Illegal possession of a gun comes with stiff penalties that can put you in quite a predicament. Depending upon where you live, the gun laws you have to adhere to vary as well as what penalties you face for illegal gun possession. While a defense attorney can help you when you are facing an illegal gun charge, you should know the laws for your state.
Property tycoon Didier Thiry has been ordered to pay his ex-wife Alisa Thiry £17 million in a judgement issued by Sir Peter Singer. Due to Mr Thiry’s ill behaviour, which included him acting in a ‘financially predatory fashion’, as well as bombarding his ex-wife with communications throughout the proceedings, the judgement is riddled with references to Thiry’s misconduct. Indeed, Sir Singer described Mr Thiry as an ‘unprincipled rogue’ who had shown a ‘sadistic side to his personality’.
It has been an exciting few weeks in the world of divorce settlements. Less than a month after American Billionaire Harold Hamm was ordered to pay his ex-wife almost $1 billion, the UK’s largest divorce pay-out has hit the headlines as Mrs Justice Roberts ruled that Ms Cooper-Hohn is entitled to £337 million following her divorce from philanthropist Sir Chris Hohn.
Mediation will make the divorce process quicker, fairer and more empowering for both parties, says a family law expert at Manchester-based Kuits Solicitors today to mark the beginning of Family Dispute Resolution Week.
American entrepreneur Harold Hamm, best known for his position as CEO of Continental Resources, has been ordered to pay his ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm, $995.5 million in what has been referred to as one of the biggest divorce settlements in history. Although an enormous figure to most, it is only a fraction of Mr Hamm’s $14 billion empire and Sue Ann plans to appeal the decision on the grounds that it is inequitable. For this reason, the ruling invites an intriguing question – is the Oklahoma County Court’s decision reasonable compared to the conclusion that a court in England and Wales would have reached?
Note also you can see our new guide to some of the best divorce lawyers in the US here.
In basic terms, legal aid helps people gain legal advice or representation when they cannot afford it independently. The legal aid system here in the UK is said to be one of the most expensive in the world, spending £2 billion per year. With the recession and cuts being made across most sectors, it is not surprising that there have been reforms and further changes proposed to legal aid.
The welfare of the child has always been the fundamental consideration for courts dealing with child arrangements following a couple’s separation. The welfare checklist set out in S8 of the Children Act 1989 provides statutory guidance that requires certain factors to be considered. Amongst other things, the wishes and feelings of the child and the child’s needs are considered, so that the most appropriate arrangement is reached. Due to the subjective requirements of each child, extreme care must be taken to ensure that the specific needs of the child are met.
Divorce cases can seriously tug at the heartstrings of family solicitors but it can also be a very stress full process for all parties involved including the solicitor.
With the Law Commission proposing that marital property agreements (MPAs), covering pre and post-nuptial agreements, should be legally binding only last month, it is a fitting time to publish the results of a survey that has been undertaken (by Alex Porter, who announced the statistics first in full here) which analysed the work of legal professionals involved with MPAs. This project is part of a major study led by Dr Laure Sauvé from the University of Essex, School of Law. Her project will analyse the latest report by the Law Commission using a comparative approach. She is currently exploring the differences between English and French laws.
As a Chicago domestic violence lawyer, my first duty is providing all citizens with their Constitutional right to a fair trial, no matter what crime they have been accused of. I am also responsible for ensuring that those who are falsely accused are given back their freedom and their good name. However, I also see the pain of domestic violence – for the victims, the perpetrators, and those who are wrongly accused – and it has made me passionate about putting an end to the problem of domestic violence.
Spanish law query: Can one spouse buy and register a house in the case of a “marital separation in fact”?
It can be incredibly difficult to accept when any relationship finally breaks down, but when it is a marriage that has come to an end, it can be almost impossible to get your head around. What are the most common reasons for divorce? How do you know when it’s right to put a stop to your marriage? And when should you start legal proceedings? Here are a few brief tips to help you on your way during this difficult time.
