Family Law Mediation

How Family Mediation Can Help You

Life can throw several horrible things at us – sometimes all at once – and when it comes to dealing with the legal aspects of a divorce or family break down, it is often a completely distressing and overwhelming time. You can often feel all alone and like you have no one to turn to for help, or that you’ve been let down by those who you usually turn to. However, there is a way of reopening communication lines and sorting out your legal differences in a calm, relaxed environment: it’s called family mediation, and it can help you during all kinds of circumstances. Here are just a couple of its possible benefits;

If You’re Getting A Divorce Or Separating From Your Partner

If your marriage or civil partnership has come to an end, family mediation can help you to organise things such as division of your property, pension and other assets, financial issues, and arrangements for any children you may have. Mediators understand that things can be uncomfortable and can even get hostile while discussing such important issues, which is why they’re there to make sure that everyone involved remains calm and collected. As the mediator will have a general understanding of family law [and if you make sure that you appoint a jointly accredited family mediator/lawyer, then they will be fully trained and highly experienced in family law], they’ll also be able to provide you with information concerning the legal process of divorce and everything that comes with them. With enough successful mediation sessions, you can avoid lengthy court battles that can drain you of your energy and money, and if you do have children, showing them that problems can be overcome in a friendly, amicable matter can teach them valuable life lessons and help them come to terms with the divorce without worrying about their parents fighting with each other.

If Your Parents Are Getting A Divorce Or Separating

Divorce can be a stressful time for the couple separating, but it can often be much worse for their children. If your parents are currently going through a divorce or separation, it can be difficult to know where you’re going to fit in with their lives, and uncertainties about the future can leave you feeling confused or depressed. This is often made worse by not knowing how to talk to your parents about it, or not being able to communicate with both of them at the same time. This is where family mediation comes in: with these types of sessions, you can sit down with both of your parents and discuss every aspect of their divorce and how it will affect you personally – for instance, where you’ll live and how often you’ll see the parent you don’t live with. This is the perfect opportunity to let your parents know exactly how you feel and what your main concerns are. Just talking about it and getting it off your chest is likely to help you, and knowing the thoughts and feelings of each other will help you all move on with your lives, no matter how hard it may seem at the moment.

Whatever your reasons for needing family mediation, these sessions can help you come to terms with difficult events in your life, and can improve your communication with those people who you may not have been able to speak to before. Take a look online to find your nearest jointly accredited family lawyer/mediator, and don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have about how the mediation process works.

Tim Bishop is senior partner of Bonallack and Bishop – a law firm whose specialist divorce team working in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and the Midlands includes two jointly accredited family lawyer/mediators and three collaborative lawyers. For more information about how family mediation or collaborative law can help you, visit their specialist website at or call them on 01722 422300.


Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence: A Hidden Problem of Epidemic Proportions

The shocking photo of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s husband choking her in a restaurant began a worldwide dialogue on domestic violence in 2013. Most victims of domestic violence do not get such public attention. Instead, they feel shame and hide their abuse from family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Or, both the victim and the abuser make excuses, as Lawson’s husband Charles Saatchi did when he told the press“it was a playful tiff.”

The downplaying of such incidents by both perpetrators and victims is why many people are unaware of how serious and prevalent domestic violence is across the globe.Sadly, domestic violence against women is a plague in many societies. In a widely-published study from June 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated“intimate partner violence affects 30% of women worldwide.” Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, stated“These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

Domestic Violence

In her statement, Dr. Chan highlights an important fact: while men do make up a small portion of the victims of domestic violence, by far the majority of victims are women.

What Causes Domestic Violence?

Surprisingly, many people blame the victims of domestic violence, thus releasing the aggressor from the responsibility of the violence committed. Victims are either accused of directly “provoking” their abusers or simply seen as given what they deserve; most often, they even start blaming themselves for the attacks.

In reality, there are many causes of domestic violence, and often there are multiple causes for a single incident. Researchers have identified several specific factors that seem to play a role in creating episodes of domestic violence or in shaping individuals to have a greater propensity toward domestic violence. These are just a few of the primary causes:

    • Drugs and alcohol. According to the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & Other Addiction Services, violent men abuse drugs and alcohol at three times the rate of nonviolent men. However, the Stop Violence against Women project of The Advocates for Human Rights reminds us that nearly half of all incidents of domestic violence do not involve alcohol. Instead, “some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent.”

    • Jealousy. In 2012, Ohio State University researchers published findings in the Journal of Women’s Health that showed a strong correlation between a man’s sexual jealousy and incidents of domestic abuse and violence.

    • Low self-esteem. Many abusers suffer from low self-esteem, which not only can create the jealousy explained above, but can cause them to feel threatened by their partners. They then react with violence to try and assert their strength and sense of control.

Domestic Violence Lawyer

  • Traditional beliefs. Many analysts argue thattraditional gender roles play a role in domestic violence, because women are socialized to be passive while men are socialized to be “hyper- masculine.” The University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center explains thatsuch gender roles create “unrealistic and strict expectations” that then give “license for the batterer to be violent.”

  • Learned behavior.Toby D. Goldsmith, M.D., writes on PsychCentral“children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict between people. Boys who learn that women are not to be valued or respected and who see violence directed against women are more likely to abuse women when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimized by their own husbands.”

What Should You Do If You Are A Victim of Domestic Violence?

If you are a victim of abuse or domestic violence, it’s imperative to understand that you are not alone, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people find themselves trapped in such situations through no fault of their own. These are five things you can do right away to take back control of your life:

Domestic Violence Attorneys

  • Call 911 and report the incident. In order to secure protection and to establish a record of incidents, you must report what happened to the police. The police can even remove the abuser from the environment to ensure your safety.

  • Get to a safe place away from your abuser. It may take all your strength and willpower to do this, but it is very important that you protect your own health and safety and that of your children or other dependents.

  • Get medical attention if necessary. Even if you think that your bruises or other injuries are minor, you may have internal injuries that can create complications later. Also, medical personnel are trained in spotting incidents of domestic violence and can document your case and connect you to important resources.

  • Contact a localdomestic violence shelter or advocacy group that can help you learn your legal rights, find a place to stay, and even file a protective order against your abuser.

  • Get support from friends and professional counselors. Support systems will help you in ways you may not anticipate.

What Should You Do If Someone You Know Is a Victim of Domestic Violence?

It is always tempting to look away from or avoid getting involved in domestic violence between others, for fear of our own safety. But if you know someone who is suffering from domestic abuse, heor she may not have the strength or courage to stop it – they may need someone to step in to help them.

In their explanation of the “Myths and Realities of Domestic Abuse”, the Center Against Domestic Violence at the University of Arizona College of Law states“domestic abuse is against the law, and that makes it everyone’s business. Assaults within the family are as much of a crime as assaults outside the family.” Therefore, intervening to stop and prevent abuse is not only the right thing to do, but it can also be regarded as a civic responsibility.

So call the police and report the crime—because that’s what domestic violence is, a crime. You don’t need to jump in between an abuser and his or her victim to do this. With a simple call, you just might save someone’s life.

About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.


Florida Needs to Open Its Doors to Adoption Info

Florida Adoption Laws

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We have all heard the old saying: “when one door closes, another one opens.” However, when it comes to Florida adoptees finding their birth parents, it seems that too many doors are slammed shut.

