What the Coronavirus Means for Family Mediation

The coronavirus outbreak seemed at first to threaten the world with a standstill, but it has had to settle for less. Several governments have, in a bid to combat the coronavirus disease, enforced isolationist policies along with social-distancing restrictions and have prescribed hefty punishments for non-compliance. Human contact is being severely limited to such extent as is necessary to curb the spread of the disease.

But contact is vital to nearly every human endeavor and one cannot overstate the toll that these restrictions take. Essential human activity must continue to mitigate the ripple effects of this crisis on business, professional and individual lives; and most especially, our ability to deal with conflict and disputes. Courts already suffer just as much as other public services. In some countries, courts are closed; in others, the default position is that face-to-face hearing in courts will only happen where they are completely unavoidable. Whether good or bad, that generally puts things at when the crisis ends.

Since mediation and other alternative methods are known for their flexibility, there will most likely be an increase in case traffic to cater to both final hearings and new cases. The effect is that family mediation may soon be as busy as the family court. However, the important thing is that it remains easily manageable if that ever happens. Family mediation has been digitizing for a long time now. Written agreements, a hallmark of mediation, which used to require a lot of physical and strenuous work have been made easier through word processing.

Thanks to further and significant increases in internet capabilities, the movement to online mediation will be massive and easily conducted in the circumstances. Already, changes are being made to family mediation programs and practices, to accommodate and expand online access to justice. Canada, the UK, China, and The Netherlands are now well into the process of integrating online proceedings into their family justice systems.

For the families in question, these represent a mild change in fortunes. The readiness to resolve the impending caseload and mitigate the effects of the crisis may necessitate that disputes are heard faster and more expeditiously. It is also reasonably foreseeable that current fears andimpressions surrounding the present crisis will encourage parties to make more concessions and be more willing to resolve their disputes. Challenges and opportunities will evolve, going forward. It is unlikely, that mediators and participants will be forced to conduct their affairs online. There is also great promise for ease in respect of parties that are not comfortable being together in the same room and also where they are too far away to be physically present.

Mediating online, however, brings to light its own set of challenges, one cannot expect it to be the same as if it were physical. There is a seriousness factor if participants will be truly able to grasp the seriousness of the proceedings. But it has been humorously noted that no one has ever gotten a bloody nose online. In circumspect, if necessity is the mother of invention, the question should not be whether the coronavirus will negatively impact family mediation. It is simply necessary for the circumstances that it does not.

Sharon Bayus

Fair Housing Violations: What You Need to Know

Fair housing is an important aspect of living in many communities. Because some populations have historically been the subject of discriminating tactics, there are severe penalties for fair housing violations. Here, we discuss common violations, potential penalties and how to avoid them.

Common Violations
Many fair housing violations have to do with treating families different from single people. For example, housing administrators cannot ask prospective clients about how many children a person has or if they are currently pregnant. Additionally, it may be a fair housing violation to make rules that restrict the actions of children but not other residents.

One of the most common fair housing violations is refusing to accept an application from a potential tenant for any reason other than not meeting the state qualification criteria. These criteria should be transparent.

Additionally, fair housing violations may include not providing reasonable accommodations to tenants, such as not allowing residents to have a service animal or ignoring a request for a handicap parking spot.
Housing organizations must take steps to properly train all staff on fair housing laws to ensure that no discrimination occurs. Providing ongoing training to keep staff informed of changes in the law or new understandings is important.

Fair housing violations can include expensive fines that are tens of thousands of dollars per violation, payment of attorney fees for the discriminated tenant and punitive damages. Fair housing violations may involve hearing in front of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development administrative law judge or the U.S. Department of Justice. Additionally, courts may issue injunctions if immediate action is required.

Methods of Resolution
These disputes can wind up in front of a civil judge or administrative law judge. However, parties may also agree to resolve these types of disputes in mediation for a faster and more affordable solution.

Five Questions to Ask Your Social Security Disability Attorney Before You Hire Them

Disability is never a welcome thought for anyone. But sometimes life plays dirty and you are left with no choice but to soldier on. How you deal with the situation plays a crucial role in your future. Fortunately for some, there are options to look into, especially if you have Social Security insurance.

