Whether you are entering the mediation process based upon an attorney’s recommendation, a court order, or your own decision, you likely have questions about the process and what it entails. You may wonder how mediation can help you and your spouse resolve your issues. Maybe even more surprising is that this process can also save you time and money
What It Is
Mediation allows you and your spouse to come to an agreement regarding the terms of your divorce outside of the adversarial atmosphere of the courtroom. There isn’t a “winner” or a “loser” because you are working to reach an agreement that will leave both you and your spouse satisfied. Mediation can address the same issues you would bring to court like alimony, division of property and child support, but it can also address other concerns that can’t be part of a court order, for example, whether you and your spouse will attend the same event.
Though it is difficult to think of a court-ordered mediation as voluntary, there is no obligation for you to reach an agreement. Your attendance may be required, but your participation, while encouraged, will not be forced. Your mediator’s role is that of a facilitator, and he or she will not take sides or make judgments. This confidential process is about you and your spouse, so the mediator will simply try to keep you both focused and help your discussions follow a helpful organizational flow.
As noted by Westfield Mediation LLC in Scotch Plains NJ, mediation helps to keep couples from arguing about “family matters on which they mainly agree. By finding areas of agreement through divorce mediation, divorcing couples improve their post-divorce relationship, and save valuable time and money.” (http://www.westfieldnjmediation.com/) There is no denying that the litigation process is time-consuming and costly, and you may be surprised by how much you and your spouse can resolve, or at least gain a better understanding of, through mediation. The National Conflict Resolution Center has a great chart for mediation vs litigation.
This is an opportunity to address, face-to-face, your concerns with your spouse in the hopes of finding a middle ground in an atmosphere that is much less stressful than inside the courtroom. Even if you must proceed with your divorce in court, you and your spouse may be more willing to cooperate after a session of mediation. This can make the divorce proceedings run both smoother and faster.
That cooperation is especially important if you have children, as you and your spouse will need to work together on issues of custody, visitation and other aspects of your child’s life for years after the divorce is complete. If you can work on an agreement that both you and your spouse can accept, these discussions become much easier in the months or years that follow. It can also make you both more willing to mediate future disputes, rather than spending the extra time and money to once again bring your case before the court.
There is no right or wrong reason for trying to mediate your divorce, whether it is to save yourself time and money or to have a better post-divorce relationship with your spouse. Remember that options are available to you through your agreement that wouldn’t be available in a courtroom, so don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Ultimately, you should do your best to go into the process with an open mind and a willingness to cooperate.
When people hear the words “Family Law” they first assume it is synonymous with divorce. While it is true that divorce is included in Family Law, there are also other legal areas that make up that branch of the law. Those areas are adoption, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, paternity, child support, child custody, time-sharing, alimony, domestic partnerships and surrogate issues.
Most people realize that divorce is the means of dissolving a marriage and once a petition is filed with the court, the process of have married people become single again is well on its way. According to the divorce attorneys at GKLegal.com, divorces can be of two types: contested and uncontested.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorce
A contested divorce occurs when the two people getting a divorce cannot resolve their differences and need legal help to do that. Many times these people must attend mediation (which is mandatory is some states). If the mediation is not successful, and the couple still cannot come to an agreement among themselves, they will then have to appear before a judge, who will make the final decision.
An uncontested divorce is one in which the couple has come to an agreement on how to divide up their possessions and they agree on child support and child custody. Of course, the more a couple can work out on their own, the less time it will take and it will be less expensive, as well.
Child Custody and Support
The issue of child custody is based on the “best interests of the child” and the courts will take into consideration many factors, such as parents’ income, housing arrangements and the relationship with the child when deciding on custodial issues.
Child support is based on guidelines that the particular state has set up. Each parent is responsible for the support of the child. Income of the parents is taken into consideration when coming up with a fair agreement of what each parent will be expected to contribute each month.
