What are the Benefits of Family Mediation Over Using a Lawyer?

Family law disputes can involve a variety of legal issues, including divorce, property division, child support, spousal support or child custody arrangements, just to name a few. There are generally two paths available for people confronting these legal challenges to seek a resolution: litigation or mediation. As a seasoned litigator and experienced mediator, Steven Garver understands the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Below, we discuss the advantages of mediation over litigation. Our highly skilled family legal team at Garver Law Offices can discuss when mediation would be a good option for your case.

Less Expensive
Mediation is usually less expensive than using a lawyer. Lawyers often charge a high hourly rate. The more conflict there is, the more likely it will be that your lawyer has to expend additional time to make discovery requests and legal motions. You may also have multiple hearings for which you must pay your lawyer to attend.

Mediation costs can be split between the parties. Mediation may help resolve legal problems in as little as a day, so there are not ongoing expenses like there is when you involve a lawyer.

Mediation can resolve family legal issues much faster than litigation. You do not have to wait for a clear spot in the court docket to address your issues. You and the other party can arrange mediation when it is convenient for you. Working out family legal issues sooner can have positive benefits, such as avoiding additional costs involved in litigation and being able to get along better with the other party.

Preservation of Family Relationships
Mediation is a collaborative process that is focused on addressing problems in a respectful manner. Therefore, families who participate in mediation are far more likely to be able to preserve a civil relationship than families that battle it out in court.

Privacy and Confidentiality
The mediation process is private and not held in open court. This allows you to maintain your privacy. Additionally, the process is confidential. Anything you say in mediation cannot later be used against you in court if you are unable to reach a compromise in mediation. This aspect makes it more likely that the parties will openly communicate and not withhold information in order to gain some type of legal advantage.

More Likely to Amicably Resolve Issues
Because mediation is founded on respect and civility, you are more likely to resolve your issues in an amicable manner. You will also have a blueprint for how to address any issues that come up in the future in a way that allows you to avoid unnecessary legal expenses.
Creative Solutions
No one knows your family better than you do. Mediation allows you and the other party to reach creative solutions that will work for you and your family. You are in control of the outcome of your case.

For more information on the mediation process and why it is a good alternative to litigation, visit the firm’s website at www.garverlaw.com or call 703-471-1090.

Steven Garver

How to File an Appeal for Sentence Reduction

Many people believe that when they are sentenced that is the end of their case and
there is nothing they can do about it. In many instances, sentencing does
represent the end of the case. However, in some situations, you may be able to
file an appeal for sentence reduction.

Reasons to File an Appeal

A person can generally appeal a final decision in a case, including a criminal
defendant who believes that the sentence he or she received was too harsh or
otherwise unfair. A defendant can ask for the court of appeals to review a
conviction if he or she questions whether the trial was fair and if the verdict
was correct.

There are a variety of reasons why a person may request an appeal, including:

  • The court did not have jurisdiction of the
  • There was a procedural error
  • A clerical error was made
  • An arithmetical or technical error was made
  • The sentence failed to follow the applicable
    sentencing range
  • The sentence is ambiguous
  • They believe there was a target of malicious
  • A new law is passed that provides a better
    outcome and you want the court to apply it retroactively
  • The punishment was too harsh

An appeal is not the same thing as a new trial. Instead, it asks a higher court to
simply review the record of the lower court. The defendant cannot introduce new
evidence. However, an appeal might raise arguments that justify a reduction in
a sentence or even the overturning of a conviction.

Process of Filing an Appeal

To take advantage of the appellate process, you must file an appeal within the
applicable time limit and in conformance with strict procedural rules. In many
states, a notice of appeal in a felony case must be filed within 30 days of
your sentencing date. If you fail to raise grounds in your appeal, you may not
be able to later raise these arguments, so it is vital that you work with a
legal professional who can ensure that you present the strongest legal
arguments. You do not have to use the same lawyer as you used during your

State law or federal law determines when you must submit the actual appeal. The
appeal must follow certain technicalities. Additionally, the record of the case
in the lower court must be prepared by the court reporter. Your lawyer can
prepare a brief that sets out the mistakes that were made and why the sentence
should be reduced. This brief is the primary form that will explain to the
appellate court why the sentence is not fair.

