Family Member a Victim of Fraud Against the Government? How to Fight Back

Fraud

(US law) Criminal acts commonly result in collateral damage. When the criminal act results in the taking of a human life, the victim’s family may be left with a lost source of income and an emotional toll that can never be overcome. In such cases, members of the immediate family may file a civil action to recover damages. Fraud against the government is no exception, although in such cases, family members have an additional option.

Suing for Wrongful Death

Wrongful death lawsuits entitle certain people, usually immediate family members, executors of an estate, or other appointed parties, to sue on behalf of a person who was killed as the result of another person’s wrongful act. A wrongful act is an illegal or tortious act. In the context of an unnecessary medical procedure, the wrongful act may be fraud; in the context of a procedure that the patient never consented to, the wrongful act may be battery.

The only difference between a person being killed by a drunk driver and by an ongoing Medicare fraud is the chain of events that led to the death and the complexity of the fact pattern. The underlying concept is the same: a wrongful act caused a death and the persons responsible are liable for damages. The law does not require that the wrongful act be directed at the decedent. It is sufficient that a wrongful act occurred and that the decedent died as a result thereof.

Suing Under the False Claims Act

If the death resulted from fraud against the government, victims have another avenue of recourse. 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733, more commonly known as the False Claims Act of 1863, prohibits a long list of conduct committed in furtherance of defrauding the federal government. It is unlawful, among other things, to present fraudulent claims for payment or make false statements in connection with any claims made to the federal government. Billing for unnecessary procedures or defrauding the government in sales of equipment that is claimed to meet certain specifications but does not meet those specifications is a federal crime.

The False Claims Act of 1963 creates a private right of action; any citizen can sue the offending parties for the unlawful conduct. Parties may initiate a claim under the False Claims Act by filing a qui tam action and serving it upon the U.S. Attorney General as well as the local U.S. Attorney. The government has 60 days to investigate the claim. If the government decides to pursue the claim, the plaintiff’s involvement ends and the government prosecutes the case. If the government declines to pursue the case, the plaintiff may still pursue the case privately on behalf of the government.

This opens up another avenue of recovery for victims and their families. Wrongful death lawsuits normally limit damages to expected future income; proving such damages can be difficult and a large damage award may be reduced upon appeal due to the speculative nature of such awards. In contrast, a successful qui tam action will result in a percentage of the recovery being awarded to the original plaintiff. The False Claims Act allows for recovery of treble damages and disgorgement of profits; as a result, the awards from such claims can be high. If the government takes over the case, the plaintiff may receive 15 percent of the settlement or award; if the plaintiff litigates the matter and obtains a settlement or judgment, the plaintiff may be entitled to as much as 30 percent of the damages.

Deterring future conduct is as important as obtaining compensation for a lost friend or family member. If your family member underwent unnecessary procedures or was victimized by defective products as a result of ongoing fraud against the federal government, it is likely that your family member was not the only victim. If nothing is done, your family member may not be the last. Seek legal counsel as soon as possible; consult a tort lawyer for a wrongful death claim and a whistleblower attorney to discuss the feasibility of pursuing a claim under the False Claims Act.

Valerie Stout Cyrus is a freelance writer who frequently researches claims of fraud against the government. She has found that the attorneys at the whistleblower law firm of Goldberg Kohn Ltd, at www.whistleblowersattorneys.com, are experienced in securing judgments against entities that commit fraud against the government.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/20692718@N00/4038317140/

The Adoption Process: Will Your DUI Conviction Affect The Outcome?

Lourdie Adoption Ceremony August 11, 20104

A DUI conviction can have repercussions that go beyond the stigma of having a criminal record. For instance, a drunk driving charge can affect whether a person can continue on with school, get employment, make purchases that require loans like real estate and vehicles, and even rent an apartment. Another thing that a DUI can affect is the ability to adopt a child since quite a few investigating agencies use DUI convictions against parties desiring to adopt. Below are some steps that individuals may take in order to help their cause with adoption authorities.

First – Hire a DUI lawyer

If you are considering adopting a child and you have a DUI conviction, a DUI attorney can assist you with several key steps that may make you a more desirable candidate for adopting. Katz & Phillips, a law firm in Tampa, offers this about defense against DUIs, “…you really might have been perfectly fine to drive, but something went wrong during the arrest process to convince the authorities otherwise.” A critical defense such as this could be the key to getting a DUI conviction expunged from your criminal record. Your lawyer can assist with the following steps:

1. Gather court and Department of Motor Vehicles records to review exactly what anyone who is performing a basic background check will see.