The Internet has made it easier than ever before for adoptees to find their birth parents. There are numerous Florida adoption registries and databases that can be used as references and social media has provided another great way for birth parents and adoptees to connect. In many states, birth records that were once sealed are now open, giving full access to adoptees to find out vital information about their birth parents.

However, Florida doesn’t happen to be one of those progressive states.

The History of Open Adoptions

Actually, most adoptions used to be open adoptions until the twentieth century. Adoption was seen as a process where one family who potentially couldn’t afford to house and feed all their children had them adopted by another family as “an apprentice.” The families met each other and often stayed in contact. Adoptions were very informal – if a woman unexpectedly became pregnant, she could give the child to whomever she wanted. There were no adoption agencies or intermediaries who facilitated the process. No legal papers were signed and there was no government involvement. However, there was also no way to check on the welfare of the child.

During the Victorian era, everything changed. An unwed mother was often sent away from her family to have her baby in secret. She was perceived a “loose” and “immoral” and her child was often taunted with names like “illegitimate” or “a bastard”.

In 1941, the US Children’s Bureau adopted a practice where birth records were sealed for confidentiality reasons, including the child’s original birth certificate. Another birth certificate was issued with the adopted parent’s name only and the original adoption record was sealed. Often adopted children didn’t even know they were adopted and grew up believing their adoptive parents were their biological parents.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the shame placed on unmarried women began to ease and women started wanting to choose the adoptive parents. At the same time, many children who were adopted wanted to know their medical histories and began to search for their biological parents. Societal rules changed once again and the trends began to move toward more “open adoptions” which in fact was a new term for an old practice.

According to the Adoption Institute, 40% of adoptions are now mediated, 55% are open and only 5% are closed. In fact, it has become so prevalent that 95% of adoption agencies now offer open adoptions.

Florida’s Views on Open Adoptions

Although open adoptions have become more popular, birth mothers in Florida and many other states have no legal rights to have ongoing contact with their children. Instead, what is known as an Ongoing Contract Agreement is formed, which is an agreement between the biological parents and the adoptive parents to have informal ongoing contact. This arrangement is not a legal binding contract. If the adopted parents decide to move or change their contact information, they are under no legal obligation to update the biological parents.


Because some people still hold to the notion that openadoptions will lead to an increase in abortion rates or that “closed adoptions” are better for women victimized by rape or incest. According to Jeanne Tate, a Tampa adoption attorney, “we have to balance the rights of adoptees to know about their past with the rights of the birth parents to confidentiality and anonymity when they chose adoption.” However, this type of rational makes it more difficult for children who are adopted to find their birth parents.

Only four states – Kansas, Alaska, Oregon and Alabama – allow unconditional adoptee access.In Scotland, adoptions have been open since 1930 and in England since 1975. Sweden, The Netherlands, and Germany are just a few of the countries that don’t prevent adoptees from accessing their own birth records. Without a doubt, Canada and the United States are far behind in opening adoption records.

A Case for Open Adoptions in Florida

Currently, Florida only has four types of adoption that are legally recognized: the entity adoption (where an agency or intermediary is involved), the step-parent adoption, the close relative and an adult adoption. Although more and more adoptions are conducted with an Ongoing Contract Agreement, Florida and many other states have yet to legalize this process even though studies show that open adoptions are preferable.

This antiquated thinking works to the disadvantage of all parties. Children who are adopted do not have access to their medical histories and too often grow up feeling abandoned, with no answers to some important questions and no contact with birth relatives. Birth mothers feel guilty and depressed if they can’t keep tabs on the welfare of their child moving forward. And for the adopted parents, they may be left to wonder what the birth mother’s intentions are moving forward.

Since adoptions are controlled at the state level, adoptive parents often have to gain approval from the state in which the child is being adopted and the state where the child will reside. This creates legal confusion.

Ideally, there will be federal laws governing adoptions that allow both open and closed adoptions. There should be a single standard for adoptions nationwide to eliminate the stress and confusion that currently plagues the adoption community.

**Disclaimer: Under Florida State Law, there is no such thing as “Open Adoption”, “Closed Adoption”, or “Semi-Closed Adoption”. We use these terms herein since they are popular terminologies, however again, they have no legal meaning under Florida State Law**

About The Author
Jeffrey A. Kasky, Esq. is a Florida adoption lawyer and Vice President of One World Adoption Services, Inc., a Florida-licensed not-for-profit child placing agency. Jeff’s diverse career experiences include co-authoring the book, “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before … Choosing Adoption” with Robert A. Kasky, Florida-certified law enforcement officer, and involvement in the autism community, including a TV show focused on helping families with legal issues related to autism called “Spectrum at Law” on The Autism Channel. A practicing attorney since 1995, he has worked on more than one thousand adoption cases.

Divorce Law

Theres no such thing as a ‘good divorce’

divorce lawSix out of ten parents do not believe that a “good” divorce exists, new survey findings suggest. The findings, from a poll by the counselling charity Relate, found that the majority of parents who have been through a separation do not agree that there is such a thing as a good split.

A similar number of those asked also said that although they had tried to minimise the suffering of children involved, the separation had a negative effect. The survey also highlighted the lengthy process involved in a marital or relationship split, with only four in ten saying that their separation had been complete within a year. 10% of those asked revealed that a separation had taken more than five years to complete.

The chief executive of Relate, Ruth Sunderland, highlighted the potential negative impacts of parental separation on children, suggesting that it can cause school problems, mental and physical health issues, and alcohol misuse. She added that “having strong relationships that go the distance in good times and bad and knowing how to manage the separation process can improve outcomes for everyone.”

The study also found that the Christmas spirit appeared to have had little effect in holding relationships together, with the first Monday of January seeing more than 19,000 calls to Relate. This was a rise of 53% compared with the first working day in December. This day has become known as “Divorce Day”, with many law firms regularly suggesting that they are inundated with such inquiries early in the New Year. This year’s Divorce Day figures were up by half on last year’s total, indicating that the nickname is becoming more and more applicable.

Relate’s findings support a previous study by Netmums, the parenting website, which suggested that divorce and separation has a much more serious effect on children than parents acknowledge or recognise.

Further down the relationship separation spectrum, government plans to remove legal aid in family law cases means that firms are beginning to offer reduced price services.

The mediator Marc Lopatin is one such law professional, having set up a service which he believes can cap legal fees at £1,600 per party. The package can be found online at


This article was written by K J Smith Solicitors, specialist family solicitors in Reading, London, Windsor and Henley-on-Thames.

Elder Law

How to Help an Aging Parent Qualify for Medicaid

“Medicaid” is an entitlement program (meaning the US government gives it away to people). It is, however, not a “social insurance” program in the way that Social Security and Medicare are. Social Security are automatically available to you once you reach a certain age, and there are no additional requirements. You also have to pay in to those programs through automatic deductions from your paycheck.

Medicaid on the other hand is a program funded through both the federal and state governments that allows for health insurance, medical care, and cash payments in some cases. However, in order to qualify for Medicaid, a person must meet specific financial and/or medical standards. The programs cost the state government a lot of money, and so the state’s guidelines are strict. Each county’s Board of Social Services (or County Welfare Agency) administers these guidelines very carefully, although sometimes there is variation in some of the marginal issues depending on which county you go to.

