Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Being prepared for the, hopefully, unlikely event of a divorce from day 1

We've all heard that scary statistic "50% of marriages end in divorce".  Whether that statistic is accurate or not is for another day.  Today, we are discussing how to be positive that your marriage will succeed, while ensuring that you can be independently successful if you are faced with a divorce. 

First, maintain your financial independence.  This does not mean you need to keep secret money stashed away or cannot be a stay at home mom.  What it means is ensure that you will always be capable of providing for yourself, should you need to.  Not only is this smart in case a divorce does come along down the road, but suppose your spouse unexpectedly passed away tomorrow, you would need to be able to financially support yourself and your family.  One way to do this is to maintain your education.  Let's say you have a bachelor's degree in business administration.  If you are not working, try to take classes to stay up-to-date on what is going on in the business world and how it is changing.  This will help if you suddenly need to find a job and have been out of the work force for some time.  Another important thing you should be doing is having knowledge about your finances.  It is typical that one spouse handles the finances for the family.  However, the other spouse should be well aware of how much money the family has and where the money is (stocks, 401k, etc.).  This will be beneficial to you not only in the event of a divorce, but also during the marriage.

Second, maintain your emotional and personal independence.  It is wonderful, and I believe a very positive thing, to view your marriage as a partnership and a team.  However, you need to maintain some amount of independence.  This means spending time apart, visiting with friends, enjoying your hobby, taking up a new hobby, etc.  It is said that spending time apart strengthens a marriage.  It will also help you emotionally if you do have to go through a divorce.  Without your separate aspects of life, you may be left feeling like you have nothing left in life.  If you have maintained your friendships and your hobbies throughout the marriage, you will have people to lean on and things to take your mind off of your divorce.

Finally, have a plan for YOUR life.  You will most likely plan for your life together as spouses, and I encourage that as well.  However, you need to remember where YOU want to go in life.  What is your dream job?  Where is your dream home?  While planning for your life as spouses, you should not lose sight of what is important to you as an individual.  Your plan may forfeit some of those dreams for what is best for your family.  However, you should remember your goals and dreams throughout and not lose sight of who YOU are and what YOU want.

I know many of you do not want to think about planning for a divorce, especially if you just got married.  This is not planning for a divorce.  This is planning for a successful lifestyle even if you and your spouse are no longer together at some point in the future.  Maintain your attitude that your marriage will succeed; however, maintain some amount of independence and hopefully, if you do have to go through a divorce or lose your spouse unexpectedly, you will be slightly more prepared. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why speeding could have huge consequences for you

Reckless driving in Virginia is defined as traveling in excess of 20 mph over the posted speed limit or traveling in excess of 80 mph regardless of the posted speed limit.  This means if you travel 81 mph, even if the posted speed limit is 70 mph, you could be convicted of a Class 1 Misdemeanor.  That is in the same category as a DUI in Virginia. 

If you are convicted of reckless driving, the penalty could be up to a $2,500 fine and up to 1 year in jail.  Further, you could have your license suspended for up to 6 months.  These are serious consequences.  Even more serious, is if you kill someone while driving recklessly, you could be guilty of a Class 6 Felony, depending on your individual circumstances (such as driving on a suspended or revoked license). 

While traveling 11 mph over the speed limit may not seem like a big deal, you should be aware of the possible consequences for those actions.  If you have been charged with reckless driving, I sincerely encourage you to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A few things to consider when contemplating divorce

Maybe someone cheated or maybe you and your spouse have simply grown apart; no matter what the circumstances, you are left contemplating a divorce.  Here are a few things to consider while you decide how you are going to handle your situation.

First, consider marriage counseling.  No matter how hurt you feel or how far apart you think you and your spouse have drifted, seeing a professional to work through those feelings together may help.  Marriage counselors will help you and your spouse work through both your feelings so that you better understand where the other person is coming from and you better understand how you really feel.  By working with a marriage counselor, you may be able to open the lines of communication between you and your spouse to work towards a better marriage.  Even if you still want a divorce after marriage counseling, you will have a better sense of your feelings and your desires.