In many states and in federal courts, the judge loses the power to modify the
sentence shortly after sentencing. Depending on the reasons for the sentence
reduction and the jurisdiction, the appeal or motion for sentence reduction may
need to be filed with the appellate court.

If you are interested in learning about your options for reducing your sentence, visit http://www.nlpa.com. The National Legal Professional Association can help. Our legal professionals can discuss the possibility of having your sentence reduced or other ways of achieving your goals, such as fighting for a new trial, filing a post-conviction petition, or seeking a compassionate modification of a federal sentence.

Hugh Wesley

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Elder Care Attorney

When you are considering hiring an elder care attorney for you or your loved one, it is important that you ask any attorney you are considering questions to understand their knowledge of this particular area of the law. The Zapor Law Office, PC encourages you to schedule an initial consultation with an elder care attorney and ask the following questions:

1. What makes elder law unique?
Elder law is part of the estate planning umbrella, but it involves many other aspects of the law than estate planning. Elder law encompasses legal services to help individuals deal with Medicare and Medicaid issues, healthcare and long-term care arrangements and retirement benefit. An experienced elder care attorney will have a good understanding of a variety of laws and how they interact. He or she can also help with the decision-making process and in identifying trusted individuals who can serve as your representative for healthcare decisions, your finances and your estate.

2. What do I need to do?
Elder law may involve many difficult decisions, such as what you want to have happen to your property after you pass away, who should make healthcare decisions on your behalf, how you plan to provide for your family in case of long-term disability and who should take care of your financial and medical needs if you are unable to do so for yourself. You will likely be asked to think through some of these difficult concepts while receiving helpful tips and guidance on making these difficult decisions.

Also, since elder law often involves insurance and financial issues, you may need to gather documentation so that your lawyer can properly advise you. As an experienced elder care lawyer, Rose Mary Zapor can carefully walk you through the planning process.

3. What services do you provide?
Not all elder care lawyers provide the same legal services. Some focus primarily on estate planning while others focus more on Medicare and Medicaid issues. Some elder care firms may provide asset protection strategies and provide comprehensive trusts. Be sure that you discuss your legal issue in depth with prospective lawyers to ensure that they will actually be able to handle your legal matter.

4. How much of your practice is elder law?
While many attorneys provide general legal services in a variety of areas, elder law is a subspecialty and niche area of the law. You may prefer to work with a lawyer who spends most of his or her time practicing elder law.

5. How long have you practiced elder law?
You want to select an elder care lawyer who will understand the legal issues involved in your case, the laws that apply to your case and the strategies that you may be able to use to bring about the best outcome for your case. Be sure that your lawyer has adequate experience with elder law and that you are not paying him or her to learn on your dime.

6. Are you familiar with my specific legal issue?
If you are dealing with a complex legal issue, you will want to be sure that your lawyer can handle it. Provide a basic description of your legal issue to ensure it is something your prospective lawyer can help you with.

7. Will you personally handle my case?
Some firms hand off cases for paralegals and other less trained personnel to handle. Be sure you know who will personally be working on your case.

8. How do you charge?
Elder law attorneys may charge differently for their services. Some may charge a flat rate for a particular service while others charge an hourly rate. Still others may combine these options and charge a flat rate for certain services and then add an hourly rate if the job took longer than expected. This information should be clearly spelled out in your written fee agreement. Also, be sure you understand what you are being charged for, such as every phone call, email and other communication.

9. How can I avoid probate?
Probate is often a long and time-consuming process; so many people try to avoid it. We can discuss some probate avoidance strategies such as using payable on death accounts, trusts and beneficiary designations that can help you avoid unnecessary probate proceedings.

10. Can you help me prepare for a disabled child or adult?
If you are concerned about planning for a disabled child or adult, discuss this issue with an elder law attorney. You may be able to establish a special needs trust to provide for their needs without jeopardizing their public benefits.

If you like to know more information about hiring an elder care attorney, elder law, or tips on how to establish a solid plan for later life, visit zaporelderlaw.com.

