Your Guide to Independent Contractor Agreement

Hiring independent contractors, rather than employees, can be beneficial for businesses. This is because you cannot control them as you do employees since they work as consultants and are self-employed. You save resources regarding training them and also don’t need to pay bonuses. However, you should document the independent contractor agreement carefully since they need to sign it to avoid issues with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The independent contractor agreement is very important if you contract the consultant to develop software, a product, a manual or book, or any other type of intellectual property.

As the contracting party, you need to document what rights you expect to retain with the end product so that the independent contractors cannot interfere with the intellectual product. However, you have to first understand what an independent contractor agreement is, along with things you consider when drafting it. So, what does this contract entail? This article highlights what an independent contractor agreement is, what you should consider when drafting it, and the guide to the contract. We have also addressed key tax and business issues you will encounter when dealing with consultants or independent contractors.

What Is an Independent Contractor Agreement?

An independent contractor agreement is basically a written contract between two parties for a specific project or service. It usually applies where a company or a person is hiring another to help on a short-term task or project. It differs from an employment agreement since it clearly spells out why the consultant or independent contractor is not an employee for tax and legal purposes.

The independent contractor agreement mainly addresses several elements. It specifies the hiring entity or person that may need special services in the short-term and establishes that there is no need for hiring them as an employee. It has to encompass a contractor who is the entity or person hired for a task or project. It must include the services offered. For services offered, the agreement should specify the task to be performed or delivered. It has to stipulate the compensation, which is how much the contractor will be paid. It includes the effective date which is when the agreement begins and when the job starts.

It has to specify the termination process. This is whether the hiring entity or person can end the relationship at any time. This is what is referred to as an “at will” contract.  It should also address the number of days a written notice is needed to end the contract. It also includes the fringe benefits, which specify that the contractor cannot participate in any of the hiring entity’s employee health, pension, sick pay, health, or any unemployment benefits. The entity can also hire its own assistants, but is solely responsible for the expenses like Medicare or Social Security taxes.

The contract may also be referred to as:

  • Company contractor agreement
  • Client/service freelancer agreement
  • Independent consultant agreement
  • Freelance contract
  • Freelancer agreement
  • Contractor agreement
  • Freelancer contractor agreement

Advantages and Disadvantages of Working with Independent Contractors

Working with independent contractors has a number of advantages, including:

  • You can use contractors for a project or task when needed
  • Contractors provide special expertise
  • You establish a flexible relationship with the contractor
  • You will cut on costs on tax contributions

However, it has its downsides, including:

  • You may end up paying high fees to the contractor
  • You do not have full control over the contractor
  • There is a chance you will run into tax problems
  • You cannot establish continuity in the relationship with contractors, instead, an employee here would be preferable

Things to Consider When Drafting Your Agreement

A good independent contractor agreement includes the following aspects:

1.Timing

The agreement needs to spell out when the services are to be performed. Here, the hiring entity should consider including a late-penalty fee if the services are not delivered in the documented time or when the product is delivered late.

2.Services

The contract spells out the services that the independent contractor will perform. Here, you should specify all the things that you expect to be done by the independent contractor so that he or she can be paid.

3.Reporting

The contract needs to spell out when progress reports should be made by the independent contractor and to whom he or she reports. You should be careful here not to have excessive control over the contractor since it could potentially lead to the identification of the contractor as an employee as far as tax is concerned.

4.Payment

The contractor expects to be paid but only if he or she delivers the product or services. The clause regarding payment in the contract should address the amount that the contractor will be paid, the manner in which he or she will be paid (per hour or per project), and when the payment is due. From the perspective of the hiring company, it should ensure that the product or service is of reasonable quality before being obligated to pay the entire amount. Otherwise, you do not have to pay until you’re satisfied with the work.

5.Subcontractors

If the contractor expects to use subcontractors, he or she should provide approval over them, and we recommend that they execute an appropriate contract with you.

6.Warranties

In the contract, you need to spell out any warranties from the contractor, including the contractor’s warranty that the services or product delivered should be of high-quality, timely, and professional.

7.Work for hire

The contract should stipulate that the work product that the contractor develops for the hiring company is considered a work for hire under the copyright laws and owned only by the hiring entity and not the contractor.

8.Confidentiality

The contract needs to clarify that the contractor must keep any proprietary information about the hiring company confidential and that the contractor will not use any information that the entity provides other than for the benefit of the hiring company.

Your Guide to an Independent Contractor Agreement

Protecting Your Interests

Prior to hiring an independent contractor, you have to first do a background check to establish whether the person is the right person to perform the job. If you want to verify the information that the person provides, have the person sign a background check just to make sure the information provided is accurate.

Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Contracts

Have the contractor or consultant sign a confidentiality agreement, especially if you run a tech-oriented firm since you’ll pass a significant amount of confidential information. Since the contract comes up with a product or business idea, it is your best interest to maintain ownership. In areas where you are sensitive about confidentiality and the company’s ownership of the product, ensure that the contractor or consultant signs the Confidentiality and Invention Assignment. This will ensure that the contractor doesn’t pass on confidential information and that the final product or idea belongs to the company, not the contractor.

Tax Considerations

Tax laws demand that you treat contractors and employees differently. Contractors are beneficial since you reduce the tax liability but you need to be careful to correctly fill out tax forms and agreements to avoid the IRS disagreeing with your assessment. For tax purposes, the following is required for independent contractors:

  • No Social Security contributions
  • No Medicare taxes contribution
  • No withholding of federal taxes
  • File Form 1099-MISC with IRS if you pay the contractor $600 or more per year
  • No compensation insurance
  • No contribution to unemployment insurance funds or taxes
  • No sick leave or holidays
  • No overtime payments
  • You do not have the right to control how the contractor works, what you’re interested in is the final product
  • You don’t have the right to control the business aspects of the worker’s activities

If the IRS determines that the contractor should have been classified as an employee, rather than a contractor, you may be penalized as follows:

  • Pay Medicare contributions that would have been withheld
  • Pay federal income tax that should otherwise be withheld from the employee
  • You’ll be penalized for failing to properly pay taxes and file tax returns
  • Criminal sanctions, you could be imprisoned or face fines up to $100,000
  • A larger penalty if it is established that you were negligent or fraudulent
  • Pay tax interest should have been withheld
  • Pay personal liability for corporate officers, up to 100% of the amount that would otherwise be withheld

Independent Contractor Tax Forms

IRS requires you to fill the following forms:

1. Form W-9: This requires you to collect Social Security numbers or the Employer Identification Number (EIN).
2. Form 1099-MISC: Once you pay the contractor $600 or more in a year, send the form to IRS and to the contractor at the end of the year.

Conclusion

It is vital for a business to first establish whether the person providing services is an independent contractor or employee so you understand if you have to withhold taxes, pay unemployment tax on wages, pay and withhold Social Security and Medicare tax, or provide benefits to this person. For independent contractors, you don’t have to withhold or pay any type of tax when working with them. When working with contractors, the hiring entity must first ensure that the person or company signs the independent contractor agreement.

