Debunking Prenuptial Agreement Stigmas: 10 Reasons They’re a Good Idea

So you’re thinking about getting married? Bringing up the subject of a prenuptial agreement can seem hurtful and unnecessary to a romance-fueled situation. Many believe that the sole purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to ensure the financial stability of the significantly more well-off member of the union, but a prenup is actually so much more than that.

The financial settlement proceedings of a divorce can be incredibly emotionally-charged and financially ruin both spouses. For these reasons, divorce proceedings can get ugly, and sitting down to discuss a prenup beforehand can keep that from happening, if the union ends. This type of agreement can offer protection to both partners even if both partners aren’t considerably well-off.

What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

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A prenup is a legal document that determines how assets will be divided and protected in the event of a divorce. These types of agreements might not be as important to young people getting married for the first time. They are just starting out and haven’t yet built a life for themselves; most of their possessions will be shared assets, so it’s impossible to predetermine how to divide them ahead of time.

But if you’re getting married later in life, you’ll probably have more of your own assets to protect. Consider:  you've worked countless hours at the office, and spent years building a life for yourself. If you end up divorcing, you may be forced to give half of it to someone who wasn’t there to build it with you. And honestly, how is that fair?

The Stigma Surrounding Prenuptial Agreements

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A failed relationship is a devastating situation, but it can be planned for. Accepting divorce as a thing that sometimes happens and planning ahead for it can make the consequences less severe for both sides in the event of a split.

At the end of the day, the purpose of a prenuptial agreement is communication and to set expectations within the relationship. You’ll want to make sure you’re both happy with how your own property, any shared property, and, if applicable, alimony payments will be separated and dispersed in the event of a divorce. So why do so many people find the idea of a prenuptial agreement so offensive?

Here are some of the reasons there's a stigma surrounding prenuptial agreements:

Presence Of Doubts

Many argue that the existence of a prenuptial agreement reveals that one partner has doubts or may be expecting an impending marriage to fail. Thinking about the end of a marriage during what should be the “good times” in the relationship might give the appearance that one partner isn’t as happy as the other thought. But that simply isn’t always the case.

Apparent Lack Of Trust

Setting boundaries included in a prenup can also come off like the requesting partner doesn’t trust the other when in reality, you may want protection from things you already know about, such as student debt. Or you may wish to protect your partner from your own debt.

It’s Not Very Romantic

Well, this stigma is actually true. Prenuptial agreements are not romantic topics. They require a couple to venture into uncomfortable territory and imagine the end of a marriage that is just starting out; that is depressing. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship itself has no romance or that the agreement keeps future romance away.

Either way, appearances are just that:  appearances; things are not always as they appear. Your partner could just be cautious. And hey-maybe they are protecting you more than themselves. Many marriages have dissolved before making it down the aisle because one partner jumps to conclusions at the very mention of a prenup.

10 Reasons They're A Good Idea

While there are blanket agreements that cover the basics, couples have the option to create their own agreements better-crafted to their specific lives. It provides a way to tailor and design the agreement to meet specific needs, wants and expectations. No two relationships are the same; therefore, no two prenups should be either. So why consider a prenuptial agreement?

1. They Make Sense

Modern-day society is a place of uncertainty, and marriage is no exception. Situations change. People change. And just like everything else, marriages can end.

Signing a prenuptial agreement shows your partner you’re realistic, responsible and forward-thinking. It means that you’re getting married for the right reasons and not for materialistic ones.

2. High Divorce Rate

It’s no secret that divorce rates among couples have been rising for decades and in the modern day, knowing a divorcee is a pretty common occurrence.

In a world where a large percentage of marriages end in divorce, considering a prenuptial agreement before tying the knot isn’t such a bad idea.

3. Protection of Valuable Assets

When you think of assets, you may think of expensive things. But they can also include items of sentimental and familial value.

In the event of a divorce, a partner may want to ensure that any family heirlooms, such as a pair of diamond earrings that have been in the family for generations, will be kept in their possession regardless of how the marriage ends. Items can also include collectible memorabilia or even a family pet you’d never want to part with.

4. Protects The Victim's Spouse

When it comes to any partnership, there is always the threat that one person may decide to leave. One spouse might not even see it coming, and then the next thing they know, they’re hit with a demand to terminate the relationship immediately.

In these cases, the partner who initiates the divorce has had much more time than the other to prepare for what lies ahead. Having a prenuptial agreement in place ensures that the victim has a plan and doesn’t get bushwhacked in rushed divorce proceedings.

5. Protects Your Credit

Going through a divorce can be traumatic in many ways. And on top of the emotional turmoil, it can pretty quickly destroy your finances and even threaten your financial future. Consequences can include damage to your credit, paying for alimony, your spouse’s debt and child support.

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6. Debt Protection

While one spouse may bring more money into a marriage and wish to sign a prenup, it’s also possible for the opposite to be true.

A prenuptial agreement can also offer protection if one spouse brings significant debt into the relationship. This is an age of student debt after all, and the last thing anyone wants is to add their ex’s debt to their own.

7. It Forces Transparency

Discussing the different aspects of a prenup with your partner involves delving deep into each other’s financial lives. It forces you to examine aspects like each other's credit score, debt and spending habits.

So while a prenuptial agreement will protect you in the future, it also minimizes surprises that can occur during the marriage itself. For example, if your future wife or husband has high amounts of credit card debt, when he or she turns out to be a spender, you won’t be as surprised as you might have been.

8. Promotes Fairness And Equality

Signing a prenuptial agreement is a relatively simple process, and it is done under less emotional conditions. When terminating a marriage, having a prenup helps the couple reach a fair agreement.

However, if you sign an agreement with a cheating clause and one spouse is found guilty of infidelity, then the non-cheating partner will end up with everything.

9. The Reality of Gold-Digging

While a majority of people do get married for the right reasons, there are people out there who don’t. Gold-diggers are real, and they can be very persuasive and manipulative.

If you have high-valued assets, you are at a much-increased risk for attracting these types of people. Insisting that your partner signs a prenuptial agreement ensures that they are marrying you for the right reasons.

10. Decreases Stressfulness

When you sit down with your partner to sign a prenuptial agreement, what you are essentially setting up are the terms of separation. If you happen to separate in the future, having these terms already laid out can result in less bickering and less frustration over who gets what.

When a couple separates, emotions run high. Having a prenuptial agreement sets up the situation where both sides know what is expected of them.

Conclusion

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So, do you still feel the same way about prenuptial agreements? Would you sign one, or do you wish you had? When people are prepared for potential disaster, they feel less stressed about it. A prenuptial agreement is a preparation tactic that acknowledges sometimes divorces happen. This agreement plans for the worst to keep either party from being devastated by it.

Prenuptial agreements usually come with a stigma, but those stigmas aren’t the reality. More romantic-minded people may feel their partner isn’t sure or isn’t all-in. And that’s completely not true! Wishing to sign a prenup doesn’t mean one partner doesn’t think or want the marriage to work out. It only means that they want to keep the potential for a difficult situation as pain-free as possible.

Types Of Compensatory Damages

If you've been injured or suffered a loss that is the fault of someone else, whether to file a civil lawsuit or not is a big decision. Obviously, consulting with an attorney is something you should give priority. But, before taking that step, you'll want to do a little research and learn the basics of lawsuits. One of the first things to learn is the different types of damages, usually in the form of money awarded in civil cases.

Compensatory and punitive damages are the two basic types of awards you could seek in a civil lawsuit. While punitive damages may be more exciting in a made-for-TV way, this article will concentrate entirely on compensatory damages. By knowing what they are, you'll have a better understanding of what to expect from a potential lawsuit and be able to talk with your attorney more intelligently.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

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The definition of compensatory damages is an award of money in compensation for actual economic loss, property damage, or injury. Again, compensatory damages are separate from punitive damages in a civil lawsuit. Compensatory damages are broken down further into the following two categories.

Special (or Actual) Damages

This is an award designed to reimburse the injured party for expenses related to property damages, medical costs, and loss of income. The award will be in the amount of actual losses. For example, a car totaled in an accident would be valued at its retail price minus any depreciation. This award is designed to replace real losses to return the injured party to the financial condition they were in before the loss took place.

General Damages

These may be awarded for personal harm suffered by the injured party including pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and lost opportunity for the future enjoyment of life. Due to the often difficult circumstances involved in these awards, the court will use outcomes of similar prior cases to determine amounts awarded.

Types of Compensatory Damages 

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Now that we've defined the major types of compensatory damages, we'll break down the specifics of each condition in which they may be applied.