Rose Mary Zapor

Preparing for a New Addition

If you are expecting or are planning to adopt, you likely have considered what type of childcare arrangement to implement, what to feed your new addition and what color to paint the nursery. However, there are also important legal matters to consider during this important transition. Here are steps to take to help you prepare for a new addition:

Make a New Will
One of the pivotal times to update your estate planning documents is when you have a child. Your will can discuss how to distribute your property when you pass away. More importantly, it can state your wishes regarding who will be responsible for raising your child until they are an adult.

Make a Trust
A trust provides detailed instructions on how to manage your property. You can manage the trust assets during your lifetime while providing directions that the successor trustee can follow if you become disabled or pass away. This way, you can ensure that your assets are managed in the same way you would have managed them. For example, you can withhold distributions to your child until they reach a certain age like 25 or 30. Having a trust may also help you avoid the expensive and time-consuming process of probate.

Consider How to Manage Your Child’s Property
If your child receives property, an adult will need to be in charge of it to safeguard it until he or she reaches adulthood. You can name a specific person in your estate planning documents that you trust to carry out this role. It can be the same person you named as your child’s guardian or a different person.

Complete New Beneficiary Forms
While a will helps with assets that become part of your probate estate, many assets go to the person you named on a beneficiary form, such as on your retirement account, checking account or securities. Update your beneficiary forms to reflect the change in your household. While a minor child cannot directly inherit your property, you can name a trust or your child’s conservator as the beneficiary.

Purchase Life Insurance
If you have not done so already, purchase life insurance. Calculate how many years you would need to provide for your dependents by the amount of your expected expenses to get a broad estimate on how much insurance you should purchase. Consider if you would need these funds to cover additional expenses, such as college tuition or paying off the mortgage on your home. Add these expenses to the amount of life insurance you need.

Make Health Care Directives
If you are pregnant, it may be a good time to make a health care directive that explains the type of medical care you wish to receive in case a situation arises in which you cannot communication your wishes. You can also name a person you want to make health care decisions on your behalf.

Make a Durable Power of Attorney
This legal designation allows a trusted person you name to handle your finances. This can be a useful arrangement in case you become incapacitated or you are not available.

For more information:
To know more about child custody, adoptions, and other family and marital law cases, visit mkmuse.wixsite.com/muselaw or contact Attorney Katrina Muse at 904-824-3355.

Katrina Muse

How a Knowledgeable Santa Barbara Disability Lawyer Can Help with Your Claim

Millions of people suffer from serious and debilitating physical and mental disabilities that prevent them from working. Many of them choose to apply for Social Security Disability benefits to provide financial support for their household. However, the Social Security application is often long, time-consuming and complex, causing many qualified claimants to be deterred.

A knowledgeable Santa Barbara disability lawyer can meet with clients who are interested in applying for disability benefits and explain whether they may meet the eligibility criteria. He or she can also help in all of the ways discussed below.

Explain the Application Process
A Santa Barbara disability lawyer can explain the criteria to qualify for SSDI or SSI benefits. The medical eligibility criteria for these programs are the same, but they have different requirements regarding assets and income. SSI is a needs-based program, so the value of your non-exempt assets must be below $2,000 for a single person or under $3,000 for a married couple. Additionally, you must not have sufficient work history to qualify for SSI benefits. In contrast, you must have sufficient work credits to qualify for SSDI benefits. Both programs limit the amount of income that you can currently be earning through employment.

The medical criteria that you must be able to meet to qualify for Social Security disability benefits include:

  • Your medical condition severely limits your ability to work for a minimum of 12 months
  • You cannot perform the work that you performed previously
  • Given your medical condition, you cannot adjust to other work

Your disability lawyer in Santa Barbara can review your claim and determine if you meet these eligibility criteria. If you do not meet the criteria, you can save the time from applying for benefits and can consider other options. If you do meet the criteria, your disability lawyer can help you with the application. It typically takes between 90 and 120 days to complete this stage of the disability claims process, which includes submitting your application, medical evidence and supporting documentation.

