Protect Yourself From Technology Crime In Custody Cases

March 31, 2014

 

In cases involving the custody of children (including divorce), the parties may be aiming to destroy each other to gain custody.  Some parents go to extreme measures to ruin the other parent’s reputation, including illegal behavior.  Much of the information gathered will be used against the party in court.

Therefore, it is best to protect yourself from technology crime, especially if you are involved in a custody dispute.  Here are some tips to protect yourself:

1 – Open a new private email account with a strong password.  The password should have at least one character, one capital letter, one lower case letter, and one number.  You do not know if the other parent has access to your old email account, and for your protection, it’s best to just start fresh.

2 – Change all passwords to online banking, credit cards, and online shopping accounts.  If the other parent knows your passwords, they can easily commit a financial crime for which you may have no recourse.

3 – Change all passwords on cell phones, computers, tablets, and other digital devices.  Any information stored on these devices can be downloaded, printed, and used against you.

4 – Turn off location/GPS services on your phone, tablet, and all Apple products.  The location service can be used to track your whereabouts and make your actions look suspicious.

5 – Change passwords to social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.  The other parent could post an incriminating update or picture pretending to be you, and then use that against you in trial.  Generally, during a divorce or custody battle, you should stay away from social media.

6 – Keep a separate private email for communications with your lawyer.  Only check this email from your home personal computer.  Only checking this email from your personal computer will protect the attorney-client confidentiality.

While technology certainly makes life simpler in many ways, it can also create headaches in family law cases. It is best to be vigilant and protect yourself as soon as possible.  If you are engaged in a custody dispute and need professional assistance, Khadilkar Law can help.

 

 
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Responsibilities of a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

March 28, 2014

 

In a custody case, or a divorce case involving children, the Court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL).   Black’s Law Dictionary defines a guardian ad litem as the party the court deems responsible for an incapacitated, handicapped, or minor in court.

In the District of Columbia

D.C. Code Sections 16-918(b) and 16-831.06(c) allow the Court to appoint a GAL to appear on behalf of the child and represent his or her best interests in a proceeding where the custody of a child is in question.  The Court is not required to appoint a GAL, but may do so at its discretion.

A Court may appoint a GAL in some of the following situations: there is a high level of conflict between the parties, there is a basis to believe there is parental manipulation or undue influence, the child has or will inherit substantial assets or will receive child support, there are past allegations of abuse or neglect, there are past or present allegations of domestic violence, there are past or present mental health issues, there are special needs of the child, there is a request to relocate, there are issues involving change in access or visitation, there have attempts to remove the child from the jurisdiction, or any other reason the Court deems just.

In D.C., the GAL is appointed to represent the best interests of minor child. The GAL is an active participant in the proceedings, and may investigate and evaluate the issues at hand.  The GAL has the right to fully participate in every court proceeding – this means he/she can call witnesses, cross-examine witnesses, submit evidence, submit pleadings, make objections, propound discovery, and give an opening or closing argument.

After the initial appointment, the GAL is responsible for informing the parties of his or her appointment, and reviewing the case file.  The GAL then meets with the child.  The GAL may tell the child of the proceedings, and meet with the child in his or her home.  The GAL may also meet with the child outside the presence of the parents.   The GAL is also responsible for making a thorough investigation.  This investigation includes reviewing any court files of the child, siblings, parties, and household members.  The GAL will also review the child’s medical, social, educational, and psychiatric records. The GAL may act as a facilitator between the parents (with permission from their lawyers).

After the investigation, the GAL may make a recommendation at the Court’s request on his or her position of custody.  If the case goes to trial, the GAL will participate in trial and advocate for his or her position.  It’s important to remember that the GAL represents the child, (not either parent) and retains his or her independence and objectivity.  It is to everyone’s advantage to cooperate with the GAL and provide any information the GAL requests.

In Virginia

Rule 8.6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia defines the role of a GAL as a representation of the child’s legitimate interest.  The GAL must vigorously represent the child, and fully protect the child’s welfare.   Virginia doesn’t have formal standards for GALs, and so the roles and responsibilities of the GAL vary from court to court.  However, there are some general guidelines that most GALs follow in Virginia.

