Phone: 256-927-7490

How to help a loved one through a divorce

Dec 13

Divorce can be an extremely difficult time for a family. It can be destabilizing in many levels. If you are witnessing a loved one go through this devastating time, it is a great challenge to give helpful support to deal with their emotions, change in routine, and legal proceedings. You want to make sure that you provide the right type of assistance that will help them through this difficult situation. One of the first steps is finding an Alabama divorce lawyer that can represent them well during the divorce.

Be There for Them
People who experience a divorce may feel socially lost. It seems like the friends once shared by the couple are now split into opposing sides. It can be very difficult to find social support and at the same time feel isolated from some people you once counted on being there for you.
Even if your loved one doesn’t want to socialize, be sure to include them as much as you can, no matter if they accept your invitation or not. Be careful not to push too hard, but make sure they know you are there for them when they need you.

Help Them Organize Their New Life
Just by being there for them for anything they need, it is a loving supporting deed they are sure to appreciate. Perhaps they are moving into a new home and need help packing. It can also be the case where they need to transition into a different type of childcare service. You could offer to watch their kids for a while or help with house work. Or, maybe they need help navigating through the legal proceedings. You may be able to do research for them and put them in contact with legal support. Finding an Alabama divorce attorney is a key step that should be taken diligently. A skilled attorney can relieve a great deal of stress that comes with the whole legal process of divorce.

Helping Them Get Through the Legal Battle
Once they contact an Alabama family lawyer, they will need to gather information and fill out the necessary paperwork. You can help them the most by continuing to give them the support that they need. Making sure that they have a skilled attorney in their side is also very important. Call us today at (256) 927-7490 to find out how we can help.

Second marriage with children | How can an attorney help?

Sep 13

A couple who is divorced with children and planning a second marriage must be aware of the legal implications. A second marriage brings up questions and possible issues with custody, child support, finance, not to mention any issues there may be with the previous marriage. If you are considering a second marriage with children, a family attorney in Alabama will be able to guide you through each step of the process.

How Can My Second Marriage be Validated?
When committing to a second marriage, one must ensure that the first marriage has been annulled and that it was indeed a successful divorce. Each party is allowed to be married to only one person at a time. The failure to legally end the first marriage results in the second marriage being voided in the eyes of the court.

If you are engaged to be married for the second time, it is a good idea to verify court records that show your first marriage was successfully dissolved. Your partner should also do a check of this sort to be sure that bigamy does not get in the way of the new marriage.

When a Custodial Parent Remarries
The biggest concern when the custodial parent remarries is how the child will adapt to their stepparent in the new home. It may be beneficial to rethink the child custody agreement in place. The child support payments may also have to be rearranged. It may be the case that the new spouse may be able to financially support the child.

Stepparent Adoption
It is natural for stepparent to adopt their spouses’ children once the new family unit is formed. In this case, the second spouse legally adopts the children of the biological parent. These types of adoptions are much easier than conventional ones. This is more likely to happen when the other biological parent of the child is not involved in his/her life. State statutes allow only two parents for the child, which means that if the adoption occurs, the other biological parent will have to give up their parental rights.

Consulting an Attorney About Your Second Marriage
It is important you understand your responsibilities and legal rights before remarrying and that you take into account the wellbeing of your children. Working with an Alabama family lawyer will help you decide how your child’s custody and adoption options can benefit your family, and how property can be categorized under the law. An experienced legal team will help you defend your assets and help you exercise your rights.

Injured in an accident? | Why you need an attorney

Aug 18

Unfortunately, accidents happen even if you are a good driver. As a result, injuries may occur with some being more traumatic than others. Whether you were injured in a car accident, or trucking accident, here is why you need an Alabama injury attorney.

Attorneys are Master Negotiators
In order to get what is owed to you, you need to hire an experienced injury attorney in Alabama. The first of many reasons is because attorneys are experts when it comes to negotiations.

There are some instances where the other party is responsible for your injury. What’s worse is that they’ll try to downplay the entire situation and offer a meager amount of compensation. This is where your attorney comes in to bargain and ensure you get what you are owed.