The issue of alimony is decided based on length of the marriage, whether or not each of the parties have an ability to support themselves, how much they contributed financially to the marriage and the health of each party. There are several different types of alimony and a court will decide which type, if any, will be awarded based on the previously mentioned factors.
Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Some people are tempted to dissolve their marriage without the expense of hiring an attorney. This may not always be the best thing. A qualified family law attorney will be aware of the particular laws in your state and how best to handle your case. The issues that are explained in detail in the Marital Settlement Agreement (a document that includes the conditions of the divorce and the expectations of each party) will be incorporated in the Final Judgment (a document that declares the marriage is dissolved) and each party will be expected to abide by those conditions. Should one party not adhere to those conditions, the other party may take the issue to court to once again have it resolved.
For your own protection, your attorney is the best one to advise you on these matters. If you don’t have an attorney, some places to start your search can be sites like lawyers.com, Avvo.com or just a simple Google search.
Police brutality is nothing new, and the New York Police Department is infamous for its cruel injustice on the innocent. Recently, the newest case is that of Eric Garner, a 43 year old, African-American father of six who was accused of selling untaxed cigarettes on July 17 in State Island. It is shown, on video, Eric Garner being put into a chokehold by an officer after refusing to be handcuffed. The chokehold in itself is prohibited under police policy. He was recorded gasping for breath and telling the police officers that he could not breathe. Eric Garner was later pronounced dead at the hospital and autopsies confirmed on August 1, 2014, by the city’s chief medical examiner, to be “homicide by chokehold.”
However, the video, recorded by 22 year old Ramsey Orta, which went viral after being published by the Daily News, has not brought the justice that the Garner family has been looking to find according to one wrongful death attorney in Denver who is not involved with this case.
The NYPD has had numerous cases of police mistreatment of innocent victims, amongst them Sean Bell, the 2006 victim who was killed in a 50-bullet barrage on his wedding day, whose to-be wife reached out to the Garner family in outrage and disgust at the NYPD’s lack of action against police brutality.
Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) is reported supporting the police officer putting Garner in the chokehold because Garner was resisting arrest, and therefore, he had it coming. Lynch has said that “there’s an attitude on our city’s streets today that it is acceptable to resist arrest . . . That attitude is a direct result of the lack of respect for law enforcement, resulting from the slanderous, insulting, and unjust manner in which police officers are being portrayed.” Several Police Officer Union Representatives also disagree with the autopsy and are determined that is false and “political,” accusing the media for criminalizing the NYPD.
However, the arrest on August 2 of Ramsey Orta, the amateur recorder of the incident provides even more complication to the situation. Orta was arresting on a weapons charge, allegedly handing a handgun to a girl in Staten Island. He was later released on bail and has been reported saying that “when [the police] searched me, they didn’t find nothing on me. And the same cop that searched me, he told me clearly himself, that karma’s a bitch, what goes around comes around … I had nothing to do with this. I would be stupid to walk around with a gun after me being in the spotlight.” His wife was also arrested on a separate incident that week.
The Garner Family and the people of New York want justice for the death of Eric Garner and the continuing of the NYPD defending police brutality. Celebrity and social activist, Rev. Al Sharpton, has also established a rally against this injustice called the “Justice Caravan” that will involve him and supporters crossing the Verrazano Bridge by bus on August 23 in order to protest the NYPD chokehold of Eric Garner. “We are not going to let this go,” Sharpton says, “Can you imagine? A chokehold on videotape? If we can’t get justice here, we can’t get justice anywhere.”
There are special circumstances within every industry where it is beneficial to have an attorney with training in that particular area. Real estate is no different. Whether it is a commercial property, residence or vacation home, having an attorney who understands real estate law is extremely important. From an attorney’s standpoint, becoming proficient in real estate law can open up a wide variety of opportunities. To become a good real estate attorney, there are few steps a person must take. They include:
The first step in any profession is to receive the right type of education. For real estate, entering law school is only the first wrung of the ladder. The list begins with:
- Work towards and attain the law degree
- Take business courses whenever possible
- Attend classes real estate agents must have to learn the details of the industry and become proficient in both terminology and practice
While this may seem a lot to take on, the only way a real estate attorney is going to be effective is if they know and have training in the real estate industry. It is important to have a working knowledge of the system, its protocols and laws that govern the sale of property.
