The Sticky Situation When a Step-Parent Adopts

Aug 10

Our country, thankfully, is becoming far more open to some non-traditional family ideas. I don’t think that has anything to do with politics, per se. It’s much more about the fact that families, by and large, just aren’t quite looking as traditional as before. There are so many divorces, remarriages, step-families, adoptions, etc., it’s impossible to hold the old traditional family as the only way to see a family.

That is, like I implied above, a good thing, and yet, despite how most people support this idea, it is still very difficult to keep some non-traditional families together. Take, for instance, step-parent adoption. This is far more common than you may realize. There are plenty of instances where a step-parent is called upon to become the main custodian for a child. The most obvious would be when the biological parent is deceased, but there are also sad instances when the biological parent is unable or unwilling to take care of their child or children.

At that point, you would think it would be as simple to adopt the child for the step-parent as just signing a piece of paper, but as Andrew A. Bestafka, Esq. points out, it is actually an incredibly complicated process.

Some of the rules Mr. Bestafka lays out are obvious. For instance, the step-parent has to already be 18 years old to become a guardian. Both biological parents (if they are both alive and able to do so) also have to give consent to the adoption, and the parent removing themselves from custody of the child must also formally forfeit their own rights.

That is really only the beginning of the process, though. Extensive background checks are run on the step-parent, and children over ten must go to a hearing to give their opinion on the process.

All of this seems reasonable, and yet, it is an extremely complicated and drawn-out process. This is especially true, according to Mr. Bestafka, when the non-custodial parent refuses to comply and give up their rights. While this is an obviously difficult situation for the parent, if they are unsafe or unable to provide for the child, it is surely in the best interest to make this process easier, and yet, it appears that is often the opposite of what happens.

I hope that as this continues to inevitably become a more common family type, the process can be streamlined to make it easier to keep children with those they consider they parents.

For now, it seems like the only way to navigate such a system is with the help of lawyers like Mr. Bestafka. However, while we can hope the system gets better and be sure to recommend lawyers to help step-parents going through such a situation, we must also as a community make an effort to embrace publicly such non-traditional family types, to remove any stigma and to make it easier for the family to find support in a community during a very difficult time.

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Legal term guide: wrongful death

Oct 04

The legal world is intimidating precisely because of how it speaks. What I mean is that lawyers speak in their own language, with their own terms, and our inability to understand intimidates us. Just as you might feel intimidated walking in a big city in some foreign country where the language isn’t English, so you feel intimidated talking to a lawyer who isn’t speaking to you in words you understand.

In some ways, the lawyer situation is worse. If you are in another town, you are probably there by choice: you’re on vacation, or you’re there on business. You can get over being intimidated and just enjoy yourself or get your work done. With a lawyer, though, you are probably only talking to him or her because you need a lawyer. Something has happened in your life that requires legal advice, and if that lawyer can’t explain himself or herself to you clearly, you are in for some real stress and potentially life-changing mistakes.

In an effort to ease these concerns, I’m going to start a series that covers some basic legal language. That way, you can speak to your lawyer and understand what he or she has to say.

The first time I’d like to cover is “wrongful death.”

You’ve probably heard of wrongful death suits; these occur after someone has died either by a mistake or willful violence of another. The surviving members of the family can then sue for the “pecuniary,” or financial, damages that the family incurs after the death of their relative.

Wrongful death can occur through several avenues: medical malpractice, automotive accidents, work-related incidents, and especially criminal behavior.

Most famously, OJ Simpson was sued for the wrongful death of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. He lost the case and was required to pay out millions to the grieving families.

In order to win a wrongful death case, a few things must be proved: negligence or intent to harm was present, and the loss of this individual will have an adverse effect upon the family finances.

This second point is important. Though the wrongful death of a grandparent is tragic, it may not fall into this category of a lawsuit and may instead have to be filed more directly under a different category, such as, say, medical malpractice.

Though pecuniary damages are the main thrust of such lawsuits, there is also such a thing as punitive damages, which is money extracted from the guilty party simply as punishment. It is then awarded to the victims.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of considering a wrongful death suit, be sure to find a lawyer who can appreciate the state of your emotions at the time. This lawyer’s site is a good example of people who seem to understand how difficult such cases are for the people involved.

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How You Can Sustain Traumatic Brain Injuries

Jun 08

Traumatic brain injuries are arguably some of the most devastating injuries you can sustain. This is because these injuries can affect you both physically and mentally, and depending on the severity of your case, these effects may even be so life-altering that they will limit your opportunities to be productive in school and work, or to be able to enjoy life to the fullest through recreation.

The website of Mazin & Associates, PC has even enumerated the possible consequences of mild and severe traumatic brain injuries, such as the following:

Mild to Moderate TBI

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Sensory problems, like blurred vision and ringing in the ears

Severe TBI

  • Coma
  • Loss of motor functions
  • Persistent headaches
  • Poor coordination
  • Vomiting

But how can you sustain traumatic brain injuries exactly? You can generally get it two ways. One, you can hit your head in a surface with enough force. Two, you can get hit in the head by an object with enough force. The following are the most common scenarios that may result into brain trauma:

  • Falling accidents
    • Falling from an elevated place and hitting the head upon reaching the ground
    • Slipping on a slippery substance on the floor and hitting the head on a hard surface
    • Tripping on an obstruction and crashing into the floor
  • Sports and recreation accidents
    • Crashing and hitting the head on a hard surface, such as in diving
    • Getting hit in the head by hard objects, such as balls and other player’s helmets
  • Traffic accidents
    • Getting hit in the head by a projectile, such as broken glass and other debris
    • Hitting the head into a hard surface inside the vehicle, such as steering wheels and dashboards
    • Hitting the head into a hard surface outside the vehicle, such as pavements and rocks
  • Violent acts
    • Being jammed into a hard surface, like a wall
    • Getting attacked by a hard object, like a baseball bat

According to the website of the Amerio Law Firm, those who have sustained brain injuries may take legal action, such as getting compensation from the responsible party. This is especially effective on instances where the responsible party has been negligent or reckless.