When this blog discusses “Medicaid” in an elder law context, though, what is mainly being referred to is something called the “Medicaid Only” or “Medically Needy” programs. They mean that an applicant is only looking for the government to pay for the cost of care, and not to provide cash or other benefits (food stamps or the like).  Each of those programs have different asset limits but they are certainly lower than the assets most seniors currently have saved for retirement.

In short: If you see the word “Medicaid” used without reference to assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, some of the information presented there might not be accurate for your particular case.

The answer to this question is complex, but given a little help from these posts, and hopefully some consultation with a good elder law attorney, we will be able to sketch out what is needed so your parent can qualify for Medicaid (also known as “Medicaid Only”) services for medical care in New Jersey. Eligibility for Medicaid for seniors has two facets financial and medical. The medical factors are usually handled by the facility itself, and require paperwork to be filled out by medical personnel (who again are typically employed by the facility). The financial factors are of course within the control of the applicant and his/her family, and we will be discussing them in great detail in future posts.

The baseline rule is that a Medicaid recipient can only have $2,000 in what are called “countable assets.” That number is preposterously low for the vast majority of New Jersey residents, and the key to making that number more palatable is to determine what is “countable.” Medicaid planning is, at its most basic level, the art of converting “countable” assets to “non countable assets,” exempting as much as possible from the grasp of the Medicaid program. Future posts will discuss what “countable assets” are, what exceptions there are to those rules, and how a skilled attorney can start to use those exemptions to a client’s advantage.

About the Author

Bernie Clark is the Marketing Manager for Maselli Warren, a law firm boasting an experienced team of family law and divorce attorneys in New Jersey. The attorneys at Maselli Warren regularly write and present on a variety of topics related to family and elder law.


Gay Marriage: The Church vs. State Argument

Gay marriage is one of the most controversial and polarizing issues of the modern era. The increasingly Christian-influenced Republican Party has made gay marriage one of its primary talking points, prompting the Democratic Party to come back at them by re-iterating the importance of the separation of church and state. But in a world where the Republican Party is controlled by the fringe Tea Party, making religion a matter of politics, it becomes difficult to extract one from the other in the modern political arena.


Beginning as a protest against Obama’s Affordable Care Act and continuing with John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in his 2008 presidential campaign, the Tea Party has grown in popularity and size, making it an unofficial third party within the Republican Party itself. Lacking a primary agenda, it is often dominated by fear tactics and shock words, appealing to a base that is loyal and predominantly Christian. The group is driven by Christian principles such as a fetus’ right to life, restricted birth control, and strictly heterosexual marriage. The Tea Party votes keep coming in, electing representatives who live by these principles and do not have any desire to change them, either personally or politically, as a change in principle would likely end in relinquishment of their seats in Congress. Thus, the more moderate Republicans often surrender to their demands, resulting in a Republican Party that becomes more and more conservative with each passing year.


One of the founding concepts on which this country was built was the freedom of religion. In Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, he writes that legislators should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” This concept was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution as the First Amendment, but legislators have historically had a difficult time enforcing it. Because the United States is an unusually religious country for a “first-world” nation, religious beliefs have been a defining force behind many important government decisions. From legislation on abortions to birth control and gay marriage, the First Amendment of the Constitution has been rendered close to obsolete due to the religious convictions of the general population. Thus, politicians are inclined to gloss over the separation of church and state to fight for the religious agenda of their constituents, in an effort to keep their seats in Congress.


Politicians argue that gay marriage is simply a product of modern Western society, a fluke of our societal structure that allows two men or two women to behave as heterosexuals have done since the beginning of civilization. Drawing on this concept, politicians have constructed an argument that says that the purpose of marriage is to procreate and continue the human race. However, countering that argument are studies that have shown an evolutionary reason for homosexuality. The person who does not have children of his/her own propagates the idea of “alloparenting,” that is, creating a buffer and means support to parents, which in turn increases survival rates for infants. Hence, the continuance of homosexuality may indeed be a contributing factor in the survival of the human race after all.

The issue of gay marriage remains a hot topic. But legally, the government should be concerned not with morality but with equal treatment of its citizens. According to the Constitution, the issue of morality is to be left to the church.

Robbie Edison writes on marriage, divorce law, cohabitation, family law, property law and other associated topics. Robbie understands the importance of locating a qualified attorney when going through a divorce; he encourages Houston residents to contact Chernoff Law, Houston Divorce Attorneys with a solid track record.

Children Finance

Social Security Disability Benefits in the New Year

Social Security Disability Benefits Elizabeth struggles from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a mid- stage of a rare, but deadly form of lung cancer, mesothelioma.  Twenty years ago, Elizabeth was working as a volunteer firefighter when she was called to the scene of a fire at a historical building.  By the time Elizabeth arrived, the building was completely engulfed in flames and her husband, who was also a firefighter, was stuck in the building and was not rescued until it was too late.  Elizabeth was traumatized from the event, but had to keep on moving forward for her family.  Last year, she started to feel very ill and had her most severe panic attack to date when her son went away to college.  After visiting a doctor, Elizabeth was told she had been and was suffering from undiagnosed PTSD, attributed to witnessing her husband’s death.  Her early diagnosis of mesothelioma was a surprise for a younger woman of 50, but the doctors had speculated that she had breathed in asbestos particles from her husband’s clothing and body (after he fought fires) and from all of her own exposure while firefighting.  Her overall diagnosis is not good, but Elizabeth has a life expectancy of at least 2 to 3 years, maybe more if she’s able to manage her health in other ways.

Elizabeth never remarried and has worked hard, as a book keeper, to provide for her 3 children.  At one point, she had attempted to return to school and get her Master’s degree in Financing, but was too overwhelmed by the physical, emotional, and financial stress.  With one teenage child still living at home, Elizabeth cannot afford not to work, but is physically and mentally unable to.  Six months ago, she filed for social security disability benefits (SSD) and was initially denied because her condition was not severe enough, after being given a more thorough and accurate diagnosis, she was approved to receive benefits, as she is expected to be “disabled” for at least one year or until death.

One Mother’s Struggle, Millions Needing Assistance

Elizabeth is just one of millions of people who are struggling with physical and mental health issues on a daily basis, so debilitating that they are unable to keep or find a job.  Unfortunately, not every one of those people “qualifies” for assistance.  Filing for SSD is a lengthy, frustrating, and complicated process with strict guidelines that are based upon how much work you have performed throughout your life (and paid into Social Security) and if your disability falls within the List of Impairments.  Monthly SSD benefits can range from $300 to $2,200 with the average 2013 payment being about $1,132.  For many recipients, the benefits they receive are barely enough to get by and for others, not even enough to meet a “living wage”.

The 2013 National Poverty Guidelines for a Household of 1 is $11,490.  If a single parent with a child or a couple received the “average” monthly SSD payment they would fall below the poverty line for a 2 person household ($15,510).  Depending on where you live, how you live, and what you need, will determine if you are receiving a livable wage.

Promising News for the New Year

Starting in the 2014, some recipients will see a 1.5% increase in SSD benefits.  For some struggling recipients, this will be the boost they need offering a little financial cushioning while others will continue to struggle with their disability and trying to make ends meet.  Individuals, who have once worked hard to try to make a living wage, but have all of a sudden been thrown a “curveball” (like a disability), deserve and are entitled to financial assistance.  If you are disabled and are no longer able to work, will you file for benefits you deserve or suffer your financial, physical, and mental struggle in silence?