Medical Expenses

When you are injured, you could be left with some costly medical bills. As part of a civil lawsuit, your medical expenses could be a large percentage of the damages to which you're entitled. The greater the amount of money owed for medical services, the greater the amount of damages the lawsuit will pursue.

There could be damages after initial treatment, in the form of long-term care, to be factored in. Examples of medical expenses include:

  • Ambulance services
  • Emergency room and hospital care
  • Physician care
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Occupational rehabilitation
  • Home care

As you can see, the list of potential medical expenses is long. Medical bills can be presented as evidence of initial care costs while your attorney can find experts to assist in determining potential long-term care needs.

Property Damage

The injured party may also seek compensation for the repair or replacement of any property damaged in an accident. In an automobile accident, for example, not only is damage to the car recoverable, but lost or damaged property inside the car (tools, golf clubs, child seat, etc.) may also be eligible for compensation. Cost of a rental car or other alternate means of transportation may also be eligible while repairs are being completed.

Valuing damaged property may require an appraiser, whose job it is to determine the extent of the property damage. If the property is not salvageable, the victim can seek compensation in the amount of its value before the accident. If repairs can be made, the loss of use by the injured party, besides the repair itself, becomes part of the total damages.

Another factor in total costs could be interest and loss of profit. For example, if the injured party loses business equipment or tools used in their employment, these are damages that could be added to a lawsuit.

Loss of Income 

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If there is an injury, and it prevents the injured party from working or running their business, damages may apply in the amount normally earned during the recovery period. This is known as lost wages. Time missed from work due to a doctor's appointments, physical or occupational therapy or other related treatments of the injury would also be considered as lost wages.  

A permanent injury that prevents the injured party from working for the rest of their life may also be eligible for compensation to cover the loss of future earnings. Finally, if a person dies due to an accident, the deceased party's family can bring a civil lawsuit for the lost income that the victim would have earned based on their age and current salary.

A younger person has a longer work-life expectancy and would suffer a substantial loss of future earnings in the event of untimely death compared to an older person.

Pain and Suffering 

The amount of pain and suffering an injured party goes through is difficult to assess. Everyone's pain threshold is different, but there are ways to measure and document the injured party’s level of suffering.

Information can be collected from medical records and providers concerning the amount of medication the injured party required, the kinds and duration of treatments needed, and the expected length of the recovery period. Family members and friends of the injured party can be interviewed to find out if the accident caused any effect on the victim’s quality or enjoyment of life.

Pain and Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress Suffering 

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Different from pain and suffering, the effects of these mental conditions include terror, shock, apprehension, confusion, humiliation, and sorrow. Some states make it difficult to prove with strict guidelines such as the “zone of danger” test which considers how physically close the injured party was to the accident.

Another limit is the “physical manifestation rule” which requires that the emotional distress experienced by the injured party be exhibited by physical conditions such as depression and anxiety intense enough to cause ulcers or loss of appetite and weight. Proving these conditions is difficult and requires expert guidance.

Loss of Consortium 

This is another type of compensatory damages available in the case of a permanently disabling injury. Loss of consortium is the inability of the injured party to engage in acts of companionship with their spouse or loved one at the level they once did. Damages awarded tend to be less but can still be significant in a case involving a permanent outcome such as paraplegia.

Lost Opportunity 

These compensatory damages are sometimes recoverable in addition to lost wages and loss of future earnings. They refer to a business opportunity of the injured party that has been impeded due to an accident. A claim of this type must be supported entirely. Failure to do so could damage the merits of the entire case and cause a judge or jury to reject other damages sought by the injured party.

When Are Compensatory Damages Awarded? 

Compensatory damages are awarded in civil court cases where the injured party's loss has occurred as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of another party. For compensatory damages to be awarded, a judge or jury must be able to determine the actual monetary value of the loss suffered by the injured party. Some examples include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Work-related injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Municipal infrastructure failures
  • Institutional neglect of safety issues
  • Business or corporate negligence
  • Certain criminal offenses

Examples of Lawsuits Involving Compensatory Damages

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Here are a few examples of real-life lawsuits that resulted in compensatory damages being awarded:

1. $80 Million Verdict Reached in Medical Malpractice Suit

A defective medical stapler almost cost a retired police officer her life. She went into the hospital for routine hemorrhoid surgery, but the surgeon used a defective stapler. The damage caused her bowels to rupture. She went into sepsis and shock. She eventually recovered, then took the stapler manufacturers to court and netted a verdict of $80 million.

2. Lawsuit Over Toxic Water  

An Ohio woman successfully sued a Teflon company after her attorney proved that they knew that their products contaminated local water. She was awarded $1.6 million in damages, and her case was followed by more than 3,000 others claiming that their water was affected too.

3. Fast-Food Hot Coffee Lawsuit 

A jury awarded a woman $200,000 in compensatory damages to pay for medical bills and other related expenses due to being burned by a cup of hot coffee purchased through the drive-in window at a fast-food chain. Because the company had prior knowledge that their coffee could cause serious injury, yet did nothing to remedy the situation, the jury also awarded the woman over $2 million in punitive damages.

Conclusion 

As you can see, there's a lot to learn about the world of civil litigation. Seeking the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney should be one of the first things you do in case of an injury or loss that's the fault of another. It's also helpful to educate yourself to be of help to your attorney and to know you're getting sound legal advice.

Knowing the ins and outs of topics like compensatory damages will only help you be a better plaintiff. Your legal team will appreciate it, and it will increase your chances of achieving the outcome you desire. Arming yourself with a basic knowledge of your rights under the law is the first step to a successful civil lawsuit.

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Facing Foreclosure? 4 Things You Need To Know

The foreclosure process isn't something any homeowner wants to go through. It’s upsetting and can add more problems on top of the issues causing you to default on your mortgage. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, about 250,000 families face this problem every few months. The process is started by the lender when you default on your monthly mortgage payment.

Your lender won't always try to take away your home, though. If you are able to come up with the money owed or come to a specific agreement with your lender, this can resolve the problem. By communicating with your lender, understanding your rights, and talking to a real estate attorney, you can better understand the process. Before you can look at potential solutions, however, you first need to understand the foreclosure process.

What Is A Foreclosure?

A foreclosure is a legal process that allows a lender to take back ownership of a property from the current homeowner. This typically occurs when the person who borrowed money to purchase the property can no longer make the monthly mortgage payment or are consistently late with their payments. While foreclosure often results in the lender taking ownership of the property or selling it, there are options to avoid losing the home or lessening the damage done to your credit. For example, you can have a short sale or ask for a mortgage release.

If the property is repossessed, the lender can sell the home through a real estate agent or public auction to recoup the money lost. If a public auction is held and there are no bids, the lender becomes the new owner.

Understanding Your Options  

It’s important to understand all of your options legally when you get a foreclosure notice. Talking to your lender immediately is necessary to avoid foreclosure or avoid a heavy hit on your credit. If foreclosure is unavoidable, make sure you are following the procedures correctly to eliminate additional problems.

If you do end up dealing with foreclosure, you're likely to go through the following steps:

1. Default On Mortgage

The first step in the process is when you default on making mortgage payments to your lender. The current owner must default, and this doesn’t usually happen right away. It may take several late mortgage payments or no payment for the bank to start the process.

Typically, a bank will give the homeowner time to catch up on payments because they understand the reality people face. Hardship can happen to anyone, and there is usually a grace period for the borrower. The bank is likely to send you many emails, phone calls, and letters letting you know you owe money.

Banks or lenders also typically offer different payment options to the current homeowner to get back on track and stay in their home. It is in the best interest of both parties that payments are made. The bank wants their money, and the homeowner wants to remain in their home. The bank isn’t interested in kicking people out of their homes; they are in the business of lending money to make money.

Usually, a lender cannot file a notice of default until a month after contacting the homeowner to discuss the present financial situation. This gives the owner time to figure out a plan. Sometimes selling the home before getting a notice is an option. If you are able to do this, you can pay off what is owed and find a smaller or cheaper home. This is great for homeowners who already have a lot of equity in the home and may be your best option. If it's not, seek guidance from a financial advisor, HUD, or an REO realtor in your area.

Reasons for Default

There are a number of reasons why someone might default on their mortgage:

  • Unemployment
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Medical expenses
  • Relocation sudden
  • Excessive debt
  • Divorce
  • Legal problems
  • Loans
  • Can’t sell the home

2. Notice of Default

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When the homeowner or borrower cannot come up with the money, the bank or lender will send a notice of default in the mail. The letter usually comes as a certified letter and gives the homeowner 90 days to pay the most recent payment. This is the first formal attempt in the process of foreclosure. Once received, the homeowner should make plans to pay off the debt so the process doesn’t proceed.  If you are able to catch up on payments, you can have your mortgage reinstated.

