Just a Lawyer in Lincoln's Hometown

May 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 7:58 pm

I know I have seen cases like this – but they are subtle and difficult to prove.

The Situationist

From Harvard Business Review (part of an op-ed written by Lauren Stiller Rikleen):

The new millennium has not brought much progress for women seeking top leadership roles in the workplace. Although female graduates continue to pour out of colleges and professional schools, the percentages of women running large companies, or serving as managing partners of their law firms, or sitting on corporate boards have barely budged in the past decade.

Why has progress stalled? A recent study suggests the unlikeliest of reasons: the marriage structure of men in the workplace.

A group of researchers from several universities recently published a report on the attitudes and beliefs of employed men, which shows that those with wives who did not work outside the home or who worked part-time were more likely than those with wives who worked to: (1) have an unfavorable view about women in the workplace; (2)think workplaces…

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May 7, 2011

A month into the virtual practice.

Filed under: Law Practice — Chuck @ 8:41 am
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So far, so good!
I love the commute – 10 steps!
Getting the mail, going to the courthouse, etc. are a pain, but the errands keep me from being a hermit.
I forgot how many trees lawyers kill. The original piece of paper, a copy for me, a copy for the other side, a copy to keep in the file in case the originals are lost, it goes on and on. All on one side of the page double spaced, so everything takes 2-3 times as much paper as is necessary. What a waste! (I’ve eliminated some of this by imaging everything, but not all.)
Having to make good use of note taking, to-do lists, etc. With only me, and my porous memory, and no assistant, to track things, my use of electronic memory aids has become uber-important.
I think most of my clients are liking the personal attention, but still miss my old paralegal.
Adjustments, adjustments!

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

April 2, 2011

My New Law Firm

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 7:42 pm
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Watson Law, LLC is now in business. My experiment with partnership has shown me that I really do not play well with others. Years of solo practice do not prepare one for working well with others. Solo practice involves making decisions about the practice by one’s own self, and living, or dying, by the results. Working in a firm structure is very different. You need to take account the needs and desires of another, sharing the decisions and the results. It’s a lot like a marriage.

My long-suffering wife and I live in partnership. We are successful.

Apparently, I only have one such arrangement in me.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

March 29, 2011

Hey, listen up!

Filed under: Employment Law — Chuck @ 1:45 am
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Employers beware, when an employee makes an oral complaint that raises issues of overtime, wage payment, or minimum wages, it is now clear that an employer may not retaliate. The Supreme Court in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., held that if an employee’s oral complaint is “sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it, in light of both content and context, as an assertion of rights protected by the statute,” it can trigger the anti-retaliation protections of the FLSA.

Although the Court specifically declined to rule in whether purely internal complaints are protected, a fair reading of the language used by the court makes it likely that the Court would rule that way if pushed to do so.

Employers, don’t retaliate. Employees, don’t be (as) afraid to complain about problems. Both sides, speak to an employment lawyer first.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

February 16, 2011

Employers – Wake Up

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 7:29 am
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Just because one or more of the people who worked for you only lasted a few months, or even weeks, you are NOT excused from giving them a W-2. Even if you want to classify them as “Temps”, they were employees who should have had taxes withheld and who are now owed W-2s. You are late, get to it.

Thank You.

February 14, 2011

The Best Client

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chuck @ 6:00 am
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On occasion I wonder what clients think lawyers do for a living. Mrs. X hired me to prosecute her divorce action against that no-good, cheating Bas*rd she was married to. Had to dig deep into her financials, investigate the claims of adultery (since she would not agree to move forward with a more innocuous claim), look into the child custody issues, etc. Spent a good long time doing all the preliminary work and drafting the petition for Dissolution, Petition for Temporary Relief, and some unique discovery. I had her in, reviewed all the material with her, told her what else needed doing, and got her OK to file.

Literally hours before filing, I got the call that she was getting back together with her husband.

Getting back together is a good thing.

But then she said, “When do I get my money back?” We discussed the matter, but I never moved her past “but you didn’t do anything for me.”

I give up.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving and Visitation

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
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You remember Henry and Samantha. They’re divorcing and trying very hard to being good parents to their children, Ken, age 8, and Jenna, age 6. They have worked out a temporary agreement on custody and visitation for Henry’s regular visitation. But although they had consulted lawyers, they went against advice and agreed to “alternate holidays.”

As every experienced divorce lawyer would have told them, this kind of language in a visitation schedule can lead to horrible complications. Even well-meaning people, like Samantha and Henry, can have a hard time deciphering what this means, and remembering who had what holiday.

Does alternating holidays mean that Samantha has Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and Henry has both next year? Does having Thanksgiving mean the day only, or from Wednesday after school until the end of the weekend. What if the tradition has been to go to Henry’s parents’ house, in town and only requiring a trip of twenty minutes, one year and to Samantha’s parent’s the next year, 500 miles away and requiring a couple of days?

To add to the confusion, what is a holiday? Samantha celebrate Thanksgiving, the first Sunday of Advent and then Christmas, while Henry only celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas. What does this mismatch do to the “every other” language?

Again, because they are both trying to be good parents while, henry and Samantha talked about Thanksgiving before it came up, and remembered that both of their lawyers had said that what looked simple, wasn’t. Between them, the two attorneys came up with a schedule of holiday visitation that set out the hours and days that each parent had holiday visitation. For example, this year, an “even” year, Henry has the children from Wednesday after school, until Friday at 5:00 PM when Samantha gets them for the weekend (even if it would normally be Henry’s). The next year, and “odd” year, the schedule is reversed. The schedule sets out who gets what in odd and even years.