The contract includes aspects like timing, services offered, reporting mechanisms, payment, subcontractors (if any are involved), warranties, work for hire, and confidentiality. For tax purposes, ensure you file with the IRS Form W-9 and Form 1099-MISC. We hope that this article has adequately addressed what an independent contractor agreement is, what you should consider when drafting it, and key tax and business issues involved.

Top 5 Things You Should Know About Constitutional Law

When we ask ourselves what kind of country we want to live in, one of the first thoughts we have is, “What should be allowed, and what shouldn’t?” In a nation that is governed by 23,000 pages of criminal law alone, how do we decide what laws we want to live by? It all comes down to what is written in the Constitution of the United States, and how it is interpreted through constitutional law.

What Is Constitutional Law?

No one can write a law that is in conflict with what the Constitution says, and that is where constitutional law comes in.

The Law of the Land

Constitutional law is the body of law that deals with interpreting the Constitution and applying its decrees to practice in real-life situations, some mundane and others extremely consequential. In the United States, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  It outlines what powers the different branches of government have, and what rights the citizens have. The Constitution has the final word in all questions of how our government and legal systems work – end of story.

Murky Waters

In the real world, however, there are arguments and differing opinions over specific aspects of the Constitution, and resolving them is not always as simple as dusting off the document and checking it to see which side is getting it right. Two people (or two areas of government, or two companies, or one person and the government, etc.) can read the same document, and each can think that the law is on their side.

Furthermore, there may seem to be contradictions within the Constitution itself, which can rouse questions about enforcing existing national, state, and local laws. New laws also have to be checked for constitutionality as well.

Constitutional law aims to untangle these questions and figure out what is in line with what the Constitution says and what is not. But, what does the Constitution say?

What Constitutes the Constitution?

The Constitution is invoked every day by pundits on cable news outlets, politicians on the campaign trail, and advocates arguing their stance on one issue or another. There is much more in the text than the commonly quoted bits and pieces that turn up so often in soundbites. Here is a quick rundown of what is covered in the constitution:

The Original Seven Articles

These form the bulk of the original document, drafted by the founders in 1787 and ratified by all of the original thirteen colonies by 1789.

Articles 1-3:

Articles 4-6:

Article 7:

A Living Document

Right from the get-go, the founders got to work adding amendments to the Constitution, and we have been adding more ever since with the latest amendment being ratified in 1992.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights. They restrict government power and guarantee specific rights to the population. The First Amendment, for example, guarantees freedom of religion and restricts government from imposing any religion on the population. Other amendments in the Bill of Rights address gun ownership, the right to a speedy trial by jury, and protection against unwarranted search and seizure.

The remaining seventeen amendments can be grouped into three main categories:

Expansion of civil rights:

There are amendments outlawing slavery, guaranteeing women's suffrage, and abolishing Jim Crow policies.

Government processes and procedures:

These address questions of how the government will go about its business and deal with things like term limits and what happens if the President is unable to carry out his or her duties.

Governmental authority:

The eighteenth amendment, banning alcohol sales in the United States (the only one to be repealed), is included here, as well as others dealing with the reach of government authority.

The Need for Constitutional Law

Clearly, there is a lot to untangle in the Constitution. To further complicate the issue, the original document was signed into law well over 200 years ago. Inevitably, situations are going to arise that cause confusion about how best to apply the letter of the law, and inevitably, there will be lawyers involved.

How to Apply the Constitution?

There are five main approaches to figuring out how best to apply the Constitution.

Look at the Text: Ideally, all you need to do is read the text and do what it says. You may need to get around some old-fashioned language and follow some complicated thought processes, but otherwise, hopefully, the answer is in the document.

Structure and Logic: Sometimes, it is helpful to consider an individual amendment in the context of the entire constitution. For example, the eighteenth and twenty-first amendments only make sense if you consider that one repealed the other. Further, if there is any lack of clarity around one of the first ten amendments, consider that as part of the Bill of Rights, it is there to enshrine the rights of citizens.

Original Intent: The question of what the Founding Fathers originally intended when writing a part of the Constitution is a common, and complicated, dilemma. It is a useful question to the extent that their intention can help clarify the law itself, but it can be difficult to find the line between what they may have had on their mind, but still chose not to enshrine into law, and what they intended the words that they actually did enshrine into law to mean. For example,  if an amendment states that “any person has equal protection under the law” even though, at the time, many did not wish for women to have equal protection under the law, it may be true that many would not have wished the law to include women, thinking that “person” would be understood to refer to men only. However, the word that they chose to write was “person,” (and not “man” or “male”), which even then could be understood to include women. Therefore, we cannot say that the law should not apply to women;  they chose the word “person,” and that is what we go by.

Precedent: Here you would look at what has already been decided by previous courts and apply that decision to another situation. Precedents and the thought processes behind them can shed a lot of light on the issue at hand, but should never supersede what is actually written in the Constitution.

Policy: The question here is, “What impact will this have on the real world?” This approach is a bit tricky, as here you begin with the result that you want, and try to make it work within the Constitution. This should be the last approach, taking a back seat to an impartial reading of what the document says.

Top 5 Things You Should Know About Constitutional Law

There Is Always an Issue:

At any given time, there are plenty of important issues being worked out nationally, and one way to set policy is through the courts. Look no further than the cases involving money in politics, LGBT civil liberties, and religious freedom, or the debate about online file sharing.

Court Cases Matter:

A lot of important court cases involving the constitutionality of certain laws have shaped our policy for years and affect our lives today. Here are a few you may know: Roe Vs. Wade, in 1973, held that women have a constitutional right to choice; and Miranda Vs. Arizona, in 1966, gave us the “Miranda Rights” by guaranteeing that citizens are informed of their right against self-incrimination.

But Some Are Boring:

Take Fischer vs St. Louis (1896), about milk distribution; or Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. Vs. Minnesota (1959), about interstate tax laws. No offense, constitutional law professors.

It’s Not All About the Supreme Court:

While commonly regarded as the branch that interprets the Constitution and the place we should bring constitutional matters to be decided, the Supreme Court is not the sole guardian of our Constitution. Each branch of government is equally responsible to abide by the Constitution as they see fit, independent of the others, and nowhere in the Constitution itself does it say that the Supreme Court innately has more authority to interpret the law than the others. In fact, not only are all three branches of government bound by this responsibility but...

It's In Your Hands:

As citizens, we too have the authority to interpret the Constitution. The point is made explicitly in the first three words of the document itself, “We the People.” It is our right and responsibility to uphold the law of the Constitution by voting, jury duty, political advocacy, and all forms of civic participation.

So Get Out There!

The Constitution is one of the most important documents in our nation and guarantees us our rights and liberties. It is the backbone of our legal system, outlines how our government should work, and tells us who has the power to do what. If you have something to say about the Constitution, say it! You can get informed by viewing the Constitution itself here: https://www.usconstitution.net/const.pdf

How Does Bail Work: Understanding Your Rights

Being arrested is a likely scenario for many, especially with the increased vigilance of the law enforcement agencies. If it happens, you do not want to stay in jail as this will ground your day-to-day activities. This is why many people’s first thought upon landing in jail is about getting out. One way of doing so is by posting a bail. This is security to ensure you appear in court proceedings until the final judgment. So how does bail work? This content highlights what a bail is and how it works.