Attorneys are Objective
Depending on the severity of injuries, you may need extensive rehabilitation. In these circumstances, attorney’s are neutral and do not make emotionally charged decisions. As such, an attorney can help you make sound, educated decisions that get you the compensation you deserve.

Attorneys Can Get You the Proper Medical Attention
If your injury does not warrant an immediate hospital visit, the first person you should contact is your attorney. Attorneys have a clear understanding of which type of medical follow up you may need after an accident. You can also use the doctor as a witness should you decide to take the case to court.

Attorneys Can Relieve a Lot of Stress
Trying to get your compensation can be stressful, especially if the other party is resistant to pay. Attorneys have years of extensive legal training and know how to negotiate, even with the most resistant of offenders.

Being involved in a car accident shoulder never be taken lightly. Even minor injuries can transform into major medical bills. If you have been injured in an accident, Attorney Shane Givens can help. Contact our office at 256-927-7490 for your consultation today.

 

What is “Obamacare?” Part I

Jul 05

“Obamacare” is the informal name for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. The law (along with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) is the principal health care reform legislation of President Obama’s administration.

The PPACA basically requires adults not covered by insurance plans to maintain health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. The Act also affects certain aspects of the private health insurance industry and public health insurance programs, requires insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions, and seeks to extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans. The Obama administration projects the Act will both lower future deficits and Medicare spending.

The PPACA is a Democratic-based Act. The vast majority of Republicans are strongly opposed to the law, as you have probably seen on T.V. The Act passed the Senate on December 24, 2009 by a vote of 60–39 with all Democrats and two Independents voting ion favor of the bill and all but one Republican voting against it. It passed the House of Representatives on March 21, 2010, by a vote of 219–212, with 34 Democrats and all 178 Republicans voting against the bill.

A majority of the states (including Alabama) and numerous organizations and individuals, filed actions in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the PPACA. On June 28, 2012, in the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, the Supreme Court upheld the majority of the law.

The PPACA includes numerous provisions to take effect from 2010 to 2020. Some of the major things the PPACA requires including the following:

  • Insurance companies will be required to offer the same premium to all applicants of the same age and geographical location without regard to most pre-existing conditions (excluding tobacco use).
  • All persons not covered by insurance from their employer, Medicaid, Medicare or other public insurance programs, must purchase an approved private insurance policy or pay a penalty.
  • Medicaid eligibility is increased to include more people.
  • Low income persons and families not eligible for Medicaid will receive federal support to purchase insurance.
  • Minimum standards for health insurance policies are to be established and annual and lifetime coverage caps will be banned.
  • Firms employing 50 or more people not offering health insurance will have to contribute to their employees insurance in many cases.
  • Small businesses will receive federal benefits in many cases where they provide insurance for employees.
  • Co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles are to be eliminated for health care insurance benefits considered to be part of an “essential benefits package.”

Traditionally republican states like Alabama and others, however, are opposed to the PPACA and have made is clear that they will not impose the new law. Next week we will take a look at why Alabama is opposed to this health care reform and what it means for the State to refuse to cooperate with the federal government in following the PPACA.

What were Roger Clemens’ Charges?

Jun 21

As we all probably know, Roger Clemens has been back in the news following his recent acquittal. As you will remember, a federal grand jury indicted Clemens on August 19, 2010 on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of steroids. The indictment charged Clemens with one count of “contempt of Congress,” three counts of “making false statements” and two counts of “perjury” in connection with his February 2008 testimony to Congress.

Clemens’ first trial began on July 13, 2011, but on the second day of testimony the judge in the case declared a mistrial after prosecutors showed the jury evidence they had previously been told by the judge not to show. The verdict from his second trial came in on June 18, 2012. Clemens was found not guilty of all charges. When all this hit the news again, a friend of mine asked, “What exactly was Roger Clemens charged with?”

Most reporters are incorrectly stating that Clemens was found innocent of six counts of perjury when, in reality, he only had two counts of perjury. The first crime listed on his indictment was for “contempt of congress.” Contempt of congress is the act of obstructing the work of the United States Congress or one of its committees. Historically the bribery of a senator or representative was considered contempt of Congress. In modern times, contempt of Congress has generally applied to the refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by a Congressional committee — usually served on someone to force them to testify or produce documents.

