Selecting a Divorce Attorney

Selecting a divorce attorney is a critical decision making process. The person who you hire will be responsible for obtaining or maintaining your custody rights to your children, your property interests, and depending upon the side you are one, either minimizing or maximizing your support rights.

In reality, selecting a divorce attorney is also an incredibly stressful experience. Do it right and you can breath easy. Do it wrong and you will spend years making up for losses that might have been prevented.

There are a few tried and true tactics that you should be using when you select a divorce attorney. Before you even begin, you need to identify the type of case that you will be involved in. Will you be mediating your divorce? Will you be negotiating? Or, will your case be one of those cases that goes to court and becomes a knock down, drag out divorce litigation?

There are divorce attorneys who specialize in these different types of cases and you need to hire the type of divorce attorney who is best suited to the type of case that you have. If you need to deal with a knock down, drag out litigation, you do not want a mediation attorney trying to protect your interests. Likewise, if you are going through mediation, the last thing you want is a divorce attorney who will try to create issues and move you towards litigation.

So, step one in the process of selecting a divorce attorney is to identify the type of case that you have. Next, start asking people for help. Since the divorce rate in the United States is at about 50%, chances are you know at least several people who have been through a divorce. Ask about their process, how they selected a divorce
attorney, and how their attorney performed for them.

AFter you have received the names of several divorce attorneys that you received from asking other people, go online and start researching those attorneys and others. Many divorce attorneys have websites, write articles, and advertise on divorce portal websites. You can get quite a bit of information about how an attorney approaches cases and treats clients by reviewing their website.

After you have reviewed the divorce attorney websites, make a list of at least two and as many as five divorce attorneys who you think you will be comfortable speaking with. Call the offices of those divorce attorneys and schedule consultations. Some of those attorneys will charge you for a consultation; the more experience the attorney has, the more likely that you will have to pay for time with that attorney.

When you attend a consultation with a divorce attorney, be prepared. Make an outline of the history of your marriage and the problems facing you now. If you or your spouse has filed any papers in court, make sure you bring them with you. Bring one or two years tax returns or a recent financial statement so that the divorce attorney can review some of your financial data before being asked questions about “results”.

Make sure you ask each divorce attorney questions about how that attorney’s office operates in response to client phone calls, emails, or other inquiries or needs. If you will be working with a divorce attorney who has no other attorney in their office, be prepared to wait in line when you have a need for a response. That attorney will have other clients who have needs just as significant as yours, and an attorney can be responsive to only one client at a time. Even with that drawback, there may be a divorce attorney who you feel is just right for you who is also a solo practitioner. That is a trade off that you may have to get comfortable with.

After you have completed all of the consultations and reviewed the answers to all of your questions, decide which divorce attorney you felt most comfortable with and which one you believe will work with you to get the type of results that you want.results that you want.

Defending Against Abuse of a Power of Attorney

Attorneys will advise you that you should have a power of attorney. A Power of Attorney is an important document that allows someone else to handle your affairs if you have difficulty or are unable to do so. With age and illness, a Power of Attorney often becomes necessary. Usually the person who is given the authority to act will do so with the best of intentions. What happens, however, if the person you trust misuses the Power of Attorney for personal gain or benefit? A Power of Attorney may seem like a simple document, but it can have far-reaching and unintended consequences. A Power of Attorney can be very tempting to the person who has it.

A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which a person (the “Principal”) gives someone else (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact”) the authority to act on the Principal’s behalf. If the Principal becomes ill, incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle her financial affairs, or simply chooses to let someone else do it for her, the person or persons she designated in the Power of Attorney can pay bills, deal with banks, lawyers and other professionals, and do other things that are in the best interest of the Principal.

A Power of Attorney can be general, meaning that it gives the Attorney-in-fact the authority to do whatever the Principal might do for herself, or limited, meaning that it is limited in scope and/or time. For example, a Power of Attorney may be limited to one specified act or type of act, such as a limited Power of Attorney to attend a real estate closing and sign the closing documents on behalf of a buyer or seller, or it may be limited in time, such as a Power of Attorney that is effective only during the time that someone is out of the country on a trip. A Power of Attorney also may be durable, meaning that it takes effect upon its execution (or a specified date) and continues in effect even if the Principal becomes incapacitated, or springing, meaning that it only takes effect after the Principal is incapacitated (or some other definite future act or circumstance). The problem with a springing Power of Attorney is that it requires a judicial determination of incapacity for the power to take effect. This can take a considerable amount of time – plus the initiation of legal proceedings, the hiring by the Court of an independent person to interview and investigate the circumstances of the alleged incompetent, and a hearing in Court – often exactly at a most trying time when there is a need for prompt or immediate action.