Executry & Probate Finance

Boomers: Have You Planned for Retirement?

Boomers Have You Planned For RetirementCompared to retirees of just a generation ago, older Americans are staying in the workforce longer, and they’re returning to the workforce post-retirement in higher numbers, too. The shift began slowly in the late 1990’s when the labor force started to see an influx of post-retirees looking for work, but accelerated, in part, due to the recession of 2007. The ever increasing cost of living, combined with the negative impact the recession had on investments and home values, meant that SSI/SSD simply wasn’t enough to cover the bills. That left many retirees with no choice but to go back to work.

Though many retirees who were financially pressured to return to work were already receiving monthly social security insurance benefits, some may not have been aware that there were ways they could have increased the amount they received prior to retirement. Had they known, some may not have had to return to work, could have returned to work for a shorter period of time, or could have returned to work but worked fewer hours. If you are planning for retirement, here are a few tips you can use to ensure you receive the maximum SSI benefits available to you so you can avoid returning to work, if possible.

  • Make it Count: Start by confirming that your earnings are being properly reported so you’ll know the taxes that you’re paying into the system are being credited to you. A paystub will give you information, but only by downloading your earnings statement from the Social Security website can you verify that the information on the paystub was correctly reported. 
  • Claim Delay: This isn’t an attractive option, and for some it may be impossible. But, if you are able to delay claiming social security benefits until the age of 70, your SSI benefits will increase by 8 percent for each year you delay the claim after you reach full retirement age. 
  • 35 Years: Since SSI benefits are calculated using the beneficiaries highest 35 years of wages earned, you’ll want to make sure that you work for at least 35 years. Otherwise, zeroes will be averaged in, and that will lower your benefit amount. 
  • Claim Twice: Married couples who have reached retirement age can claim spousal benefits and then switch to payments using their individual work record (once they reach 70). That way, the benefits will increase because of the delay in claiming benefits until after the age of 70. 

Post-retirement Benefits

For anyone who is currently planning their retirement, but is unsure how their SSI benefits might be impacted if they do decide to continue working, the rules are pretty straightforward. As long as you work until full retirement age, you can still receive the full benefit amount to which you are entitled, no matter how much money you earn post-retirement. However, if you claim SSI benefits prior to reaching full retirement age, your benefits could be reduced, depending on your earned income.

The Social Security Administration also reviews the earnings of SSI recipients annually. So, if a beneficiary worked during the previous year and those earnings reflect one of his highest years, the SSI benefits will be recalculated to reflect an increase.

Just as with SSI recipients, if you receive SSD benefits, you can also work, but there are income and time limits. Whether you live in Reno, Rochester, or Raleigh, SSD terms are the same and, like SSI rules, they apply to everyone.


With so many older Americans working past retirement age, and returning to work once they have retired, it’s important to know where you stand with Social Security benefits. Educating yourself about the ways to maximize your monthly SSI payment may not completely eliminate your need to work, but you may be able to work less and for a shorter period of time, so you can finally enjoy your retirement once and for all.



Cohabitation Law

Can Cohabitating Partners Be Considered Legal Parents?

Although it has been traditionally frowned upon in many circles, cohabitation has become increasingly common in the Western world. In the United States, it is now considered completely normal to be unmarried yet live with a romantic partner. Most people don’t consider it a long-term alternative to marriage since most cohabiting partners either split up or marry within a couple of years, but most couples find themselves living together at some point during their relationship. Naturally, this leads to some questionable legal issues, particularly when these unmarried couples have children together.

Traditionally, two people would be legally married before they have children, and the legality of their status as parents would never be called into question. Today, 22 percent of children are born to unwed couples, and that number is on the rise. The Office for National Statistics in Great Britain has even predicted that most children will be born out of wedlock by 2016. Considering these alarming numbers, it’s important to take a look at the legality of cohabiting partners as legal parents.

Unmarried Biological Parents as Legal Guardians

In the United States, a child born to an unmarried couple is the legal responsibility of both parents. However, in the case of cohabiting partners, a paternity test is required to determine the rights and responsibilities of the father. In other words, cohabiting partners can legally be parents, but they still don’t have the same legal responsibilities as married couples. For example, when a married couple gets a divorce, child custody must be divided in a specific way, and both the mother and the father are able to contest their rights in court. When cohabiting couples decide to split up, the father has no legal financial responsibilities when it comes to raising the children.

When There is No Biological Relation to the Children

The laws regarding cohabiting partners with children usually only apply to biological children. In many cases, two partners ends up caring for children that are biologically related to only one of them. In these situations, the unrelated adult usually has no parental rights, but they can still become the legal guardian of their partner’s children through adoption or if the non-custodial parent is either deceased or deemed unfit or guilty of abandonment in a court of law.

The process of gaining custody of an unrelated child is cumbersome, but it can be very important. If something were to happen to the biological parent, the partner may want to take the time to go through the adoption process and become the legal guardian of the couple’s children. Without going through the adoption process, the biological parent maintains custody of the children, should the couple become separated.

One thing that becomes clear when dealing with the issues of unmarried couples raising children is that while cohabitation may appear to be similar to marriage, it is obviously not the same. Unmarried partners do not have the same level of commitment to each other or their children, even when they live together. They may legally be parents, but that legality only lasts for as long as they are together.

Kyle Brand is a freelance legal blogger and writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Kyle recommends that those who need assistance with asbestos litigation visit Shrader Law.


Lawsuits for Injuries to Children: What You Should Know

child injuryOne of the most frightening moments for any parent is to learn that his or her child has been injured in an accident.  The overwhelming hope is that the injury is minor and that the child is not in pain.  Unfortunately, there are occasions where the injury to the child is serious, requiring medical attention, surgery, and in some cases, long-term care.  The medical expenses can become significant, causing financial stress on the entire family.  However, in cases where the child’s injury was the result of another person’s negligence such as in a car accident or where there was a medical mistake, the child may be able to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit.  However, when a child is the victim, there are special rules that must be considered.

Statute of Limitations

While the statute of limitations varies from state to state, in general a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within 1-3 years of the date of the injury or the date that the victim should have known about the injury.  For example, in Georgia a negligence lawsuit must be brought within 2 years from the date of the injury or death.  Georgia actions for medical malpractice also have a statute of limitations of 2 years.  The rule, however, is usually different when a child is the victim.  Children are considered incapacitated.  Thus, the limitations period is tolled, or put on hold.  In some cases it is tolled until the victim is no longer under an incapacity.  This usually means that the statute does not begin to run until the child turns 18.

The Plaintiff in the Lawsuit

Even though the statute of limitations for a child victim is tolled until the child reaches majority, the child does not have to wait  to file a personal injury lawsuit.  However, until the child reaches majority, he or she would not be permitted to file the lawsuit in his or her own name.  Instead, someone else, such as a parent, would have to file the lawsuit on the child’s behalf.  The person filing the lawsuit is referred to as the child’s “next friend.”  Any damages won in such a lawsuit would belong to the child, not the next friend.