For example, if a person receives a subpoena from Congress, and refuses to fully carry out what the subpoena orders, congress can issue a “contempt citation.” The presiding officer of the chamber is then instructed to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney. It is then the duty of the U.S. Attorney to refer the matter to a federal grand jury for potential prosecution. The punishment for contempt of Congress includes a jail penalty is not less than one month or more than twelve months, with a potential fine.

Clemens other charges were “perjury” and “making false statements.” Perjury is the willful act of lying while under oath concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. Therefore, the lie must be made under oath at a hearing and must affect the outcome of the hearing. For example, if a sworn witness lies about his age in court, this lie is only considered to be perjury if the man’s age affects the outcome of the case. Perjury carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

“Making false statements” prohibits lying to a federal officer or concealing information from a federal officer. Essentially, a “making false statements” charge is the same as a “perjury” charge without the requirement that you be under oath. To prove a “making false statements” charge, the government must show that the witness lied to a federal officer in order to “undermine functions of governmental departments and agencies.” This crime carries a fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years, just like perjury.

After explaining all this, my friend then asked, “Why did the government spend so much time and money on THAT?” This may be the best question of all!

Why Was Zimmerman’s Bond Revoked?

Jun 07

George Zimmerman has become a famous (or infamous) name recently. Most people have heard about Zimmerman, who was charged with killing Trayvon Martin a few months ago. Anyone who has been closely following the case also knows that Zimmerman was released from custody on a $150,000.00 bond in April of this year. A few days ago, however, Zimmerman’s bond was revoked. This bond revocation has caused one reader to question how and why Zimmerman could be ordered to return to jail after being released.

Under Alabama laws of criminal procedure, with very limited exceptions, a person has a right to be released on bond while awaiting his trial. In its simplest form, bond (or bail) requires either money or property be placed in control of the court as assurance that the defendant will show up for court appearances related to his case. If the defendant fails to appear, the court can declare the money or property “forfeited” and issue a warrant for the immediate arrest of the defendant.

As a condition of bond, the defendant must at least (1) appear to answer and submit to the orders of the court; (2) refrain from committing any new criminal offense; (3) not depart from the State without permission from the Court; and (4) immediately notify the court of any change of address. The court can also place other requirements on the defendant, such as submit to random drug testing, make payments into the court for any future costs or fines, etc.

Alabama criminal procedure sets up “recommended ranges” for bond amounts, which vary depending on the type of charge. For example, for a class C felony the recommended range is $2,500 to $15,000; for a class B felony $5,000 to 30,000; for a class A felony $10,000 to $60,000; $15,000 to $75,000 for murder; $5,000 to $1,500,000 for drug trafficking, and so on. The amounts can be adjusted up or down based on several factors including: the severity of the crime, the risk of the defendant fleeing, the criminal history of the defendant, and the ability of the defendant to actually pay the bond.

During Zimmerman’s bond hearing, Zimmerman’s wife testified that she had no money to post bond for her husband. Considering the Zimmerman’s financial status, and the severity of the crime, the court set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000, which some people considered to be low. Zimmerman’s family posted the bond and he was freed.

Later, however, prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda discovered that the Zimmerman’s had raised over $135,000 from the public which was not disclosed to the court at the bond hearing. Bernardo de la Rionda called Ms. Zimmerman’s testimony about her financial condition “a blatant lie.” The judge, obviously upset about Ms. Zimmerman’s untruthful testimony, ordered Mr. Zimmerman to return to jail.

This is a perfect example of probably one of the most important rules to remember in a bond hearing (or any other court proceeding) – never lie to the judge. Lying to the court is almost always justifiable grounds for the court to change its mind on a ruling. In this case, it may mean that Zimmerman has to remain in jail while awaiting trial, even though he didn’t violate any of the “standard terms” of his release. Additionally, it makes others question his credibility, which will always be an issue at trial.

Cherokee County’s New Sewage Regulations

May 08

Recently, the Cherokee County Commission passed certain sewage ordinances for areas within the Alabama Power Flood easement around Weiss Lake due to take effect July 9, 2012. These laws not only provide guidelines for sewage disposal, but also give the Cherokee County Health Department the ability to create rules and regulations regarding sewage disposal inside the flood easement.

