CPS Investigations: What Are My Rights?
When a child protective services investigation begins, most parents are unaware of their rights and what the proper course of actions should be with the Department of Social Services. The process usually begins after allegations have been made of abuse, neglect or dependency and in many cases the allegations can coincide with a criminal investigation. Questions frequently proposed by client deal with whether CPS can speak with children and whether they need a warrant to come into a home. Can CPS speak with my children without my permission? In most situations, yes. DSS is given broad discretion regarding their ability to investigate a report of abuse or neglect. If the agency receives a report of abuse or neglect, many social workers will attempt to speak with school-age children prior to informing the “suspected” parent that a report has been made. On some occasions, the social worker may contact the “non-offending parent” and ask to set up a time to speak with the minor child. In those instances, the social worker may allow the parent to be present when the child is being interviewed, but the social worker will often ask to speak with the child independently at some point during […]
Failure to Appear, Failure to Pay, and the Economics of Criminal and Traffic Law
Criminal Lawyers in North Carolina, and across the United States, know that our criminal courts are money makers for states and our local counties. In the last decade in North Carolina, court costs have nearly tripled. The legislature has – time and time again – looked to our criminal justice system as a system of taxation. These click it or ticket campaigns, booze it or lose it, obey the sign or pay the fine – they are postured as safety measures – and I’m sure there is a tinge of safety somewhere in the idea, but let’s not kid ourselves – these are also fundraisers. Speeding is dangerous, DWI even more so, don’t get me wrong – there are certainly legitimate reasons to enforce the motor vehicle code. But what gets lost in these ‘no tolerance’ policies of law enforcement and district attorney’s offices are the people who can’t afford an extra few hundred bucks here and there. When someone who is barely scraping by economically gets a speeding ticket, it sometimes snowballs into a disaster. Imagine a guy who works as hard as he possibly can in a minimum wage job to pay his bills gets a speeding ticket. […]
Local Rules: What They Are, How to Find Them, and Why You Need to Know Them
If you’ve ever appeared pro se in a family court matter, chances are you’ve heard either opposing counsel or the Judge mention the “local rules” and how they apply to your case. An unfortunate few may have been subject to civil penalties for violating a county’s local rules. Despite the impact a lack of familiarity with local rules can have on a case, the excuse of not knowing the rules does not play well in front of a competent Judge. When representing yourself, finding and becoming familiar with your jurisdictions local rules has a direct impact on the outcome of your case. While local rules can usually been obtained from the clerk’s office in your respective county, most are available online. The North Carolina Courts website contains a sortable index with links to local rules and local forms for each county in North Carolina. Many counties will not allow you to file certain actions unless you use the specified form and local rules often dictate the procedure you must follow as well as how to get your action heard by a judge. While most clerk’s offices can provide guidance, you’ll be ahead of the curve by doing your homework. Initial […]
Options in Disposal of Traffic Tickets in Wake County, NC
If you’ve been charged with Driving While License revoked, speeding or speeding in a school zone, Wake County has implemented policies that offer new resolution options in the following cases: Dismiss DWLR (Class 3 Misdemeanor) You MAY be able to get this violation dismissed IF: Your license was revoked solely for failure to appear (FTA) in court or nonpayment of a citation Your license was revoked because of FTA on, or non-payment of, no more 2 citations (that is, if your license is revoked for failure to pay/appear on 3 or more citations, you are technically ineligible). You do not have a prior conviction for driving while license revoked Your license has been reinstated You are “genuinely trying to come into compliance” Reduce Some Speeding Tickets to Improper Equipment Tickets You MAY be able to reduce your speeding ticket to an “improper equipment” ticket IF: You provide a certified driving record You haven’t had more than one other moving violation in the past three years (and no more than three moving violations in 10 years) You complete a four-hour driving course if you’re under 21 You weren’t cited for driving more than 85 mph or more than 20 mph over […]
Civil Separations: Part 1 – It Pays to Be Civil
If you and your spouse are contemplating a divorce, you probably know separation can be a financial burden. Separating one household into two adds substantial expenses to the same income pool. Adding legal expenses on top of increased childcare expenses and/or an additional rent/mortgage payment can make the prospect of separation a full-on financial crisis. For this reason, you and your spouse both have a vested interest in keeping legal costs down. Most people believe a trial must take place in order to resolve the issues surrounding separation but that is the most expensive avenue. Luckily, there are alternatives to litigation available to separating spouses. These alternatives can help keep costs down if both spouses are willing to work together to reach an agreement. An added benefit of reaching an agreement outside of court is the amount of power and control you each have over the arrangement. The two of you have much more control over the outcome if you reach an agreement than you do if you litigate the matter in a trial. Put simply, once you bring a matter to trial, the judge, not you, has complete control over the outcome. Additionally, once an order is entered, it […]