2. Ask a DUI attorney if an appeal is possible on a conviction. While this may not entirely clear a record, it could still be beneficial.

3. Consider having a DUI conviction expunged from the criminal record. While it is no guarantee, this process can help other things besides adoptions, so it is worth the time and effort. Contrary to popular belief, DUI convictions do not automatically clear from a criminal record once seven years have passed. Unless it is expunged, the conviction will appear on most any criminal background check. However, keep in mind that felony DUI convictions are rarely expunged. Also, some states disallow expunging misdemeanors as well.

Ensure that the court record as well as the DMV record is cleared. Otherwise, there is a risk that it will still show up in a background check. Also, while the conviction may not appear on a background check, it may surface during the course of a more thorough investigation. Because adoption agencies operate under more stringent guidelines, they may have access to this information in the same way that a police department or the FBI would. This is because once a DUI is on a record, law enforcement can become aware of it even after expungement when they are checking for prior arrests and convictions.

4. Have the court record examined thoroughly as well as the DMV record to ensure that the conviction was actually expunged.

5. Arrange to complete a homestudy program with regard to the DUI. This will help convince an adoption agency that responsibility was taken for the situation to increase the possibility for a successful adoption.

6. Consult with an adoption lawyer and explain the entire situation so that he or she may recommend how best to proceed.

7. Try speaking with several adoption agencies about the situation. While some agencies require several years after a DUI before they will consider an application, others may have different guidelines to deal with the situation.

8. Consider Disclosing DUI Information because, in the end, if a DUI arrest is not disclosed and is later discovered, an adoption agency may have the right to deny the application automatically. However, if it is explained that the matter was expunged from the record, there could be a possibility that the agency will consider the adoption application.

Both DUI convictions and adoption are complex processes. Therefore, regardless of which avenue is pursued, it is best to first clear the DMV and court records as well as possible with the help of a DUI lawyer. Then concentrate on the adoption process with an expert family lawyer guiding you through the process.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4886622275/

Effects Of Domestic Violence On Children – As Per Age Group:

Effects Of Domestic Violence On Children – As Per Age Group:

Exposure to domestic violence has negative effects on children. To properly understand these effects, it is important to first understand the dynamics of domestic violence. Domestic violence is prevalent in all groups of people regardless of age, education, race, occupational, social-economical and religious factors.Characteristically, it involves a series of repetitive abuse, including psychological, physical, economical and emotional abuse. The perpetrator uses violence to gain control and power through the use of humiliation, intimidation, and fear.

Children get affected by domestic violence differently at various developmental stages. This is because as they grow and develop both mentally and physically, they learn new things at each age. Being a victim or witnessing domestic violence can interfere with the child’s normal growth and threatens their sense of security.

Studies indicate that children who have been exposed to domestic violence have a greater likelihood of experiencing various difficulties than their peers.

These difficulties can be categorized into:

1. Emotional, social and behavioral problems:
Exposure to domestic violence by children is likely to make them anxious and depressed or exhibit antisocial and aggressive behavior. Other negative effects may include higher levels of hostility, low self-esteem, anger, disobedience and oppositional behavior; fear and withdrawal; and poor sibling, peer, and social relationships.2. Attitudinal and Cognitive and problems:
These children are likely to experience difficulties in school and have poor performance in assessments of motor, verbal and cognitive skills. Moreover, they are likely to have a slow cognitive development, limited problem solving skills, lack of conflict resolution skills, aggressive attitudes, and a rigid belief in gender stereotypes such as male domination.3. Long-term (Behavioral) Problems:

Studies indicate males exposed to domestic violence at a tender age are more likely to develop violent behavior; likewise, females are more likely to become victims.Effects Of Domestic Violence On Children – As Per Age Group:Unborn Child (Infants): 

Infants and toddlers learn through play and exploration, how to form secure attachments. If exposed to violence at this age, they learn that the parents are not likely to constantly respond to their needs which hinder the development of a strong bond between the parent and the infant. Thus, the child becomes afraid to explore their world, which interferes with play and slows down their learning process.