It’s important to have a working knowledge of the real estate industry. While attending college, begin to apply for internships with law firms that deal primarily with real estate and commercial properties. As an intern, being able to sit in on meetings and draft legal documents is sometimes a better source of learning that sitting in a classroom. Normally, a student must be into their second or third year of law school before applying for a true internship. If work is available as a clerk or researcher, jump at the opportunity. Those positions are open to anyone and will still allow for hands on knowledge of the field.
Find individuals from both fields to study with. It provides an opportunity to share thoughts, ideas and concerns while asking questions that are directly associated with your field of interest. As part of a well-rounded study program, add visiting real court rooms to learn how commercial law cases are treated within the judicial system.
Each industry has its own licensing and certification criteria. The most important thing to do when graduation draws close is to become aware of what types of licensing will be needed before a practice is opened up. Passing the state Bar exam is the most important. Without that license, it is illegal to practice law in any way. The next step is to determine what type of certification or licensing is needed when working within the real estate industry.
As an attorney, there will be no involvement in the actual sale of a property so a real estate license may not be needed. This can depend on the state in which the law practice is located, however. The Real Estate Board may require some type of certification that states the attorney in question is proficient within the real estate industry. Because the industry is so specialized and has laws that are unique to its area of practice, extra credentialing may be required.
Establishing a Practice
Once all of the credentials are in place and the practice is ready to open, reaching out to the real estate professionals is the next step. Building a reputation is extremely important if an attorney is trying to build a client base. Join sites like Manta, LinkedIn and forums that are directly affiliated with the real estate industry. Continue to reach out to others, including friends and neighbors. Take out a small ad in the area’s legal director.
Each step in the process is one more taking an attorney closer to their goal. Working within two industries can be a challenge, but it can be accomplished.
I wanted to talk about a chain of restaurants in Ohio who faced an employment case filed by the US Department of Labor (DOL) and Ohio employment attorneys back in 2012. The three branches of the restaurant chain, identified as El Rancho Grande, were discovered by investigators to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The lawsuit called for them to pay around $285,000 in back pay. This totaled the amount that should have been paid to more than 170 employees. The lawsuit was filed against the restaurant chain and their owners, Juan Hernandez and Francisco Magana, in a District Court in Dayton.
According to the investigators from the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, the branches in Gran Fiesta Inc. in Cincinnati, El Rancho Inc. in Sharonville and WRGRM LCC in Dayton failed to pay their workers properly in terms of wages as overtime pay.
Weekly, the said workers were paid a flat fee, that when thoroughly computed, summed up to an amount below the hourly minimum wage requirement. Labor law also states that workers should be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week, but again, the three entities ignored to abide by this rule. In addition, they also did not keep payroll records and monitor time cards which are also a requirement of labor law. Mohajerian Law Firm based in Los Angeles stresses that employers NEED to know and fully understand the labor laws at both the state and federal level to have healthy employer/employee relationships. And when in doubt, consult a qualified labor law attorney.
The violations don’t just pertain to the kitchen staff’s wages, but also to the restaurants’ servers. Their wages fell below the minimum wage levels, as well. The federal mandate for minimum wage in Ohio is $7.25 an hour (for those employers grossing $292,000 or less. In 2014 Ohio raised it’s minimum wage to $7.95/hr). Deductions were also made for their uniforms, which lowered the amount they would receive even more.
Here’s a look at the minimum wage in other states in the US.
Some quick information of labor laws in Ohio:
George Victory, the district director in the Columbus division said, “Low-wage workers such as restaurant servers and kitchen staff are far too often taken advantage of because they are reluctant to question employers about their pay and benefits.” Fully aware of these types of situations, he expresses, “We are committed to ensuring that all workers receive their rightful wages and benefits.”