Civil Separations: Part 2 – Questions to Consider
As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, in a separation, if both spouses are willing to work together honestly to reach a resolution, it can be economical to discuss and agree on terms before seeking an attorney to draft a written agreement. An attorney should be sought to review the terms, provide advice and properly draft the agreement. Keep in mind, an attorney may only represent one spouse. So, if both spouses would like to obtain independent advice regarding the terms of the agreement, they should both hire attorneys. With separations, there are four main areas in which decisions must be made. The below list isn’t comprehensive but it should serve as a starting point for a productive conversation with your spouse. Speak with an attorney for a more thorough list of questions. Asset Separation: While the specific rules regarding asset distribution in NC will be reserved for a later series, a good general rule in NC is that, absent marital misconduct, marital assets are split 50/50. A good starting point for the discussion is the creation of an inventory of all assets owned and the estimated fair market value. Then the two of you can discuss the […]
Civil Separations: Part 3 – Collaborative Divorce
Rounding out our series on separating civilly, the relatively new process called collaborative divorce has firmly established itself as a viable option for couples looking to separate without the nasty contentiousness of litigation. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial and private process by which couples can separate amicably and without court involvement. To participate, both spouses hire trained collaborative divorce attorneys and agree to the terms of the process. While the terms may vary, they typically include: Promising to participate with honesty, cooperation and integrity; and Full-disclosure and open sharing of financial documents and other pertinent information; and Participation in a series of meetings that often include other professionals such as a custody evaluator, mediator, and/or financial planner. There are valid pros and cons to the process. On the pro side, it can be substantially cheaper than litigation. Additionally, there is a large degree of autonomy. The parties ultimately decide what arrangement works best for them and their own unique circumstances. A judge does not order the outcome and the outcome is not made a matter of public record. Lastly, the parties are working in collaboration to obtain an outcome that […]
But Can’t I Just Pay a Fine to Stay?
This is a question I get a lot when I do immigration consults. I often have clients come in and tell me they have a friend who just paid a fine and could remain in the United States. Unfortunately, this is not true. While each immigration case is different and based on individual circumstances, despite the rumors that persist there is not simply a fine someone who entered the country illegally can pay to remain in the United States. Under current immigration regulations family members of U.S. citizens petitioning applying to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) who entered the country illegally are required to return to their home country to attend their immigration interview before a visa can be approved and issued. Under the current rules, once an applicant who entered the U.S. without permission leaves the country, the unlawful entry bar to visa automatically kicks in which can prevent the individual from returning to the U.S for a minimum of three (3) but up to ten (10) years. A waiver is available for such bar; however, family members in the U.S. sponsoring the visa were not allowed to apply for the waiver prior to the applicant leaving the country. […]
Modifying Child Support: Do I Really Need to Get the Court Involved? Can I Do it On My Own?
Our office is often asked by clients if they can unilaterally deduct or reduce their monthly child support payment without a court order permitting them to do so. Below are three common examples of situations in which a parent paying North Carolina child support seeks to reduce their payment and why this can be a problem. Scenario A: Parent A is required to pay monthly child support in the amount of $500.00 per month to parent B. Parents A and B are required to split all unreimbursed medical expenses for their children within 30 days of proof that the other parent paid. Last month Parent A took of the children to the doctor and paid $100.00 out of pocket for the visit. Parent A provide proof of the payment to parent B. Under the parties’ custody order Parent B is required to reimburse parent A for one half (or $50) of the doctor’s visit within 30 days. Parent B does not pay Parent A the required $50.00. Parent A then unilaterally decides they are just going to pay parent B $450.00 the next month in child support to offset what is owed by Parent B. Is this a problem? Yes, […]
How to Avoid Three Common Mistakes in a DIY Divorce
Filing for divorce in North Carolina is a relatively straightforward process. Honestly, hiring an attorney is not strictly necessary. Even so, a lot of people prefer using an attorney because it gives them peace of mind the matter was handled correctly. For someone unfamiliar with the court system, filing for and obtaining a divorce judgment can be confusing and easily become overwhelming. For those of you who would rather do it yourself, below is some advice to help you avoid three common mistakes of a DIY divorce. File Your Complaint on the Right Date: In North Carolina, filing on the wrong day can make or break your case. You must be legally separated for a year before you file. Literally, the very next day after a year, you can file for divorce but filing any day before that will defeat your claim. So, if you and your spouse separated on January 1, 2017, make sure to wait until January 2, 2018 before filing your complaint for divorce. Preserve Your Claims: In North Carolina, you lose your right to file claims for equitable distribution and/or spousal support once a divorce judgment is entered. This means that if you and your spouse […]