Make it a point to focus on your children throughout the divorce.  Divorce is a painful process and may make you want to lash out and criticize your spouse in front of your children.  Think about how this will affect your children.  Think about how this will affect the relationship your children have with your spouse.  Think about how you would feel if your spouse did the same thing.  Focus on spending time with your children and ensuring they know you both still love them.  Not only is this important for your children, it will likely have positive effects on your well being and state of mind. 

Finally, try to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.  Is it worth the expense to fight your husband over the bedroom furniture set just because you want to win?  Is there a way you can work through this together so that you still have an amicable relationship?  While there are certainly times that you need to fight, consider the financial and psychological effects of fighting your spouse in court before making your decision. 

Keep these things in mind and hopefully your divorce will be a little less painful. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Consequences of failing to pay child support

Virginia takes matters involving children very seriously.  If you fail to pay child support, you may be found in contempt of court. By statute, there are some serious consequences you may face if you fail to pay child support as ordered.  First, your driver's license may be suspended (remember there may be costs associated with reinstating your license).  Along with your driver's license, other licenses you hold, such as a business license, may be suspended as well.  Further, you may be required to post the equivalent of a bond in the amount of child support owed.  Your wages may be garnished through an income deduction order.  Finally, you may be imprisoned for a period of up to twelve months or until you comply and pay the ordered child support.

There may be remedies available to you if you are unable to pay the amount of child support ordered.  These consequences are serious and you should speak with an attorney prior to deciding not to pay child support. Remember, this money is paid to support your children. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dealing with the holidays as a divorced parent

The holidays are a difficult time for most parents who are divorced.  Both parents want to spend time with their children on the holidays and likely, someone is going to be disappointed.  Keep in mind this holiday season, it's about your children.  Focus on the happiness and well being of your children when determining a holiday schedule and remember, it's okay to be creative.

Some parents decide to split each holiday, the children with mom in the morning and with dad in the afternoon.  Some parents split the holidays annually, the children with mom this year and the children with dad next year.  If both parents are amicable, sometimes, the parents spend the holiday together with their children.  Whatever you decide, put your kids first.  Focus on your children's needs and what type of schedule will work best for them.  If the children do not get to see a parent on a holiday, ensure that the child is able to talk on the phone (or even better, skype) with the other parent.

The key to making the holidays a happy time of year is focusing on what will be best for your children.  Work together with the other parent and ensure the children's needs are met before worrying about your wants and desires. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

DUI v. Refusal

Most people know it is against the law to refuse a breath or blood test when you are arrested for a DUI.  Do you know the differences between being convicted of a DUI v. a refusal?

A first DUI offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of $250 to $2500 (mandatory $250 fine) and up to 12 months in jail.  There are also stricter punishments for elevated levels of BAC.  Further, you lose your license for 1 year.  As of July 1, 2012 in order to get a restricted license, you MUST have ignition interlock installed in your car.  Finally, you must attend VASAP. 

A first refusal is a non-criminal violation and is a civil penalty.  There may or may not be a fine attached with the refusal.  Your license will be suspended for a year, without the possibility of a restricted license. 

A DUI and a refusal and their respective consequences are extremely different.  Keep in mind that by refusing a blood or breath test, it does not guarantee that you will not be convicted of a DUI as well.  Finally, if you are convicted of both DUI and refusal, your license suspensions (1 year for each) run consecutively, not concurrently. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

What NOT to do during a divorce

Here are some key things NOT to do when going through a divorce:
  • Talk negative about your spouse in front of your children
  • Curse at your spouse
  • Use physical violence towards anyone
  • Begin a new romantic relationship
  • Spend all of the money you and your spouse may have (including selling any property)
  • Keep your children away from your spouse (in most circumstances)
This list is only some examples of how not to behave and is not fully inclusive.