The Health Department’s “Sewage Regulations” are set to take effect July 9, 2012 and mainly focus on “holding tank” regulations as well as hook-up requirements to “sanitary sewage systems” within the Weiss Lake flood easement.

A “holding tank” is defined as “a water-tight receptacle for the collection and temporary retention of sewage . . . designed and constructed to facilitate removal and ultimate disposal at another site.”  “Holding tanks” do not include sewage collection tanks on board a recreational vehicle or travel trailer. A “sanitary sewer system” is defined as a properly permitted public or private sewer system, including “decentralized” systems like a cluster wastewater system or community wastewater system.

According to these rules, anyone wanting to use a holding tank for sewage disposal must first obtain a permit from the Cherokee County Health Department. Application for such a permit is made by submitting an application form provided by the Health Department. Holding tanks will not be permitted, however, if there is an available connection to a sanitary sewer system, or if a sanitary sewer system becomes available. In other words, once an approved sanitary sewage system becomes available, you must hook onto it.

A permit for an existing or new temporary holding tank requires you to be contracted with a licensed sewage pumper for periodic pumping. Reports of holding tank pumping must be submitted to the Health Department as specified in the holding tank permit or as otherwise required by the Health Department.

Although you can get a permit for holding tanks installed and used prior to July 9, 2012, you must prove to the Health Department that the holding tank was intended by the manufacturer to be used for sewage storage or that the existing holding tank has been inspected and certified in writing to be structurally sound and suitable for sewage storage by a professional Alabama licensed engineer. Holding tanks installed on or after July 9, 2012 must also be certified and have a minimum capacity of 1,000 gallons per day or be 25% larger than the projected sewage flow accumulation between scheduled pumping, whichever is larger.

The amount of the fee for a holding tank permit shall be designated in accordance with Alabama law, but shall not exceed $150.00 unless approved by the Cherokee County Commission.

What is a Grand Jury?

Apr 25

Clients and people in the community will often ask me to explain the difference between and “grand jury” and a “regular jury.” Many people (like myself, before I became a lawyer) have no idea what the purpose is behind a “grand jury.” In the United States, the grand jury was formally established through the creation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. At its roots, the grand jury is supposed to function like a group of “neighbors” to help the state and society by bringing criminals to justice, while at the same time, protecting the innocent from unjust accusations.

In the federal system, the grand jury decides whether someone should be formally charged (or “indicted”) for a serious crime. The grand jury may only evaluate evidence presented by the prosecutor—a specialized attorney of the United States government. Most states, like Alabama, use the same federal grand jury system to indict, or being formal charges against criminal defendants.

A grand jury is a group of citizens, typically chosen from the same pool as trial jurors. Members of a grand jury are sworn by a court to hear evidence presented by the prosecutor regarding a case. A grand jury is always composed of no less than 12 and no more than 23 people; in a federal court, the number is no less than 16 and no more than 23.

Unlike a trial jury — which determines whether a criminal defendant is innocent or guilty by unanimous vote — a grand jury can indict a defendant with a majority vote. Again, only the trial jury will decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crime in question; however, a grand jury will listen to evidence and decide if a suspect should be charged with a crime. As a result, the grand jury is only responsible for determining whether the State has probable cause to bring a charge against a person.

Because the grand jury’s primary responsibility is to determine probable cause, it will not hear all the evidence or conflicting arguments associated with the case. The information provided to the grand jury is delivered by the prosecutor. In fact, the suspect’s lawyer is not allowed to be present during presentation to the grand jury, and is not really even allowed to know when the grand jury convenes. Although suspects themselves can testify in front of the grand jury, the State is under no obligation to notify the suspect that his case is being presented.

A grand jury will use the power of the court system to command (through the issuance of a subpoena) the delivery of evidence. Further, the grand jury may invite witnesses to provide testimony, although this rarely happens. There is no judge present during grand jury proceedings during the exchange of evidence and information. In fact, the entire grand jury proceedings are overseen by the prosecution. Once the grand jury has made their decision, they will either issue a “true bill,” meaning that the state had probable cause to charge the suspect, or a “no bill” which in effect dismisses the action for lack of probable cause.