Claims for Economic Damages and Non-Economic Damages

A child typically does not pay his or her own medical bills and is not responsible for them.  Parents are responsible for their children’s medical expenses.  Thus, if a child is injured and incurs medical bills, the child cannot sue to recover them.  The parents must.   Because of this, legal action concerning an injured child can be divided into two different claims.  The child’s claim would relate to pain and suffering and any other non-economic losses.  The parents’ claim would be for the medical expenses and other economic losses. The child’s claims and the parent’s claims can be joined together in a single lawsuit, or could be heard separately.  In either case there will be two verdicts, and if the plaintiffs prevail, two monetary awards.  In addition, there would also be two different statutes of limitations in the cases, as one claim belongs to the child and the other to the parents.

Access to Settlement Funds

Judgments awarded to a child are typically held by the court on behalf of the child until the child reaches majority.  Or the funds are placed in a trust for the benefit of the child.  Parents rarely have access to such funds.  However, parents do have ownership of financial awards for claims for economic damages, such as medical expenses.

Do  you think a child’s recovery for pain and suffering in a personal injury case should always be higher than a similarly injured adult, since a child is likely to suffer more pain than an adult and have more difficulty coping with it?


Is Divorce Contagious?

While most people don’t begin a marriage expecting to divorce, separation can happen to anyone. People in certain social groups find themselves particularly at-risk for divorce if a friend or relative has gotten divorced. In some close social groups, divorce is actually contagious. After seeing a close friend divorce, some people start to question their own marriage, and many decide they are unhappy with it and would like to get out. According to a new study by Brown University, you are 75% more likely to separate from your spouse if you watch someone close to you go through a divorce.

Social Contagion

So what happens to people to make them want to get divorced after a friend does? Sociologists refer to it as the “social contagion”. This spread of information through a social group stirs up ideas and emotions in many people. Friends of friends can even be impacted by a divorce. The social link found with family members and friends demonstrates for researchers how friends in a person’s social circle can directly impact one’s health and behavior. Family members and friends often find themselves taking sides in a divorce, or they can be stuck in the middle of fighting parents and friends. This can add stress to their life, which can in turn affect their own marriage.

Divorce Aftermath

Once a person gets a divorce, they often end up marrying another person who has also been divorced. This is common for people who jump into a new relationship soon after allowing their marriage to end. People who divorce often find that their social circle shrinks significantly after their marriage ends. This happens when mutual friends “choose sides,” and pick only one person from the marriage to associate with. Some married people view a newly divorced person as a social threat and worry about marital poaching.

Preventing Divorce

People with a strong social network are less likely to divorce. If you have active conversations with your friends, and you focus on building strong, supportive friendships, you can reduce your likelihood of divorce. Marital stresses are different for each couple, which is why it is important to continue working on open communication throughout a marriage. Marriage is not easy work: it requires dedication, sacrifice, and an enduring desire to make the other person happy.

Many couples seek out marital counseling to help their marriage. Counseling services can be tremendously helpful for couples that need to find a way to communicate with each other. If you are in a relationship where the grass looks greener on the other side, marital counseling can be beneficial. A therapist can help you personally understand the emotions you are experiencing, and how a decision like divorce can impact you personally, as well as the people in your social circle.

Adult children in healthy, happy marriages, can have their entire world turned upside down when they learn their parents are divorcing. It can cause them to question their own relationship and their personal happiness. Taken too far, these questions can cause a person to question their own marriage, and wonder if divorce is right for them.

Derek Clifford writes on marriage, weddings, wedding gowns, tuxedos, prom attire and other topics; to view a great selection of bridal gowns readers are encouraged to visit Terry Costa.

Adoption Children

Charged With a Sex Crime: Can I Still See My Kids?

(U.S. Family Law and generally) Being charged with a sex crime will impact every area of your life, including visitation rights with your children. How it impacts your visitation rights will most likely depend on the seriousness of the conviction.
According to the Orlando Criminal Team, a law firm in Florida, being convicted of a sex crime can lead to very serious consequences. This can range from fines to jail time or probation over a long period of time.

In most cases, visitation privileges will be limited to supervised visits with your children. This may mean hanging you with them at the house of your ex-spouse, or visiting them in the presence of a counselor. If your sex crime was considered heinous, your visitation rights may be denied altogether.

Many Different Points To Consider

This is a very broad subject, and many of the points will be based on local ordinances and state-specific laws. It is very hard to give one “over all” answer to this scenario because so many different factors come into play.

For instance, in some states, if the sex offender was convicted of committing an act upon a minor that was outside of the marriage or on an adult, they cannot be denied visitation rights. In other states, visitation rights are automatically suspended with any type of conviction.

In most cases, sex offenders that commit crimes against children less than 14 years of age seem to have the most difficulty in establishing visitation rights with their children. Additionally, those who are convicted under any child pornography laws, even if they never touched a real person, will have a very hard time getting the Court to approve visitation.

Visitation rights may also be changed if an additional offense occurs after the person has been convicted or paroled.

Role Of The Ex-Spouse

The ex-spouse or partner in this relationship may also play a very large role in the decisions of the Court. If the former spouse feels that regardless of what the legal status is of the conviction the other parent poses a threat to the child(ren), the Court will consider their opinions above the convicted offender.

On the other hand, if the former partner believes that the convicted offender does not pose any real harm to the children, the Court will also take this into consideration. One classic example of this is a man who is 44 years old and is convicted of having sex with a 16 year old girl that he believed was 18 at the time. This is considered statutory rape, even though it was under false pretenses and consensual at the time. In the eyes of the Court, he is now a convicted sex offender. However, in the eyes of his ex-spouse, he is just a fool and no danger to her children.

Sex offenders who want to be a part of their children’s life should not give up hope. They will need to seek a defense attorney that is familiar with sex offender cases and approach the Family Court to request that their visitation rights be granted or restored. According to the Orlando Criminal Team, a law firm that specializes in this type of situation, ”sex crimes are aggressively prosecuted.” Those seeking representation should look for an attorney that is equally as aggressive for the best results.

Family Law

Preparing for the Worse: Are Your Stepchildren Legal Beneficiaries?

Parents and step parents carefully plan for their family’s future. This should include preparing for certain eventualities. When a parent dies, a minor child will be left with uncertain living arrangements and an adult child will be left to handle his or her parents’ affairs. Without proper guidance and preparation, the emotional blow of losing a trusted family member can be compounded with severe financial pressures. Parents who plan ahead will have something to leave to their children.

The Importance of Wills and Living Trusts

When a person dies, a judge will supervise the distribution of the decedent’s assets and payments of his or her debts in probate. When a person dies testate, or with a will, his or her estate is executed in accordance with his or her will. In the event that the person dies intestate, or without a will, the estate will be divided in accordance with a body of estate law. There are many personal injury video tutorials that can be watched to get an idea of what happens immediately after a loved one is fatally injured. Distributing assets in the absence of a will normally involves furnishing assets to heirs and spouses. In limited circumstances, the assets of a person who dies without relatives and intestate will escheat to the state.

Certain assets will produce income periodically beyond mere appreciation. Such assets include financial holdings like stock, which may result in the payment of dividends, and rental properties, which will result in rental income. These assets will be divided with the remainder of the decedent’s assets upon his or her death. The devisee or distributee, or person who is entitled to assets under the will or in probate, of these assets will then be entitled to the corresponding income streams.