It is good to know that the law is on the side of those who have undeservedly sustained traumatic brain injuries. After all, this is the brain we are talking about, and damaging it can have serious consequences.

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Legal Options of Motorists Who have been Issued a Traffic Ticket

Apr 04

Legal Options of Motorists Who have been Issued a Traffic Ticket

In some states, traffic tickets serve as a citation and a summons to drivers to present themselves at a traffic court, where it will be determined whether they are guilty of the traffic violation they have been cited for. In other states, however, traffic tickets serve as a notice to drivers or owners of vehicles that a penalty, which may take the form of a fine or deduction of points, has been or will be made against him/her; failure to pay this fine can result to prosecution or to civil recovery proceedings for the fine.

A traffic ticket is issued by a traffic law enforcement officer to a motorist who will be caught violating any traffic law; it is issued to cite either a moving violation or a non-moving violation. A non-moving violation refers to a traffic offense involving a non-moving or stationary vehicle. Some examples of non-moving violations include:

  • Parking in front of a fire hydrant or at expired meter;
  • Parking in a no parking zone;
  • Parking without a permit at a spot reserved for handicapped individuals;
  • Staying too long in a parking area that has a time limit;
  • Broken or missing mirrors; and,
  • Excessive muffler noise.

Moving violations, on the other hand, are violations of any traffic law by a vehicle that is in motion. Some examples of these include, but are not limited to:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of illegal drugs or alcohol;
  • Running a stop sign or red light;
  • Turning into a wrong lane;
  • Failure to use turn signals; and,
  • Driving a car with burned-out headlights

Motorists who want to contest a traffic infraction can make a proper request to the courts for a hearing, which can be before a magistrate or judge. Hearing dates can often be continued and witnesses or police officers can be subpoenaed. Involved motorists may also be represented by their respective attorneys who can defend them against the traffic infraction they are charged with. Being represented by an attorney may be beneficial to a motorist because an attorney would better understand how to contest an infraction in any given state or municipality.

After a traffic ticket has been issued, a motorist usually has 10 to 15 days to mail to the court that has jurisdiction over his/her case a plea of guilty, not guilty or “nolo contendere” (“nolo contendere” is a plea of no contest; this is neither a denial nor an admittance of a charge).
A motorist may also request either a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing rather than make a plea.

Though a driver, who has been issued a ticket, admits to having committed the violation he/she was cited for, this admittance is actually for a chance to explain to the judge the circumstances that made him/her commit the violation. Though a judge may reduce the amount of fine, he/she will not dismiss the ticket. For a ticket to be dismissed, the ticketed driver should rather request for a contested hearing.

Before paying any fine, making a plea, or requesting either a mitigation hearing or a contested hearing, it will be wise for a ticketed driver to first consult a traffic attorney, who knows how to contest an infraction. The fact is he/she may not be guilty at all, or the circumstances may have been exaggerated or misunderstood by law enforcement.

To keep ticketed drivers away from fear, more so, worry, the Truslow & Truslow law firm says, “No matter the violation, seasoned traffic attorneys can help them navigate the court system in order to achieve the best result possible. These traffic attorneys will also strive to protect involved drivers’ license and rights, and this includes other traffic related charges, including: moving violations, reckless driving, speeding, driving under the influence (DUI), driving under suspension (DUS) and ABC violations (open container).”

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Who Can be Accused of Sexual Battery?

Jan 03

Under both federal and state laws, crimes that cause innocent victims severe harm are considered serious offenses and are, thus, exacted with heavy punishments, like costly fines and/or years in imprison; some offenders are even sentenced to life imprisonment.

Serious crimes include: treason, which is betrayal of one’s country and the most serious crime in the U.S.; murder, which is the unlawful planned killing of another person; and, sex crimes, such as rape, predatory sexual assault and, in a number of states, sexual battery.

Sexual battery refers to any form of unwanted or non-consensual touching or sexual contact. It does not have to involve sexual intercourse or penetration, as in the case of rape. In some states, sexual battery is referred to as criminal sexual contact and it can be committed in many different ways, like grabbing or fondling a woman’s breast, forcing a kiss on the mouth, patting a person’s buttocks, forcing the victim to touch the offender’s intimate body part, or touching the victim’s genital area – all these acts are committed by an offender for the purpose of arousing or sexually gratifying himself/herself.

The most common victims of sexual battery are a relative, a classmate, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a friend, a dating partner, or even a spouse. According to Nashville criminal defense attorneys of Horst Law, sexual battery can be elevated to aggravated sexual battery, which is a Class B felony, if the offender committed the offense with the use of a weapon as a means of force or coercion, causes bodily harm, committed the offense with the help of another person, or if the victim is less than 13 years old.

In some states, sexual battery is considered a capital felony if the offender is at least 17 years old and the victim, below the age of 12, and if the act causes injuries to the victim’s sexual organ; capital felony can be punished with life imprisonment or death.

While the U.S. justice system is clearly bent on catching and punishing sex offenders, it may sometimes be lacking the initiative or the desire to look into the possibility that the accused is actually innocent. This does not to discredit the system of justice, but to point out that, in certain cases, especially where the victim is a child, an automatic bias is usually developed against the suspect.

A charge as serious as a sex crime, more so a conviction, can and will destroy everything that an accused holds dear and important. Hoping to clear one’s name will require only the best defense from a determined criminal defense lawyer

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