The effects to Infants include:


1. Emotional Effects: Hyper-excitability; Anxiety Tension and stress; Helplessness; Terrorized and Traumatized.
2. Cognitive Effects: Brain damage; Nervous system disorders and Developmental delays.
3. Physical Effects: Birth defects, forced abortion or miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth, unwanted by parent and abandoned by parent.The effects to toddlers (children less than one year old):

1. Emotional Effects: Traumatized, jumpy, nervous, hyper-alert, anxious, stressed, and fearful; Emotional deprivation; and Strong need for safety.
2. Cognitive Effects: Unresponsive; Developmentally delayed.

3. Behavioral Effects: Colicky, excessive crying; Injuries and bruises; Chronic constipation; Eating problems; Sleep disturbances; Malnutrition; Digestive problems; Allergies/skin rashesPreschoolers (One To Five Years):Children at this age bracket have started learning how to express most of their emotions, including those of anger and aggression. Thus, children at this age living in situation where there is domestic violence can learn detrimental ways of expressing anger and frustration. Moreover they get confused with the mixed messages their parents are sending them; for instance, they are punished for talking rudely while their parents talk rudely to each other.

The effects to Preschoolers include:


1. Emotional Effects: Fearfulness; easily frustrated; anxiety; fearful of abuser; feels split between parents; hesitant and uncertain; low self-esteem, and feels powerless to protect self.
2. Cognitive Effects: Sleep disorders; disrespect for women; unable to focus; and developmentally delayed.
3. Behavioral Effects: Tantrums; models abusive behavior; mimics abuser’s behavior; parrots name-calling; bedwetting; spitting; acting out behaviors; slaps, kicks, punches, swears; tries to protect mother; protective toward younger children; breaks toys; bullies younger siblings; thumb sucking; and nervous habitsSchool-Age Children (Five To Twelve Years):

The children have a better sense of their own emotions and can also recognize the emotions of others. They are more conscious of their own actions and reactions towards violence inflicted to them and may worry about their father being jailed or their mother being harmed. This distracts the child development process which at this age revolves around social and academic success. They become distracted hindering their ability to learn in school. Moreover, they develop poor social skills and tend to pay more attention to negative responses from their teachers and peers and miss hearing positive responses leading to low self esteem. At this age group, the children begin to have multifaceted thoughts about what is right and wrong. Thus, they are more susceptible to learning and accepting biased, incorrect explanations to support violence.The effects to School-Age Children include:1. Emotional Effects: Cries easily or frequently; lack of trust; lack of normal feelings; feelings of despair; helplessness or hopelessness, lack of empathy or concern for others; and anger towards the parents, especially the mother.

2. Cognitive Effects: Learning disabilities or has special needs; suicidal thoughts; withdrawn or quiet; lack of focus and structure; attracted to cults or pornography; overly responsible or tries to be too adult; and lack of responsibility.

3. Behavioral Effects: Violence towards abuser; Destroys property; Tries to be in control; Violent acting out behavior; Perfectionism; Running away; Lack of boundaries and limitsAdolescents (Teenagers):These children are fully aware of what is right or wrong but have the need to have a sense of belonging. They experience similar problem that the school-age children undergo but at a higher level. They are characterized by secretive and guarded behavior about the situation at home and are also embarrassed of their family members. Thus, they do not invite friends over and are likely to spend most of their free time away from home. Aggression and Denial are the major ways of solving problems.

The effects to Adolescents Boys include:


1. Emotional Effects: Feelings of guilt and powerlessness; withdraws and shuts down; embarrassment and Shame; Needs to control; and Lack of friends.
2. Cognitive Effects: May drops out of school; school attendance problems; Suicidal thoughts; “Macho” attitudes; Thinks violence is okay in relationships;
3. Behavioral Effects: Uses violence to solve conflicts and problems; abuses alcohol and drugs; acting out behaviors; antisocial behaviors; suicidal; problems with relationships; self-harm behaviors; homicidal towards abuser; and sexual problems.The effects to Adolescents Girls include:

1. Emotional Effects: Distrustful of others or have trust issues; blames or hates mother; needy – wants to be taken care of and protected; restlessness and feelings of tension; Feels hopeless or helpless; Confused about role models; self-blame and feels guilt about abuse; manic-depressive and “Numbs out” emotionally.
2. Cognitive Effects: Looks for protection from a male figure; school work problems; Lack of self understanding; Lack of boundaries and limits; mimics or takes on others’ personalities; multiple or split personalities; and Problem with concentrating and focusing.
3. Behavioral Effects: Unable to function at home; Drug or alcohol abuse; Unable to function in relationships; Runs away from home; Pregnancy or early marriage; gets involved in prostitution; distorted perceptions of body and Eating disorders.