It was also reported that El Rancho Grande already has a prior offense with regards to labor and employment law. In their last case, which happened ten years ago, they were also involved in wage violations, as well as falsification of payroll records. That time, investigations were done in by the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL. It ended with employers agreeing to pay around $100,000 in back pay.
Individuals who have been involved in an automobile or motorcycle accident are often faced with the choice of whether or not to file a lawsuit. Depending on the type of accident, property loss and the amount of mental and physical injury that was caused, an attorney may have to help them decide.
When a car is lost, most people want to be reimbursed for the value. If a person is injured, their emotional and psychological wounds may last long after their physical wounds have healed. Once quality of life is affected, it is much harder to put a price on the resulting aftermath.
Is a Lawsuit Worth It?
Determining if a lawsuit is worth the time and effort is up to the victim and their attorney. In the event of a traumatic injury or extensive property damage, the immediate cost of an accident may not be known. Insurance companies and agencies will often push for a hasty settlement in the hopes that the extent of their coverage will be limited to a much lower amount than what the end result may eventually be.
- Extensive injuries may lead to several months of rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Property damage may take several weeks to assess depending on the nature and extent of the damage
- PTSD can result in years of psychological problems that require treatment
In some cases, settling out of court may be the best option. If the only loss was material possessions or property, a person may actually come out ahead if they take a lump sum settlement. In the case of a physical injury, the repercussions may dramatically affect a person’s quality of life or ability to hold a job. If that is the case, settling out of court can be devastating. The pain and suffering that accompanies a debilitating injury can last long after the physical damage has healed.
Beware of a Quick Settlement
The major insurance companies want to pay as little as possible. If an insurance company offers a settlement within a few days of the accident, it means they may know something they don’t want the other party to find out. For instance, if their client is financially secure an insurance company may choose to offer a quick payout to prevent the victim from going after, not only the insurance company, but the other person as well. If the victim accepts the settlement, they have no recourse to sue for more money after they find out the other driver’s true value.
Hiring an attorney can help a person weigh their options and determine exactly how much compensation they are entitle to. Recovering the cost of a vehicle or piece of property is much easier than determining the cost of a lifetime of pain and suffering. Medical bills from the initial injuries can skyrocket if it is determined the person may need prolonged care. Most attorneys will advise their clients to avoid settling until they know the true extent of all injuries and property damage.
Skin cancer is one of the few cancers in which the mortality rate still continues to rise. It is also a form of cancer that can be prevented by taking proper care of the skin. Part of the reason for this is the misdiagnosis of the disease. Malignant melanomas are being misdiagnosed at an alarming rate, leaving individuals to wonder about what is exactly going on with their health. Melanoma has been the cause of many skin cancer related deaths, even though it is one of the rarest forms of the disease.
Misdiagnosis has been a major factor in the lack of treatment of malignant melanomas. Early detection could save hundreds of lives each year, but sadly, many signs go unnoticed. Part of the problem stems from hurried examinations where physicians don’t take the necessary time to thoroughly assess a mole, lesion or other suspicious area on the skin. Insurance companies place limits on the amount of time a doctor can spend with each patient, as well as what tests and procedures can be requested.
Malignant melanomas are rare cancers of the skin. An increase in pigmentation is an excellent indicator. If a mole or lesion has had a drastic change in color, texture or size, this can also be cause for worry. They can appear in the eye as well as in the bowel. Almost 80 percent of all malignant melanomas are discovered and accurately diagnosed when they are still localized and have not started to spread.
When a person goes to the doctor with a concern about a mole or other skin abnormality, they want answers about what is going on with their health. A misdiagnosis of a melanoma can be considered medical malpractice or professional gross negligence. If a doctor’s misdiagnosis results in injury to the patient, or worse case scenario, their death, a malpractice charge may be considered. Before a lawsuit can be filed, it must be determined that a healthcare provider was amiss in how he or she performed their duties and medical responsibilities.
State Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Due to Medical Malpractice
Every state has its own statute of limitations when it comes to medical malpractice cases and the lawsuits that stem from them.
New Jersey: 2 years
Pennsylvania: 2 years
West Virginia: 2 years (from when the act first could have been discovered, must be filed prior to the 10th anniversary of the discovery date)
Ohio: Lawsuits against healthcare providers must be filed within 1 year. Plaintiffs can give defendants notice of their claim within a year of the date of the injury. After 2 years medical malpractice cases can no longer be filed legally.
The misdiagnosis of medical melanoma happens more often than it should. The lawsuits that stem from those misdiagnoses are filed to make sure that healthcare providers and insurance companies are held accountable for their actions and the damage they have caused. Responsibility and restitution are key elements of each and every lawsuit filed in the name of a patient who has experienced a misdiagnosis.
A little girl from Troy, Illinois, Chloe Stirling, recently got her heart broken when her dream of one day owning a car had just turned into a nightmare. Folks would usually be proud of seeing the younger generation saving up for their dream, but apparently the Madison County Health Department doesn’t share most people’s sentiments.
Chloe has been selling homemade cupcakes for family, friends and charities so she could, in the future, afford her own car. However, the health department shut down her operations because the little girl didnt have the necessary requirements and because her home’s kitchen didn’t live up to certain standards.
State Representative Charlie Meier, however, is none too pleased about the health department’s decision. To him, they’ve gone too far. According to the Illinois Review, Meier said, “While the idea for this may have been started because of a little girl in Troy, her situation did shed some light onto a bigger issue negatively impacting charity groups and their ability to raise funds. This legislation will allow for groups to hold bake sales without any fear of the health department shutting them down.” For this reason, he decided to introduce a new bill that would benefit people who do “home kitchen operations.”
In the health department’s viewpoint, small operations such as that of Chloe’s might not comply with rules on sanitation, and so other people’s health would be at risk. David Clayton, the man behind Larry’s House of Cakes, was interviewed by WSIL-TV and says that the ideal kitchen should have a three-compartment sink “so you have a wash, a rinse and a sanitize” and that bakery employees must also follow strict rules while working in the kitchen. Point is that home-based bakeries must comply with the same things.
But this new bill, named Chloe’s Law, suggests making changes that would be more suitable for home operations. “We don’t want the government to be so huge and oppressive that it hurts people more than it helps,” explains Meier. To qualify, people must have a monthly gross income of less than $1000, the food must not be potentially hazardous, and consumers must be informed that the product was made in a home kitchen.
Though there is one law that allows making food in the kitchen to later sell to the public – the Cottage Food Operation Act – it only permits food to be sold in a farmers market. If passed, the new law can allow people to sell food from their homes without fear of health departments shutting them down. It can also benefit not just individuals looking to earn a few extra dollars, but also startups, schools, religious organizations, non-profit organization and charities. “This country was made great by people starting their own business. You got to start somewhere,” Meier said. As for Chloe, it is said that a new kitchen will be added to their home. Either that or her parents would have to find her a more suitable space.
Too Much Focus on Pets and Not People?
Although PetSmart works nationwide to take care of America’s pets, it seems that the company has failed to take care of the many employees who make it possible to do so. In fact, there are some 16,000, more or less, current and past employees who allege that they are and have been underpaid. This has forced them to file a class action lawsuit against the company. The latest was filed last Janury 31, 2014 in California federal court as a violation of labor law. The case was finally settled with PetSmart agreeing to pay $10 million.
The good thing about this suit is that PetSmart was quick to look into the case at hand and have now owned up to the errors they made in terms of employee compensation. And the plaintiffs were rather pleased with the company’s cooperation. Graham Stephen Paul Hollis, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said that “this was a long, hard-fought settlement, but PetSmart has been pretty good about addressing these policies and realizing that mistakes had been done.”