We all know that divorce is a complicated, emotional and stressful process. Even the most amicable of divorces can still be a difficult matter. Before you file for a divorce in the state of Florida, there are a few things you are going to need to do to get prepared. These steps will help lessen the trauma for all parties involved, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.
Many family law hearings in the UK are held in secret, but more will be published in the future, says the court of protection. Unless there are extremely compelling reason not to, judges will give permission to make the hearing public. More details will emerge from sensitive domestic disputes, even if some of them are anonymised. These new regulations will begin on the 3rd of February. Sir James Munby is the main man who has been pushing for these reforms to the family court system.
This move will improve public understanding about the court process, and hopefully incur greater faith in the system. Public debates about famous cases – such as the pregnant lady who was forced to receive a caesarean – are often misinformed because the facts aren’t readily available. False reporting isn’t always the fault of the media, if they can’t access the details of the hearing. With greater transparency, public debates and articles will be better informed of all the facts. This will hopefully create a less biased account of events.
There are two types of judgements: normally published cases and possibly publishable cases. These categories provide the framework in which a decision is made.
The judge will only publish the hearing if he or she deems that it’s in the public interest to do so. Families under protection, children, and vulnerable individuals that can’t usually make their own decisions, will obviously continue to benefit from anonymity. A judge will choose to keep a judgement or case secret, if this would breach any important anonymity. In many cases, the judge will decide what is appropriate for publication – he or she is not allowed to publish information at the request of a party or the media. The judge must decide that it’s within the public interest.
Is That All?
Exonerated parents or anonymous parties may wish to discuss their experience with the media; sometimes this is advantageous to the case, as it can bring forward more evidence or witnesses. Otherwise, there are strict rules about what the media can or can’t publish from the family courts. Journalists can attend hearings, but they need to obtain the court’s permission if they want to report the case.
There may be details which a journalist isn’t able to publish, due to the sensitivity of the details.
In the court of protection, the hearings are private – the media and the public aren’t allowed in. This is to safeguard the rights of vulnerable people who would suffer unduly if the contents of the case were made public. It seems like this will happen more rarely in the future, as the government is on an anti-privacy binge.
(US family law) One of the first things a couple in the process of divorce will need to know is if the state you live in is a community property state or an equitable distribution state. A community property state allows for all of the property acquired during the marriage to be, loosely speaking, divided in half. An equitable distribution state differs in that it aims to provide a fair and balanced approach based on many different facts about the marriage and both parties.
Domestic violence is a serious issue and should never be discounted as anything else. However, not all of these charges are valid and actually false domestic violence accusations can be quite common, particularly in certain situations. If you are facing false charges of this type of offense, it can be confusing and maddening. However, there is a way to deal with it and ensure that you are not wrongfully accused and prosecuted for a crime you didn’t commit.
If you are a parent involved in a Florida marital dissolution, your relationship with your children typically will be a significant concern. Depictions of toxic highly contested child custody disputes in popular movies and television shows can perpetrate the illusion that most child custody cases are bitterly contested. However, many parents are able to navigate the challenging emotional issues that can interfere with parents’ communication during a divorce to achieve a mutually agreeable parenting plan.
When an amicable timeshare arrangement can be constructed based on reasonable negotiations of both parents, both the parents and kids generally will benefit. While the benefit to kids of having their parents deal with one another in a positive cooperative fashion might be apparent, the parents also benefit because they will tend to arrive at more stable and acceptable parenting plan arrangements than a parenting plan imposed by a judge after highly contested litigation of custody issues.
While there are certainly custody cases that cannot be resolved amicably, we have provided an overview of benefits that can be derived from the amicable resolution of custody disputes:
- Preservation of Financial Resources: When parties are involved a contested divorce, high conflict custody cases can be one of the most costly aspects of a divorce. A child custody evaluator may need to be appointed with the cost of the custody evaluation paid by the parents. If the parents cannot cooperate on simple parenting issues, the parties may be forced to return to court to handle matters that are often resolved informally between the parties and/or their Florida child custody attorneys without the need for a court hearing. If the case is particularly egregious, the case may even require a full scale trial.