Author Bio:
Cally Greene is an online consultant for domestic violence lawyer at JoeyGilbertLaw. She likes blogging about Legal issues,Business law,Family Law and other Legal advice.
You can contact her via Twitter.

A Tampa Collaborative Divorce Can Save You Money

When most people think of divorce, they envision scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer vs. Kramer. Yet more people in Tampa Bay are learning that there is another way, collaborative divorce, which is just a sensible method to resolve private family disputes. However, just as mediation was characterized in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a rich person’s option, many people think that the collaborative process is only for the very wealthy. Not only attorneys, but also a collaborative facilitator and financial professional are retained, so only the very rich can afford the collaborative model, right?

Wrong.

A four year study conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals found that 87% of female participants and 47% of male participants of collaborative family law cases had an annual income of less than $100,000.

Though the collaborative process may not be the cheapest in all cases, it has a substantial opportunity to save you money as compared to the courtroom battles we have all come to associate with divorce.

First, child issues, such as custody schedules and decision-making authority, are some of the most emotional and costliest issues in family law matters. Lawyers in courtroom cases tend to prepare interrogatories (questions) to be answered under penalty of perjury, set depositions, conduct opposition research to put the other spouse in the worst possible light, and prepare for trial. Attorneys’ invoices pile up along each stage of this process. Alternatively, these fees and costs can be greatly reduced in the collaborative process where facilitators, who usually are licensed mental health professionals, can cut through the clutter of emotionally-charged issues and bring the clients (and lawyers) to focus on the future and best interests of the children.

Similarly, a financial professional (who is usually either an accountant or financial planner) adds cost-saving value to the process. In litigated cases, lawyers prepare “requests for production of documents and things” that demand reams of financial documents which could conceivably be relevant. Searching for those documents cost clients tremendous time and money while, when received, the requesting attorney will spend countless billable hours meticulously combing through the documents. In the collaborative process, on the other hand, the financial professional will only request documents that are necessary to make an informed settlement option. His or her expertise in finances enables the financial professional to review and assess the documents and develop settlement options more quickly (and often times at a lower rate) than attorneys.

Finally, the dirty little secret in family law is that the vast majority of litigation cases eventually settle. However, because having a judge decide on the parties’ personal matters always remains a threat, in traditional courtroom divorce the attorneys will always work on two tracks: (i) attempt to settle the case while (ii) conducting opposition research and preparing for the courtroom battle in case the parties cannot come to an agreement. In the collaborative process, attorneys are retained solely for the purpose of settlement and are contractually barred from taking disputes to be decided in court, and so they are not racking up those billable hours planning to fight it out in court.

Now, back to the question, is collaborative divorce only for the wealthy? Absolutely not, and I would be happy to speak with you and talk more about how the process can help your family.

If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative divorce process can help you, schedule a consultation with attorney Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam spearheaded the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez.

Solve Your Divorce Issues by Choosing the Best Family Lawyer

Divorce and other family issues can get very frustrating and messy. Whether you are going through an uncontested or contested divorce, some matters will arise that will need an expert to resolve them. Some couples may consider representing themselves during the divorce proceedings, but the presence and services of a family lawyer can significantly reduce the stress and problems that might occur during the procedure.

Family lawyers can not only represent you in the court but also provide legal assistance and advice to both parties in order to settle divorce issues. Simply put, the services of a family lawyer can help ensure that all decisions pertaining to the divorce are made properly and with the acceptance of both parties.  Here are some ways in which family lawyers help:

Providing legal advice on annulments and divorce

A family lawyer can offer legal advice and explanations of the circumstances under which a couple may seek divorce after a separation. Some states have laws that require for the filing of annulment under certain situations and within a certain period of time after the marriage, and a family lawyer’s advice and services are needed to understand and follow these laws.

Making all the courthouse presentations and filings

There are various laws at federal, state, and municipal levels regarding divorce proceedings and filings, and a family lawyer can ensure that the necessary pleadings and documents are filed properly. They can also represent you in court and put in favorable light through beneficial evidence and testimony, as well as prevent your spouse from presenting irrelevant, false, or misleading information.