It may be difficult for you to refrain from the doing the above mentioned things.  However, doing such things can have serious consequences for you and the outcome of your divorce proceedings.  Before doing any of these things, consult with an attorney to determine if they may be appropriate.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Is marijuana really legal in Colorado and Washington now?

As I'm sure all of you know, Colorado and Washington voted and passed a law to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  What does this really mean, though?

It is still not legal to use marijuana in the United States.  Although it may now be legal under state law, the use of marijuana is still illegal under federal law.  This means while you are not violating state law, you could still be arrested, charged and convicted for the use of marijuana under federal law. 

To sum up, although the citizens of two states have voted and decided that the use of marijuana is no longer against state law, it is still illegal throughout the country under federal law.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why you should get out and vote!

Your right to vote is your most basic right in this country.  Beyond that, it is your most important right.  Every other right that you have, constitutionally or otherwise, is built on your right to vote.  By staying involved politically and exercising your right to vote, you help preserve American citizens fundamental rights.  If you are wondering what rights I may be referring to, for a few examples take a look at my previous post regarding knowing and exercising your rights.

Preserve your rights and the rights of all American citizens.  Make your voice heard.  Educate yourself and get out there and vote!

Monday, November 5, 2012

What should you do when you get a speeding ticket?

This question comes up frequently and while there is no answer for every case, there are some things you should take into consideration.

How much is your ticket for? While you may get your fine reduced, you probably will have to pay court costs, the amount of which may vary.  You may also have to take off work or find child care expenses, which will add to the total cost of your speeding ticket.  There is also the factor of the time and possibly inconvenience of having to go to court. These factors may balance out or some may weigh heavier for certain people.

This question is a personal decision and each person should consider all of the costs and time associated with both options and possibly consult with an attorney prior to making their decision.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Would you consent to your car being searched?

Do you know your rights?  You should, after my previous post.  However, did you know you waive certain rights when you consent to actions by the police?  For example, if you consent to police searching your car, you may not be able to latter claim they did not have probable cause.

Many people believe they should consent to whatever the police ask them.  They think if they say no, it makes them look suspicious.  It is your RIGHT to refuse consent and force the police to prove they have the proper authority to carry out their actions.  Whether or not you consent to any actions by the police is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly.

You should not assume you will be better off by consenting to any searches.  Your best decision will be to inform the officer you would like to speak with an attorney prior to consenting to anything.

Power of Attorney

Have you appointed someone to be your power of attorney?  Do you know what that means?  It means you have authorized someone to act on your behalf, typically with financial decisions.  It means that if you became incapacitated, you already have someone in place who would handle your finances.

Do you know what happens if you become incapacitated and you do not have a Power of Attorney in place?  It typically, though not always, will result in your family having to go through the legal system and appoint someone to act as your guardian and/or conservator.  This process is expensive and emotionally draining on your family, who is already going through a tough time. 

A Power of Attorney is an important legal document to have in place.  It will save you and your family money, time and stress should anything ever happen to you.  I urge each and every one of you to have a Power of Attorney drafted and let your loved ones know where that document is kept. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What is an Advanced Medical Directive?

Do you know what would happen to you if you were in a bad car accident?  Does your family know what your wishes are?  Do they know whether you would want to remain on life support indefinitely or whether you do not want extreme life saving measures taken?

An Advanced Medical Directive can make it clear to your friends, family and doctors what your wishes are, should you become incapable of expressing those wishes.  You can choose, and make clear to doctors and loved ones, what life saving measures you would want taken.  You can also nominate someone to make these decisions for you, should your desires be unclear. 

Aside from expressing your own wishes and controlling your medical care in the event that you are unable to express your desires, having an advanced medical directive will ease the burden on your family.  Should you become unable to express your wishes, having family members decide what medical treatment you would want can be a huge burden and stressor on your family.  During an emotional time for everyone, it is best to have a written document that clearly dictates how you want your medical treatment to be handled.

