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Monday, November 13, 2017

Stepparent Adoptions

Stepparent adoption is the most common form of adoption in the United States. Once the adoption is finalized, the stepparent assumes full financial and legal responsibility for his or her spouse’s child and the non-custodial parent’s rights and responsibilities are terminated.  

Stepparent adoptions are handled according to state law, which can vary across jurisdictions. For example, some states do not require a home study in cases of stepparent adoption. Most states require that the biological parent and stepparent be married for a specified length of time before an adoption may be finalized. Fortunately for blended families, most states make the adoption process easier for stepchildren to be adopted by their stepparents.

Stepparent adoptions require the consent of both of the child’s birth parents, but the process is handled differently in various states. In some states, the non-custodial parent must file papers with the court or appear before a judge, while a simple written statement is sufficient in other jurisdictions. Some states require the non-custodial parent to seek counseling or speak to a lawyer in order to give valid consent.

The consent requirement is not absolute and in fact, consent may not be required in certain situations. In some states, a stepparent adoption may be finalized even if the child’s biological, non-custodial parent contests the adoption, such as when the non-custodial parent has not contacted the child for a specified period of time. If you are having difficulty obtaining consent, you should speak with an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for free legal aid or the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent your child.
 


Friday, November 3, 2017

Top Ten Child Support Myths

Child support disputes can bring out the worst in many parents, conjuring images of greedy ex-spouses and children who are used as pawns in games of parental posturing and revenge. While there may be a certain degree of truth to some of the stereotypes, there are many myths that are prevalent in the context of children and divorce.


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Thursday, October 26, 2017

What is Settlement Planning?

Settlement planning is a unique and expanding area of law that is designed to help individuals preserve benefits that have been received from a personal injury settlement, inheritance or judgment. The practice encompasses an array of legal services such as special needs planning, estate planning and financial planning. The objective is to assist clients with resolving claims and to create a structure to properly manage the funds.


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Monday, October 16, 2017

Master Calendar Hearings

The first stage in the removal (deportation) of a foreign national is a Notice to Appear (NTA) at a Master Calendar Hearing.  The purpose of the hearing is not to reach a final decision on removal, but to obtain basic information about the case and create a schedule for it to proceed.  It also is an opportunity for the court to outline all of the legal rights available to the foreign national, including the right to answer charges, present evidence, examine witnesses and, if the respondent lacks counsel, make use of any free or low-cost legal service providers who may be available.

The Notice to Appear contains the date, time and location of the hearing, usually at least ten days later.  A fo

reign national (the "respondent") who receives a notice must attend in person, with or without an attorney.  Failure to attend, or even showing up late, can result in denial of an application and deportation "in absentia."  The respondent should bring the Notice to Appear and any official identification documents.  Family members can attend.

The Notice to Appear also contains allegations about the respondent's illegal status in the United States.  The respondent, with the help of an attorney if possible, should examine these allegations carefully and be prepared to deny them and correct any inaccuracies.

The Master Calendar Hearing itself is brief, though it may take hours for a case to be called.  When the respondent's name and Alien Registration Number are announced, the respondent and counsel, if any, appear before an Immigration Court Judge.  The court will generally provide an interpreter, if needed.

The judge may ask for basic information, such as name, address, and the languages the respondent speaks.  The judge then reviews the charges.  The respondent can deny some or all of the government's allegations and point out any factual errors regarding names, dates, places, or other details.  The respondent can designate—or refuse to designate— a "country of removal," i.e. where to be sent if deported.

The respondent can also state the basis of a claim for relief from removal from the United States.  These may include:

  • Asylum based on persecution in the immigrant's home country. 
  • Marriage to a US citizen.
  • Cancellation of removal for qualifying lawful permanent and non-permanent residents.
  • Adjustment of status from non-immigrant to a lawful permanent resident.
  • Voluntary departure.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge gives the respondent a deadline for submitting further applications or documents.  The judge may schedule another Master Calendar hearing for the case, or set a date for an individual hearing on the merits.  The respondent may ask for more time to retain an attorney, submit documents, or prepare for the next hearing.