What Is Bail?

A bail is a bond, a cash, or property that an arrested individual gives to a court of law to ensure that he or she appears in court if needed. If you don’t show up, the court keeps the bail and issues a warrant of arrest. How does bail work? For you to answer this question, you have to first know about the types of bails. There are five types of bails.

1. Cash Bail

This is where the accused pays the full amount of bail in cash. Sometimes, the court can accept a credit card or even checks.

2. Surety Bond

How does bail work when you opt for a surety bond? A surety bond is also referred to as a bail bond and can be used for any amount of bail. However, it is especially useful when the accused cannot afford to pay the bail. It involves a relative or a friend of the accused contacting a bail agent, also referred to as a bail bondsman. The bail bondsman bails the accused after receiving a collateral. In addition, the bail bondsman typically must be paid a commission of the bond. However, the bail agent risks the full bond if the defendant does not appear in court for proceedings on the required date.

3. Release on Citation

Sometimes, an officer does not book the suspect at all but will instead issue a citation that says the accused must appear in court on a particular date. This process is less thorough compared to taking the suspect to a police station and performing the normal booking procedure.

4. Property Bond

How does bail work when paying with a property? Some instances will need the defendant to provide property, which acts like a bond. Here, the court gets a lien on the property in the amount of the bail. If the accused doesn’t appear in court, it forecloses on the property to recover the bail.

5. Release on Own Personal Recognizance (O.R.)

  • The judge may also release the accused on O.R., which implies that he or she shows up on the arranged court date and doesn’t have to pay bail. This is applicable when the charge is a minor, nonviolent crime and when the accused is not a danger to others or a flight risk. Flight risk is when a person is likely to flee and not appear for the court proceedings.
    A defendant released on O.R. signs a promise to show up in court. This usually happens at the first court appearance. If the judge denies the request, then the accused asks for a low bail. Factors that can convince a judge to grant O.R. release include:
  • You have family members, including parents, a spouse, or children living in the community
  • You have lived in the community for many years
  • You’re employed
  • You have no criminal record
  • You have been charged before but have always appeared as required

What Is a Bail Bondsman?

So how does a bail work when you don’t have money to post bail? This is where you need to seek the services of a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman is also known as a bailer or bail agent. It is the person who provides bail as a surety for a criminal defendant’s release. The bail bondsman is covered by a special insurance company called a surety company that pledges to pay the full amount of a surety body if the accused does not appear in court. In return, the bail agent charges the client a 10% premium and collects collateral, for example, a car or boat, a title to a house, electronics, or jewelry.

By getting the relative or friend involved, the bail agent hopes that the defendant feels compelled to appear in court since the relative or friend will pay the bail agent’s premium and has collateral. The bail bondsman’s bond is also at stake and if the accused does not appear in court, which is referred to as jumping or skipping bail, then it is the agent responsible for paying the entire bond. If the accused jumps bail, the bail bondsman might seek a bounty hunter, but only if it is legal in that state.

Commercial bail bonding is illegal in some states including Oregon, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. In other states, the bail bondsman needs to be licensed.

How Does Bail Work?

So how does bail work? A bail works by releasing the defendant in exchange for an agreed amount of money that the court holds until all the court proceedings are complete. The court, by offering the bail, hopes that the defendant shows up for all court trials on specified dates in order for them to recover the bail.

Court trial typically starts weeks or months after the initial arrest. You don’t want to spend all that time in jail, so posting a bail is the most viable option for you. Therefore, if not for a bail, many individuals, some of whom may be innocent, would have to wait in jail until the trials begin. This inconveniences the defendant endures can be a source of financial hardship since the person cannot work. Besides, the individual will also miss a lot in his or her life, such as holidays and family events.

Not everyone is eligible for bail, particularly dangerous suspects or a person who has been linked to criminality before. This implies that not all persons released on bail are acquitted, and thus, to prevent dangerous suspects from being released, the court implements these safeguards.

Bail Process

How does bail work and what is the bail process? If you are arrested, you will first be taken to a police station to be processed or booked. When you’re booked, a police officer on duty records information about you as the suspect. This includes personal information, such as the birthday, name, address, and appearance along with the alleged crime.

Then the police officer will conduct a criminal background check by taking your fingerprints and a mugshot and then seizes and inventories any personal property. The property is returned when you’re being released. You are also checked for intoxication and required to make a phone call to inform your family member of the arrest. You are then put in a cell, typically with other recently booked suspects.

When you have committed less serious crimes, you may be allowed to post bail immediately after being booked. If you cannot post bail immediately, you must wait (less than 48 hours) for a bail hearing. The judge then determines whether you are eligible for posting bail and at what cost. The bail amount depends on the severity of the crime but is also dependent upon the judge. Some jurisdictions have a standard bail amount. For instance, Los Angeles recommends $25,000 for sexual assault or perjury, $1,000,000 for kidnapping and intending to rape, and $100,000 for manslaughter.

However, the judge also considers the defendant’s criminal record and the history of showing up for past court proceedings, if any. The judge may also look into the defendant’s ties to the community, whether the suspect can harm others or any other considerations that may be raised by the attorney. Sometimes, bail can be waived altogether.

Conclusion

Our main goal was to address the question of how bail works. A bail is considered a bond, a cash, or property a defendant gives to a court of law to ensure that he or she appears in court proceedings.

There are different types of bonds. Cash bail is when the accused pays the full amount of bail in cash. Surety bonds entail securing the services of a bail bondsman and are useful when the accused cannot afford to pay the bail. A person can also be released on a citation. This is applied when the officer does not book the suspect but will instead issue a citation that says the accused must appear in court on a particular date. You can also be released via property bond where the property acts like a bond. Last, they may release you on O.R. where the judge releases the accused on his own recognizance.

A bail is important as it works by securing a person’s release, if arrested, in exchange for an agreed amount of money that the court holds until all the court proceedings associated with the case of the accused individual are complete. This way, you get to resume your day-to-day activities. We hope that this article has adequately answered the query, “how does bail work?”

Will You Need A Probate Lawyer? And Other Questions Answered

There are so many possessions that have to be dealt with upon a person’s death. The deceased person's bank accounts, credit cards, property, vehicles, debt, jewelry, everything has to be accounted for and properly distributed to the heirs of his or her estate. A probate lawyer can be a great help to a surviving family in grief when it is time to deal with the legal ramification of property, debt, and possession post-mortem.

Will or No Will

A decedent is a person who has died. An executor is a rightful heir and decision maker for the estate of the decedent. An administrator is the person in charge of the affairs of the decedent estate when there was no will drafted. If a living will was established, the probate process will be much less painful than if there was no will.

When someone dies with a will, the estate or probate lawyer can be contracted to advise the heirs on their legal rights and how the probate process works. The lawyer should be able to verify critical facts, for instance, ensuring that the deceased was not under duress at the time that he or she drafted the living will.

Intestate is the status of a deceased person that did not have a signed will for the surviving family members, heirs, and attorneys to use in probate. Each state has its own intestacy laws regarding property, no matter what the deceased wishes. Typically, under most states' intestacy laws, the surviving spouse receives all property and assets.