- Lack of Finality: While the divorce process can be amicable, a marital dissolution is still a chapter in the lives of most that they would like to conclude. If the judge is forced to impose a parenting plan, one or both parties may be extremely unsatisfied with the judgment. This dissatisfaction may result in one or both party’s violating the terms of the judgment so that contempt proceedings are necessary to obtain compliance by the offending party. Further, mutual discontent with the parenting plan also may make the parents more inclined to repeatedly return to court to seek modification of the terms of the custody and timeshare arrangements. While a parent must be able to establish a substantial and material change in circumstances to justify an actual change in the judgment, a parent may continue to file modification requests making it difficult for the parents’ to move on.
- Positive Communication between Parents: When parents develop the ability to communicate and deal with each other effectively, this communication will permit the parties to more effectively communicate about issues concerning the kids and to coordinate their efforts when issues arise. Parents who are able to communicate effectively can obtain reasonable adjustments in the parenting plan without the need for court intervention.
- Minimizing Adverse Impact on Kids: While the divorce process is difficult for kids, it can be much easier when kids are shielded from animosity between their parents. A wealth of studies have shown that children fair better when their parents deal with each other in an amicable and reasonable way than during bitterly contested custody cases. While divorce may end marital status, it does not terminate the need to continue co-parenting so a functional co-parenting relationship can facilitate more effective parenting.
Because Florida child custody lawyers recognize the value of the amicable resolution of custody issues, they can help you navigate the emotional roadblocks that often derail the constructive negotiation of parenting plans when parties proceed without legal representation in custody cases.
In November 2013, Tyler Nelson and Pamela Nelson of Tampa, Florida, sat down for an interview with The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine. The Nelsons had decided to Divorce using the Collaborative Process, as they did not want to fight in Court and they wanted to focus on the best interests of their daughter. Tyler was joined by his collaborative attorney, Adam B. Cordover, and Pamela was joined by her attorney, Joryn Jenkins. The interview was conducted by carl Michael rossi.
You can find the full interview at The World of Collaborative Magazine, and you can find excerpts below.
Tyler: A child needs her mother and father, even if they’re not together…Pamela was the one who found out about the collaborative process and told me about it. You know, you’re always going to have some kind of fear. Is this going to work out like it should? What is everyone going to have to do to make this work out? But as soon as I spoke with Adam about everything, all of my fears were gone. He explained everything and the way it was going to work, how it was going to work. I’m pretty sure Pam felt the same way, as soon as she spoke to her lawyer, she probably went through everything. That’s the one good thing about our lawyers, that they explained everything that was going to happen before it happened.
Pamela: Not everybody knows about collaborative divorce, yet. We really didn’t know until it was explained to us. It was a better process for us, rather than go to court and fight.
Tyler: Everything that needed to be addressed, has been addressed…Everything that we wanted to agree on, we did, and everything that we wanted put down on paper, it was.
Pamela: We also have different visitation rights with our daughter. More than, likely, other people have. We already had that situated, and we just needed to put it on paper. It was kind of different than normal people, where they only see their kids every weekend. We do our schedule every week, and we split the holidays. We had to work that out, and put that on paper.
Pamela: The judge actually said that she agreed that we were doing it the best way and that we were dealing with the divorce in a good way. Instead of people fighting and it being a bad thing, it was actually a good situation.
Adam: It was interesting that, at the end of that final hearing, Tyler and Pamela had their pictures taken with the judge. It was described afterwards as being not so much like a divorce setting, but strangely enough kind of like a wedding setting. They had their picture taken with the officiating person. Judge Lee was fantastic and was praising Tyler and Pamela for dissolving their marriage in a way where they keep their focus on their children and not on fighting. To divorce in a way that
was in the best interest of their daughter.
Joryn: I can’t remember doing another divorce where the judge congratulated the parties afterwards, and I’ve been doing this for thirty years.
Tyler: (regarding an interdisciplinary team) They told me about the financial manager [Monicas Ospina, CPA], and she was great. So was the psychologist [Jennifer Mockler, Ph.D.], she was great. They were all great.