There are several ways in which one may structure the distribution of his or her estate. Drafting a will is one of the most common techniques. A will is simply a legal document drafted by a person that specifies how his or her assets are to be distributed upon his or her death. A will is most effectively drafted with the assistance of an attorney, as there are limits to what a will may contain and many jurisdictions have specific statutory requirements which must be met before a will is to be given legal weight.

Another way to ensure that certain assets go to certain people is to co-own the asset with the future beneficiary while both parties are still alive. The ability of the executor to distribute a certain asset will be confined to the amount to which the decedent owned the asset. Transferring property while one is alive may result in tax liability incurred at present, but will avoid the inheritance tax and other taxes at a later date. If the property is undervalued at the moment due to a temporary crash, it may be worthwhile to transfer the property to the future beneficiary to reduce the taxation. However, those looking to avoid taxation should consider another method.

The third method to ensure that one’s assets are treated in accordance with one’s wishes is to create a living trust. A living trust is an agreement between the trustor, or person who owns the property at present, and the trustee to hold certain assets in trust for future distribution to other parties. To create a trust, the parties will draft a trust agreement which determines how the decedent’s property is to be distributed. The trustor will then transfer the property to the trustee, where it will be held in trust. There may be multiple trustors who contribute to a living trust and the trustees may be another person, a company, or the trustors themselves while they are alive.

Living trusts come in two forms: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust is a trust in which the trustor reserves the right to modify the trust or revoke it altogether. It allows for flexibility in the event that the trustor suddenly requires the assets for living expenses or no longer wishes for specific assets to go to specific people. Most attorneys and financial advisors favor revocable trusts for these reasons. An irrevocable trust is a trust that cannot be revoked by the trustor.

The main benefit to creating a trust is to avoid probate. Probate is a time consuming process which requires the services of an executor and a court. Beneficiaries will not receive any assets or funding until the executor of the estate has settled the estate’s debts to the satisfaction of the court. The executor of the estate will charge fees for his or her services, which can detract from the overall amount to be distributed. By creating a revocable trust, beneficiaries will avoid the delays and fees associated with probate.

Living trusts are not a solution for everyone, however. Inheritance taxes still apply to the value of assets in revocable living trusts. Additionally, the trustee will charge a maintenance fee for his or her services, which can slowly deplete the funds in the trust. Creating a trust that will withstand a legal challenge from a creditor or a jilted heir will also require the services of an attorney, which will further deplete the prospective trustor’s assets. Finally, assets not transferred to the trust must still go through probate.

Life Insurance

Preparing for the worst should include obtaining life insurance. Life insurance will provide the beneficiary specified by the policyholder with benefits upon the policyholder’s death. These benefits can help the policyholder’s immediate family members maintain their standard of living even after the policyholder passes on. There are several different types of life insurance policies available to suit different needs.

How much life insurance one should carry is a matter of personal preference and subjective judgment. When a person dies, funeral costs alone can reach thousands of dollars. A modest life insurance policy will cover these losses. Life insurance policies may be taken out for any amount, ranging from just enough to cover funeral costs to millions of dollars. Generally, policyholders should ensure that their benefits cover several years of their income.

Carrying a life insurance policy has two primary benefits over simply saving money and including it as a part of one’s estate. First, life insurance proceeds are generally exempt from taxation. When a person dies, the value of his or her estate is taxed; life insurance payable to specific beneficiaries is not included when determining inheritance tax. Second, life insurance allows beneficiaries to avoid probate, which allows for quick and relatively hassle-free payments.

Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits include a limited death benefit payable to unmarried children and spouses. This benefit is limited to $255, so it likely pales in comparison to benefits distributed by a life insurance policy and the value of one’s estate. To be eligible to receive this death benefit, the spouse or child must have been receiving benefits under the worker’s record or have been eligible to do so.

None of the aforementioned methods is a substitute for another. People who are concerned about the well-being of their children should have a will, life insurance, and certain assets in a trust. As one attorney’s personal injury video states, getting injured in an accident can cause all types of issues that you may have never thought of before.  Setting one’s financial affairs in order will help ease the burden on one’s family in the event that a serious accident or sudden illness occurs. Those looking to create a living trust, a will, or any other document that is important to end of life decisions should consult with an experienced estate lawyer.


Family Law Marriage

Referrals to Family Mediation are Rapidly Declining

There are many reasons for the introduction of mediation into a legal matter. In addition to finding suitable alternatives for childcare and financial arrangements, family mediation can help to prevent long winded or drawn out court sessions.

The government introduced mediation as a vital part of the legal family process in an effort to abate those people concerned that the removal of legal aid would cause huge problems for the family courts, leaving them massively overworked and the clients suffering.

However, recent evidence suggests that the referrals to these mediation sessions have in fact dropped. Official statistics obtained by the Law Society Gazette show that the number of family mediation referrals fell by an average of 26% for the period April to June 2013 when compared with the same period in 2012.

The Reasons

Whenever a significant pattern or turn of events is records, then it stands to reason that experts will attempt to find a reason for the pattern.

In the case of mediation services throughout 2013, it is worth commenting that legal aid for private family matters (such as divorce or child contact) was removed as part of government cuts as of April this year.

Whilst Legal Aid is still available for mediation, for many other matters, it may not be applicable and whilst many of the referrals for family mediation Southampton might come from solicitors, if their numbers have also dwindled due to a lack of public funding, then it stands to reason that the number of clients they are able to refer for mediation would also drop significantly.

The Solution

As one of the government’s biggest ideas, it’s unlikely that people including legal practitioners will be able to forget that services such as Lamport Bassitt family mediation services exist altogether. However, a solution must be found to the low numbers.

In one case, there is the prospect that as of January 2014 family mediation will be compulsory. What this means is that any party wishing to start legal proceedings in the family court will not be allowed to do so until they have attended a MIAM, the name given to a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. However, as much as this may be a step in the right direction, practitioners and legal professionals have expressed concern that this could be too late as many of the mediators who would provide the services would have gone out of business by then as a result of the lower numbers of people attending mediation.

A further suggestion comes from Lord MacNally in his March 2013 speech when he suggested, even prior to the release of the figures that mediators themselves have a large part to play in promoting their services to the legal profession and building relationships with firms of solicitors. He said, “I am looking to you, the family mediation profession, to bring family mediation into the mainstream as the first choice for families to help them make their arrangements post separation – and not just because they have to. Regardless of your background, mediation, the law, or social work, you can bring this about.”

If you require mediation services visit for more information about Lamport Bassitt Mediation Services.

Divorce Law

Tips on How to Cope with Divorce

People often say that the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, and a divorce are the three most stressful things a person can go through. Though these challenges are never enjoyable, there are ways to cope. This is particularly true when it comes to divorce; it may be the end of something, but it may be the beginning of something else.

The Incidence of Divorce in the United States

It is a common belief that one in two marriages will end in divorce. The actual statistics give some credence to this conception: per the American Psychological Association, approximately 40 to 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce; the number is higher for subsequent marriages.

There are a number of factors that lead to divorce, including the age of the couple when wed and their level of education.

The Future of Divorce

While the high rate of divorce may seem alarming, it doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon. As reported by the Huffington Post, a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 63 percent of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in prenuptial agreements over the past three years. This can be viewed simply as people proactively protecting their finances, but it can also be ominously viewed as people losing more faith in the sanctity of marriage.