Other family members may hire a trust lawyer to contest this if the spouse was estranged or not deemed fit to heir these possessions. Without contest, whether the administrator of the estate hires a lawyer or not, the assets and property will be distributed according to the particular state law.

Without a living will, an estate administrator will need to procure renunciations from other proposed heirs to the estate. These renunciations are agreements from the other heirs that they legally release their rights to administer to the estate, and the administrator will carry on the business of the estate solely and fairly. An administrator may also choose to hire a lawyer at this stage to file their renunciation statements with the state probate court. From here a lawyer will also assist with the administration of estate probate processes like securing and appraising property, paying debts, clearing debts, managing estate funds, etc.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process of distributing assets and property to the descendants of the deceased. Part of the probate process is clearing debt, paying taxes and managing liquid assets on behalf of the estate, the estate heirs and beneficiaries. The more valuable an estate is the more likely you are to have a probate lawyer allocate those estate possessions.

What Is a Probate Lawyer?

A probate lawyer is an attorney that handles estate planning, wills, and legal manners concerning an estate of a deceased person.

When to Use a Probate Lawyer?

Sometimes things get messy in probate, especially with large estates. A good estate lawyer can clean up that mess and protect the rightful heirs. Many people are not aware of how many claims are made in probate court against any estate. Sometimes creditors are not as forgiving as one would expect in times of death and they have the legal right to file a claim against an estate to recuperate the entirety of their debt. These things are foreign to most layperson so the administration of a trust lawyer is advised in those instances. The goal of the heirs and the estate lawyer should be to fulfill the wishes of the deceased.

For the Living

While living, you should hire an estate lawyer to draft a legal will according to your specifications. This will help your heirs when you become a decedent by creating a legal document permissible in probate court that is unlikely to be challenged. Sometimes family members are not all on one accord, a lawyer can reduce the friction of having to decide who gets what when it is time to divide the family possessions.

Probate is usually a slow process. With so many possessions to account for, document, and assess, the process can last well over a year. An effective lawyer will alleviate all the obstacles that stand in the way of the decedent wishes being carried out in probate court.

Many questions will arise during the probate process and the court clerks are not always as helpful as one would like them to be. When you have a probate lawyer, they will get all of your questions answered, either from their experience in the field or by leveraging their relationship with the court and its clerks to offer you the answers you seek. A good lawyer will walk you through the details of the process so he or she is sure you understand all things occurring during the probate process.

All the filing and technical details will be the lawyer's job to inform and explain to you, while handling them for you. Mistakes get made and you do not want to extend the long and stressful probate process by making those mistakes in your time of grief. You are paying the lawyer to file all the proper paperwork without making the mistakes that cost time and resources.

As an Executor

As an executor or administrator of an estate you have to continue to handle your personal business while making sure the business of the decedent does not interfere with the probate process. Your lawyer will be used in this instant to pay bills, settle debt, and clear taxes. According to probate laws, an estate has a designated amount of time to settle debt. Your lawyer should ensure that you meet all these deadlines.

Your lawyer will also protect you as an executor or administrator of an estate from getting sued by your fellow beneficiaries. A lawyer cannot prevent a lawsuit directly, but by making sure you are on top of the details in the probate process, the chances of getting served with a lawsuit are minimal.


How to Hire a Probate Lawyer

  • When hiring a service as vital to your family as a probate lawyer, you should first ask friends and family for a referral
  • If you do not get a contact from your circle of influence you should do a google search and only value sites that offer customer testimonials
  • Google itself has a 5 star system and comments from customers, however, Google is not usually abundant with ratings
  • Facebook pages: If you are very precocious you can message some of the people that left reviews and ask them about their experience with the particular lawyer
  • Avvo is also a quality resource in your search for a qualified and experienced probate lawyer


How to Avoid Probate

In some rare occasions you can plan your estate to prevent having to go through the probate process. In many instances this will require an estate or trust lawyer. However, these options are not available for the heirs of an estate. If you want to save your family time, money, and energy, choose from the list below when completing your estate planning:

  • Make all of your property joint ownership- when a person dies the property will automatically transfer to joint owners of property
  • Assign your beneficiaries for assets such as life insurance, bank accounts, retirement funds, and investments
  • Obtain a living trust, which protects property from having to enter into probate and passes it directly to whoever you designate


Conclusion

The probate process can be long, drawn out, and emotionally draining. You can outsource this work to a lawyer who will provide experienced counsel and carry out your wishes concerning your estate. A probate lawyer is not a necessity, however, a probate lawyer can save you a lot of time in probate court and take a load of stress from your shoulders.

Whether you are estate planning for your family after you are no longer here or if you are the executor of an estate and want to make sure you do right by your family, it is a good call to consult with a probate lawyer. Some estate lawyers can give you enough guidance in one consultation for you to be able to hire them or have the steps to plan your will, estate, or distribute the assets to your family without using legal representation. Every family is different, and each has its own nuances.

Take these into account and decide whether you want to deal with probate on your own or hire that work out to a trained and certified professional. The fees associated with hiring a competent and experienced lawyer can greatly outweigh the time and energy the probate lawyer saves you. Look through our website for more tips on hiring lawyers for your specific needs.

What Are The Advantages Of A Revocable Trust

Choosing the right technique to ensure a smooth transition in the ownership or control of a property can offer piece of mind. A revocable trust is a preferred option for many people because it allows them to oversee this process while the grantor is still alive. A revocable trust also offers other benefits that some consider advantageous over a will. Of course, planning for events after one is gone is not something that everyone wants to think about, especially younger individuals, though a revocable trust does manage to bridge some issues that people have with last wills and testaments.

What Is a Revocable Trust?

There are different types of trusts and, in fact, trusts are commonly encountered in the financial industry. Trusts can also be used by individuals who are interested in accomplishing much the same tasks as a last will and testament. Indeed, revocable trusts are often contrasted with wills in order to demonstrate some of the ways that revocable trusts stand out.

One thing that is important for men and women considering revocable trusts is to keep in mind is that they are revocable, giving them a leg up over irrevocable trusts. Laws pertaining to revocable trusts will also differ in different jurisdictions in the United States.

General Benefits

Although the benefits of revocable trusts will be discussed in more detail later, one advantage of this technique is that it allows the grantor, the person creating the trust, to also benefit from the trust while they are still alive. This can be contrasted with the case of a last will and testament, in which the terms of the will do not take effect until the demise of the writer of the will. Revocable trusts, as the name implies, also give the grantor the flexibility of “changing their mind” should they decide later that the trust was not all that it was cracked up to be, or circumstances necessitate a change in plans.

In general, a trust is a relationship in which a property is transferred from one party to another for the benefit of a third party, known as the beneficiary. Revocable trusts are unique not only in that they can be canceled or revoked, but in that the trustee, the party to whom the trust has been transferred, can also be the grantor.

In this case, a co-trustee is ordinarily appointed for a number of reasons, not least of which is to be able to administer the trust property in the event that the grantor becomes mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to perform their duties as trustee. This may be a little confusing but should become clearer as we examine the issue more closely.