After a GAL is appointed, he or she will inform the parties of the appointment, and schedule an initial interview with each of the parents.  The GAL may make a home visit to each parent’s house, and meet with the child in the home.  The GAL should conduct an investigation such as contacting witnesses, school personnel, and health care providers.

In Virginia, the Judge may require the GAL to submit a written report.  The Judge will specify when the written report should be submitted to the Court as well as the parents.   The GAL is allowed to participate in the proceedings, file motions, and make an independent recommendation.   The GAL is responsible for advising the child about the nature of the proceedings, the developments of the case, and the parties’ responsibilities.   The GAL may urge that the child not testify, unless the testimony is necessary.

Again, it is important to remember that the GAL is an objective attorney who makes a recommendation to the  Court.  It is beneficial if the parents cooperate with the GAL and give him or her any information requested.

Khadilkar Law represents parties going through a custody battle, with or without GALs.  Contact us to schedule a consultation.

 
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During a Divorce: Stay Away From Social Media

March 25, 2014

 

If you are involved in a divorce, most lawyers would tell you to stay away from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, etc. The pictures and words you post can affect your case.

Posts that seem harmless may be damaging to your case.  Your spouse’s attorneys may be monitoring your profile.  Specific things to avoid:

1.  Negative posts about your spouse or children.  Obviously anything negative you say will not be viewed in a favorable light.

2.  Photos or updates about your nightlife.  Even if you rarely go out, these photos or updates can be used to portray you as an unfit or irresponsible parent.

3.  Changes in relationship status.  If you have not finalized the divorce, changing your status to single does not put you in a favorable light.  Additionally, if you are contesting the date of separation, the opposing party could use your relationship status to prove the date of separation.

4.  Posts or photos regarding financial information.  Posting about a promotion at work, or a recent trip you have taken can be used to argue that you are hiding assets.

If you are going through a divorce, experienced attorneys can advise you what to avoid on social media.  Khadilkar Law offers services to clients going through divorce in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia.  Contact us for a consultation.

 
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Helping Your Children Through a Separation and Divorce

March 22, 2014

 

When parents separate and decide to divorce, they have the difficult task of restructuring a family.  Children often are confused, angry, frightened, and sad about what is happening in their lives.  Here are some things parents can do to help their child:

– Don’t criticize the other parent in front of your child.

– Don’t ask the child to choose between his or her parents.

– Keep visitation schedules clear and consistent.  Keep changes to the visitation to a minimum as much as possible.

– Assure your children that they are not the cause of the separation or divorce.

– Don’t have your child act as a messenger between parents.  This puts children in the middle of the conflict unnecessarily.

– Give your child consistency and limits.

– Enforce the relationships the child has with other family members – both your family members as well as the other parent’s family members.

– Remember that both parents will have to keep in contact about child-related issues at least until the child turns 18 (if not longer).  It’s best to implement good communication skills from the beginning to avoid misunderstandings.

Khadilkar Law offers services to parents going through a separation or divorce, as well as services to parents changing their custody arrangement.  Please contact us for a consultation.

 
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Misdemeanor Classifications in Virginia

March 20, 2014

 

 

Virginia has four classifications of misdemeanors, which are based on the level of punishment.

The Code of Virginia, Section 18.2-11 sets forth the classifications, which are as follows:

 

Class 1 misdemeanor: punishable by confinement in jail for not more than twelve months, and a fine of not more than $2500, either or both.  Examples of Class 1 misdemeanors are assault and battery, DUI, and reckless driving (among others).

Class 2 misdemeanor: punishable by confinement in jail for not more than six months, and a fine of not more than $1000, either or both.

Class 3 misdemeanor: punishable by fine of not more than $500.

Class 4 misdemeanor: punishable by fine of not more than $250.

 

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, it is imperative that you take it seriously and contact an attorney. Khadilkar Law offers quality legal services for misdemeanor defense, in an efficient and timely manner.

 

 
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DC Moving Towards Legalizing Marijuana

March 17, 2014

 

In early March, the D.C. Council passed a bill to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.  This bill moves possession from a crime (that would go on your record) to a civil offense with a fine of $25.00.  However, the bill keeps public consumption of marijuana a criminal offense, as well as the sale of marijuana.

Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections passed a measure to allow proponents of the bill to gather the necessary signatures to put it on the ballot for the November election.   If the measure does qualify for the November ballot, it has a strong chance to pass, according to a Washington Post poll.