3. A Notice Of Sale

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After the certified letter comes and you cannot come up with the funds to get current on your mortgage, the default process continues. The third step is known as a notice of sale. You will be notified that the home will be sold by the lender at a home auction within 21 days.  This will come as another certified letter in the mail.

The notice of sale will also be published in a weekly newspaper for three weeks. This helps allow potential buyers to learn of the sale. Even though this process is going on, the owner has the option to still pay back what is owed and can reinstate their mortgage. They have until five days before the home goes to auction to do so. This is why the process takes time. Don't panic if you receive a notice of sale. You're not being kicked out of your home just yet.

4. Property Is Auctioned

During the auction part of the process, the home is sold to the highest bidder. The new buyer must pay the full amount immediately. This new buyer will get the lender’s deed after the completed sale of the property. They then become the new official property owner. Once this is finalized, the new owner has to serve the old owner or occupant of the property a quit or move out notice. Sometimes this doesn’t work, and the new owner must to go through the eviction process with the courts to get the individual or family out of the home.

What Happens If The Home Doesn’t Sell At Auction?

If your home doesn’t sell at auction, the property becomes a real-estate owned property. This is also referred to as an REO property. However, just because it doesn’t sell doesn’t mean you and your family can remain living in the home. When the bank owns the foreclosure, they have every right to evict you from the property. Sometimes they will offer the previous owner relocation assistance. Even if they don't, the current resident or previous owner can ask for assistance in relocating.

Making The Process Easier

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If you defaulted on your mortgage and get a foreclosure notice in the mail, be sure to have all your financial information gathered. Have your basic loan and financial information on hand when you call your mortgage company. This includes your mortgage statements and information about any other debt such as student loans, car loans, and credit card debt as well as all income and tax information.

You should be ready to explain the current situation you’re in, the hardship, and why you are having trouble making your mortgage payments. Be honest and upfront with the lender so you can work towards finding a solution. You may also want to find out if you’re eligible for a mortgage release or short sale.

Remedy The Situation

Once you've talked to your lender, it's time to look at solving your financial problems. If possible, you should look for ways to make enough extra money to catch up on your mortgage. There are some options here. You could pick up a second job or, if you're married and only one of you works, the other person could get a short-term job.

If you have children, having an additional job can be taxing. However, getting a part-time job from home can help relive debt issues. Getting another job might be too much depending on your circumstances, but with a job that allows you to work remotely, you may be able to earn additional money and make up your payments. These kind of jobs are prolific today. Any hobbies you might have could also make you money on the side that would be less taxing.  

Another option to consider is a consolidation loan. These loans can merge some of your other debt, including credit card debt, into one single loan. Often, these loans have a lower interest rate than some or all of the combined debt. That means your consolidation loan payment is likely to be less than the total monthly payments you were making to the individual lenders.

There are a variety of life issues that cause a homeowner to face foreclosure, but there are options out there. Work with your lender and be open to the various solutions they present.

Conclusion

A foreclosure can be detrimental to you and your family. It can ruin your credit and impact the way you live for several years. Acting early can minimize the damage, though. When this process occurs, it's vital that you understand that you do have options. By learning about the process and understanding what your rights are, you'll be able to make informed decisions regarding your mortgage.

Regardless of your circumstances, you want to act as soon as possible and find a plan that works for you.

How To Choose The Right Divorce Lawyer

A divorce is a process of terminating a marital union. Divorces are emotionally draining, and if your partner wants a part of your wealth or children are involved, it is even more stressful. Finding the right divorce lawyers to help you with the divorce may be difficult since not all lawyers specialize in this area. It is important that you find someone who is experienced in handling such matters and knows everything about the divorce process. This maximizes your chances of a beneficial outcome for yourself.

It is important to identify the right attorney as this saves you a lot of money and time. Court proceedings will be faster and potentially less expensive. You’ll avoid the extreme stress associated with the divorce process, which is typically long and drains you financially and emotionally. If you don’t know how to look for the right divorce lawyers, you will find this article beneficial. It highlights who divorce lawyers are, why you need them and tips on how to choose the right one.

Is There A Need For Divorce Lawyers?

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You need a divorce lawyer to help in the dissolution of the marital relationship. This typically entails several issues, including custody of children and division of property. You should ensure that you work with a divorce attorney who you feel comfortable with on a personal level so that you can discuss all aspects related to the divorce without worrying about having to expose personal information. Divorce is emotionally draining, which is why it requires delicate skills in dealing with people who are divorcing and the legal know-how. You need to hire divorce lawyers because of:

Experience

A qualified divorce attorney has experience in family law that you might not have. While you may have a little legal knowledge, there is no reason to handle your divorce. Finding a divorce attorney will not only provide you with the much-needed experience. If you choose to handle your divorce, you’d probably make a crucial error if you are not familiar with the paperwork involved or the court proceedings.

Unilateral Decision

Most divorce cases entail a unilateral decision. One party is typically for the divorce while the other opposes it. This can be emotionally draining as it will accompany disputes outside of court, which complicates case issues further. Therefore, if you want the divorce proceedings to be handled with the required expertise and finesse, hiring divorce lawyers is your best bet.

Avoid Mistakes

The legal system of divorce proceedings is complicated. Besides, the divorce is stressful, which makes it even harder for you to think clearly. When you don’t have a clear mind, there is a high likelihood you’ll make mistakes. When you hire an experienced divorce lawyer, you’ll be covered as he or she will circumvent any potential error you’d probably make.

Reducing Emotional Stress

Going through a divorce is emotionally draining. You need a divorce lawyer, who is knowledgeable and organized to take care of any legal issues that arise in the entire divorce lawsuit and address concerns and needs you may have. This eases some emotional stress, making it easier for you to go through the divorce process, including all the court proceedings.

Objective Opinions And Advice

One advantage of hiring a divorce attorney is that he or she will provide objective advice and opinions. This is because they can view the case from a different angle as they are neither invested emotionally in the case nor affected by it. They will guide you in the trickiest parts of the divorce.

Paperwork

Divorce entails a lot of paperwork. Sometimes, what needs to be filled is not simple. Without the help of experienced divorce lawyers, you might not even know where to start. When you hire an attorney, you are certain that all the complex issues of the divorce will be taken care of.  

Provide Information On How To Choose The Right Divorce Lawyers

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We have compiled a list of tips to help you choose the right divorce lawyers. These include:

Decide On The Preferred Divorce Process

This is the first decision you’ll have to make. You should decide whether you want to use litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce or any other divorce process at your disposal. After that, you will match the divorce process you want with the right attorney. If you want the divorce to be settled amicably, don’t hire shark attorneys who will probably escalate the divorce conflict. 

Make A Decision On The Legal Services You Need

Each divorce is unique, and therefore, you will need legal advice, but you don’t have to pay a $400 per hour for divorce attorneys. However, if you own big companies or assets, or in a complicated financial situation, you might need one, even when the fees are exorbitant. If you have a short marriage, no real estate or kids, and you’re not dividing any retirement plans, hiring big law firms is an overkill. In that case, look for someone who isn’t exorbitant.

What Can You Afford?

You need to consider what you can afford as no one wants to pay thousands of dollars to a divorce lawyer. You have to balance the legal fees. Don’t go for someone who will charge unreasonably, but someone who is affordable but can perfectly deal with your divorce situation.

Be Realistic

Divorce is a legal process meant for resolving custody issues and dissolving your assets. The attorney’s job is to represent you. Even though you might want him or her to listen to your sadness, pain, anger or frustration, you should be realistic since they are not trained as therapists. If you need therapy, you should visit a therapist, otherwise don't overburden the lawyer on matters he or she can't help.

Stay Focussed On The Goal

You want to file for divorce and avoid lifestyle depreciation. This should be your goal, so don’t let emotions get the better of you and get rampant in property negotiations as this should not be in the bigger picture. Otherwise, your divorce will take a longer, more expensive and more litigious.

What Do You Want?

You should know what you want before seeking the services of divorce lawyers. Therefore, before proceeding to the attorney, consider other alternatives, such as traditional litigation. If the divorce does not involve children or finances, it might be better if you hired a mediator to negotiate the divorce terms. Mediation is faster and cheaper. So if you decide to go to divorce lawyers, ensure this is the last resort or the necessary choice.

Identify And Interview At Least Three Potential Attorneys

You should take time to research the attorney. The internet might be of help here. Once you settle on the three most preferred lawyers, you can now interview them to find out their area of practice and whether they will be helpful in your divorce. You might also want to consider their legal fees. Go for the lawyer who seems to be the best negotiator.