Coping With Divorce

For people who are going through divorce, there are steps that can be taken to help with coping. These include:

Joining a Support Group: The old adage “misery loves company” is true in many situations. But it’s not because people inherently want bad things to happen to others; instead, people inherently want to know that bad things don’t happen to only them. A support group can show you that there are others going through the same situation.

According to Web MD, support groups can go a long way toward helping you heal. They give people a chance to share their feelings, learn from others, and meet people with whom they share commonalities.

Look at it as a New Beginning: Anyone who sees themselves wrapped up in or defined by an ex-spouse will have a difficult time moving on. Instead, looking at divorce as a new beginning and a chance to redefine yourself can help the road seem a little shorter and the load a little lighter.

You may do this by finding a new hobby, exploring a long-dormant interest, redecorating your home, getting a makeover, starting a book club, or doing something you’d never imagined before, such as visiting Europe or taking a singles cruise.

Help Your Children: Divorce can be especially hard for children; they often believe they are to blame. If you have children, remember to help them cope as you cope. You can do this by being understanding of their regressive or rebellious behavior, never asking them to take sides, and never using them as a way to get underneath the skin of your ex-spouse.

Be Open to New Possibilities: Divorce has a way of leaving you sour on the idea of marriage. This is perfectly natural. But keeping the sour taste in your mouth for too long might leave you missing out on something sweet. It’s always a good idea to keep at least part of yourself open to new possibilities; you just never know when something good might come along.

Randall Marbury, a former divorce attorney, is currently a freelance blogger and writer who contributes material on family law issues such as divorce, child custody, mediation and so forth.

Child Support Children Divorce Law Family Law

How To Be A Good Parent Even After The Divorce

Being a good parent is hard enough on a good day. However, when you’ve just gone through a divorce, making sure that your kids are doing fine is always much harder. You can be a good parent after a divorce though so doesn’t think that this is an unattainable goal.

When you use your parenting skills in a divorce, you help teach your kids to deal with various challenges, helping them to grow into well-adjusted individuals. If you’re going or have gone through a divorce and are trying to figure out how to be a good parent through it all, use these tips.

Put The Child First:

Many times a divorce is going to be messy and complicated. You and your former spouse may hate each other and have trouble even being in the same room. However, this attitude isn’t going to do any favors for your child. You need to make sure that you’re not focusing on yourself throughout the divorce.

Since it can be a fairly lengthy process, talk to your children openly throughout the entire ordeal and ask how they’re doing. They may not be coping so well. Also, when you begin to figure out custody agreements and other important details that are about the kids, get their input. They may not be very happy about the entire situation, but involving them in the process and showing them that you care, is going to help with the transition.

Remember It’s Not About You:

Well, at least not entirely. Obviously, your divorce is going to be a huge part of your life, but you are an adult. You have increased coping mechanisms as well as a mature perspective that your children lack. If you’re starting to fall into the victim mentality, then make the decision to turn this attitude around.

Accept the fact that even in the worst of marriages, you probably made some mistakes as well. When you get to this point, you’re not only helping yourself, you’re also showing your kids that it’s OK to be wrong sometimes and you should always acknowledge your mistakes.

Look At The Positives:

It’s always hard to see anything positive coming from a divorce, but there are many life lessons that you can gain from going through this process. Similarly, your kids can also gain more experience from you. However, you can’t do this if you simply refuse to deal with the problem at hand. As you go throughout the divorce, take each experience as a life lesson.

Many of them are not going to be easy, but if you pay attention, you will come through this experience and be a wiser and stronger person throughout the rest of your life. Make sure that you talk to your kids throughout the process and mention some of the lessons you’ve learned. They can similarly take your lessons and apply them to their lives and future relationships.

Always Be Respectful:

When a divorce with children happens, it’s likely that both parents will have custody or visitation rights. This is going to be hard to deal with, but you can’t let your own feelings get in the way of your children’s happiness. Working through the challenges of successfully communicating with an ex is a goal, which you’re probably not going to get right the first time.

Try to maintain a respectful relationship with your former spouse. This not only sets a good example for your kids, it also helps to make the entire ordeal so much easier

These are a few of the basic ways to make sure that you continue to be a good parent both through and after a divorce. Divorce is difficult for both parents and their children, so make sure that you pay attention to your kids and continue to make them a priority throughout the entire process. Divorce can be a positive or negative factor in a child’s life depending on how you react to it. If you treat it as a learning experience, it can help to grow the relationship that you have with your children.

However, it does take time and effort, so make sure that you’re being a mindful parent throughout the entire process to make the transition easy for your children.

Divorce Law

Divorce In The Military – Armed Forces Pensions Explained

With the frequent separations and the stresses of life in the UK armed forces, it is no surprise that divorce rates for soldiers are much higher than those of civilian couples (double, in fact). Long deployments in foreign countries are cited as the main reason for many marriage issues and breakdowns, and even when a couple have decided to call it a day, there is still the stress of going through a lengthy divorce – especially if there are children involved. If you’re in the military and are going through a separation, there are several specialist military lawyers out there who can help you, but here is some brief information on what happens when it comes to a frequent issue with military divorce: that of forces pensions.

How Armed Forces Pensions Get Dealt With During Divorce

A pension – including a UK forces pension – is considered as an income stream, and there are several ways of dealing with them if you’re currently going through a divorce:

• Offsetting. One party will be compensated for the loss of the pension by receiving a bigger share of other available assets, such as their house – depending on the value of the pension and assets. Often this leads to a revaluation of the pension in an attempt to increase its value.

• Pension Sharing Order. In this case, part of the pension is taken and paid into a pension for the other spouse, with the rest of the contributions from the military personnel going solely to their pension.

• Pension Attachment Orders. This is where the spouse receives either a lump sum or a portion of the income directly from the pension administrators (once the pension is in payment).

 Getting Advice On Your Armed Forces Pension

If you need professional advice on what to do in terms of your armed forces pension, you will need to provide some specific information to your chosen solicitor or firm of lawyers (ensure that they have experience in military law and pensions in particular before you do this). First of all, you will need to provide the date you joined the pension scheme (armed forces pensions differ depending on when you started), and if you have changed your pension at any time during your career. You’ll also need to provide extra info if the pension is in payment: your CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value) or CEB (Cash Equivalent Benefit). This will need to be requested from the scheme’s administrators, and it could take some time for the information to come through.

Seeking Help While Away From Home

A specialist solicitor with experience with military law will be able to advise you on what is the best option for you and your spouse concerning military pensions as well as any other aspect of divorce. Military divorce lawyers understand that you may be trying to initiate a divorce while in a foreign country, and therefore most will keep in contact with you via phone, email and even webcam if you are unable to meet in person. This can take a lot of the stress away from getting divorced, allowing you to get on with your military duties while the divorce is in progress. You can also get discounted rates from some firms if you are a current serving member of the armed forces.

Tim Bishop is senior partner of Bonallack and Bishop – specialist armed forces divorce solicitors with extensive experience of divorce  involving military pensions for forces personnel serving in the UK and overseas. For expert legal advice visit their specialist websites at or  or call them on 01722 422300.

Divorce Law

What We Can Learn From Celebrity Divorces

Celebrity DivorceThese days, it seems as if more and more couples are getting divorced. This is especially true when it comes to celebrities, whose marriages—and break-ups—are often front-page news. While some individuals believe that celebrities serve only as a form of entertainment, others suggest that couples may be able to learn something from their frequent divorces. In fact, celebrities may not only teach us how to keep a marriage stable, but also how to separate in a peaceful and respectful manner.