Scams to watch out for

Apr 04

People often come into the office with notices regarding lotteries they have won, or money that is reportedly being held for them from an unknown rich deceased relative’s estate. Much to their disappointment, these people find out that these are scams. This week and next, I will list some of the more common scams to watch out for, all of which are geared to either steal your money or identity.

Sweepstakes, lottery, and “money holding” scams. These scams come in all shapes and sizes, but the bottom line is almost always this: You’ve won, inherited, or are being asked to hold a whole lot of money, but in order to claim it you have to send a smaller amount of money back to the people from which you received the notice. These kinds of scams often use foreign royalty, celebrities or other famous names to make their offer seem more genuine. If it’s a sweepstakes or lottery notice, and you aren’t sure, don’t click on the link but instead go directly to the homepage of the company mentioned. If they are really giving away $1 million, there will be some kind of announcement on their website. If the notice is from a person from another country asking you to hold money for them, just ignore it.

The “secret shopper” scam. There are a lot of “secret shopper” scams, work-from-home scams, and other phony job offers out there.  Emails, websites and online applications all look very professional, and the candidate is even interviewed for the job (usually over the phone) and then receives an offer. In order to start the job, however, the candidate has to fill out a “credit report” or provide bank information for direct deposit of their “paychecks.” These forms are nothing more than a way to capture sensitive personal data – Social Security number, bank accounts, etc. – that can easily be used for identity theft. And, of course, there is no job.

Check cashing scams. Legitimate companies like Craig’s List and Western Union are used for an inordinate amount of scamming these days — especially check cashing scams. Here’s how it works: Someone contacts you via a Craig’s List posting, maybe for a legitimate reason like buying your old couch or perhaps through a scam like hiring you as a secret shopper. Either way, they send you a check for more than the amount they owe you, and they ask you to deposit it into your bank account and then send them the difference via Western Union. A deposited check takes a couple of days to clear, whereas wired money is gone instantly. When the original check bounces, you are out whatever money you wired…and you’re still stuck with the old couch.

“Debt relief service” scams. In challenging economic times, many people are looking for help getting out of debt or staying out of foreclosure. Unfortunately, almost as many scammers appear to take advantage of these desperate situations. Because the federal government announced or expanded several mortgage relief programs recently, all kinds of sound-alike websites have popped up to try to fool consumers into parting with their money. Some sound like a government agency, or even part of the Better Business Bureau or other nonprofit consumer organization. Most ask for an upfront fee to help you deal with your mortgage company or the government (services you could easily do yourself for free), and almost all leave you in more debt than when you started.

“Phone cramming.” This is a relatively new scam that has arisen out of the nation’s expanding use of texting. The phone cramming scammer sends a strange, sometimes nonsensical, text through an undisclosed number. A second text then arrives with instruction that if you would like for these type texts to stop, all you have to do is reply “STOP.” What you are really doing when you reply is authorizing bogus charges on your phone bill that go straight to the scam artist. If you receive a strange text from an undisclosed number, or someone you don’t know, and the ask you to reply — don’t.

Last week we discussed several scams to be wary of. Here are a few more internet based scams to look out for.

“I need your sensitive information” scams. There are a million ways to steal someone’s identity. Usually, someone will call or email you saying there is some huge mix-up that requires you to immediately give out some sort of sensitive, personal information. Many times these scammers represent to be your bank. A new variation of this scam has become so prevalent that many hotels are posting warnings in their lobby. Here’s how it works: You get a call in your hotel room in the middle of the night. It’s the front desk clerk, very apologetic, saying their computer has crashed and they need to get your credit card number again, or they must have gotten the number wrong because the transaction won’t go through, and could you please read the number back so they can fix the problem? Scammers are counting on you being too sleepy to catch on that the call isn’t from the hotel at all, but from someone outside who knows the direct-dial numbers for the guest rooms. By the time morning rolls around and you are clear-headed, your credit card has been on a major shopping spree. Bottom line – never give out information about yourself unless you are absolutely sure who you are giving it to.

