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Worst Legal Mistakes Parents Can Make in Divorce

Divorce can be hard on anyone. And when you add children into the equation, the process can only get more emotionally and legally challenging. Dealing with custody, support, and yes, even tax issues on top of an already difficult divorce can lead even the best parents to make some bad decisions. Here are a few of the worst legal decisions you can make during a divorce and how to avoid them. 1. Not Respecting Child Custody Decisions and Guidelines You may not trust your ex or the courts to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, you must respect any legal rulings regarding child custody and your former spouse's parental rights. Failure to do so may amount to parental kidnapping, and could mean losing what visitation can custody rights you do have. (And, just as importantly, make sure you pay child support if the court orders it.) 2. Not Following Marital Property Decisions How your property gets divided in the divorce will often come down to where you live and the circumstances of ownership before, during, and after the divorce. You may not lose exactly half of everything you own, but be prepared for a split that will generally try to leave both parents equally well off. Things can get tricky regard the home and the family car, but divorcing parents are usually allowed to construct a fair property split agreement on their own. 3. Dragging Your Ex on Social Media No, that's not a misprint -- "dragging" in this sense means disrespecting someone online. And what happens on social media tends to stay on social media, forever. Meaning that the mean things you post about your former spouse or soon-to-be ex on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else online will be visible to everyone from your kids to the court. So follow some simple rules for social media use during a divorce and keep those arguments offline and IRL. 4. Not Clearing Up Who Gets to Claim Children Come Tax Time The easy part: Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent on their taxes. Now comes the hard part: which of you will do it? And what if you have multiple children? If this sounds like a simple or inconsequential question, think again. The IRS takes dependency claims seriously and will punish parents for doing it wrong. 5. Not Hiring a Lawyer The legal ins and outs of divorce are always complex, and getting divorced with children will only make it more complicated. Make sure you find a divorce lawyer that you trust to protect your parental and legal rights. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Top 5 Parenting Tips During Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 10 Common Divorce Mistakes to Avoid (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Top 5 Marital Property Questions During a Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Supreme Court to Decide Which Bathroom Trans High School Student Can Use

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that they will be taking up the case of Gavin Grimm, the high school student who has been told he can't use the boys' restroom because he is transgender. The case will be heard at some point next year, as the Court has only accepted to hear the case at this point. When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court, one party to a case is asking the Court to review a Federal Appeals Court's decision. The Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases each year, and only selects about 80 to review. Although Gavin won the last appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the appeals court's decision not go into effect until they decide to reject the case or after they decide the case. The Case of Gavin Grimm Gavin's case was forced upon him. When he started high school as a freshman, he initially used the unisex/single stall restroom in the nurse's office. However, it was the only single stall in the building and Gavin did not feel like he could solely use that restroom as it was the only one. When he requested that he be allowed to use the regular boys' bathroom, the school approved his request. However, when some other students' parents learned that Gavin was using the regular boys' bathroom, they petitioned the district to stop Gavin, and won. But Gavin didn't stop fighting for his rights as a transgender student. Gavin challenged the school district in court and on appeal, Gavin won. After the appeal, but before the Supreme Court announced that they would weigh in, the Department of Education, with the Department of Justice, issued formal guidance on how public schools should handle any policy relating to sex segregation and gender identity. Basically, both agencies state that Gavin, and other trans students, should be able to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity, regardless of how they are identified in legal documents. Trans Bathrooms: Separate Is Not Equal For the purposes of Title IX, which applies to schools that receive federal funding, a student's gender identity is their sex, and Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. Soon, the Supreme Court will weigh in and may provide some judicial certainty to this politically divisive question. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Primer for Parents and Students on Transgender Bathrooms in Schools (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do I Need a Lawyer for a Gender Change? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How to Legally Challenge an Election