Communication is Crucial

If celebrities have taught us anything when it comes to maintaining a happy marriage, it is that communication is crucial. Proper communication not only helps individuals teach their partner about their wants and needs, but also assists when it comes to the development of stronger listening skills. Unfortunately, celebrities—and for that matter, non-celebrities—have the habit of demanding their desires, without considering those of their partner. Talking each and every day with one’s husband or wife is a must when it comes to managing expectations and maintaining a long and happy marriage together.

Take Your Time

There is no question that the prospect of getting married can be very exciting—especially when one believes that they are deeply in love with their partner. However, it seems as if many celebrities choose to “jump into” marriage before they have a strong understanding of the traits and personalities of their partner. Most marriage experts agree that men and women should take their time when it comes to getting to know their significant other before choosing to pursue a legal commitment. When it can be difficult to prolong the dating process, it may be crucial when it comes to avoiding divorce in the future.

Know When It’s Over

Despite the best efforts of many celebrities, some marriages simply weren’t made to last. And when a couple agrees that the end is near, they may also benefit by looking to celebrities for some tips and recommendations. While many celebrities do try to put on a good front for the sake of their fans and children, this may not be the best plan when it comes to the health of their family. In fact, the Huffington Post suggests that trying to keep a marriage together simply for the sake of children may actually do more harm than good in the long run.

Lawyers Aren’t All Bad

Finally, celebrity divorces have shown us that—despite their less than stellar reputation—many lawyers are not as bad as they are depicted. In fact, experts agree that having an experienced lawyer who is familiar with family law is crucial when it comes to surviving and thriving during the divorce process. Individuals who have never worked with a lawyer in the past may want to consider speaking with friends and family to identify a skilled and professional legal team. Interviewing a lawyer before making a financial commitment can be useful when it comes to finding the right professional for the job.

Divorce Law

Who Gets the Diamonds? Divison of Assets

(U.S. Family Law and generally) Going through a divorce can be difficult enough emotionally, and the entire process can be exacerbated by the issues that often accompany the task of dividing assets. Because of this, many couples choose to utilize a prenuptial agreement to ensure that everyone is protected if the marriage is not successful. However, if you do not take this step, you might find yourself dealing with major arguments over specific pieces, especially expensive jewelry. Therefore, it is vital to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side to help you retain the items that mean the most to you.
How are Jewelry Items Divided?
Many women assume that they will automatically get to keep their jewelry when they go through a divorce. After all, the wedding ring was sized to fit their finger, and women typically care more about diamonds and other precious gems than men do. Because of this, it is possible that you might not take enough steps to protect yourself before all of your joint assets begin being divided.

It is important to remember that jewelry can have a very high monetary value, and this could cause your ex to request it as part of their end of the divorce settlement. In some cases, you might even find yourself having to make the difficult choice between a piece of jewelry and another item that you want to keep. Fortunately, a lawyer can help you debate your ex’s request for your jewelry, and they also have a firm understanding of how to make successful counter offers.
What about Family Heirlooms?
In a fully civilized society, it would be understood that family heirlooms should stay with the applicable party. For example, if you have been wearing a ring that has been part of your ex’s family for several generations, you should be prepared to give it back. However, many of the societal pleasantries that most people adhere to on a daily basis are thrown out the window during a contentious divorce. Therefore, you should never assume that you will simply receive all of your family heirlooms without needing to fight for them.
Because of this, it will be important to build a case based around the history of the piece and its sentimental value. After all, the other party will not have the same history with the piece, and this will make it less emotionally valuable to them. Sadly, this could end up being used against you in order to obtain other items unless you utilize a skilled lawyer to help you present your case.
In many cases, couples divide their assets in half, and this can cause complications due to the value of jewelry. In fact, if an item is not an heirloom, it might make more sense to let your ex keep it in favor of receiving a larger cash settlement. For example, if you are debating over a diamond ring, you can easily get something similar at a reduced price by shopping at an online diamond retailer such as As long as you keep this information to yourself, you might be able to end up with a new ring and some extra cash. However, if you are determined to keep all of your jewelry, you should also be prepared to give up some other items to keep the division of assets fair.
Divorce Law

Bankruptcy: Watch out for the Marital Adjustment Deduction

divorce and bankruptcyWhen a person who is married decides to file for bankruptcy, the law permits him or her to do so alone, without requiring both spouses to file.  However, the non-filing spouse’s finances do play part in the filing spouse’s bankruptcy case.  The “means test,” including the “marital adjustment deduction” will be evaluated to determine whether or not the filing spouse qualifies for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or to determine the amount the filing spouse will have to pay unsecured creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The Means Test

Even though you may feel that the only way out of your dire financial situation is to file for bankruptcy, a Westchester county bankruptcy lawyer points out that under the strict rules of the bankruptcy code, you may not qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.  In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy,  the debtor essentially tells the court that he or she is unable to pay back any part of the debt owed to creditors.  In order to qualify, you must pass a “means test,” meaning that your disposable income must be below a certain level.  If you do not pass the means test, then under bankruptcy law you are presumed able to pay back at least a minimum amount of your debt, and you will not be permitted to proceed with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  As part of the means test the bankruptcy court will look at your last 6 months of income as well as your expenses.  Thus, even if you have a high income, if your expenses are also high, your may still qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

If you are married, but separated and living in separate households, the income of your non-filing spouse will not be taken into consideration for the means test. However, if you are married, then your spouse’s income will be taken into consideration for the means test.  This could have a significant impact on the filing spouses’ Chapter 7 petition.  If the non-filing spouse’s income is too high, then you may not qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  In this is so then the “marital adjustment deduction” may help.

The Marital Adjustment Deduction

As part of the means test, you are permitted to deduct expenses from your income.  The “Marital Adjustment Deduction” allows you to deduct any expenses that your spouse pays that are not normal household expenses.  These “other” expenses are known as “marital deduction expenses.”  Examples of marital deduction expenses can include credit card payments for accounts that are only in your spouses’ name, child support payment for your spouse’s child, business expenses, student loan payments, and payroll deductions.  The net result of using the marital adjustment deduction is that if significant, it may offset at least some of your spouse’s income that you had to include in the means test.  Thus, you may still be able to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy even though your spouse’s income is relatively high.

Alternative to Chapter 7

If after applying the marital adjustment deduction you still do not qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you may be permitted to file under Chapter 13. While all of your debt will not be discharged, the total amount you repay your creditors will likely be significantly reduced and you will have 3-5 years to make the payments.   However, you will still have to disclose your spouse’s income and expenses, which may affect the total amount you have to repay your creditors.

The importance of Full Disclosure

Ultimately, both your complete financial picture and that of your spouse will likely be closely reviewed by the bankruptcy court to determine how the law will allow you to proceed with your bankruptcy.  Thus, it is important to be prepared with evidence backing up all claims regarding income and expenses, or risk having your case dismissed.  An even worse result would be having the bankruptcy court determine that you have committed or attempted to commit fraud.

Do you think it is fair that a non-filing spouse’s finances are considered when a married person files for bankruptcy?  What if throughout the marriage the couple’s finances remained largely separate?  Does this rule encourage spouses to legally separate or “pretend” to separate?