How it all started
The dispute between PetSmart and its employees first surfaced in 2012 when a complaint was made in Alameda County Superior Court. The plaintiffs, PetSmart groomers, had claimed that they have not been properly compensated for non-grooming duties assigned to them at work. Yes, the suit was initially filed to address issues raised by their groomers because they became aware that they were only paid 50% of the net grooming fee. This explains why most of the $10 million settlement will go to the groomers, even though it does cover compensation for all, including grooming trainees, hourly employees and salon managers assigned to PetSmart’s California branches. However, things escalated when other added concerns were raised by other employees.
The added concerns included meal break and minimum wage violations to nonexempt, hourly employees. According to the lawsuit, Petsmart employees were only given 30 minutes of break time during a 6- to 8-hour work day, but California labor law mandates that employees be given a meal period after 5 hours of work. Furthermore, there were also complaints of stylists not being reimbursed for their styling tool purchases.
Plaintiffs also allege that they weren’t properly compensated for serving customers even while on their breaks. “PetSmart had a policy that required employees to ask customers if they needed help. It was the culture of the store. But the company had no policy as for how to compensate people for the time they spent working while they were clocked out,” the attorney told Law360.
Minimum wage law
To those unfamiliar with the state’s wage and hour policy, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that typical covered employees must receive a minimum of $7.25 per hour, and that they be paid for all hours the spend working. For overtime, they must be paid time and one-half the regular rate. It is stated that the only circumstance wherein employees are exempted from this rule is if they are seasonal employees, work on a tipped wage basis that meet minimum wage, or are already of managerial status or higher.
The housing market crash has created a financial crisis among public and private sectors in the U.S. The Washington grass seed growers are one of those greatly affected by this phenomenon. People are not building houses so the demand for landscaping plummeted, including the demand for grass seed. Because of this, market price of grass seed dropped dramatically.
Before the housing bubble burst, the Scotts Company entered into a contract with a group of Washington grass seed growers for their Kentucky bluegrass seed produce. But just recently, the growers filed a lawsuit against the Scotts Company and processors Seeds Inc. of Tekoa, WA and Dye Ranch Inc. Pomeroy, WA for allegedly breach of contract over seed prices.
The Scotts Company is not paying the agreed upon contract price of $1.30 per pound for the Kentucky bluegrass seed. The current market price for this type of seed is valued at around 65 cents according to these experts. The processors Seeds Inc. and Dye Ranch Inc. which cleaned and packaged the seeds have also filed a counterclaim against Scotts for refusing to pay the farmers what is promised them. Both processors negotiated with the farmers on behalf of Scotts. They are collectively seeking $18.5 million from the Scotts Company so they can pay the growers for their crop.
According to Seeds Inc. attorney Tim Esser, Scotts is persuading the growers to accept payment that is less than the contract price. Esser also cited tactics Scotts used to outlast the growers’ endurance. Scotts is reportedly claiming that some growers are padding their yields with seeds from fields not under contract. Hence, Scotts requested Seeds to do an audit to prove if this is true.
A Scotts’ attorney claimed that Seeds has consistently denied their request for audit. The lawyer alleged that Seeds and the farmers are inaccurately weighing the seed and trying to sell them to Scotts without adhering to quality control standards.
At a scheduled meeting in Spokane, Scotts Vice President for Global Purchasing Pete Supron was asked by the growers if the company would pay them if the audit showed everything was on the level, the answer was negative. In short, Scotts won’t honor the contract regardless of the audit’s outcome.
On the part of Seeds Inc., their lawyer confirmed that Scotts has already been given access to all of Seed books to check their records. As it is, Esser believed that the Scotts Company never really want to pay the farmers but is just prolonging the legal process. According to him, Scotts is trying to starve the farmers out so they would end up accepting money less than what is officially agreed.
The growers are now having a hard time financing their farm because no payment has been made so far. Their families are also deeply affected by the situation as bills continue to pile up. The judge assigned to the case has yet to decide whether he will rule against the Scotts Company or let them go to trial. Thinking about it, no problems ever occurred in the beginning until seed prices plummeted to the bottom level.