Trust Law and Other Types of Trusts

  • Some of the key aspects of a revocable trust become clearer when trust law and other types of trusts are examined. There are three terms that are important to understand in learning how trusts are created and how they work. These terms are:
  • Trustor: also called the settlor or grantor, the trustor is the first party who settles the property on the second party
  • Trustee: this is the second party upon whom the property has been settled
  • Beneficiary: the beneficiary is the party on whose behalf the property is administered
  • Trust deed: the document that defines and clearly names the above-mentioned roles and the property

In the case of a revocable trust, the grantor (or trustor or settlor) creates the trust and may be able to name themselves of a trustee depending on their jurisdiction. Whether as grantor or as trustee, they retain certain rights over the trust, including the ability to direct how the trustee uses funds and the ability to revoke the trust. Trusts normally involve transfers of property, often to protect the grantor from loss of the property or for tax reasons. The ability of a grantor in a revocable trust to retain much power over their property renders revocable trusts both unique and unusual.

Other Types of Trusts

There are other types of trusts that are frequently encountered both in the financial world and in situations of death and division of property. In reality, trusts existed in ancient times and as English customary law is derived from Roman law, the present understanding of trusts that exists in English-speaking countries today is a legacy of the ancient practice. Other common forms of trusts include:
  • Discretionary Trust
  • Land trust
  • Offshore Trust
  • Public trust (charitable trust)
  • Testamentary trust

The Probate Issue

The term probate refers to the legal process by which a last will and testament is accepted by a court, or the process by which the property of someone who dies intestate (without a will) is administered. An easy way to remember what probate means is that it is the process by which the testamentary document (the will) is proven by the court. The reason why probate is important here is that all last wills and testament involve a court in some regard. Furthermore, if a person dies intestate, then probate is also involved, as already mentioned.

Revocable trusts are unique in that they do not require probate involvement at all. The trust established during the lifetime of the grantor who the trustee and the beneficiary are, privately, and the involvement of probate is not needed. Also, wills registered with the court are public record, meaning that the assets and the named individuals are also public record, whereas a revocable trust is a private matter and only the involved individuals and their counsel would be party to the specifics of the trust.

How Are They Used?

Many people think of trusts as a way to avoid taxes or to protect property in situations where an individual has some sort of financial liability. Indeed, trusts were commonly used in the United Kingdom in the wake of the land acts of the early 20th century to protect large landholdings from the death duties that were instituted to break them up. A death duty (a tax on property levied after someone has died) often necessitated the sale of property, but if the property was transferred before the individual died or placed into trust, the death duty could be avoided.

Although revocable trusts are not quite the same as these other types of trusts, they do accomplish the goal of ensuring a smooth transition of property prior to the demise of the property owner. Revocable trusts are seen as alternatives to last wills and testaments because they do allow you to provide for your upkeep should you become ill or otherwise incapacitated during your lifetime. A will would only take place at the time of your demise. A revocable trust would also allow you to do away with the trust should you no longer find that a trust is necessary.

Illness

Some revocable trusts do not automatically address the issue of illness or incapacity, so individuals worried about this situation should make sure that their trust includes language that covers it. In cases where individuals become ill or incapacitated and do not have a trust, the court ordinarily has to appoint a conservator or guardian to manage their finances and other concerns on their behalf.

A revocable trust therefore accomplishes the tasks of providing for your property while you are alive while also providing for you should you become incapacitated. It is important to note that it may be important to have a will in addition to a trust.

What Are the Advantages of a Revocable Trust?

There are many advantages of revocable trust compared to a will. Although revocable trust property can be taxed (even though it is in trust) and the property in the trust is not protected from creditors, a revocable trust does have some features that give it a leg up over a will. Here are some of the major advantages of this type of trust:

  • Multiple copies avoid the situation of locating the original will document
  • Probate not needed in a revocable trust
  • Investments are not interrupted by death or disability
  • Assets immediately available without the need for a probate court action
  • Privacy
  • Ability to revoke the trust at your discretion

A trust of this type is therefore able to accomplish some of the functions of a last will and testament while avoiding some of the inconveniences, such as delays due to involvement of the court, disputes regarding the will, and assets not immediately being available due to various factors. As mentioned, most people choose also to have a will to deal with such issues as guardianship of minor children or other issues that would not be part of the trusteeship. Therefore, a trusteeship of this type can be used to provide both practical benefits and peace of mind to the grantor.

Conclusion

Let’s face it, no one wants to spend too much time thinking about their own demise, but addressing this eventual reality will allow both you and your family to be prepared financially when the time comes. Wills are important and necessary, but they do have their drawbacks. A revocable trust allows an individual to provide for their beneficiaries and even for themselves should they become ill or incapacitated.

Types of Lawyers: Your Guide To Finding the Right Lawyer

Finding the right types of lawyers or attorneys for your case is important. Cases can last months or even years, and you will probably need to be in regular correspondence with your lawyer. There are many types of lawyers. Some are highly specialized while others may handle a wide range of cases. Different types of lawyers’ fee structures will differ.

Choosing a lawyer is a highly personalized decision and there are likely to be many choices in your area. Usually, lawyers’ geographic areas determine to some extent what kind of law they practice. A lawyer in a small town will probably have more of a general practice while lawyers in urban areas will be more specialized. Sometimes a lawyer will decide he or she can handle all of a clients’ needs; at other times he or she may send their client to a specialist.

Some law firms focus on one specialized area of law, such as intellectual property. Other law firms comprise several lawyers whose practice areas complement one another. For example, Lawyer A would focus on one practice area such as Real Estate, Lawyer B would practice an area such as Estate Planning, and Lawyer C would focus on litigation and trial work. This loose collection of specialists would be called a general practice law firm.

You can always find more information about a lawyer by visiting their website or by calling them. Most types of lawyers offer free consultations where you can get a feel for them before starting payment.

Types of Lawyers

There are multiple factors to consider when talking about the different types of lawyers out there. It depends on the case and your budget, for starters. The best-connected lawyers with stellar track records will command a higher price. They will probably have offices in downtown office buildings and have great views. The size of the law firm may determine how much personalized attention you get. If you are a small client at a firm that deals mostly with big-name corporate clients, you may get lost in the shuffle.

There are many types of lawyers for all different cases. However, most lawyers fall into two categories; they practice either civil law or criminal law.

1.Criminal Law Lawyers

criminal-lawyer-in-eaton

Criminal law pertains to people who have been accused of committing a crime. Lawyers work as criminal defense attorneys to protect your rights and make sure you get a fair trial. They represent you and are with you every step of your case. They help you in cases against a person, like assault and battery, cases against property, such as burglary or arson, or any other criminal offense. If you are accused of a crime, it is imperative to find a competent criminal defense attorney.

2.Civil Law Lawyers

civil-law

The second type of lawyers deal with civil law. Civil law covers an array of specialization. These are some types of lawyers who practice civil law and their specialties.

PUBLIC INTEREST

ESTATE PLANNING

FAMILY

IMMIGRATION

PERSONAL INJURY

How Do I Know Which Kind of Lawyer I Need?

The types of lawyers you should look for depends on your case and its complexity, where you live, and what you can afford. We recommend you search online for the best types of lawyers near you on sites such as www.avvo.com. With Avvo, you can search for lawyers near you by practice areas.