It's no secret that Donald Trump thinks the upcoming presidential is "absolutely being rigged." When given the opportunity to clarify his stance, Trump said, "I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result." If the results are "questionable," what would such a legal challenge look like? And what grounds would you need to challenge an election's results? Legal Questions Republican election lawyer Chris Ashby told PBS that it wasn't necessary for Trump to reserve his right to contest the election this far in advance, and "after the election, if there is some evidence that an election of electors in a particular state was tainted by fraud, then he could pursue that." Ashby added: "You can't just say that there was generally fraud. You have to know how many votes either from fraud or by mistake. And it has to be enough votes to cover the margin between the candidates. And so, if you think that you have to go out and actually get this evidence, you have to find voters, you have to election records, and you have to quantify this, and you have to do it in a time period of about a month." So, in order for Trump, the Republican Party, or someone else to legally challenge the results of an election, the election must particularly close and there would need to be credible evidence of fraud or miscounting of votes, enough to cover the margin of victory. State and Federal Questions Even though president is a federal office, voting in federal elections is still run by the states. Each state has its own rules and procedures for counting and contesting votes, and any challenge to the results would occur at the state level. Some state laws may require a manual recount if results are within a certain margin, while others may provide a means for a candidate or party to request a recount. Either way, the challenge would need to be made regarding a particular state's results, and it would need to come quickly. Most states have their own deadlines to certify final election results, and federal law requires all states to certify and report their results within 35 days of the election. Trump would need an extremely tight result, legitimate claims of fraud or mistake, and he would need to, very quickly, follow state-specific procedures for challenging that state's result. So a little bit more than simply not winning. Related Resources: Browse Civil Rights Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Why Voter Fraud Doesn't Matter, but Allegations of Rigged Elections Do (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Should I Bring to the Ballot Box? An Update on State Voter ID Laws (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 7 Important Voting Rights Questions (and Answers) (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How to Find a Divorce Lawyer

When a married couple, or just one married person, wants to divorce, the first concern is finding the right divorce lawyer. While a person’s first instinct might be to hire their one lawyer friend, or the same lawyer that handled their injury case, or the cheapest lawyer they can find, unless those lawyers know divorce law, it’s a big risk. With the help of online lawyer directories, the simplest way to find a lawyer is by calling as many as you have time to call, and talking with as many potential lawyers as you can. Divorces can range in complexity from simple to impossible. When a married couple has no assets, no children, and both parties have their own equal incomes, the divorce may be as simple as just filing some documents that a court needs to approve. However, if there are children, a marital home, a shared car, a family business, and/or other assets, it is much more complicated. So how do you evaluate a potential divorce lawyer? Not Just Any Experience One of the most important factors any client should evaluate when hiring an attorney is that attorney’s experience in the type of law they will be asked to handle. For a divorce case, you may need an attorney who knows how to handle not only a simple divorce, but also child custody, and, if there was a family business, business transactions or dissolutions. Ask your prospective attorney about prior divorces they have handled, and probe them about how complex those divorces were. Even if an attorney has been practicing law for 20 years, if they have never handled a divorce with child custody at issue, and you have children, you may not want to be that attorney’s first. Comfort And Trust After Experience After you’ve found an attorney with the right experience, you should ask yourself whether you feel comfortable divulging private information to them. In order for your attorney to be effective, you will need to be able to discuss personal matters without hesitation. While your sex life, generally, is not something that needs to be discussed, in some states, infidelity matters during divorce. Your attorney doesn’t need to be your friend (and probably shouldn’t be), but should be someone that you feel comfortable, and trust, with discussing potentially embarrassing information. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Why Is There a Divorce Waiting Period? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) What Is Ex Parte Divorce? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) When to Get a Second Lawyer’s Opinion for Your Divorce (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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How to Keep Your Kids Safe From Sex Offenders on Halloween

