The Legal Insider

July 2012

Divorce: What Can You Learn From Tom Cruise?

Sometimes the real “Mission Impossible” is keeping a marriage from dissolving. We’ve talked about a number of different facets of divorce previously: child custody, spousal support, child support, and what to do when you want a divorce.

It occurred while reading about the TomKat divorce (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) that we haven’t addressed some of the finer points of child custody. It’s the most heated area in any divorce proceeding involving kids and can turn ugly quick. You could even call it the “War of the Worlds.”

Obviously, child custody determines how much you get to see your child. You may not know how difficult it can be to change custody arrangements after they have been set. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to figuring out the optimum solution.

There are two basic types of child custody: Legal Custodymand Physical Custody.

“Legal Custody” is the right and responsibility to make child rearing decisions like education, religion (Tom Cruise and Scientology anyone?), medical care, and discipline. “Physical Custody” means who has primary care and control of the child. These two types of custody are awarded in court as sole (one parent) or joint custody (shared).

What will happen with TomKat's divorce?  Since the divorce has been kept secret, we may never know all the details. However, it seems most likely that the mother (Katie Holmes) will retain at least joint if not sole custody of daughter Suri.


5 Things Lawyers Won’t Tell You

Lawyers are like any other professional – they have trade secrets. Below are 5 things you’ll likely never be told by a lawyer: 

  1. “Pro Bono legal help can be as easy to find as a unicorn.” No, I don’t like paying for stuff either, but lawyering is a service that costs money. You wouldn’t tell your mechanic you want him to work and supply parts for free, right? 
  2. “Dress better.”  This goes for your day in court as well as the first day you walk into the law office for a consultation. It’s unfortunate but people will always make snap judgments about you based on how you’re dressed. This can even make the difference between a lawyer taking your case or not.
  3. “Some cases take years.”  Was that an audible gasp I heard? Don’t worry, some cases last a reasonably short term. However, if you’re involved in a messy or ongoing case you want to know when it will likely be resolved. Remember to ask questions.
  4. “Sometimes the paperwork I fill out is simple forms you could do yourself.”  Actually, most of being a lawyer is paperwork, from filing lawsuits to responding to legal motions. The wording may be scrutinized and punctuality is crucial. The precision and close attention is what you’re paying for as a client.
  5. “I’ve messed up BIG in the past.”  State Bar Associations are responsible for reprimanding lawyers and they keep records. If you’re picking your lawyer out of a phone book there are no guarantees that person is qualified - it just means they could purchase the ad space. Do your research before signing up for anything. This would be a great time to mention that LegalMatch (Better Business Bureau member) pre-screens ALL of their lawyers. You see how that worked out?

Big Payouts for Personal Injury

In most cases, compensation for injuries is awarded based on factors like pain and suffering, time off work, and the extent of medical and repair bills. Getting you back on your feet is priority one, but after that, you deserve to be made whole. Why should you have to pay for someone else’s mistake that caused you injury? 

Below are 3 examples of common personal injury lawsuits that end up offering big payouts. Hopefully it will help you get a feel for what constitutes a “good case” and appropriate compensation. No, most personal injury cases aren’t the type that earns mega-millions, but a few are.

Settlements often reflect the severity of injury.  Recently in Hempstead, New York a judge ordered the village to pay $16.5 million to Mildrekia Watson. Watson, who is 10 now, is still wheelchair bound, non-verbal, and only has vision out of one eye. She broke many bones and suffered a traumatic brain injury after she was struck by a car 5 years ago. Watson’s attorney argued that the crossing guard did not adequately assist the girl crossing the street. The settlement will help pay for the costs of Watson’s ongoing care and rehabilitation.

“Wrongful Death” lawsuits are usually the most lucrative. The families of David Cook and the Sneeringers recently accepted a $26.1 million settlement from GLC Transportation Inc. for a fatal crash on Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania. Cook was rear-ended by the tractor-trailer (owned by GLC) while traveling southbound in his 2004 Toyota Matrix with Kathryn and Peter Sneeringer who suffered catastrophic injuries. David Cook passed away as a result of the accident. The wrongful death settlement was the largest on record in Pennsylvania.

It's always good to have insurance. The attorneys of Ivn, Sheryl, Mar, and Ner negotiated a $50,000 settlement for an auto collision with an uninsured motorist. The family’s UIM coverage (uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage) covered expenses related to the accident. Note: UIM coverage is generally recommended for any driver who doesn’t want to pay out of pocket - there are a staggering number of uninsured or underinsured drivers out there.


Most Common Reasons to Visit a Business Lawyer

There are lots of different reasons to see a business lawyer. Business lawyers help owners as well as patrons who have been wronged. Focusing on business law means these lawyers are specialists in federal, state, and local laws governing different aspects of business. Business law includes everything from employment and contracts to liability and corporate formation.

Below are a few of the most common reasons normal, everyday folks like you and me go to visit a business lawyer:

Business Formation and Dissolution—Business Lawyers can assist you with zoning issues, securing a Federal Employer Number and Federal Tax ID, as well as any other licensing and contract considerations.

Franchises—Whether you’re franchising your own business or buying into the McDonalds or Subway franchises, a lawyer can help you make sure the contracts provide agreeable terms. Remember, once you sign the contract, you’re obligated.

Non Profits—Business lawyers can help you set up and maintain your non-profit whether its chartable, educational, literary, religious, or scientific. They will also be able to tell you all about different tax exemptions and licensing.

Buying and Selling a Business—Both of these options involve reviewing updated financial records, appraising the business, sales contracts, and negotiation of any real property like buildings, machines, and furniture.

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