Assistance during property division proceedings

It helps to maintain separate debts and accounts as some amount of protection during a divorce, but it is not enough. There are several federal and state laws that define marital property and the separation of this property, and your family lawyer can not only explain these laws but also tell you how it applies to your particular situation.

Helping through child custody and visitation proceedings

Child custody and visitation issues are determined by the various laws and procedures in various states, and family lawyers can explain the procedure in your state, what the laws are, and what your parenting rights are after entering a court order.

Guiding you through child support issues

Once again, the rules and procedures for determining the child support obligations of the non-custodial parent can vary with each state. Your family lawyer can advise about the procedure in your state and the calculations used to determine child support obligations. He or she can also explain the additions and deductions that can be expected to your child support obligation.

About the author: Guest post from a family law blogger – find services of a family lawyer here

Matrimonial property rules cannot be maintained says family lawyers group

Law Commission was backed by the Resolution on need for reform to avoid postcode lottery saying that the current laws on matrimonial property was not sustainable policy choice and the rules should be reformed on a principled basis.

The Family Law Bar Association yesterday questioned Law Commission’s plans to introduce a “clear, principled basis” for sorting out disputes, warning that they could make settlements harder to achieve.

Responding to the commission’s consultation on matrimonial property, Resolution said it shared concerns of the commission about the lack of an ‘objectives clause’ in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

The family lawyers group said there were currently “wide differences of approach” in the way courts across the country dealt with disputes, resulting in a “postcode lottery” on orders for periodical payments raising difficulties in advising some clients, but also the issue of forum shopping.

An expert practitioner would have the knowledge of whether a particular court would transfer a matter back to the home court and the possibility of a different type of order likely to be made against the home courts orders.

Resolution said that unreliable evidence meant that clients were more likely to get a joint lives order if the matter was heard at the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London rather than a less generous order if issued in Birmingham.

The family lawyers group stressed that litigants in person were unlikely to make a starting point for the payment of spousal support from section 25 of the MCA in principle or guidance. The group said that principled reform should take the place of a “reformed discretionary approach” rather than a formulaic calculation.

It favoured “non-absolute limits” on the extent of financial support for former spouses, both on the percentage of net income one should pay the other and the length of time the payments should last.

The group illustrated that the limits should not cause hardship to wives over 55 years of age who have not worked during the marriage. It also said that there was merit in reform to prompt the courts to fully and properly consider the exercise of their powers. The courts normally ignore question of any increase in earning capacity which should be reasonable for a party to expect to take steps to acquire.

Resolution said courts should be under a stronger obligation than that contained in section 25(a) of the MCA to decide whether it would be possible for support to be terminated, but the hardship rule should be retained. A term order could encourage increasing income and earning capacity and recognise the vanishing of the historic gender imbalance in earning capacity.

Resolution added that there could be guidance warning clients not expect to get ‘half’ of the other party’s income, “to provide more certainty, soften the unrealistic expectations of some claimants and avoid discouragement to payers making them seeking to reach agreements on their own or in mediation.

Treat kinship carers like foster carers, says survey

Guest post from family lawyers based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Almost three-quarters of adults agree that kinship carers – grandparents and other family members who are bringing up a child because their parents cannot look after them – should receive similar support to foster carers, says a new nationwide poll.

Boost for kinship carers

The YouGov survey has been welcomed by charities Grandparents Plus, the Family and Parenting Institute and Family Lives, as a massive boost for the estimated 200,000 kinship carers in the UK.

It reveals that:

  • 76% of those surveyed agree or strongly agree that kinship carers should receive practical help from the local authority;
  • 67% agree or strongly agree that kinship carers should receive a financial allowance;
  • 78% agree or strongly agree that kinship carers should receive a financial allowance if they are on a low income; and
  • 60% agree or agree strongly that kinship carers should be entitled to a period of paid leave from work.

Wider family networks

The charities commissioned the poll in the wake of new welfare reform proposals, which they fear could impact on families who have taken on additional caring responsibilities.

“The poll findings demonstrate clear public support for a diversity of family forms in the UK and the importance of drawing on wider family networks in times of strain. Even in austere times, there is public support for valuing the enormous contribution that kinship carers make in bringing up vulnerable children,” said Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute.