Assist with All Levels of Appeals
Millions of applications for disability benefits are submitted to the Social Security Administration. However, only about 30% of these applications are approved at the initial stage of the application process. The rest are initially denied. However, many of these claims are eventually approved at a later stage of the process. An experienced Santa Barbara disability lawyer can help you appeal your initial denial and assist with all levels of appeals, including:

  • Request for reconsideration – If your initial application is denied, you are given 60 days to file for reconsideration with the Social Security Administration. A representative reviews the claim again and makes an independent decision.
  • Hearing – If your request for consideration is also denied, you have 60 days to request a hearing. At the hearing, an administrative law judge reviews your claim, asks questions and reviews evidence. The judge can approve your claim, send it back for review or deny it again. Many cases are decided in favor of the claimant at the hearing level.
  • Appeals Council – If the administrative law judge denies your claim at the hearing level, the next stage in the appeals process is to appeal the decision with the Appeals Council.
  • Federal district court appeal – The last stage of the appeals process is completed by asking the federal district court to review your case. At this stage, the court can approve the claim, deny it or send it back for review.

If your claim is approved at a lower level in the application process, you will not have to complete the next level of appeal.

Fully Develop Your Application
One of the reasons why many disability applications are not approved is that the application is not fully developed. A claimant may have answered a question with a simple “yes” or “no” response while elaboration or clarification may have been necessary. A seasoned Santa Barbara disability attorney can ensure that all relevant information is included on the application or within the supporting medical evidence.

A disability lawyer can emphasize the importance of listing all sources of medical treatment on the disability application. Information about medical treatment that should be provided on the application includes:

  • The names of the doctors and medical facilities who provided treatment to the claimant
  • The addresses of doctors, hospitals and clinics where the claimant has received medical treatment
  • The dates of all medical treatment received

A lawyer can also request medical records on behalf of a claimant and go back several years during which time the condition affected the claimant. He or she can go through these medical records and select those that are the most demonstrative of your condition and provide copies of these to the Social Security Administration. Some medical providers fail to provide claimants or the Social Security Administration with medical records in a timely manner, and a dedicated lawyer can follow up with the medical facility to ensure these records are provided.

Develop Your Medical Evidence
Medical evidence is a critical component to your case. The strength of your medical evidence and the ability of your lawyer to explain it in the context of your long-term disability is directly aligned to your likelihood of being approved for benefits. Therefore, it is important that you are able to fully develop your medical evidence.

Your medical records must be:

  • Timely – Timely records include treatment that was provided recently enough to be relevant to the claimant’s current medical condition, which is determined on a case-by-case basis. Conditions that rapidly change will require more up-to-date information than a condition that has progressed slowly or has remained relatively the same for the last several years.
  • Accurate – Medical records should correctly describe your medical condition based on acceptable medical standards. This evidence should be supported by objective medical evidence.
  • Sufficient – The Social Security Administration must have sufficient medical information to make a decision regarding your claim, including being able to determine the nature and severity of your medical condition. The SSA may need information regarding your treatment history, your response to treatment, the medications you have been described and the side effects of those medications.

The Social Security Administration will want to see longitudinal records that describe your medical condition over time.
Medical evidence can take on many forms, including:

  • Physician examination notes
  • Treatment notes
  • Bloodwork panels
  • Imaging results from MRIs, CAT scans and X-rays
  • Mental health records

Experienced Social Security disability lawyers have a firm understanding of medical information and they will be able to piece together evidence to establish your disability. A qualified Santa Barbara disability lawyer can look for strong medical records that thoroughly describe your complaints, show the results of your examination and your response to treatment and provide a prognosis for the future.

For you to qualify under a listing in the Blue Book Listing of Impairments, you must often have specific test results or other medical evidence that show the frequency of flare-ups or other medical conditions.
If your existing medical records do not fully articulate the specifics of your condition or directly connect your medical issues, your Social Security lawyer may recommend that you visit a specialist who can provide more information and meet the stringent requirements under the listings.

One of the most important forms of evidence comes from testimony by your treating physician. A treating physician who has provided ongoing treatment for you for a number of years will likely be more familiar with your medical condition than other types of medical providers, such as those that the SSA may send you to one time to get a report. The SSA can schedule a consultative exam to get more information if it determines that your medical records are insufficient.
Your lawyer may ask specific healthcare providers to provide supportive statements regarding your functional limitations so that the administrative law judge has a more accurate picture of your medical condition.

Your treating doctor is usually the best person to prepare a residual functional capacity assessment on you. This assessment details the physical tasks that you can do, given your particular limitations. This assessment can explain how often you may require breaks, how often you must move from one physical position to another and the maximum weight that you can lift or carry during work. It also highlights if you have problems with bending, stooping, grasping or performing other common work-related tasks. Your Santa Barbara disability lawyer can help obtain a thorough statement from your doctor that references relevant medical evidence that is supported by objective medical findings.