Pamela: [The financial professional and mental health professional] were very helpful. They helped us with our tax returns, to see who should file for dependency exemptions to get the most out of it. And the mental health professional helped us stay on the same page with our daughter to make sure that we were doing the right thing. The psychologist made sure we were on the same page in how we were raising our daughter and determine what’s best for her.
Pamela: (regarding the collaborative process) There’s no arguing, you know, there’s not really fighting or going back and forth or going to court or having the records be there out in public. There’s more privacy. I would definitely recommend it to anybody considering divorce.
Tyler: I have to agree with her…If you go and do the collaborative divorce, you have a lawyer there…They are not trying to make us fight. They are just there to write down what we want, and that’s the best thing about collaborative.
Tyler: We all sat down and talked. There was no arguing.
Pamela: The professionals worked around our schedules instead of us being court ordered to go to court on certain times and dates.
Pamela: (regarding going to the state-mandated parenting class) Everyone else was crying and hated their ex and wanted to kill them and I was like “well,
we’re friends, and everything is good.”
Tyler: “If anybody is thinking about doing a divorce, they should look into a collaborative divorce instead of jumping into it and going to court and fighting.”
Adam: “What I found excellent about this process and this couple, as opposed to the court-based divorces that I generally go through, is that when we were sitting around the table together with the mental health professional and financial professional, and we were talking, we weren’t just talking “civilly.” We were talking in earnest. We were actually just joking around at a few times and able to communicate in ways that you just couldn’t imagine doing in other divorce processes, even at a mediation table when there is the threat of litigation.
Joryn: “It is a much more protected environment, I think. It freed me up, and I’d like to think Adam, as well, to feel like we were teammates. We didn’t have to be adversaries, even though we were both representing different interests.”
Adam B. Cordover, Joryn Jenkins, Monica Ospina, and Jennifer Mockler are all members of Next Generation Divorce, formerly known as the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay. Next Generation Divorce is made up of professionals dedicated to respectfully resolving family disputes.
The day that you most dreaded in your divorce has come—the receipt of your attorney’s billing statement. After having put it aside, and having found ten other things to open in its place, you are left with the one, unopened envelope, bearing your attorney’s logo, and certainly carrying no news of anything good. You carefully open the envelope; you are surprised by how many pages fit into that one envelope. Unfolding the pages of the billing statement, there it is for you to see: every single minute spent on your case, either detailed so precisely, you find it irritating that your lawyer would have been so picayune, or detailed so generally, you cannot understand how that much time was purportedly spent, doing so little. And what is the only thing missing? The majority of your initial retainer.
As a St. Petersburg practicing attorney with 26 years of experience in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, the last twenty years having been spent in family/criminal and personal injury law as Attorney Hanks, P.A., I am here to tell you that I take no greater interest or appreciation in creating that billing statement, than you did to open and read it. And not matter how much I prepared you for this moment when you first read and signed my fee agreement, you likely did not realize the math involved: .10, the lowest hourly percentage for which most attorneys will bill, when applied to a $275.00 hourly rate, equals $27.50. Ouch. Read your letter to me? $27.50. Sent you that email? $27.50. That time, last week, when you called me to ask about your hearing date? $27.50. And that is just at that hourly rate. Applied to the higher hourly rate of attorneys in bigger cities or in bigger firms, those small activities could run $35.00 each ($350.00 per hour), $45.00 each ($450.00 an hour), and so on. How quickly then, will your retainer be exhausted?
So, how can you prevent this? What can you do? My first suggestion, at least if you are not already in an hourly billing arrangement, is to ask your attorney for a flat fee quote, for part or all of your case. This is not as unusual as it may sound. Criminal Defense fees are standard flat fee arrangements. Personal Injury and Probate fees are usually flat fee arrangements as well, though these will be based on a percentage of the recovery or the amount of the assets. Professionally, I have had my fill of hourly billing arrangements, even in family law cases. No client wants to see how much I am charging for an email response and I do not want to account for every email I send a client. In this age of electronic communications, many of emails are sent when I am out of the office, either in Court waiting for a hearing, in a break between depositions, or even out to dinner with my family. To have to account for them the next day or days after, becomes a burden.