Flexible working

The positive poll ratings have been followed by more good news for kinship carers, in the form of the announcement earlier this month that the Government will extend the right to request flexible working to all.

A report by Grandparents Plus last year found that 47% of kinship carers give up work when they take on the care of a child. Forty-one percent are then dependent on welfare benefits, while 60,000 have dropped out of the labour market entirely.

Flexible leave entitlements

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus, welcomed the move.

“This is something that we have been calling for for some time,” she said. “Grandparents who are trying to juggle work and caring for their grandchildren are one of the key groups who will benefit.  One in four working mums rely on them for childcare.”

“The next step is to make it possible for parents to transfer unused periods of parental leave to grandparents, if that’s what families want to do,” she argued. “And to create leave entitlements for those grandparents and other family members who step into the parenting role, keeping children out of care.”

Contact Family Law Solicitors

For specialist advice, contact FLE, family lawyers based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Family court judges fear for their security from parents in courts

The family court judges across England have raised concern over lack of security from being attacked by angry or disturbed parents as often the security provided at the courts were dangerously inadequate.

Though judges have raised such concerns it is very rare for them to be openly critical about the security at the principal registry of the family division in central London and also at district courts around the country.

The concerns have been rising stemmed from the fact that in an incident a female judge was seriously injured in an attack and instances when parents shouted threats at them as well as throwing books and cups.

Speaking to Guardian on anonymity a judge had said that an angry father stood up and shouted anti-semitic threats at him. Another father had thrown a cup of water across the courtroom and another had thrown a book but fortunately the judge was far away from its reach.

Another judge said that he was constantly exposed while working as there was no security in the courtroom and sometimes he was alone with a parent. Generally they sit with a clerk who is mostly an elderly woman and vulnerable herself to make any defence in case of an attack.

He added how they were exposed while moving in corridors between the courtrooms, entering and leaving the building, going to toilets when they are to pass through a public area.

A third judge who has worked in the PRFD and courts across London said most district judges, even those doing highly charged family law cases, do not have courtrooms at all but hear the cases in their chambers with the public sitting around the table, and they don’t have anyone in the court room at all.

Judges said county courts often do not have a courtroom and a retiring room for district judges. This forces them to hear cases in their chambers, with those involved often sitting uncomfortably close, while the lack of a retiring room means judges have nowhere to go to go if it became necessary to escape an aggressive parent.

If anything happens only way of escape is through an adjoining door between the judges’ couirt and that of the other district judge said a family judge in London.

District judge Nicholas Crichton, founder of the family drug and alcohol court at Wells Street family proceedings court in central London, who was given a CBE in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours list, said it was a “recipe for flashpoint” to compel judges to walk through public areas and share corridors. Crichton said it was unfair to put anxious parents under the added stress of close proximity with the judge ruling on their case.

It was a hot spot where emotions run high with parents coming to court feeling criticised about their treatment to their children and possibility of their children being removed from them.

A spokesperson from her majesty’s courts and tribunal’s service said HMCTS took the security issue of judges within courts extremely seriously. And the security system was continually monitored to ensure that it was effective and proportionate and mitigates against risks faced.

Talking finance – and inheritance: post from family lawyers

Guest post regarding finance and inheritance from family lawyers.

Financial conversations are important, but not easy. New research reveals not only the peace of mind created when parents and children discuss inheritance, care needs and retirement planning, but also the struggle to have the conversation in the first place.

According to an Intra- Family Generational Finance Study from Fidelity Investments, the fault lies on both sides. It reveals that while more than nine in 10 (94%) US adult children and their parents agree it is important to have frank conversations about wills and estate planning, care needs or covering retirement expenses, there are significant barriers to even starting these discussions within families.

Why people don’t talk

The top barrier, noted by 30% of parents, is they don’t want their adult children to overly rely on a potential inheritance. And for adult children, 40% say that the top barrier is that they feel it is none of their business to ask their parents about these topics.

The timing of these discussions is also a barrier, reveals the study. In fact, only one in three (34%) parents and their children agree on the best time. Parents are more likely to cite when they near or enter retirement (37%) as the right time, while children indicate that they’d like to have a conversation before their parents retire or have health issues (37%).