For most parents on Halloween, it's not the costumes that scare them. Among the biggest fear that parents have on Halloween is that their child will be abducted or worse. The fear of kidnapping on Halloween seems rational as children are dressed in costume, are out in large numbers (often unsupervised), are out at night, and the whole holiday provides cover for would-be criminals. To help mitigate the concerns of parents, many states and localities have laws regulating the actions of sex offenders during Halloween. In California, for example, sex offenders on parole are required to be at home from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., with any exterior lights turned off, and are not allowed to open their door for anyone except law enforcement. Although laws prohibiting sex offenders from participating in Halloween are not in every state, parents can take other actions to protect their kids. Check the Local Sex Offender Registry While many states have specific laws about sex offenders and Halloween, there are many that do not. Even in states that have laws about this, parents may want to proactively warn their children about which houses to stay away from as most states do not require that sex offenders post "no candy" signs asking people to stay away. In recent years, parents have been utilizing sex offender registries to keep their kids safe on Halloween. Each state has a sex offender registry and database that the public can access via the internet. The databases allow parents to identify where the sex offenders live so that they can advise their children to stay away from those houses. Give Kids a GPS Enabled Cell Phone Some parents may be concerned that simply telling their child to stay away from a house won't actually be enough, or their child won't remember which house. For these parents, letting your child use a GPS enabled cell phone that you can track on a computer or another device can provide much needed peace of mind. Additionally, you can require your child to call or text you to check in every so often, or when they reach certain waypoints, so that you can remind them which houses to skip. For the exceptionally paranoid parent, hiding a GPS tracking device inside your child's costume may be necessary to ease that paranoia for long enough to let your child learn some independence and have some fun. Also, there are several apps that can help you closely monitor your kids while they're out trick-or-treating. Related Resources: Candy or Meth? It May Be Hard to Tell (FindLaw Blotter) Avoid Dangerous, Illegal Halloween Decorations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Silly Halloween Laws to Make You Scream (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can You Refuse a CPS Drug Test? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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When to Get a Second Lawyer’s Opinion for Your Divorce

Getting a divorce is stressful. Regardless of what state you’re in, the process involves a careful analysis of your finances, assets, holdings, debts and other obligations, as well as potentially an analysis of your fitness to be a parent. Frequently, divorce can have a severe financial and/or emotional impact on one or both parties. In the context of this, sometimes getting a second opinion could be the smartest decision you make. The decision to get a second legal opinion in your divorce case can either resolve your concerns or confirm your fears. If your concerns are resolved and you are able to get some peace of mind, you can consider the money well spent. On the other hand, if you confirm your fears, you should consider the money even more well spent, as you can now work on either changing attorneys or having your current attorney change strategies. How to Get a Second Opinion From a Lawyer Getting a second opinion is as simple as calling or emailing another lawyer and asking for one. While you likely won’t get a free consultation that covers anything of substance, you might get enough of a free consult that you can find out how much it will cost to get a second opinion. When getting a second opinion, you want to provide the reviewing attorney with your entire case file, or as much of it as is requested, before the actual consultation. Also, be prepared to pay either a flat fee or hourly rate. If paying for a second opinion is not readily achievable, you can try to seek out help at free legal clinics, if available in your area. While free legal clinics tend to provide limited consultations, that may be all you need to settle your concerns, or convince you that you need to find a new attorney. When seeking a second opinion, do it as soon as possible so that way you have time to change gears if necessary. Common Concerns With Getting a Second Opinion Many clients become concerned that getting a second opinion from a different lawyer is a slap in the face to their current lawyer. While attorneys appreciate loyal clients, it is unlikely that your attorney will be offended. Attorneys are trained in law school to understand the perspective of the reasonably prudent person, and as such, recognize that getting a second opinion from any professional, be it legal or medical, is simply a prudent action for a person to take. If you tell your attorney that you want a second opinion and they try to dissuade you, that should be a red flag that you really should get a second opinion. Lastly, don’t be surprised if the second-opinion lawyer advises you that your current attorney is doing just fine. While the second-opinion attorney may suggest a new approach, or advise you of the strategy they would have taken, frequently, lawyers will avoid criticizing the work or strategy of other lawyers as there are numerous different paths that can all reach the same result. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Reasons to Fire Your Lawyer (and Get a New One) (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Top 10 Tips for Hiring a Lawyer (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Friend as Your Lawyer (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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Top 10 Divorce Questions a Family Lawyer Can Answer