In New Jersey, a Power of Attorney can include provisions with respect to making health care decisions, including the power to consent to any medical care, treatment, service or procedure. A health care power of attorney is different than a “Living Will”, which is a written statement of a person’s health care and medical wishes, but does not appoint another person to make health care decisions.

A Power of Attorney is a useful and powerful tool. Unfortunately, as with many things, something with a good purpose still can be used for improper purposes. A general Power of Attorney allows the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to do almost anything the Principal could or might do herself. As a result, it can be an invitation to abuse and self-dealing.

The victim of Power of Attorney abuse often may not be aware of what is happening, or even if she is may feel powerless to say or do anything because she is dependent on the abuser for care and companionship. The nature and extent of the abuse may not come to light until after the person has died and someone else is able to obtain access to her banking and other financial records.

Disputes can arise when the Agent or Attorney-in-fact has used the Power of Attorney to transfer the Principal’s assets to himself or his family members. This may be done as an estate planning technique, such as making gifts to take advantage of the annual exclusion from gift taxes. On the other hand, it may be done to deprive other family members of a share of the Principal’s assets that they otherwise might eventually inherit. For example, a person may wrongfully use a Power of Attorney to withdraw money from the Principal’s bank accounts and deposit the money in his or own bank account. We have seen this and been involved in litigation to get the money back.

Under New Jersey law, the traditional rule was that a power of attorney should not be construed to allow the Agent or Attorney-in-fact to give the Principal’s assets to himself or others without clear language in the power authorizing such gifts. See Manna v. Pirozzi, 44 N.J. Super. 227 (App. Div. 1957). In 2004 in New Jersey a law was passed stating that a Power of Attorney shall not be construed to authorize the Attorney-in-fact to gratuitously transfer property of the Principal to the Attorney-in-fact or any one else except to the extent that the Power of Attorney expressly and specifically so authorizes. N.J.S.A 46:2B-8.13a. If this happens, the Superior Court, upon application of any heir or other next friend of the Principal, may require the Attorney-in-fact to render an accounting (i.e. an explanation of when and for what the money was used) if there is doubt or concern whether the Attorney-in-fact has acted within the powers delegated by the Power of Attorney for the benefit of the Principal. N.J.S.A. 46:2B-8.13(b).

A Power of Attorney also may be attacked as having been procured by undue influence, or when the Principal already was incompetent and therefore legally unable to execute a Power of Attorney. This type of action is similar to a will contest in which a will is claimed to have been procured by undue influence, or in which it is claimed that the testator was of unsound mind and unable legally to make a will.

How to Go About Selecting an Attorney For Your Case

How to Select a Personal Injury Attorney

While there are many factors that affect whether a client wins or loses a personal injury case, or affect the level of the settlement, selecting the right personal injury attorney makes the most difference in winning the case. So, how should one go about selecting a personal injury attorney who will get the best results, and the best settlement, for the case?

Most personal injury attorneys have free consultation. You, the client, should use the consultation not only to have the attorney assess your case, but also to interview the attorney to make sure your case will get the attention it deserves. The first indication as to whether you and your case will get the attorney’s full and undivided attention is how you are treated during the free consultation. Obviously, you should expect to discuss the case with an attorney, not with a paralegal, or other members of the attorney’s staff. After all, you are not hiring a paralegal; you are hiring an attorney to understand your case, research the facts of the case, research the law and win your case for you. You want to be able to talk to the attorney first hand, not through intermediaries.

Once you meet with the attorney, outline your case and answer whatever questions the attorney may have. You should then ask the following basic questions. The answers that you get should determine the level of comfort you have regarding the level of attention that the attorney will give you and your case:

1. Who will be handling and researching your case. Is that person an attorney or a member of the staff?

2. If your case goes to trial, will the attorney be fully involved in the litigation or would he outsource the litigation without any involvement?

3. Will the attorney be your contact at the attorney’s office? If so, will he be available during office hours as well as after hours? Would he give you access to his direct telephone, including his cellular phone?

It is a fact that at the offices of some personal injury attorneys, clients come in contact with paralegals and other office staff but never with an attorney. If the attorney responds that his “competent” staff will give their full attention to your case, get a clue. If the attorney is reluctant to give you his cellular number to contact him anytime you have a concern, get another clue.

Many of my clients have confided in me that the reason why they have not selected other attorneys before knocking on my door was the fact that they could not talk to an attorney. They were able to talk to a paralegal or other staff, but not the attorney.

If you are not able to talk to a personal injury attorney during the consultation, or if you do not feel comfortable that your case will be getting the full, undivided attention of the personal injury attorney, find another attorney. There are many good attorneys out there who are anxious to give you and your case their full, undivided attention.

Ramzy Ladah
Las Vegas Personal Injury, LLC
http://www.ladahlaw.com