Advise You of the Status of Your Case
As explained above, there may be many steps involved in a typical Social Security case. Your Santa Barbara Social Security disability lawyer can keep you informed about the current status of your case. You may receive phone calls or letters that explain the current status of your claim and update you on important information, such as a hearing date or a scheduled consultative exam. Your lawyer may need to call Disability Determination Services, which can spur the examiner to work faster on your claim and identify if any pertinent information is missing.

Prepare You for Your Hearing
Since many disability applications are ruled in the claimants’ favor at the hearing level, a good Santa Barbara disability lawyer will help you prepare for your hearing. He or she will discuss the types of questions that you will be asked at the hearing and what issues may arise based on your particular circumstances.
Subjects that you should be prepared to discuss at the hearing include:

  • Your disabling medical conditions
  • The symptoms of your medical conditions
  • Your treatment history
  • Whether you suffer mental health problems in addition to physical ailments
  • Which medications you have taken for treatment of your conditions and their side effects
  • Your work history
  • Your education history
  • Whether you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Whether you are able to perform activities of daily living
  • Whether you require assistance with personal hygiene tasks, cooking, cleaning or managing money
  • How your medical conditions have affected your quality of life
  • Whether you have problems getting along with others

You must answer all questions honestly and under oath at the hearing. It is important that you neither exaggerate your condition nor minimize it. Your lawyer will review common questions with you and provide advice about the type of information you should try to convey at the hearing level. Your lawyer will try to put you at ease during this process.

Examine Witnesses
Your Santa Barbara disability lawyer may review your application and identify witnesses who can help explain your condition and how it impacts your daily life. These witnesses may appear at your hearing and your lawyer can ask questions during this hearing. Additionally, your lawyer can cross-examine witnesses such as a vocational expert who claims that you can work certain jobs by posing hypothetical to the expert that makes him or her consider the full extent of your disability and side effects of treatment.

Look for Alternatives
The process to apply for Social Security disability benefits can be long and complex. A skilled Santa Barbara disability lawyer can look for other potential sources of benefits or income while your claim is pending or as an alternative to Social Security disability benefits.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your claim, you may qualify for benefits such as:

  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Unemployment insurance
  • State disability insurance
  • Long-term disability benefits
  • Short-term disability benefits
  • Disability retirement benefits

Speak to a Knowledgeable Santa Barbara Disability Lawyer Today
If you would like assistance with your application for disability benefits, do not hesitate to reach out to a knowledgeable Santa Barbara disability attorney for help with your claim. Call us at (805) 214-888 contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. At Ghitterman, Ghitterman and Feld, you are never charged a fee unless your claim is approved. We charge no upfront fees and you are under no obligation to start a claim if you are not ready.

Ghitterman, Ghitterman and Feld

The Mediation Process Involved in Age Discrimination Claims

Many federal and state laws like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of age when the alleged aggrieved party is age 40 or older. Rather than going through an expensive and time-consuming process, many parties agree to participate in mediation.

Mediation is an alternative to the litigation system. This informal process involves using a trained mediator who is tasked with assisting the parties to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement after a claim of discrimination or harassment is made. The mediator is not a judge or arbitrator; he or she does not impose a decision on the parties. Instead, he or she helps the parties reach a negotiated settlement and reconcile their differences.

Mediation can be scheduled early in the process before the parties become grounded in their adversarial positions. This allows them to resolve misunderstandings, clarify issues and explore options to resolve the matter before incurring significant legal expenses or negative ramifications because of the dispute. The mediation process involves the parties working together to satisfy their mutual goals.
The parties may be separated during part of the process during which time the mediator will discuss the weaknesses of their legal position and the potential consequences of continued litigation. This helps the parties have a better understanding of the stakes involved in their case and the real consequences of not reaching an agreement on their own terms.

In mediation, the parties are welcome to reach any agreement that is legal. They are not stunted by the limited remedies available in court. This factor may help them to agree to implementing new policies, reinstating a worker, transferring a worker or using some other creative solution to solve the problem.