But filing for a disability claim is not an easy task. And this is where the role of a Social Security Disability attorney comes to play. Your attorney will be the person you partner with on this journey, so it is important that you find one that is not only competent but also someone you are comfortable with. To help you with the first step of this process, here are five questions to ask your Social Security Disability attorney before you hire them:

#1 Was this attorney successful in a previous Social Security Disability claim?

Lawyers are trained to talk in a way that sounds favorable to them. But their track record speaks for itself. So do not allow the attorney to sweet talk his way into taking your case just yet, especially if you are still unsure about it.

If the attorney you are speaking with has not handled a Social Security Disability case before, that is a red flag. More so if he has handled previous cases but did not win them. The thought of not being able to work for a long time is already difficult as it is. You also would not want to risk going through the entire ordeal and not have a shot at winning. It is not being a snob or too picky. Just think of it as making the right investment. Your attorney is getting a chunk of your back pay after all.

#2 How will this attorney collect your medical evidence?

The medical evidence that will be presented in your case is an essential part of the entire argument. Your disability claim relies on your attorney being able to present strong and valid evidence that will prove why you are entitled to the Social Security Disability claim and how much you are entitled to get.

During your consultation, do not be shy to ask how your would-be attorney intends to collect your medical evidence and present it in court on your behalf. The attorney should be able to explain from the get-go how you would go about the process of additional testing that may be required by the Social Security Administration (SSA). He should also have concrete plans on how to decide which doctors can give statements proving your functional limitations and which medical records are relevant for the case.

#3 How does this attorney plan to prepare you for the hearing?

The date of your hearing is out of your’ and your attorney’s control. The court schedules it and the only thing you can do when you reach this point is to make sure that you come to the hearing prepared. Your legal counsel also plays a vital role in gearing you up for the hearing.

Ask the attorney how he intends to prepare you for the hearing. Although it’s normal that assistants and paralegals are the first ones you meet with before the hearing is set, it is very important that your attorney has plans for you after all the necessary documents are filed and gathered as this is usually the job of the clerical staff.

Your attorney may suggest speaking with you on the phone before the hearing, but you can also ask to meet in person if that works better for you. But before you decide to get legal services, the attorney should be able to answer questions about his plans for the hearing because you cannot be left in the dark during the process.

#4 How will this attorney argue your case before the administrative law judge?

Here comes the hard part – the actual hearing process. While there are instances where cases are resolved without the claimants being required to attend hearings, which is not often the case. This is also why you should be prepared with sufficient documents and supporting statements to prove your claim.

Prior to signing a contract with a legal representative, inquire about his process in forming an argument. Of course, it may not be as comprehensive as you would want the explanation to be since you have not started on anything yet. But at least ask the attorney to give you an overview of how your case can best be presented in court so you know what to expect and prepare for. The attorney should be able to tell you how he plans to prove your condition meets the disability listing, that your physical limitations prevent you from working, or that your condition hinders you from performing sedentary jobs.

#5 What are your chances of winning the case?

Truth be told, this is probably the first thing you would want to know during your consultation. But to give yourself some peace of mind, feel free to ask about your chances of winning the case and being compensated for your disability. Knowing the odds can help you and your counsel prepare better for what is yet to come so you do not get blindsided.

But you should not be discouraged if the attorney tells you it is going to be difficult because if there is anyone who wants to win the case other than you, that is going to be your attorney. Besides, a good Social Security Disability lawyer does not solely rely on the winning percentage. They trust in the evidence, your statements, the statements of professionals, and their skills.

Before agreeing to contract the services of an attorney to help in your Social Security Disability case, make sure you have asked all the questions you want to ask. You would not want to be changing your mind about your legal counsel once all the necessary documents have already been filed and the court hearing has been set.

Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld have protected the rights of injured and disabled California workers for 64 years. If you or anyone you know needs a Social Security Disability attorney, contact them or visit their website at https://www.ghitterman.com/.

Ghitterman, Ghitterman and Feld