If you have been notified that you will be subject to a Master Calendar hearing and are at risk of deportation it is imperative to hire an experienced immigration law attorney to protect your rights.


Monday, October 2, 2017

FDNS Administrative Site Visits/ Business Law

In 2009, the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched a program to ensure that employers comply with immigration rules designed to protect public safety and national security.  Under the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (ASVVP), FDNS makes surprise site inspections to verify the information that employers provide to the government.


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Monday, September 25, 2017

Know the Risks of “D-I-Y” Divorce

“Do it yourself” divorce is fraught with risks – even if your case is “simple” and both parties agree on all issues regarding division of property, support, and child custody and visitation. As many have learned the hard way, it is all too easy to make critical missteps today that will come back to haunt you down the road.

The proliferation of DIY websites and non-attorney legal document preparers give the impression that the process is simpler than it is. These services can help you deal with the court forms required to dissolve a marriage, including financial disclosures, motions, hearing notices and child support paperwork. It’s tempting to save money by using one of these services to prepare and file your divorce forms without using a lawyer.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Calculate Estate Tax

In order to predict how much your estate will have to pay in taxes, one must first determine the value of the estate. To determine this, many assets might have to be appraised at fair market value. The estate includes all assets including real estate, cash, securities, stocks, bonds, business interests, loans receivable, furnishings, jewelry, and other valuables.

Once your net worth is established, you can subtract liabilities like mortgages, credit cards, other legitimate debts, funeral expenses, medical bills, and the administrative cost to settle your estate including attorney, accounting and appraisal fees, storage and shipping fees, insurances, and court fees. The administrative expenses will likely total roughly 5% of the total estate. Any assets that is bequeathed to charity through a trust escapes taxation, and the value of those assets must be subtracted from the total. Any assets transferred to a surviving spouse are not subject to taxation as long as your spouse is a US citizen.

If the net worth of an estate is less than the Federal and state exemptions, no taxes must be paid. However, the value of assets over the exemptions will be taxed. The amount over the exemptions is referred to as the taxable estate. A testator’s assets are taxed by the state in which the will is probated. Taxes paid by the estate to the state may be deducted for Federal tax purposes. The Federal exemption was $5.43 million in 2015 and is slated to increase in 2016. The top Federal estate tax rate in 2015 was 40%.

If an estate earns money while it is being administered and distributed, for example, if real estate is rented or businesses continue to operate, it will be necessary for the estate to complete a tax return and pay taxes on the income it receives. The net income of the estate can be added to the taxable portion of the estate if it is over the federal or state exemption. It is important to be aware that the laws surrounding estate taxes change frequently and require seasoned professionals to navigate, and to notify you if changes in the laws will affect your estate plan. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Top Five Reasons for Filing Personal Bankruptcy

Although the number of personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S. has declined, many individuals continue to face insurmountable debt. Let's take a look at some of the reasons that lead people to file for bankruptcy.

Medical Expenses

A number studies demonstrate that medical expenses account for more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies.  Catastrophic illnesses and injuries often result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills that can easily deplete savings and other sources of funds.  Once these funds have been exhausted, personal bankruptcy may be the only alternative.


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Refugees & Asylum

Some immigrants to the U.S. are classified as “refugees” or granted asylum. Refugee status or asylum is granted to people who have been persecuted or are afraid they may be persecuted because of their political opinion, race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group.


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Don’t Let Your Social Networking Activities Undermine Your Divorce Negotiations

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, in the past five years 81% of its members have represented clients in cases involving evidence from social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Posted pictures and comments can make the job all-too-easy for your former spouse’s attorney to attack your credibility and ensure you do not receive the relief that you are requesting from the court.


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Primer on Advance Medical Directives

While the main objective of estate planning is to help individuals protect their assets and provide for  loved ones, there are other important considerations, such as planning for incapacity. In short, it is crucial  to plan for the type of medical care people wish to receive if a serious accident or illness makes them unable to make or communicate these decisions. By putting in place advance medical directives, such as a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will, it is possible to plan for these unexpected events.


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