Avvo.com creates ratings for the lawyers on their sites from information taken from their profiles, information from state bar associations, and other organizations that license legal professionals. Avvo only provides ratings for lawyers whose profiles have been claimed. Otherwise, they do not provide a numerical rating. However, 97 percent of lawyers in the United States are rated on Avvo.

How Are Avvo Ratings Determined?

Avvo ratings, which are scored 1-10, are based on the lawyer’s experience and background, their legal community recognition such as peer endorsements, associations, awards, and legal thought leadership track records including speaking engagements and publications. All factors affecting a lawyer’s Avvo rating are visible. You can also read reviews of your prospective lawyer on Avvo from past clients.

What to Look for in a Lawyer

1.Positive Rapport

It is very important that you feel comfortable with your lawyer. Honesty is key. Your lawyer can best help you when you give him or her complete and accurate information. Your lawyer’s job is to represent you. Trust and an open line of communication between the two of you is very important. Changes to your case may come at any moment, information may be required of you, and it is possible you will need to be in regular contact with this person, especially if it’s something like a divorce case.

2.Availability and Response Time

You can feel out your prospective lawyer’s availability before you sign a contract by sending a few phone calls and emails to see how fast you get a response. If your concerns and questions are addressed quickly, then you may just have found the right lawyer for you.

3.Track Record

You can search any prospective lawyer’s name online to see what has been said about him or her. You can check your state bar association’s website to see if any complaints have been lodged against your prospective attorney.

You will want to ask about whether they have handled this type of case before and what the outcome was. Less-experienced lawyers will come at a lower cost. Lawyers with the best and most experience will come at a higher cost.

4.Fee Structure

You want to be clear on how you will be charged for their services. If it is a small legal matter, you likely need not use the services of a high-powered litigator. Smaller matters may be better handled by a lower-priced attorney. Some attorneys offer a flat fee structure while others will bill by the hour. Besides the work on your case, time spent corresponding about your case (such as phone calls and emails) are often also billed. Lawyers who bill a flat fee may charge for additional costs such as the cost to file court documents. It is important to get clarity on these matters before proceeding. Small costs can add up.

Conclusion

As you can see, choosing the best types of lawyers for your needs can be simple. Use online resources to get all the best, up-to-date information on types of lawyers near you. Don’t get lost in the shuffle with a high-powered attorney who doesn’t have time for your case when you need a personalized, hands-on approach. The right types of lawyers out there will see you and your case as important—not as just another case number on the docket.

What Are The Best DUI Schools in Each State

DUI or Driving While Intoxicated is something that it taken seriously in every state and can heavily impact your driving record. You may need to find the best assistance out there should you choose to to try to ameliorate your problem. Many people will look to find the DUI professional school that will give you the options you need in terms of court ordered school. It is simply one of the options you can look to do when you are looking for help in how to improve this serious situation. DUI is something that is one of the issues that you may need help with. Get the help you can find readily when you chose to get DUI assistance.

DUI schools are some of the ways you can get the options that you need. It is one of the local or online options you can use. Every state has a DUI school according to the law but the best is debateable. Simply do a websearch to find the best DUI school for your state and get the options you need when you are looking for the bet DUI Schools.These are the things you may be looking forward to, It is simply one of the options to improve some of your legal problems and you may be court ordered to attend. You will not be able to eradicate your DUI charges by going to school, but it pays to try to improve the record.

It is impossible in a shot article to list the best DUI schools for every state in a short article, however individuals who wish to find the best DUI can do a web serach based on their particular state location and find the schools that are well reviewed in their state. SOme of the DUI schools offer the flexibility of online scheduling so this is one of the ways you can get the best in the schools that may help you with the DUI classes you are looking for. These may be some of the ways you can get DUI help that will allow you to get the legal relief you need. It is simply one of the ways to get he options you are looking for when looking for the ways to clear your record.

These are the options you can take advantage of when you are looking for the shcool options that you need. Read reviews of the best reviewed school in each state and pick one that meets your needs.

Job Opportunities

Widelaw.com is owned and operated by Legal Data Services LLC and publishes over 700 different web based properties in 400+ markets in the United States.  Legal Data Services, LLC provides lead generation marketing services for attorneys in over 1700 markets nationwide and has a comprehensive network of sites geared toward practice areas such as DUI, Bankruptcy, Personal Injury, and Criminal Law.

Legal Data Services, LLC is headquarter in Nashville TN with employees based in 41 states. We do offer health insurance, 401k, and other related benefits to our full time employees.

We are in the process of developing a larger network of websites to cover an additional 300 markets and we are hiring staff in 17 states. Please note some of our staff members are home based or telecommute positions and these type jobs are only suited for motivated employees that can work well without supervision.

Patch Legal Data Services is an equal opportunity employer. Minority’s and disabled persons are encouraged to apply. We do require criminal background checks for all applicants. Felony convictions do not eliminate applicants but they can be considered in the hiring process.

Below is a current list of job opportunities we have available.

Noroxin

CHILDREN

Decision to Have Children

 

Q. Who makes the decision to become a parent?

A. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade and other cases has declared that the decision of
whether or not to have a child is a very personal one and that the decision is protected by the
right of privacy under the United States Constitution. This means that individuals who wish to
have a child cannot be barred from doing so (unless perhaps they are incarcerated). Individuals
who do not wish to have a child have a legal right to obtain and use contraceptives.

 

Q. What if one spouse wants children and the other does not?

A. This is a significant emotional issue that, of course, can be very difficult. If one member of the
married couple wants a child and the other does not, that could be a basis for a divorce. A
disagreement on such a fundamental issue could be an “irreconcilable difference” under the nofault
divorce laws of most states. In states that have grounds for divorce based on someone
being at fault, a disagreement on the question of whether to have children could be viewed as
“mental cruelty,” and thus a basis for ending the marriage.
Beyond divorce, remedies are limited. The courts cannot force a pregnant woman to stop
the pregnancy, nor does the law require a wife to have her husband’s permission for an
abortion.

Abortion

 

Q. What is the current status of abortion law?

A. As of the year 2000, women still have a right to an abortion. In the 1992, the U.S. Supreme
Court in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade
that women have a constitutional right to seek an abortion during the early stages of pregnancy.
States, however, do have a right to regulate how abortions are performed and states may ban
abortions after the fetus is viable (able to live outside the womb) unless the mother’s life or
health is endangered. The scope of regulation and funding of abortions by the government varies
from state to state. In Casey, the Supreme Court held it was permissible for states to impose a
24-hour waiting period on obtaining abortions and to require a minor to have consent of one
parent or a judge for an abortion.

 

Childbirth

 

Q. Are there any rules prohibiting parents from having their children born at home?

A. No, at-home births generally are an option for parents. The mother should have good
prenatal care, and she should make sure the health care provider believes the delivery will not
pose significant risks to the mother or child. If the delivery is risky for the mother or child, it is
much better to use a hospital. Some states allow nurse-midwives to deliver children at the
parents’ home or at a birthing center. Other states allow nurse-midwives to practice only at
hospitals or under the direct supervision of a physician.

 

Q. If the delivery is at a hospital, may the father or a sibling be present?

A. At most hospitals, the father may be present at birth. Hospitals often prefer that the father
and mother have gone through some training before the delivery. Parents should check with their
hospitals about other rules and about whether siblings would be allowed in the delivery room.