For the attorney, the basis for a flat fee in a family law case, whether the case is a divorce, child custody, child support or paternity case, is the same as the basis for a flat fee in a criminal case. Each case is going to have the same initial, basic components, and the same, initial procedures. For my clients, in a Florida family law case, these are the pleading stage, the exchange of mandatory disclosure (financial documents), and the attendance at an initial, family mediation conference. I know the amount of time each one of those actions takes, both before in preparation, during, and upon its conclusion. No matter what the dynamics of the case, these three elements will be present. For the client, the flat fee is somewhat of a relief. They know that their case, at least up to a point, will cost “X” amount of dollars. I say up to a point, because mediation may not settle all of the issues in a case. Depending on what issues are left over to be tried, then different amounts of time will be needed to bring the case to a conclusion. But even in those situations, I will try to provide my client with a flat fee quote for their representation beyond the mediation, and through a trial.
But what if you are already in under an hourly billing arrangement, how do you get the most out of your retainer?
1. Understand The Billing Arrangement. Recognize that you are under an hourly billing arrangement. Recently, I had a divorce client, who had received a billing statement tell me, “I didn’t know you billed for emails or phone calls.” Well, most family lawyers do, as our time I one of the things we are selling. Whether we spend ten minutes in a phone hearing on your behalf, or ten minutes answering your email, the cost is the same. Therefore, clients should only contact an attorney, when he or she absolutely needs advice or information. If you call me to ask if there is anything new in your case, I will be happy to tell you that there is no new update to provide you, but I have to charge you for having had that phone conference.
2. The Minimum Fraction of Time: Keep in mind what I wrote earlier, that the minimum slot of time for which an attorney will generally bill you, is .10—six minutes or one tenth of an hour. If you send me five separate, short emails to review, you will spend much more of your retainer than you would have spent, had you sent me one longer email to review. The same applies to phone calls. Ten phone calls over two weeks, will cost much more than one longer phone conference, or even an office conference.
3. The Attorney’s Assistant or Paralegal. Whenever possible, is to speak to the attorney’s assistant or paralegal, instead of the attorney. My hourly billable rate in St. Petersburg, Florida, is $275.00 an hour, but I bill my paralegal at $75.00 an hour. If you want to confirm your hearing date or time, you can get this information from my paralegal at a much better rate, than getting me on the phone. Now this will not work for anything that requires legal advice or consultation. In those instances, the paralegal should put you through to the attorney, but you will then get billed for having spoken to both. However, for any time that you are simply seeking procedural information, contact the paralegal or legal assistant. He or she can inform you just as easily as the lawyer can, and at much less of a cost.
4. Follow instructions. This would seem to be unnecessary to relate, but I have found this is the source of the greatest increase in billable time, and the greatest reduction of a retainer. It is, though, quite basic, and at the heart of any successful representation. Comply with your attorney’s instructions. When your attorney asks you to provide certain documents, provide them. I have had clients who have refused to provide many of the financial documents necessary for mandatory disclosure (tax returns, bank statements, etc..), on the belief that those records are either not relevant to the case (Florida’s financial disclosure requirements are the same—whether it is a new divorce or a modification of an older custody judgment), or the client believes the records should not be seen by the other party, for the sake of confidentiality. This leads to additional and unnecessary communications with me or my paralegal, then to letters and motions to compel filed by the other side, and finally to an actual hearing, so that the client can be told by the family law judge, what I have been telling him or her all along—provide the documents. And at that point, the client has not only run up his or her own legal fees, but now may be subject to paying the other side’s attorney’s fees, for having to take that step. It is simply a waste of a retainer, and potentially hampers the progress of the case on the actual issues such as alimony, child support or child custody, if the client has to raise more money to continue the representation.
If you follow these steps, you can guarantee you will make your own legal representation more affordable and more effective. And as a result, you will be more satisfied with your attorney, and more likely to refer a friend with a divorce, time-sharing or other family law case. So, both you and your lawyer come out ahead.
Mark Hanks, Attorney Hanks, P.A.
