divorce, a court will need to know where each of these assets are located, as well as the approximate value of everything you own. Failure to have such a list prepared could cause your estate to be held up by the court, causing problems for others. Keep in mind that it may be a good idea to not fully list account numbers on this document, but merely provide sufficient information to allow your heirs or beneficiaries to find the assets.

     For more information on how to begin preparing a list of heirs and assets, seek out a local Estate Planning attorney soon.