 

 

 



Q. What are the rights of parents?

 

A. Parents have a right to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children. This gives
them the power to make various decisions, including where to live, what school to attend, what
religion to follow, and what medical treatment to obtain.
Normally the state may not interfere in these decisions. Only in life-threatening or extreme
situations will the courts step in to overrule parents. For example, when a child might die without
the medical care that the parents refuse to provide, a judge may make the child a ward of the
court and order that the care be provided. Parents have been prosecuted for withholding
medical treatment from seriously ill children. This is true even in situations where parents act out
of religious belief.
There may be certain medical procedures, however, that the law allows “mature minors”
to decide upon for themselves, even if their parents disagree. For example, parents have no
absolute veto power over a minor’s decision to use contraceptives or to obtain an abortion.
Parents also have the legal authority to control their children’s behavior and social lives.
Children have a duty to obey their parents’ reasonable rules and commands. Parents may
discipline or punish their children appropriately. They may not, however, use cruel methods or
excessive force; that constitutes child abuse.

 

Q. What are the legal rights of children?

A. Children have a unique status under the law. This chapter cannot explain this special status
fully. However, it can point out a few of the major differences between the rights of adults and
children.
Most important, children have a right to be supported by their parents. At minimum, this
means food, shelter, clothing, medical care and education.
The law defines children as unmarried persons under the age of majority–usually
eighteen–who have not left home to support themselves. The law protects children from abuse
and neglect. It also entitles them to the protection of the state. Children may be removed from
their home if it is necessary to ensure them a safe, supportive environment. This removal may be
temporary or permanent.
The law allows children to sue. However, in most instances an adult legal representative
must begin the suit.
Children accused of committing crimes are subject to the juvenile courts of their state, not
the regular criminal justice system. (In some states, children accused of serious crimes who are
above a certain age—such as thirteen—may be tried in court as adults.) Juvenile courts entitle
children to only some of the due process safeguards that adults receive. In return, these courts
have more freedom to deal with juveniles in an effort to rehabilitate them.

 

Q. How long do parents’ legal obligations to their children continue?

A. Parents are legally responsible for their children until they reach the age of majority (usually
eighteen), marry, or leave home to support themselves. In some states, divorced parents may be
obliged to pay for a child’s college education or trade school. In addition, a parent’s duty to
support a disabled child might continue for the child’s entire life.

WHO CONTROLS THE MONEY CHILDREN EARN OR INHERIT?

Generally, parents do not have unlimited, direct control over their children’s money. If children
earn or inherit money, that money must be used for the children=s benefit. Some states require
the appointment of a guardian under court supervision if a child has substantial funds. Unless a
court appoints someone else, parents are the guardians of their children’s money. The parents
are legally responsible for managing the money properly and using it for their children’s needs.

 

 


Q. Are parents financially responsible for the acts of their children?

 

A. The law on this varies from state to state. Some states make parents financially responsible
for damage caused by their children, but the states may place limits on the amount of liability. In
Illinois, for example, parents or guardians may be required to pay no more than $2,500 for the
“willful or malicious acts” of minor children who harm another person or property.
Generally, if a child has an auto accident while driving a parent’s car, the parent’s auto
insurance policy will cover the loss to the same extent it would if the parent had been driving the
car (although parents usually have to pay higher insurance premiums to cover young drivers).
THE DUTIES OF ADULT CHILDREN TOWARD THEIR PARENTS
Adult children normally have no responsibilities toward their parents. In return, their parents
have no duties toward them. However, there are exceptions. In some states, children must
support parents who otherwise would be on welfare. The children can avoid paying support if
they can show that the parents did not care for them when they were underage. In some states,
children may have to contribute to the support of parents in a state hospital or mental institution.
However, the children’s ability to pay–not the actual costs of the care–usually determines how
much they must pay.

Adoption

 

Q. How does one adopt a child?

A. Adoption laws vary from state to state. For adopting a child who is not related to the
adoptive parent or parents, there generally are two types of adoptions: agency adoptions and
private adoptions.

 

Q. What is an agency adoption?

A. As the name implies, the parents work though a licensed agency. The agency often
supervises the care of biological mothers who are willing to give up their children, and it assists
in the placement of children after birth. Agencies screen adoptive parents–often extensively–
before the adoption proceeds. Some agencies have long waiting lists of parents. Some agencies
also specialize in placing children born in foreign countries.

 

Q. What is a private adoption?

A. Private adoptions bypass the use of agencies and they may help bypass the long waiting lists
as well. The process may begin when people who seek to adopt a child contact an attorney
who specializes in adoptions. The attorney may work with physicians who are aware of women
willing to give up children for adoption. Sometimes would-be parents will place ads in
newspapers seeking women who are willing to place their babies for adoption.
In most states, adoptive parents are allowed to pay a biological mother’s medical
expenses and certain other costs during the pregnancy. But adoptive parents are not allowed to
pay the biological mother specifically to give up the child. The law treats this as a “black market
adoption,” the buying and selling of children, and it’s a crime in every state.

 

 


Q. Is court approval necessary for an adoption?

 

A. Yes. Court approval is needed for both agency and private adoptions. Many states also
require that the adoptive parents be approved by a social service agency.

 

Q. Can a biological mother revoke her consent to adoption?

A. Yes, but there are limits on her right to revoke consent. In most states, a biological mother
who initially consents to a child’s adoption before birth, may revoke that consent after birth. In
other words, the mother’s consent usually is not final or binding until a certain period of time
after birth. In most states that time period is relatively short, such as two to eight days. If a
biological mother consented to adoption during the proper period of time after birth, it is much
harder for her to revoke her consent. Following an after-birth consent, a biological mother
generally may revoke her consent only if she can show that there was fraud or duress. Fraud
could be found if the adoption agency or attorney lied to her about the consequences of what
she was doing. Duress might exist if a person at the adoption agency threatened the biological
mother with humiliation if she did not sign. A biological mother’s change of heart normally is not
enough by itself to revoke an after-birth adoption consent. Although a mother may feel
emotionally drained and under stress after birth of a child that she plans to give up for adoption,
that type of stress usually is not enough to revoke an adoption unless the person or agency that
obtained the mother’s consent used harsh tactics to obtain her consent.

 

Q. Is the biological father’s consent necessary?

A. Generally, yes–at least if the biological father is known. He should be notified of the birth
and pending adoption so that he may consent or object. If the father is not known, the adoption
may proceed without his consent (although adoptive parents can feel safer about the validity of
their adoption if the biological father has been notified and agreed to it). If a biological father is
not notified, he may later contest the adoption if he acts within a certain period of time after the
child’s birth or adoption. (Six months is a typical time period, although the period varies
between states.)

 

Q. What is a “related adoption”?

A. A “related adoption” is one in which a child’s relatives, such as grandparents or an aunt and
uncle, formally adopt a child as their own. This might occur if the child’s biological parents are
deceased or are otherwise unable to care for the child.

 

Q. What is a stepparent adoption?

A. A stepparent adoption is one in which a child’s biological parent marries someone who
wishes to adopt the biological parent’s child and is able to do so.