Look For Red Flags

Many attorneys will tell you what you want to hear so they can close the deal. If they make promises, don’t believe it. If in the interview process or discussing your case, the lawyer divulges confidential information from other cases or if they aren’t respectful; you need to find another lawyer who has positive traits. Also, consider a lawyer who is not constantly distracted by emails and phone calls.

Choose The Attorney

The divorce lawyer you go for should be knowledgeable, local, professional, responsive, and a good communicator. It is someone you feel comfortable with and trust. The attorney should also be affordable.

Conclusion

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Just like any profession, there are good attorneys and bad ones. You should be careful when choosing an attorney, but it is up to you to do your homework and ask the right questions so you settle for the best divorce lawyer. The best divorce attorneys will listen to your concerns, ask queries about what you want to achieve, and provide honest assessments of your divorce so that you achieve your divorce goals. The lawyer should be knowledgeable, local, professional, responsive, great communicators and trustworthy. We hope this article has adequately addressed what divorce lawyers are, why they are important and tips on how to choose the right one.

Rules of Married Filing Separately

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When you are married, you have the choice of filing your taxes jointly or separately. What are the benefits? Here we discuss the option of married filing separately on your tax returns.

What Is Married Filing Separately on Taxes?

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Married couples that file their taxes together, also called filing jointly, file with the same return. They take joint responsibility for the information on the return and the amount of taxes that are owed to the government. When you are married and file separately, each person in the couple can have a separate responsibility for the taxes owed. Filing separately while you are married can disqualify you from a large number of tax breaks. However, there are some situations that would warrant married filing separately (MFS) versus married filing jointly (MFJ).

Is There a Need to File Separately if You Are Married?

Here we will discuss situations that could create benefits for a person that is married filing separately.

You Need to Separate Your Tax Liability

There may be a need to separate your tax liability from that of your spouse. If you sign a joint return, both people are responsible for whether the information on the return is correct. If penalties or additional taxes are owed, both people are responsible. If you think your spouse is less than truthful about income or deductions, you may want to separate your tax liability. If you are audited by the Internal Revenue Service when you file separately, you are only responsible for paying what you owe on your earnings. In a situation where your spouse’s income is significantly higher than your own, it may be especially advantageous to submit your tax returns as married filing separately.

One Spouse Has Substantial Itemized Deductions

If both spouses have taxable income and at least one person, usually the spouse with lower income, has substantial itemized deductions that are limited by adjusted gross income, it may be helpful to submit a married filing jointly return. Itemized deductions can be limited by your adjusted gross income. Some of these deductions include:

  • Charitable deductions – deductible up to 20%, 30%, or 50% of adjusted gross income, depending upon type of gift
  • Medical expenses for those under age 65 – deductible if they are greater than 10% of adjusted gross income
  • Medical expenses for those age 65 or older – deductible if they are greater than 7.5% of adjusted gross income
  • Miscellaneous expenses, including tax preparation costs, investment expenses, and unreimbursed business expenses – deductible if they are greater than 2% of adjusted gross income
  • Personal casualty losses – deductible if they are greater than 10% of adjusted gross income

Here’s an example of a situation where one spouse has substantial itemized deductions. A couple has a large quantity of unreimbursed healthcare costs. The spouse with the most medical expenses can calculate the deductibility against his or her lower adjusted gross income. When filing separately, the allowable deductions could be higher than if the couple submitted their return as married filing jointly. Therefore, the couple submitting a married filing separately return could reduce the amount of tax liability.

Other Considerations for Married Filing Separately

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Your state income taxes are another factor to consider if you want to submit tax returns as married filed separately. Calculating federal and state taxes owed may influence your decision to file separately. Here are some other considerations.

Community Property States

In community property states, marital property is owned by spouses equally. Marital property includes earnings, property purchased with earnings, and debts gained during the marriage. For example, if your spouse earned $60,000, half of that would be reported as your income even if you did not work outside the home. In general, assets owned by each individual before the marriage and after the couple physically separates are considered that individual’s property.

Community property states require different rules for distributing income and deductions when filing separately. Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin (as of 2018). Even if only one spouse lives in a community property state, community property deductions must be split in half, with each spouse reporting half of the deduction on each return.

Other Reasons for Filing Separately

Some spouses may prefer to keep their finances separate. If the taxes owed when submitting a return as married filing separately are the same or very similar than if you file jointly, you may choose to file separately.

If you or your spouse has income-based student loan payments, you may want to file to keep the payments based on only the student’s income and not the combined income of the couple. If you or your spouse owes unpaid taxes and the Internal Revenue Service may take a refund to offset the balance due, you may want to file separately. If both you and your spouse earn a high income, it may be advantageous to file separately.

There may be non-financial reasons a couple would want to submit a married filing separately return. One member of the couple may not be able to consent to filing a joint return. One member of the couple may be unwilling to consent to filing a joint return. The married couple may be separated, but not yet divorced, and wish to keep their tax returns separate. The couple may live separately and one spouse qualifies as the head of household.

Head of Household Status

A legally married person may be considered unmarried by the IRS. If that is the case, that person may choose to file as head of household rather than married filing separately. Certain criteria must be met to submit returns as a head of household filing status. One of these criteria is that the spouses did not live together for the last six months of the year. Another criterion is that a child or other dependent must have had their primary residence with you for more than half of the year.

As head of household, you must have had to pay for more than half the cost of maintaining the household. If you are eligible to file as a head of household, there are certain tax deductions and credits that are available to you because of your status. However, determining status as head of household can be tricky. Consult your tax professional or the IRS What Is My Filing Status tool for more information.

Tax Rates of Married Filing Separately

tax rates

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Here are the federal tax rates in 2018 for those who are married filing separately, according to Forbes magazine.

If Taxable Income Is

Then Tax Due Is

$0 – $9,525

10% of taxable income

$9,526 – $38,700

$952.50 + 12% of the amount over $9,525

$38,701 – $82,500

$4,453.50 + 22% of the amount over $38,700

$82,501 – $157,500

$14,089.50 + 24% of the amount over $82,500

$157,501 – $200,00

$32,089.50 + 32% of the amount over $157,500

$200,001 – $300,000

$45,689.50 + 35% of the amount over $200,000

$300,000 and above

$80,689.50 + 37% of the amount over $300,000

Amending Your Return

If you change your mind about whether to submit your tax return as married filing separately or married filing jointly, you can file an amended return. However, some restrictions apply to filing an amendment, also known as a Form 1040X. If a couple files separately, they have 3 years from the due date of the original return (not counting extensions) to switch to a single return. However, if the couple files jointly, they only have until the April 15th deadline of that tax year to change their mind.

Cons of Married Filing Separately

There are negative impacts of the married filing separately status. One is that the two filers must both itemize or both claim the standard deductions. One filer cannot itemize while the other claims the standard deduction if they submit their taxes as married filing separately. In addition, those who submit taxes as married filing separately are unable to claim a number of tax breaks. These include the following:

  • Adoption Tax Credit
  • American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning Educational Credits
  • Child and Dependent Care Expenses
  • Credit for the Elderly and Disabled
  • Earned Income Credit
  • IRA contributions (under certain circumstances)
  • Passive real estate loss (under certain circumstances)
  • Student loan interest deduction
  • Tax-free exclusion of Social Security benefits
  • Tax-free exclusion of U.S. bond interest
  • Tuition and fees deduction (currently available through tax year 2017, but this may change in the future)

Some other tax breaks are significantly reduced. The following will be half of the amount as the deduction on a joint return.

  • Alternative standard deduction
  • Capital loss deduction
  • Child tax credit
  • Standard deduction
  • Saver’s credit

Conclusion

You should always do your research before filing your tax return. Crunch the numbers and see whether submitting your return as married filing separately, married filing jointly, or filing as head of household is the best for you. There are some circumstances where married filing separately, as discussed here, is the best choice. Consult your tax professional for up-to-date advice. You can also consult the IRS website for tools such as the What is My Filing Status interactive tax assistant for more information.

8 Things You Should Know About A Partnership Agreement

When two or more people start a business, they need to agree on how the business will be conducted. This will help the partners to prevent any future disagreements, and if any emerge, there should be a detailed legal mechanism on how to resolve them. There are so many things that partners should agree on including how much partners will contribute to the formation of the business, how they will be salaried, and what duties each partner is responsible for. These aspects should clearly be delineated in a partnership agreement.

So what is a partnership agreement? This article highlights what this agreement is, its importance, and things to consider when drafting it.