If you do not have an advanced medical directive in place, I strongly suggest you discuss this with an attorney to ensure you have control over your future medical treatment. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Know your rights (Miranda Warnings)

You have certain rights that you can exercise when you are in police custody.  These are typically referred to as the Miranda Warnings:  "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you.  You have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you."

Exercise your right to remain silent.  Tell the police officers that you do not want to speak and are exercising your right to remain silent.  Know that if you voluntarily speak to the officers in the future, you may be waiving your right to remain silent. 

Exercise your right to an attorney.  Tell the police officers that you wish to consult with an attorney and have the attorney present during questioning.  If the police officers want to do a line up, tell the police officers you want to have your attorney present.  If they insist on doing a line up, cooperate and be polite but do not draw any attention to yourself. 

Keep in mind that you can exercise these rights at any time during the interview process.  It is important, that while being firm and exercising your rights, you are polite to each person you meet.  You should remain cooperative and noncombative while exercising those rights.  You can still, however, insist that you exercise your rights and remain firm in exercising your right.  Finally, do your best to remember each and everything that takes place, as these details may help your attorney with your case in the future. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Benefits of a Will

Following my previous post, I hope you have all decided it is important for you to create a will.  This post will expand on the previous post and provide you with some of the benefits of having a will in place.

First, you have control.  It is within your power and control, even once you have passed away, to determine who obtains your assets.  You determine who will obtain the necklace that your grandmother has passed down to you, the china set of dishes you and your spouse received on your wedding day, your beloved 1969 camaro, etc.  It is within your power to ensure that the sentimental items you have held onto over the years are given to someone who will appreciate them and pass them down as well.  It is within your control to ensure that your children and grandchildren are taken care of with the money you saved up.  With a will, you have control over your assets after you pass away.

Second, your children are taken care of physically and financially.  By this, I am referring more importantly to minor children who could be left without a parent.  With a will you can determine who you want to take care of your children on a day-to-day basis as well as who will manage their finances until they mature.  In this sense, you have the capability to continue to care for your children, by providing this framework to them, after your death.

The final benefit I will discuss is maintaining familial peace.  Regardless of whether you care who obtains your assets, having a will in place will help prevent your family from arguing over your assets.  While you may think your family would never argue over material items, it is better to prevent the problem by having a will.  With a will in place, you will not have sisters fighting over your wedding ring or brothers fighting over that beloved camaro.  Having a plan set out as to who gets what will prevent this unnecessary tension within your family.

I encouraged each and every one of you to consult with a lawyer and have a will drawn up, even if it is a simple will.   Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss the issues surrounding wills further.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why YOU should have a will

What if something were to happen to you tomorrow?  Do you know where your belongings would go?  Who would inherit your money?  Your house?  Your car?  Who would take care of your children? 

A will is an important thing for anyone to have, whether they currently have assets or not.  With a will, you have the power to determine where your assets go when you die.  You have the power to decide how to take care of your loved ones past your death.  In this blog, I will address some of the reasons people believe they do not need a will.  In a later blog, I will discuss the benefits of having a will.

"I have no assets."  While you may not have any assets today, you could win the lottery tomorrow.  Or, more likely, you will gain assets over time and never stop to think of creating a will.  If you create a will today, even with little or no assets, you will be able to protect your future assets and determine who you want to obtain those future assets.

"I have no children."  When you do have children, it is essential that you have a legal document which sets out who is to take care of your children should something ever happen to you.  While you may not have children today, it is important to prepare today.  When a child is born, it is amazing how hectic your life becomes.  With a new born baby creating a hectic life, the creation of a will can be overlooked.  If you create your will today, with contingencies on what will happen if you have children, you can protect yourself and your future children. 

"I want my assets to be distributed according to statute."  It is understandable to not want to go through the cost of creating a will if you are happy with your assets being distributed according to the default statute.  However, you need to keep in mind that the law is constantly changing and may be very different when you pass away.  A will can protect your wishes even if the law changes in the future.

I believe a will is an important legal instrument and is underused by Americans today.  I hope after reading this blog you will reconsider your need for a will.