 

Q. What happens if the child’s other biological parent does not agree to the adoption
by the stepparent?

A. If a biological parent does not consent to the adoption of a child, the child cannot be
adopted by another person unless a court first finds that the biological parent is unfit.

 

Q. What is the definition of an unfit parent?

A. Parental unfitness is determined by state law. Normally, an unfit parent is one who has failed
to have regular contact with a child or to contribute to his or her support. A parent is also unfit if
he or she has been abusive or has otherwise failed to provide adequate care for the child.

 

 


Q. What happens if a stepparent adopts his spouse’s child and the parents later
divorce?

 

A. A divorce does not affect the legality of the adoption. The stepparent continues to have all
the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent, including a right to seek custody or visitation
and a duty to support the child.

 

Q. Can a single person adopt a child?

A. Yes, although some agencies strongly prefer to place a child with a married couple. Other
agencies–particularly those dealing with children who might be hard to place–are willing to
place a child with a single person. Single-parent adoptions usually are possible in private
adoptions.

 

Q. Can lesbian or gay couples adopt a child?

A. Yes, in some states, such as New York and California, gay and lesbian couples are able to
adopt a child.

 

Q. What is an “open adoption”?

A. An “open adoption” is one in which the adoptive parents agree to let the biological mother
(or biological father) have some continued contact with the child after the adoption. This contact
might be periodic visits or an exchange of pictures and other information between the adoptive
family and the biological parent or parents. The nature of the contact often is specified in the
adoption agreement. Open adoptions have become more common as more birth mothers have
become involved with choosing which adoptive family will receive their child. But open
adoptions are a relatively new phenomenon, and in many states it is not certain whether an open
adoption agreement is enforceable by the birth mother.

 

Q. Who has access to adoption records?

A. In most states, court adoption records are sealed and can only be opened by court order
(although Oregon allows all adopted children access to their adoption records). Procedures and
standards for opening records vary by state. Increasingly, states require that certain nonidentifying
information, such as the medical history of the biological family, be made available to
the adoptive parents at the time of adoption. Some states also have registries where parties to
the adoption can agree to a later exchange of information, including names and addresses.

 

Q. What is the legal status of an adopted child?

A. An adopted child has exactly the same rights as one born to his or her parents. Similarly,
adoptive parents have the same obligations to the child as they would to one born to them.

 

Q. What about medically assisted pregnancies?

A. As medical science advances, there are a variety of ways in which individuals who wish to
become parents can be helped to do so by medically assisted means, including artificial
insemination and in vitro fertilization. These medical procedures have legal implications that vary
by state. Generally, however, if both husband and wife consent to artificial insemination or in
vitro fertilization, the rights and duties of the husband, wife, and child will be the same as if the
child had been naturally conceived.

 

 


Q. What is surrogate parenthood?

 

A. In this arrangement, a woman agrees, with or without payment, to bear a child for another
couple. This usually occurs when the wife cannot conceive or carry a child to term. In nearly all
cases, through artificial insemination, the husband’s sperm fertilizes an egg belonging to either the
wife or the surrogate mother. This makes the husband the biological father of the child. The
surrogate mother agrees to give up all parental rights at birth. Then the wife of the biological
father legally adopts the child. A few states outlaw this arrangement when the surrogate mother
receives payment. Other states are considering laws that would restrict it. Persons
contemplating such an arrangement should seek legal advice before entering into such an
arrangement.

Paternity

 

PATERNITY AND MODERN SCIENCE

Paternity cases increasingly use scientific evidence. The blood tests used during much of the last
century were useful only up to a certain point. They might prove that a man was not the father of
a certain child, but could not prove that he was the father. New tests that sample the DNA
(genetic material) of the child and the supposed father are nearly 100 percent accurate in
proving or disproving paternity.

 

Q. May an unmarried mother legally force the father of her baby to support the child?

A. Yes. Both parents, married or not, have a duty to support the child. If the father admits
paternity, the mother should have him sign a statement to that effect. Then, if necessary, it will be
easier to force the father to help support the child. If he does not admit to being the father, the
mother may file a paternity suit against him. If this civil action succeeds, the court will require the
father to provide support. Sometimes the court also will require the father to pay for the
mother’s pregnancy and childbirth expenses.

 

Q. If a court decides that a man is a child’s father, how much will he have to pay in
support?

A. The law requires unwed parents to support their children the same as married parents. Child
support guidelines, which have been enacted in all states, will determine the amount of support.
As with children born to married parents, the obligation of support usually lasts until the child is
an adult. If a father refuses to support his child, a court may garnish his wages, seize his
property or bank accounts, revoke his driver=s license or professional license, and perhaps even
send him to jail.

 

Q. What may a husband legally do if his wife bears a child that is not his?

A. The law presumes that a married woman’s child is her husband’s. He must support the child
unless he can prove in court that he is not the father. Some states assume the husband is the
father no matter what proof he presents. These states do not allow a husband to disprove
paternity of a child born during the marriage.

 

 


Q. What is child neglect?

A. State laws make it a criminal offense for parents and legal guardians to fail to meet children’s
basic needs, including food, shelter, clothes, medical treatment, and supervision. Such failure
constitutes child neglect.

 

 

Q. What persons and what types of actions are covered by child abuse laws?

A. It is a crime for adults to abuse children in their care. Such adults include parents, foster
parents, legal guardians, other adults in the home, family members, and baby-sitters. Supervising
adults may not go beyond reasonable physical punishment. For example, adults who beat
children so severely that they require medical treatment have violated these laws. Child abuse
laws involve not only physical abuse (such as beatings or starvation), but other types of cruelty,
such as sexual molestation and subjecting a child to extreme public humiliation.
A person may be guilty of child abuse that he or she did not personally commit if that
person had legal responsibility for the child and failed to protect the child from the abuser.

TAKING CHILDREN AWAY FROM THEIR PARENTS
Whether or not a criminal case is brought, the state may remove children from the custody of
their parents if there is reason to believe the parents are physically, sexually, or emotionally
abusing one or more of the children. The state also may remove the children if the parents are
unable or unwilling to provide adequate care, supervision, and support.

 

Q. Who has a duty to report suspected child neglect and abuse?

A. The law compels a wide range of people who have contact with children to report suspected
child abuse or neglect. Such people include doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, and
childcare providers . A person who is required to report suspected neglect or abuse may face
civil or criminal penalties for failure to do so. In addition, states often encourage the reporting of
suspected abuse by others such as neighbors and family members through special hot lines. The
laws of most states encourage persons to make reports of abuse by granting them immunity
from defamation suits by the accused parents if they make the report in good faith. Some states
keep central lists of suspected child abuse cases. This helps identify parents, for example, who
take their children to different hospitals in order to conceal the evidence that they have
repeatedly abused their children.

 

Q. If the law takes children away from their parents, is the removal temporary or
permanent?

A. The goal usually is to reunite the family after correcting the problems that led to the removal.
This, however, is not always possible. For example, if the parents make little or no effort to
improve the children’s care, then the state may ask a court to end all parental rights. If this
happens, the legal bonds between parents and children are completely and permanently cut, and
another family may adopt the children.