What Is A Partnership Agreement?

two person hand shake

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A partnership is a business with two or more people, with each owning part of the business. The partnership agreement sets out all the terms and conditions that the parties agree to when forming a partnership. In fact, the partnership agreement is the most important document for a partnership. If a partnership begins without an agreement, it can be jeopardized if something happens to one or more of the partners.

In the partnership agreement document, every possible contingency is included, such as profit sharing ratios and the duties and responsibilities of each partner among other aspects. In the partnership, each partner should buy in or invest in the partnership and they typically share the profits and losses based on the percentage share of ownership.  

Why Involve An Attorney

The partnership agreement is a binding contract. Since it is a legal document, this implies that it is best to have an attorney guide you and provide the much-needed advice when including terms and clauses in the agreement. This way, it will provide adequate guidelines on all business aspects that need to be covered in the contract.

Is There A Need For A Partnership Agreement?

man and woman shaking hands

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Running a business on a handshake is not the smartest idea since there may be disagreements, which may prove difficult to resolve if there are no clear set guidelines. Having a partnership agreement gives you and your partners the protection you might need just in case something happens that may endanger the business relationship. It answers the “what if” questions so you don’t have to deal with them when a crisis strikes. For instance, if a partner decides to leave the agreement, it has clearly set guidelines on what should happen.

A partnership agreement is vital as it includes and guides partners in all the following aspects:

  1. 1
    Name of the partnership. There are various types of partnerships, such as LLCs and joint ventures, and the name should be specified in the partnership agreement.
  2. 2
    The term of the partnership. Partnerships can be perpetual or span a specific term length.
  3. 3
    Name the partnership is doing business as (if different). For instance, if the business is under different names or offers different types of services.
  4. 4
    Purpose of the partnership. This entails specifying the activities that the business engages in. This includes the products and services sold and how new services or products will be added.
  5. 5
    The requirements of admitting new partners, including their contributions.
  6. 6
    Types of partners in the partnership. Some of the partners may have more day-to-day duties, such as the general partners, while others may just contribute and have limited participation.
  7. 7
    Types of partners in the partnership. Some of the partners may have more day-to-day duties, such as the general partners, while others may just contribute and have limited participation.
  8. 8
    Each partner’s contribution. This should be specified so that when profits are made, the partners can share according to the amount they contributed. Contributions could be in cash, installments, property, or service.
  9. 9
    The agreement should specify what happens in the event that a partner fails to make the initial contribution.
  10. 10
    It should also clarify whether there will be additional future contributions when the contributions will be accepted, and how they will affect the shares for each partner.
  11. 11
    How profits and losses made through the proceeds of the business will be shared or distributed among the partners, in terms of percentages (percentages, unequal, equal).
  12. 12
    How decisions for the business will be made.
  13. 13
    Duties and responsibilities. Each partner should have an assigned duty and management power, including the skills contributed and the hours for work for each partner.
  14. 14
    Draws to partners. When and how partners should take a draw from the partnership share.
  15. 15
    Financial matters, such as how periodic financial statements and books will be kept and when taxes will be filed.
  16. 16
    The power to be vested in partners to borrow money on behalf of the partnership. How the power is distributed and whether a vote is required to borrow a certain amount.
  17. 17
    Maintenance of records. This entails how and where the records will be kept.
  18. 18
    Meetings. The agreement should clarify when meetings will be held and how many partners will constitute a quorum for meetings.
  19. 19
    The agreement should specify the power of authorizing expenses and the signatures needed.
  20. 20
    The partner time off, including vacations, leaves of absence, and sick leaves should be clearly specified.
  21. 21
    Ownership of assets. The agreement should specify if the partnership owns all assets or whether some are held by the partners.
  22. 22
    Outside activities (those that are restricted and permitted), and the conflict of interest policy.
  23. 23
    Sale or the transfer of a partner’s interest to another partnership, at retirement or another event. It should specify aspects like buy-sell agreements for the partners and the methods involved.
  24. 24
    Non-competition clause. This restricts partners who leave the partnership from competing with the business, within a defined time period and area.
  25. 25
    Continuity of partnership business when a partner dies, leaves, or is terminated as in the case of a buy-sell agreement.
  26. 26
    Expulsion of a partner from the partnership.
  27. 27
    Amendments to the partnership agreement, how and when.
  28. 28
    Severability if a part of the agreement is found to be invalid and doesn’t affect the contract.
  29. 29
    Adherence to state law. This is mainly for the purpose of litigation and establishing the state in which the litigation will be held.
  30. 30
    Mediation and arbitration of the dispute, including mandatory arbitration, if the partners agree to it.

Provide Information On Things You Should Know About A Partnership Agreement

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We compiled 8 vital things you should know about the agreement, which are:

1. Ownership.

This highlights what to do if something happens regarding the ownership. If you sell the business, the agreement should specify which partner will get what and the partnership’s position of including new partners. Here, the agreement states whether there is the option of buying out another partner. Therefore, the agreement should explicitly describe how ownership interests should be handled in different scenarios, including in the event that a partner retires, dies, or in case of bankruptcy. Include a non-compete clause to prevent a partner from competing with the business once he or she leaves.

2. Critical Developments

The agreement should cover for unexpected occurrences, such as when a partner gets sick or is dying. It also covers what will happen in case of a buyout. It should set retirement provisions and circumstances in which you can change the partnership.

3. Dispute Resolution

While no one wants to think about this, things could get ugly between partners, which is why you should consider this in the agreement. There should be a mediation and resolution process if disputes arise as it might save partners from lawsuits.

4. Dissolution Or Exit Strategy

The agreement should show the events that could trigger dissolution and how the affairs that would be affected would be wound up. This includes all legal means of ending the partnership. This is a security if you or your partners can’t agree on the future of the business. You also need to know the state requirements of dissolving the partnership.

5. Decision Making

This is a safeguard since you won’t be agreeing on everything. Therefore, define how daily management and long-term decisions will be made. Define who gets the last say and the type of decisions that require unanimous votes by the partners, and what decisions can be made by a single partner.

6. Contributions

The agreement should clarify what each partner must stake in the formation of the partnership, and the ongoing finances of the business. It should specify how much each partner should contribute to the commencement of the business. Besides, it should state the responsibilities of each partner in the future needs of the business, including equipment, customers, effort, and time.

7. Partner Roles In Signing And Authorizations

There should be a clear understanding of what the offices or managers of the business are authorized to do on behalf of the business.

8. Distributions

The partnership agreement should detail how partners will share profits, how much each partner will be paid. The agreement should also include the salary for each partner.

Conclusion

hand shake monitor

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Every partnership should have an agreement to make sure that every potential situation is covered for. The partnership agreement is a binding contract, which implies that you need an attorney to guide you to draft it, and also help resolve any future disputes or issues. In most instances, it should stipulate that what matters partners should vote for, their contributions, distributions, what should be implemented, ownership, critical developments, dispute resolution, dissolution or exit strategy, and partner roles in signing and authorizations among other aspects.

However, periodic reviews and additions are paramount and keep up to date with legal requirements. We hope this article has adequately addressed what a partnership agreement is, why it is important, and things to consider when drafting one.

How To Get A Restraining Order: FAQS, Process And Its Different Types

If you are the victim of abuse in a relationship or have experienced sudden violence or threats outside a relationship, you might feel very isolated and alone. It’s important to tell someone you trust so you build the momentum to help you take action to leave or protect yourself. One very important way you can protect yourself is by making the police and courts aware of your situation and filing for a restraining order. We’re here to help you understand how to get a restraining order.

What Is A Restraining Order?


A court issues a restraining order to prevent one person from contacting or being within a certain distance of another person. This order prevents contact of any kind and often will have distance restrictions included in the text. It is intended as a legal process for eliminating the harassment and intimidation of the abused or threatened person. It’s important for someone in an abusive relationship to know how to get a restraining order, but there are other situations that warrant a protective order.

There Are Four Types Of Restraining Orders

  • Emergency—the police can issue these if you are in immediate danger and can’t get to a courthouse right away (expires after a few days)
  • Temporary—issued by a judge for coverage before a case goes to court (typically last 14 days)
  • No-contact order—if the abuser is convicted of a crime, the court will include this long- or short-term order as part of the punishment
  • Domestic violence restraining order—issued by a judge as part of a hearing and can last up to a few years

Reasons To File A Restraining Order


man writing a document

While you know restraining orders exist, you may not know if they apply to you or your situation. You must first understand the circumstances that warrant seeking an order to know how to get a restraining order. While we won't list every situation under which a restraining order can be filed, these are the most common. Note: there are always dangerous situations that might warrant this kind of protection outside these listed categories.