Social network scams. On the Internet, it’s easy to pretend to be someone you are not. Most likely we are not really friends with all 897 of our “friends” on Facebook. With so much information about us online, a scammer can sound like they know you. The most recent version of this scam appeals to our natural curiosity by appearing to be a message from a friend. Viral videos claiming to show everything from footage of Osama bin Laden’s death to the latest celebrity hijinks to even videos of you doing unspeakable things have shown up on social media sites often looking as if they have been shared by a friend. When you click on the link, you are prompted to “upgrade your Flash player,” but the file you end up downloading contains a worm that logs into your social media account, sends similar messages to your friends, and searches for your personal data. The next time you see a sensational headline for the latest viral video, resist the urge to open it.

Penny auction scams. Sales scams are as old as humanity, but the Internet has introduced a whole new way to rip people off. Penny auctions are very popular because it seems like you can get something useful – cameras, computers, etc. – for way below retail. But you pay a small fee for each bid (usually .50 to $1.00) and if you aren’t the winner, you lose that bid money. Winners often are not even the top bidder, just the last bidder when time runs out. Although not all penny auction sites are scams, some are being investigated as online gambling. If you engage in penny auctions, treat them the same way you would legal gambling in a casino – know exactly how the bidding works, set a limit for yourself, and be prepared to walk away before you go over that limit.

“Phishing” scams. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have gotten emails that very much look like an official notice from a legitimate business like the Better Business Bureau. The subject line says something like “Complaint Against Your Business,” and the instructions tell you to either click on a link or open an attachment to get the details. If you do either, a malicious virus is launched on your computer that can steal banking information, passwords and other critical pieces of information needed for cyber-theft. Anyone who has opened such an attachment should run a complete system scan using reputable anti-virus software. If your computer is networked with others, all machines on the network should be scanned, as well.

Proposed Sewage Disposal Ordinance

Mar 21

The Cherokee County Commission is reviewing and potentially voting on a sewage disposal ordinance today that would affect those who own property on and around Weiss Lake. Following is a summary of what the new ordinance proposes.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “protect the public’s health by protecting the water quality of Weiss Lake, the primary water source for citizen’s of Cherokee County and to minimize the adverse health effects of the improper illegal disposal of sewage.” In order to protect the public’s interest, the ordinance proposes to “adopt and implement rules and regulations regarding the abatement of improper or illegal disposal of sewage in the Alabama Power flood easements around Weiss Lake.”

The ordinance establishes that treating or disposing of sewage by a means that is not approved of [permitted by the Cherokee County Health Department is a “public nuisance.” The ordinance basically sets up an alliance between the County Commission and the County Health Department, where the Health department will designate one or more employees as “Enforcement Officers.” These enforcements officers will have the authority to patrol the Alabama Power flood easement in an effort to identify “noncompliant properties.” Citizens can also make reports regarding noncompliant properties to the enforcement officer(s).

The enforcement officer is allowed to enter onto any premises where sewage is generated or discharged as necessary to investigate potential violations of the ordinance or to issue notices and/or citations for any violations. If the officer determines that sewage if being treated or disposed in an unlawful manner, he or she is required to post notice of the alleged violation on the property and send notice via certified mail to the owner of the property.

The notice warns the owner that if the property is not brought into compliance or approved by the Health Department within 30 days, a citation will be issued. The notice also warns that the owner of the property “shall be subject to fines and to the administrative fees equal to any costs incurred by Cherokee County in the event the county takes action to abate the sewage nuisance.”

If the owner has not come into compliance within 30 days of the posting of the notice, the officer can issue a citation that will note the violation, the fine and costs, the time period and method of paying the fines and costs, and information regarding how the owner may appeal issuance of the citation to the Cherokee County Commission.

A fine of $150 for each day the violation continues will be assessed for anyone failing to comply with the citation; however the total fine cannot exceed $5,000.00. All fines and fees collected shall be applied to the administration o the ordinance. Additionally, the commission may assess administrative fees equal to the cost of abating the nuisance if the problem is not corrected by the owner.

If the owner comes into compliance within 30 days, he or she is not liable for any costs of fines; however, upon a second citation within 12 months, the owner shall not be granted the opportunity to avoid payment of the fines and administrative fees.