Financial miscommunication

Highlighting a vast disconnect between parents and children, the study reveals that 97% of parents and children disagree on whether a child will take care of his or her parents if they become ill.

Major miscommunication also exists when discussing inheritance and estate planning. In fact, children are underestimating the value of their parent’s estate by more than $100,000, on average. Additionally, neither side is effectively communicating about retirement readiness. As a result, one-quarter (24%) of children believe they will have to help their parents financially in retirement, while nearly all (97%) of parents say they will not need help.

The impact of the disconnect

The lack of discussion is having a big impact on families, according to Kathleen A. Murphy, president of Personal Investing at Fidelity Investments.

“Given the economic pressures facing families today, it’s troubling that detailed conversations are not happening, especially among those in the sandwich generation who may be grappling with competing financial priorities ranging from planning for their own retirement and paying for a child’s college education to dealing with eldercare, estate planning and retirement challenges with their parents,” she said.

“Whether it’s a parent facing a shortfall in retirement income or an adult child weighing the tax implications of an inheritance, too often discussing these issues is considered taboo within families, but real emotional and financial consequences emerge when such conversations don’t happen or lack sufficient depth,” she warned.

Benefits of talking about the future

According to Fidelity, conversations about estate planning have an overwhelmingly positive impact. The study found that the peace of mind of parents jumps from 61% to 91% when comparing those parents who have not had detailed conversations with their adult children versus those who have.

On top of this, parents who have had detailed conversations with their adult children feel significantly more at ease about their children’s financial future – 68% compared to only 30% among those who have not had detailed conversations.

This guest post is courtesy of Gibson Kerr Family Law Solicitors in Edinburgh: http://www.gibsonkerr.co.uk/. Contact Fiona Rasmusen and their other solicitors for expert family law and estate planning advice.

How to Prepare for a Custody Trial

(US family law procedure and generally) When a relationship ends, whether it is a marriage or two people living together, the emotional and financial toll it takes on the parties can be overwhelming. The impact of a break up is multiplied when the couple is embroiled in a dispute over custody of their children.

People fail to realize that a judge hearing a child custody case does not know either of the parties or the circumstances that brought them to court. A judge’s decision in a case is based only on the evidence presented by each side in the dispute; therefore, it is essential that you be prepared to provide your lawyer with the information, witnesses and documents she needs to prove that you are entitled to have custody of your children.

Do Not Involve the Children

If the children are living with you, do not bring them to court unless your attorney or the judge instructs you to do so. A child custody case is a dispute between the parents that affects the children. The children should not be made parties to the dispute.

Parents who speak negatively to their children about the other parent in an effort to win the children to their side are only hurting themselves. Judges hearing a custody case will usually speak to the children privately at some point in the proceedings. One reason for the interview is to determine if either of the parents has attempted influence the children.

Maintain a Diary

Your lawyer needs an accurate account of the facts and circumstances in the relationship both you and your partner had with the children. You should prepare a diary for your lawyer of current and prior incidents that have a bearing on the question of custody or the relationships you and your spouse have with the children.

Each diary entry should begin with the date, location and names of people who were present. After this preliminary information, there should be a brief, factual description of what occurred including statements that were made. Keep the description as accurate as possible and limit it to occurrences having to do with the issue of custody.

Witnesses

Witnesses who have information that bears upon your relationship with your child are more important than testimony from your high school classmate saying you were a wonderful person when she last saw you 15 years ago. The following are examples of useful witnesses in a custody case:

• Counselors who have treated you or your child
• Your child’s teachers
• Guidance counselors at your child’s school
• Friends and neighbors who have witnessed your interaction with your child
• Doctors and other health care workers

Documents and Other Evidence

Documents such as letters and photographs that are related to the issue of custody should be gathered and shown to your attorney. Keep in mind that not every piece of evidence can or should be used be used in court, so do not get upset if your attorney decides not to use something you believe the judge should see or hear. For instance, you may have a tape recording of a conversation you secretly recorded between your spouse and the children that your attorney refuses to use in court. Your attorney will probably advise you that such secret recordings are illegal in most states.

Listen to Your Lawyer

A family law attorney knows the custody laws in your state and the rules for the admissibility of evidence in child custody cases. Following your attorney’s instructions and advice is the best way to achieve a successful result.

Karen White knows how stressful custody trials can be. Seeking help from a Dallas family lawyer can bring good results to your divorce and custody trial cases.