The tension, of course, is that possession is still a crime under federal law.  So possession of marijuana on the National Mall, which is federal land, would still be a crime.  Possession of marijuana in public housing in the District would still be a crime. Furthermore, there are other gray areas in the bill.  For instance, police officers can make an arrest for the sight of marijuana smoke, but not the smell.

The obvious question is this: if possession is not a crime, but smoking in public or selling marijuana remains a crime, what is the point?  Why would an individual possess marijuana if not to smoke or sell?  Proponents of the bill argue that decriminalization is just a first step, and they are advocating the sale and taxation of marijuana in the future.   Only time will tell.

 
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New Jersey Court Rules That Mother Can Keep Father Out of Delivery Room

March 12, 2014

 

Recently, a New Jersey judge ruled that a mother can keep the father out of the delivery room while she is in labor, reports the South Jersey Times.   The mother and father were unmarried and estranged, and the Court ruled that the mother has a right to privacy.  The Judge stated that “…the father’s unwelcome presence could cause additional stress on the mother and child….”  The Judge was also concerned that allowing the father in the delivery room against the mother’s wishes would make the mother’s interest “subjugated to that of the father’s.”

As of now, there have been no court decisions questioning the father’s right to attend delivery in the District of Columbia or Virginia. The New Jersey decision makes the assertion that it is the woman’s decision.

 
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Low Bono Explained

March 10, 2014

 

“Low bono” is a relatively new term in the legal world.  It refers to cases that do not qualify for pro bono, yet the clients cannot afford to pay for attorneys charging their standard rate per hour.

In order to qualify for pro bono (i.e. free) services, many organizations require that the client’s household income be under 200% of poverty level.  Clients who have household incomes above 200% are turned away.  However, many of these individuals do not have the resources to pay for a private attorney.

In a household of three people, if the income exceeds $39,060.00, the case will not quality for pro bono services.  However, even if the income in the household is $65,000.00, the person will be hard pressed to come up with the money needed for attorney’s fees to defend his or her case in court.

Due to this enormous gap, many people fall through the cracks.  The need for attorneys to fill this void is particularly obvious in domestic cases (involving divorce and custody) and criminal misdemeanor cases.  Many parties going through a divorce or criminal charge are forced to litigate the case on their own.  Low bono services is an attempt to fill this disparity in providing legal counsel to those for whom it would otherwise be impossible.

Khadilkar Law is proud to offer low bono services to those who qualify in the areas of divorce, custody, and criminal misdemeanor defense.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

 

 
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How To Choose a Family Law Attorney

March 5, 2014

 

For most people, choosing a family law attorney is a daunting task. You are in the midst of a life change and you should choose a lawyer that you and depend on and trust. We have provided some tips on how to choose a family law attorney.

Tip #1: Make sure one of the firm’s primary practice areas is family law. Firms that advertise themselves as experts in many fields are usually not knowledgeable about the complexities of family law.  You should seek an attorney that has a primary practice in family law to ensure the lawyer is up to date about divorce and custody law.

Tip #2: Choose a lawyer that has a history of timely communication.  Communication in a divorce or custody case is crucial, and the attorney should be available by phone or email.  Clients’ primary complaint about family lawyers is the inability to get in touch with them.  Make sure the attorney you are considering has illustrated he or she is prompt in returning phone calls and emails.

Tip #3: Your personality should be compatible with the lawyer’s personality.  When you meet a lawyer, you should feel comfortable with him or her.  Family law cases involve many personal details, both intimate and financial.  You should be able to speak freely with your lawyer without feeling embarrassed or threatened.  A good lawyer will listen to your marital history and make sure to understand your position and goals.

Tip #4: Find a lawyer who is willing to negotiate.  In family cases, there is no winner and loser.  Everyone should be working to come up with the best outcome for the family.  The attorney should make every effort to negotiate and come to a settlement, as well as prepare for trial.

Tip #5: Choose a lawyer who will be practical.  No lawyer should promise you will get everything you want.  The lawyer should be honest in how to distribute the marital assets and keep the best interest of the children in mind.

 

If you do need a family law attorney, be sure to consider these tips before you sign a retainer agreement.  Be sure you hire the right lawyer from the start to help you present your best case.

 
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