Going through a divorce is hard. And it's even harder to go through it alone without any legal help. There are many reasons why you'll want to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you with your divorce. One of them is an attorney's ability to accurately answer any and all questions you'll have about the divorce process generally, and your divorce specifically. Here are the top 10 divorce questions to ask a family lawyer: 10. How Long Will My Divorce Take? Although it occupies the 10 spot, this question may be one of the most important you have. Every divorce case is different, but you need to know what to expect and that your attorney has a good sense of how your case will go. A good family attorney should be able to provide a timeline of your divorce from initial filings to completion. This will also give your attorney a chance to give you a step-by-step overview of the divorce process in your state, as well as cue you into any deadlines or waiting periods. 9. What Is Your Experience With Divorce Cases? As part of demonstrating his or her familiarity with the process, your attorney should give you a rundown of their resume. Family lawyers might be experienced in various types of family disputes, without having many divorces under their belts. You should ask your attorney how many divorce cases he or she has handled, or what percentage of the firm's time is devoted to divorces. This gives your attorney a chance to discuss his or her legal experience -- hopefully in a way that inspires confidence. 8. What Can I Reasonably Expect From My Divorce? This is a broad question, but along with the timeline, you need to ask your attorney, if you hire him or her, what you can reasonably expect out of litigating or mediating your divorce. Your attorney should be able to paint you a range of likely outcomes based on your case, giving you a good basis for what to expect. 7. What Documents Will I Need for My Divorce? Depending on your shared assets and debts, you might need to provide quite a bit of documentation to back up your divorce filings. You may need to bring everything from pay stubs and tax returns to prenups and birth certificates to a consultation with a divorce attorney. And a good lawyer will be able to tell you how best to prepare for a divorce. So know what you'll need before you start you divorce. 6. How Will the Divorce Affect My Business? If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, your first question might be how to protect your business assets during a divorce. Ask your attorney about which legal structure can best insulate your business from divorce proceedings and whether placing your business in a living trust could help protect it, and its assets, from your spouse. An attorney can also help you create an enforceable postnuptial agreement regarding the business (if you don't already have a prenup) and advise you on the effect of community property laws on small businesses. 5. How Will Our Property Be Separated? Who gets what in a divorce can become a major battle, and you'll want to know where you stand before the first shots are fired. But if not, you may need to divide everything from the furniture to the financial assets. There are two main factors to deciding property issues: (1) whether you live in a community property state or not, and (2) whether the property is separate or marital property. Your attorney should be able to tell you which marital property laws apply, and how those laws will apply in your case. 4. How Will Custody and Visitation Be Determined? More important than sorting out the kitchenware is sorting out the kids. ...
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Don’t Be a Victim in Your Divorce: 5 Empowering Legal Tips

Often in divorce, one ex-spouse can become shellshocked by the process. Paralyzed by fear over family and financial woes, these former partners can cast themselves in the roles of victims. Writing for ABC News, Laura Mattia of the Baron Financial Group believes that women often become financial victims during divorce because of the way they relate to their spouses during marriage. But divorcing spouses can empower themselves when it comes to financial and family situations, rather than taking a sideline in their own divorces. For both women and men, take note of these five empowering legal tips and avoid becoming a victim in your divorce: 1. Be Proactive About Finances. Be proactive about your finances from the start of your marriage through your divorce -- for example, by using a prenuptial agreement. One of the many benefits of a prenup is the ability to delineate who owns what in a marriage and afterward. Even if you're already married, a postnup can accomplish many of the same financial planning goals. 2. Pay Attention to Tax Returns. If you're going through a divorce, do not hand off the responsibility for filing your tax return to your soon-to-be-ex spouse. You should try to communicate with your partner about which tax options are the most beneficial for both of you (if necessary, through your attorneys or a mediator). Doing this will help you avoid being blindsided when you learn that your spouse claimed all your kids as his dependents. 3. Consider Your Long-Term Security. Mattia cautions against relying too heavily on alimony, as it may leave a divorcee financially dependent on her ex. Craft a divorce settlement that covers you and your family's long-term plans (even your kid's college tuition) and that doesn't leave you praying for a spousal support check every month. 4. Stay Smart on Social Media. Don't bad-mouth your ex on social media. Just don't. Not only will it give your former spouse fodder for trashing you in court, but it won't do much for your self esteem either. Instead, consider a social media clause in your prenup or postnup. 5. Hire an Attorney. You know what's the most empowering feeling? Knowing the law is on your side. And you'll only know that for sure with an experienced divorce attorney's help. You don't have to be a victim in your divorce. Use the law to rise above. Related Resources: 5 Things a Divorce Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) A 'Happy' Divorce? 7 Ways to Make It Less Stressful (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Facebook, Social Media Use Linked to Divorce Rates: Study (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Have a Happy, Healthy... Divorce? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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