Your Family Attorney
St. Petersburg, Florida
I have had potential clients ask me, often with a cautious hope, whether their particular type of legal matter, is something that they can handle for themselves. It is a question one would never ask a physician, an electrician, or an auto mechanic, but one that I believe, is often asked of attorneys. I tell those individuals that the answer to that question depends on how comfortable they are with understanding and researching the law, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, rebutting legal arguments, and making a persuasive argument to the judge. Really, though, it is how quickly a person can gain and condense the specialized education and 26 years of experience that I have, into the time that person has to prepare for their hearing.
Editors’ note: see our guide to some of the best US divorce attorneys here.
Recently, I appeared in Hillsborough County Court, in Tampa, for a Small Claims Pretrial Conference before Judge Gabbard. My client was being sued over a nominal credit card debt, the type of case that over the past five years, has been prosecuted with greater and greater frequency. Like many different types of court divisions, such as traffic, criminal or even some family divisions, the court calendar was a cattle call. Of that the cases on that calendar, two individuals had decided to represent themselves. The first was being sued, on behalf of a debt to a person who had owned the company he had recently purchased. As the plaintiff was not suing the company, only the former owner, this was a debt for which the individual standing in Court was not responsible, and legally, could never be held responsible. The plaintiff’s attorney was not about to point this out to the defendant, though he did try to change the subject whenever the judge tried to imply to the defendant—judges cannot give legal advice to either party, that the plaintiff had sued the wrong person. Without any help or advice from an attorney, the defendant proceeded into a side room of the courtroom, and began discussing the terms of a repayment plan for settling a debt that he did not owe. The second, unrepresented litigant, was a young woman suing someone on a debt. In explaining to the judge why she had not gotten service on the defendant, she expressed frustration that the Sheriff’s process server did not do more to serve the defendant, when she was convinced the address she had provided was correct. Again the judge could not advise this plaintiff, all she could do was reschedule the case for another pretrial conference, and tell the plaintiff to make sure she obtained service on the defendant.
In less than five minutes after their hearings, I told each of these strangers what they needed to know before and for the next time each comes to Court—perhaps to the irritation of the collection agency attorneys gathered in the Court room. The two pro se litigants were fortunate that I did so, but the point is, neither of these individuals had any business going into Court without an attorney, or without even having consulted an attorney.
While these situations played out in the civil division of the Hillsborough County Court, I have encountered similar situations in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, especially in the context of Family Law cases. I think in every domestic violence calendar (the hearings in which a Family Law Division Judge rules on entering or dismissing injunctions for the protection against domestic violence (commonly known as, “restraining orders”), that I have attended, at least one unrepresented respondent agreed to an injunction being entered against him. Similarly, at least one unrepresented petitioner agreed to dismiss her attempt to get an injunction. In those situations, no testimony is taken, the judge moves onto the next case, and I am not sure the individual parties know exactly what just happened. And for those injunction cases in which one party has an attorney and the other does not? There is clearly a mismatch, as the one without the attorney is required to follow the same procedural and evidentiary rules that govern the actual attorney. As long as the lawyer is on his or her game, the pro se litigant will be kept from testifying to what someone else told him or her (hearsay) and kept from showing the judge what some law enforcement agency wrote about the incident (more hearsay). From a professional standpoint, this makes for a very effective and satisfying presentation on the part of the attorney, and a very ineffective and even frustrating presentation on the part of the person representing himself or herself. Why then, do pro se litigants go into that dark night so easily and willingly?
I am sure finances have much to do with it. But given the number of attorneys out there, it is hard to believe a party cannot find an attorney whose fee requirements, or payment plan, can fit their budget. And even if one cannot afford to have an attorney there beside them, at least they should consult with one beforehand, to get a better idea of their rights and how to handle the hearing. I am willing to bet that almost every private and practicing attorney in a county, state or country, will sit down with a potential client, upon request, and advise them of their rights in the area of the attorney’s expertise. Depending on the attorney and the attorney’s experience, it might cost a consultation fee, but the knowledge the person receives, will be well worth the value—both when walking in the courtroom, and when walking out.
Your Family Lawyer
Attorney Hanks, P.A.