Now that the schedule is written down, in all its complicated detail, all Samantha and Henry need do is consult the schedule to know exactly who gets what holiday and what that means.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 19, 2010

Dating and Divorcing

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
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Divorcing is always an emotional time in a person’s life. Even short-term marriages started off with a commitment to stay together. Even though a lawyer will try to introduce some unemotional advice into the equation – emotions run high. Calming those emotions is often very important to settlement.

But that same divorce induced stress makes it important to have and develop emotional support. Moving on with life is important, and finding new love may give enough support to allow a divorcing spouse move on. But it can cause problems as well.

Spending excessive money in your dating life may well be looked upon as dissipation of marital assets that could lead to a change in the allocation of marital assets.

Flaunting your new boyfriend in front of your divorcing husband will NOT dampen emotions. In some circumstances it will guarantee going to trial.

Introducing your new girlfriend to your children before they are ready may generate negative emotions that may tilt the custody equation against you.

Some judges may consider your dating relationship to be infidelity, and technically, if you are engaged in sexual relations, you are committing adultery. If your judge takes a dislike to you, you may not get the good side of any discretionary rulings.

There are many good reasons to not date while divorcing. But the emotional support may be important. So if you do date, you need to be discrete. Flaunting the relationship carries too many negatives. Don’t go showing off your new love in all of your old haunts. If you do, you may regret the decision. Be smart and be discrete!

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 16, 2010

George, Doris & Mikey: Support?

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
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George and Doris were married years ago, and had Mikey. After their divorce, Mikey lived with Doris, and George paid child support. For years George worked a series of low wage jobs. He wanted to be a decent father and he always paid child support, but it was never very much. The judge set George’s child support at 20% of his net income, which worked out to $230 per month.  Even though she resents the amount of support, Doris has never sought an increase. Until Now.

George is driving a Mercedes. Doris is upset. If George can afford a Mercedes, even if it is used, he can afford to pay more than $230 a month! She takes George back to court for more support. After discovery, subpoenas, and a hearing (that her lawyer advised against), and $2000.00 in attorneys fees, she got an increase: $270 per month. George is only making $9.00 per hour and 20% of his net, according to the court, is but $270 per month. Because Mikey is a senior in high school, and support will end soon, she will lose money on the transaction!

Very upset, Doris demands to know how George can drive a fancy, expensive car, and only have to pay $270.00? Her lawyer reminds her of why her advised against the hearing: although George is living large, he still only makes, $9.00 an hour. He lives with Diana, a wealthy widow (times 3!), who bought the car for George. Because Illinois looks to the income of the non-custodial parent, and very rarely anything else, all the court looked at was that $9.00 per hour!

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

November 14, 2010

College – Who pays?

Filed under: Family Law — Chuck @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,

It’s that time of year again. Divorced parents are getting together – in court – over who is paying for college for their 12th grade children.

In the absence of a divorce the state has no authority to force a parent to pay, or help pay, for a child’s college career. Most parents want their children to go further than they, and will willingly put themselves in hock to help a child get a college degree. But divorce changes that equation. A non-custodial parent my become estranged from their child, and feel no urge to help. A single parent may simply need help. Or the parents may have become so bitter about each other that it gets in the way of rational decisions about the child. Whatever the case, the Illinois legislature has provided a way to sort the issue out – IMDMA Sec. 513. (Illinois is in the distinct minority of states – most states do not have a similar statute.)

Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, provides for the support of adult children who have become emancipated (become considered an adult before the law) due to age – but who are actually still dependent on their parent(s). College support comes from this.

Assuming the parties cannot agree – always the best choice – and at any time, but usually after the child has narrowed his or her college choices, the FAFSA (using the income figures, etc of the “custodial” parent) has been completed and the actual out-of-pocket cost of going to college is becoming clear, the either parent (but usually the “custodial” parent) may bring an action to require the other parent to contribute to the college cost.

The court will generally require each of the “parties” – the mother, the father and the child – to contribute to the cost of the child’s education. Some courts start with each paying a third, others are not so formulaic. Generally each parent will contribute roughly in accordance with their available resources. And while the child is usually expected to contribute toward her education, the she is not generally required to run up a debt.

You might notice that I indicated that the parties contribute in accord with their resources and not their income. The court is supposed to look past income and into the total resources available to the party. For example, if one party has a small income, but access to huge investments, that person may be required to contribute all out of proportion to his income.

If a child has access to scholarships, that may be the child’s contribution. This is especially true if continuing access requires a certain grade level. The statute now also makes the child’s academic performance a factor in allocating (or not) the cost of college.

Government grants fill the same function as scholarships, but generally only require the child to maintain adequate progress toward a degree. So the argument that they should be considered the child’s contribution is problematic. They are often simply taken off the cost of education and the remainder is split.

Sometimes one or more of the parents and/or the child do not agree on where the child should attend. The courts are loath to interfere in this decision, but will most often when the question is one of public vs. private school. If after the application of grants and scholarships, the cost of private school far exceeds the cost of public education the court will sometimes limit the contribution of the non-custodial parent to a contribution based on the public school cost. This may make the decision for the parents.

You may have noticed that there are few, if any, absolute statements in the discourse above. That’s because there are few, if any, hard and absolute rules. If a parent want absolutes, an agreement must be reached. With the help of competent counsel the parties who have the best interests of their child at heart should be able to reach agreement.

Chuck from Watson Law, LLC

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