Psychological Abuse

Abuse doesn't always have to be physical to be considered dangerous enough to get a restraining order. Those who work with domestic violence victims recognize that psychological abuse is usually the most destructive aspect of domestic violence, and the most difficult abuse to heal from. Psychological abuse can involve:

  • Degrading behavior
  • Threats of violence
  • Unreasonable attempts to control another’s behavior
  • Threats against your children or loved ones
  • Behavior that interferes with daily life
  • Behavior that affects your ability to do your job
  • Destroying property and displaying weapons as intimidation
  • Stalking
  • Threatening to divulge sensitive information about you
  • Threatening to take your children or have them taken away

It’s important to keep a journal of all incidents of psychological abuse along with how each incident affected you. If acts of psychological abuse happen via text, email or social media, print out each occurrence for evidence to present to a judge. Be sure to list the date and time of each interaction and any potential witnesses.

Since this will be considered a legal document, it's important to present the facts of the interaction as objectively as possible. Play-by-play descriptions can be useful. The journal and printed materials are a vital step when you need to focus on how to get a restraining order for psychological abuse.

Physical Violence

The most important thing to do when faced with physical violence is to make a plan and get out. Physical violence ends in tragedy far too often. Many survivors believe the violence will decrease if they can do what it takes to meet the demands of their abuser.  The sad truth is that it usually escalates regardless of what the victim says and does to try to stop the abuser's attacks. No matter how many times a person tells you they’re sorry and that they will change—they rarely do. In many cases, abusers can only make real changes after they seek intensive therapeutic services while staying far from abused loved ones.

Abusers will often make the victim of their abuse feel like they’re overreacting and what they’re experiencing isn’t abuse. This is referred to as gaslighting and recognizing it when it happens is important to recovery. Signs you’re in a physically abusive relationship include when your abuser:

  • Physically hits, punches, pushes, shoves, grabs or kicks you
  • Uses a weapon of any kind to hurt you
  • Blames you for the physical abuse
  • Destroys your things
  • Hurts your pets
  • Hurts your children or other loved ones
  • Threatens to hurt him or herself if you leave

If there is an immediate threat to your well-being, call 911. The police will provide you with a police report. They will also often provide advice on how to get a restraining order and may connect you with domestic violence services in your area.

Please be aware, all of this advice applies regardless of gender. Many people think of abusers as men and the abused as women, but the reality is more complex than that. Law enforcement officials and those working at domestic violence shelters and hotlines are familiar with working with victims of every orientation and gender. There has been a growing awareness of these realities in the United States. No survivor of abuse should ever fear ridicule or disrespect for doing what they need to do to be safe. No matter who you are, you will be respected and helped when you reach out for assistance.

Financial Abuse

This often goes unaddressed because it can appear there isn’t help for those being financially taken advantage of. There is. Studies have shown that financial abuse happens just as often as physical and emotional abuse and 99% of physically abusive relationships also involve this kind of cruelty. Financial abuse can look like:

  • Restriction of the victim’s ability to use and gain money or financial tools
  • The abuser not allowing the victim to work
  • Having to account for every penny spent
  • Abuser using the victim’s credit without permission or repayment
  • Abuser feels entitled to the victim’s money
  • Being told where you can and can’t work
  • Pressuring you to quit your job
  • Harassing you at work

When this kind of abuse occurs, it makes it nearly impossible to create an escape plan because there’s no money to payroll such a plan. In the long-term, it can prevent the victim from getting housing, credit, and a job. It’s hard to get any of these things without a positive credit history, access to money for deposits or a tangible employment history.

This type of abuse also takes place in other familial and caretaker relationships outside of romantic ones. If you or someone you know is elderly and experiencing financial abuse, you can contact your local Agency on Aging or Adult Protective Services for specialized assistance in stopping and preventing the financial abuse.

Trademark Infringement

This is an uncommon situation, but may still be covered by a restraining order. If you’re in the process or trademarking or getting a patent for something you invented, and another party is using or selling that product or logo, you may file for a restraining order. This will prevent the other party from selling and using your invention until the lawsuit is settled.

How To Get A Restraining Order


Your state and local governments may have specific and special steps for how to get a restraining order in your area, but these are good guidelines to follow. Most importantly, don’t wait to file. Most courts require a person to file within 30 days of a violent incident.

Learn The Process

You should visit your county clerk’s office for instructions and forms to file. They will tell you how to get a restraining order in your county. The process may take a few hours of waiting but is fairly easy.

Domestic violence help centers will show you, step by step, how to get a restraining order and give you advice, making it as easy as possible. Some may have lawyers that work or volunteer for them to offer legal advice. They can point you toward a lawyer if they or you think you may need one. This could be costly, but you can seek lawyers who specialize in domestic violence.

Present Evidence

You want to walk into court prepared. Things to keep and bring with you:

  • Printed texts, emails and recorded voicemails—never delete these
  • Printed social media posts
  • Copies of police reports
  • 911 transcripts
  • Signed and dated witness reports
  • Medical reports and dated photos of injuries
  • Dated pictures of damage to property
  • Dated pictures and descriptions of weapons
  • Your journals and written accounts of dates and types of violence

If possible, bring any witnesses with you to court.

Practice

Practice what you want to say when you get to court. Remember to keep your focus on the subject of your restraining order. Don’t talk about why what the abuser is doing is wrong, talk about the abuse. Cheating, drinking, and cursing won’t help your case. Focus on what scares you, how you feel threatened and the facts of the abuse.

A big part of how to get a restraining order is staying as calm as necessary to present all your evidence. The person you’re getting a restraining order against may be in court with you, so preparing will help keep you composed.

Frequently Asked Questions


meeting

How Old Do I Have To Be To Get A Restraining Order?

Most states require you to be at least 14 years old.

How Much Will It Cost?

In most cases, it costs nothing to file with the court.

Does the Order Only Protect Me?

No. You can include children, roommates or other loved ones.

How Long Does An Order Last?

That depends. It can last weeks, years and, sometimes, a lifetime depending on the facts of your case.

What If The Order Is Violated?

Call the police. They will arrest the violator. If it’s a repeat offense, or the offense was severe, they could charge him with a felony.

If I Move Will I Be Protected?

Yes. All states recognize protection orders from other states.

Conclusion


people discussing in the court

Knowing how to get a restraining order is the first step to getting out. There’s nothing more important than ensuring your and your children’s physical safety. The law is on your side and a restraining order is one layer of defense against abuse. If they have isolated you, reach out to friends and family for help and community. Each connection will make you feel stronger.

The first sign of violence or abuse is the best time to leave. The longer a relationship lasts, the harder it may be to leave. If you’re wondering how to get a restraining order—you should start now. Starting on a plan to get out and to safety should be your number one priority.

If you are or suspect you are in an abusive relationship, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-HELP (7233). They offer free, anonymous help 24/7. They offer advice in several languages and can help you figure out how to get a restraining order in your particular situation. If you are in immediate danger, always call 911. There is help and you are not alone.

How To Apply For Disability And When To Seek Legal Assistance

If you have become disabled and unable to work, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration understands that the disabled person may not be able to come in for their own appointments and also lets a loved one apply on his or her behalf. Disability benefits come in the form of monthly support that helps with living expenses, medical expenses, and bills. Disability benefits may be short-term or long-term, depending on the situation. There are also disability attorneys and non-legal representatives out there who can advise you on how to apply for disability.

We will talk about the different types of disability, how to apply for disability, and when it might be helpful to seek legal help. Read below for more on how to apply for disability.

What Is Disability?

There are two types of disability, or disability insurance. Both types are obtained through the Social Security Administration. The first benefit is Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. The second benefit is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

Disability

The difference between the two is that Social Security Disability Insurance is an insurance program more geared towards people who had been working regularly before their disability. Supplemental Security Income is specifically for disabled persons who have a demonstrated financial need.

To qualify for SSDI, you must have total disability. This means you are completely unable to perform your last job or any other job you have ever performed before. Total disability also means you must be incapable of adapting to a different job suitable for your level of ability, skill and education.

The criteria for SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is demonstrated financial need and a disability that keeps you from holding gainful employment. People over 65 years may not need to show total disability to be eligible for SSI, per the SSA’s rules. To qualify for SSI, you must show both that you are completely disabled and that you do not have adequate means of supporting yourself. Completely disabled means showing you cannot perform any work, either work for which you have previously trained or work you could be trained for.

Applicants for Supplemental Security Income cannot own more than $2,000 in countable assets outside of the home in which they live and one vehicle.

Is There a Need to Apply for Disability?

If you became disabled, cannot work, and cannot meet your living expenses, you may apply for disability. It is also possible to apply on behalf of a disabled family member. If you find out you have a serious illness that is expected to be terminal you should apply for disability immediately. At least you will have peace of mind knowing you will have some support in meeting your living and medical expenses.

In all cases you should begin your application as soon as you expect to be disabled more than a year, as the disability application process can be lengthy. Children with certain medical conditions also meet the qualifications for receiving SSI benefits. Check with the SSA for more information on accepted medical conditions and for how to apply for disability for a child.

The process is mostly straightforward but requires you to be tenacious in pursuing your or a family member’s claim. It is important to remember that SSA denies many claims at first but that does not mean that you should give up if you are experiencing a total disability. SSI or SSDI can be a lifesaver if you or a family member experiences such a hardship. The application process should be taken seriously and not abused if you are not truly disabled. If you are truly disabled, do not be dissuaded as you go through the filing process for either SSI or SSDI. Many denied cases are appealed in the Appeals Court and won.

You may be eligible for SSI or SSDI or both. You can receive both SSI and SSDI at the same time. Even if you haven’t worked in a while and aren’t eligible for SSDI, you may be eligible for SSI if you have a demonstrated financial need.

How to Apply for Disability

There is a lot of help available regarding how to apply for disability. You can apply online for either SSI or SSDI using the Social Security Disability Insurance online application. The SSA will accept any documents submitted online through the SSDI online application and will follow up with you for any additional documents needed. If a friend or family member applies for disability on your behalf, the SSA will be in touch with you to have you sign the documents.

person holding tab with social security form

You can go to your local SSA field office to meet with an SSA representative who helps you prepare your SSI or SSDI claims. You can make an appointment by calling 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment or just stop by your local field office. Friends or family members can also be present with you during your phone or in-person interview with the SSA.

You should stay in close contact with your primary doctor as you navigate how to apply for disability.  You should notify your doctor immediately if you plan to file for disability. Your doctor can help you fill out forms. The SSA will probably be in touch with your doctor for more information on your condition.

When to Seek Legal Help

Before seeking legal help on how to apply for disability, consider the pros and cons. The costs of hiring a disability attorney are thankfully clear and unambiguous. Disability attorneys’ fees are regulated by federal law. Usually the cost is the lesser of 25 percent of your disability back-pay or $6,000, whichever is lower. Disability attorneys only get paid if you win your case.

social security law printed papers

It can be beneficial to seek legal advice during the initial filing process on how to apply for disability. Since the Social Security Administration denies many initial applications, it is common for applicants not to seek outside legal help until the appeals process on how to file for disability.

Filing Your Initial Application

There are a few things to consider in your initial application. Disability attorneys can consult with you best on how to file for disability. First, disability attorneys advise you on your “alleged onset date”, or AOD, for Social Security Disability Insurance. Supplemental Security Income pay starts when you first apply.

For SSDI, AOD determines the date at which you were first eligible for disability and decides how far in the past your back-pay will reach. If you became disabled on a date before your filing, you can get pay as far back as 12 months before your filing date. However, there is also a 5-month waiting period after you first apply during which you are neither owed nor given any benefits. So you would have to have become disabled 17 months before the date on which you applied to get the full 12 months of back-pay. The SSA makes the final decision on the date on which your disability first started. This date set by the SSA is called the EOD, or Established Onset Date.

After that, often lawyers or non-attorney representatives do not get directly involved until the appeals process. If your initial disability application is denied, remember you have 60 days to file an appeal. You also must notify the Social Security Administration if you plan to hire a legal representative using the SSA’s Appointment of Representative https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-1696.pdf form.There are multiple levels of the appeals process. Appeals are often denied at the reconsideration level. At the second appeals level, you will get a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. A lawyer or non-legal representative will help you prepare your answers for the hearing. They will also help you best represent your condition and with cross-examination by the vocational expert during your hearing.

Do I Need to Hire a Disability Attorney?

While it’s possible to get your case approved by the Social Security Administration without legal representation, everything else being equal, Social Security is more likely to approve applicants who are represented by legal counsel. Disability attorneys are the experts on how to apply for disability. If your initial application was denied, in that case you may hire either a disability attorney or a non-legal representative.

Non-Lawyer Representatives

Non-lawyer representatives are also experts on how to apply for disability. A non-lawyer representative is paid the same as a lawyer – both are paid an established sum percentage out of your Social Security benefits and only get paid if you win – but a non-lawyer representative often only handles disability cases and may have more time for your case, while a lawyer could have multiple specialties and less time for your case. Non-lawyer representatives are also more willing to take on long-shot cases while lawyers are more interested in taking cases that will probably win.

Conclusion

Filing for disability does not have to be complicated with the wealth of resources and help at your disposal who can help you on how to apply for disability. Remember that you may not need legal representation for your initial application but as you enter the appeals process, enlisting the help of either a disability attorney, non-legal representative, or social worker or case manager may be beneficial. They can best understand how to portray your application in the best light to the Social Security Administration. With the help of these representatives, your chance of a successful SSI or SSDI application is greatly increased.

How To Sue Someone: 5 Ways To Determine If You Have A Case

Arbitration, the use of law to resolve conflicts between two or more parties, has existed for centuries. Many jurisdictions, including the US, have embraced courtrooms with outstanding enthusiasm. This is why you should know how to sue someone when you are in a dispute or conflict instead of taking matters into your own hands. If you try to resolve matters on your own, you could get sued instead, especially if you injure the person or damage their property.

courtroom

Civil litigation is common these days. In fact, a lawsuit is filed every two seconds in the US, with millions of others waiting to be resolved. Suing has become a growth industry. According to the American Bar Association, there were over one million attorneys practicing today, and law schools continue churning out new lawyers each year. If there is someone you have an unresolved dispute with, this content is for you. The article highlights how to sue someone, reasons you might want to do so, considerations for filing a suit, and how to determine whether you have a good case.

court hammer and law books

Reasons You Might Need to Learn How to Sue Someone

There is a myriad of reasons should learn how to sue someone. The following are a few of them:

woman writing on a notebook with some people

Recovering Damages

Enforcing a Contract

Protecting Your Property

Dissolving a Marriage or a Partnership

Replacing a Fiduciary

5 Ways to Determine if You Have a Good Case

Any lawsuit can be broken down into specific components that are legally required for the case to be a “good” case. As the plaintiff, a lawyer provides a checklist of elements and makes sure you can satisfy each with evidence. The cause of action depends on your lawsuit, but you need to consider whether your case meets the required elements.

Determine a case

If it is a breach of contract, such as when you have hired a contractor for home renovations and doesn’t meet their end of the deal as established in the contract, you must prove the following elements:

  1. Whether there was a valid contract in place. As the plaintiff, you need to show that a valid contract existed between you and the second party. If it is a written contract, it should be signed by both parties.
  2. Evidence of breach of contract. Here, you prove that the other party breached the contract by not doing what you had agreed on or had promised to do. For example, in our home renovation example, you must show that the contractor did not make the renovations you had agreed on.
  3. Performance. For a successful breach of contract action, show that you held up your end of the contract terms, such as the provision of capital for the contractor to fulfill the obligation.
  4. Damages. You must prove that the breach of the contract led to economic damages. For example, if the home renovations were meant to facilitate a certain business, you should include the profits you would have otherwise made.
An Attorney

For negligence, you must prove the following 5 elements:

  1. Duty. The defendant should have owed a duty to the plaintiff. The duty arises in several forms.  For example, drivers have a duty to all other drivers on the road by driving safely.
  2. Breach of duty. Here, it should be established that the defendant breached the duty with respect to the plaintiff. Here, it should be established that the defendant failed to act reasonably to fulfill his or her duty to the plaintiff.
  3. Cause in fact. Here, it should be established that if not for the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff would have suffered no injuries.
  4. Proximate cause. This is related to the proximity of the actions of the defendant to the harms that were caused. For instance, if a pedestrian is hit by a motorist they might call their mother from the hospital. The mother might then suffer a heart attack instantly. It should be established whether it is fair to attribute the heart attack to the actions of the defender.
  5. Damages. You must prove damages were incurred, such as medical bills, or pain and suffering caused by the injury.

Considerations before Filing Suit

shaking hands after filing a lawsuit

The following are the considerations before suing someone:

  1. Whether you have a good case. The elements of a good case must be met.
  2. Whether you have tried settling the dispute by compromise. The other party may have a valid argument or a potential claim against you. In that case, adjust your position accordingly. The court may look unfavorably on your suit if you did not seek to resolve the dispute outside of court despite the other party’s willingness to do so.
  3. Whether you have made a final demand in connection with the dispute. The defendant will want to settle the dispute and resolve it instead of sorting it out in a court of law.
  4. Whether you’ll win the dispute. You need to be reasonably certain that the judgment will be in your favor before spending a lot of money on the case.
  5. Whether you have the time and resources to devote to the lawsuit. Lawsuits drain a lot of energy and time. If you don’t have enough time for it due to work, social life, or family, it may not be worth it.
  6. Whether you can pay your lawyer. Lawsuits are typically expensive and you should have the money to cover the legal fees. A few lawyers will agree to only charge fees from the defendant after winning the case in your favor. You will want to check beforehand if your lawyer is willing to agree to this arrangement.
  7. Where you’ll be able to sue. If a person is from another jurisdiction or state, you may not have the power or jurisdiction to bring a suit against the person. Therefore, seek services in his or her location.
  8. Whether you’re within the applicable “statute of limitations.” Here, check with your lawyer to ensure that the time limits of the lawsuit have not run out.
  9. Is it a small claim and can you represent yourself? If it is a small claim, use a “conciliation” or “small claims” court. Here, you might want to represent yourself as you’ll save attorney’s fees.

Conclusion

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Civil suit court cases are fairly common these days. For you to protect your rights and interests you should know how to sue someone. This helps you get compensated for injuries and also ensure that you protect your property. In most instances, you’ll sue someone to enforce a contract, recover damages, dissolve a marriage or a partnership, protect your property, or replace a fiduciary.

For the lawsuit to be a good case, it must meet the elements discussed in the article. Look into the considerations highlighted for you to sue. We hope this article has adequately addressed how to sue someone, reasons you might want to do so, considerations of filing a suit, and ways of determining whether you have a good case.


Things To Know Before Signing A Non Compete Agreement

When you find a new job, you must sign a contract before you officially start working. The contract covers the terms of the employment, including issues like salary along with the duties and responsibilities. However, the employer may also need you to sign a non compete agreement. If you didn't sign such an agreement when you started working, you might notice that your employer pressures you to sign the agreement when you are being promoted or getting a pay raise.

Signing the non compete agreement is beneficial for employers as it helps them protect their businesses as it bars employees from starting a similar business. All types of businesses can benefit. So what is a non compete agreement? This content highlights what this agreement is, whether there is a need for signing it and things you should know before signing it.

What Is a Non Compete Agreement?

A non compete agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee that prohibits the employee from engaging in a business that competes with the employer's business for a certain time period and within a certain locality, which is specified in the agreement. Even though the employer cannot force you to sign it, they may terminate or not hire you if you refuse to sign the contract. Note:  courts are not usually supportive of non compete agreements; they will consider factors pertinent to the case to determine whether this kind of an agreement is reasonable.

Therefore, if you are negotiating a non compete agreement with your employer, we recommend you to ensure that it is limited only to aspects necessary for the employer’s protection. You should also ask for severance payment when terminated under such circumstances. The non compete agreement, which is a protective mechanism for the employer from the undue competition by an employee, can also be referred to as a "restrictive covenant" or a "covenant not to compete." The contract is common these days when applying for jobs and in contracts involving the sale of businesses.

The main purpose of the contract is to restrict the ability of employees to go into a business similar to the employer’s within a specific locality for a certain time period. If you sign it, you agree that you won’t compete with your employer by engaging in any business similar to that of your employer, as an independent contractor, employee, significant investor, part owner or whatever other forms of competition your employer identifies and includes in the contract.

Non Compete Agreement Elements

Non Compete Agreement Elements

The contract is typically state-governed and does not fall in the federal law jurisdiction. The non compete agreement covers these elements:

  • The traditional "covenant not to compete" prohibits the employee from joining a competing businesses during a certain period and within a specific geographical location.
  • Non-solicitation agreements bar approaching clients, poaching employees or wooing former employer’s supplies.
  • A confidentiality agreement, also known as a nondisclosure, bars the use or revelation of information of former employers to new employers. The information could include client lists, marketing plans and product formulations.

Is There a Need for Non Compete Agreements?

BUSINESS MEETING

The non compete agreement will legally bind employers and employees. It is important as it prevents the employee from competing with his or her employer after he or she is terminated, for a specified period in a certain locality. Employers benefit from the contract since it discourages an employee from leaving the current position held in the company or business and taking a new position, which presumably pays better, in a competitor's firm. Once the employee joins the competitor firm, he or she can pass on valuable information gained while working for the previous employer. This information can be used to gain a competitive advantage, which is deemed unfair.

As such, by making sure that the employee signs the agreement, an employer protects the company’s goodwill and trade secrets. It is also a viable strategy to retain talented and experienced employees from making a move to competitor firms. This allows the employer to benefit longer from its investment in providing a valuable training to staff. However, the agreement cannot include limitations on the employee’s right to earn a living and move on when he or she leaves the current employer.

Employers not using the non compete agreements should consider doing so. There are many benefits of ensuring that the employees sign the agreement. It is free and easily available to download off the internet. However, there are some demerits associated with the agreement since research has established that the non compete agreement can limit job mobility, discourage venture-capital investments and accelerate talent flight.

Provide Information on Non Compete Agreements

contract SIGNING

What Should Be Included

For the agreement to be legally valid, it should:

  • Have an intention to protect a legitimate business interest, such as trade secrets or retaining valuable customers
  • Be reasonable regarding its time, scope and geographical restriction
  • Be supported by consideration, such as money

5 Things Courts Look For To Establish The Reasonability Of The Agreement

courtroom

The court establishes the reasonability of the contract based on the following points:

  1. The potential harm to the employers. The agreement should establish the potential harm to the employer's business. 
  2. The specified time period. The reasonability depends on the nature of the job. For instance, a manufacturing business can have a period of about a year. For yoga instructors, it can be three to six months.
  3. The banned territory. This may be as far as ten miles away from the previous employer for a hair salon but a three-state area could be reasonable for a business or sales manager.
  4. Impact on the employee. Signing the agreement doesn’t mean that the employer will not work for the remainder of his or her life. It is not reasonable for the employer to deprive the employee of making a living or forcing a relocation. Courts typically consider this point more than the others.
  5. Interests of the general public. The contracts should not stifle competition to the point of creating a monopoly.

Courts do not honor provisions that are deemed as unreasonable, a point that is established when negotiating for such contracts. This again depends on the state in question and the court used for such proceedings.

Contract Negotiation

Signature

Employers should first focus on what they need to accomplish. If the employer is the owner of a local small business, you might ask where the contract came from. If it was downloaded from the internet, it is likely to include inapplicable clauses so it is best that you discuss point by point in the spirit that the resulting clauses will benefit you and doesn’t comprise excess baggage. This means that the parties involved should know the benefits and demerits.

The agreement binds both parties. As an employee, you need to ask for assurance in the contract that as you gain experience, you will receive promotions and pay raises so you are not stuck at your entry-level salary as the contract can trap you. Even if your employer is a large corporation, you’re entitled to negotiation. If the employer is not willing to negotiate, you’re free to walk away.

Always consult a lawyer to look into the contract document so that if there are any issues that are not in your favor, he or she can explain them to you and offer advice. You might also want to consult a lawyer if the employer wants you to sign the agreement as a condition for getting severance when being terminated. The situation is even more delicate when being offered a promotion or pay raise. Some states may require an add-on, such as more vacation when signing the contract if you're getting this raise or promotion.

You need to watch out for lawyer fees since some contracts stipulate that the employees pay for the legal fees of the company. Note that how the employer negotiates with you before signing the agreement can be an indicator of how you’ll be treated when employed. Therefore, you might be wary of employers who include too many clauses in the agreement that don't favor you as an employee.

Conclusion

A non compete agreement prohibits employees from engaging in a business that competes with his or her current or former boss’s business. For the contract to be valid, it must protect a legitimate business interest, such as trade secrets. It should also be reasonable regarding its time, scope and geographical restriction and must be supported by consideration, such as money. Again, both parties have to sign it for a court to recognize it. The non compete agreement falls under state jurisdiction.

You should note that the employer cannot force you to sign the non compete agreement but may terminate or not hire you if you refuse to sign it. It's mainly intended to restrict the ability of employees to go into a business similar to the employer’s within a specific locality for a certain period.
 
It is vital for employers since it discourages an employee from leaving the current position and helps protect the company’s goodwill and trade secrets. Some employers may use it as a strategy to keep talented and experienced employees from making a move to the competitor firm.

For employees:  before signing the contract, always consult a lawyer to look into the contract and provide advice. We hope this article has adequately addressed what a non compete agreement is and whether there is a need for signing it.