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Convicted Felons CAN Vote (in most states)

Something I learned today…while a felon loses his/her right to vote upon conviction and incarceration, the right to vote in Utah is restored as soon as they start probation, or are granted parole, or are released from incarceration for whatever conviction they were sentenced under.  It’s in the voting code, located at UCA 20A-2-101.5.  Honestly, this makes me very happy.  To take away someone’s voice in our governmental system is a really horrible thing.  I am THRILLED that that voice is restored.

The law varies by state.  Check out this blog for information regarding your state’s laws.

And tell your friends ;).

Votes

You don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about your elected officials 😉

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Protective Orders: What They’re NOT for

While I’m not in private practice anymore, I do take the occasional one-off type thing: those cases that will have a one time court appearance or are strictly consulting, or are basic estate planning–that sort of thing.  Today I had a hearing defending a client in a motion for a permanent protective order.

I truly believe in protective orders.  When they are needed, one should ABSOLUTELY get one.  That said, I ALSO feel strongly that protective orders should not be abused.  If one is simply trying to control another person, or force a custody order, or simply to “get back” at another person for some perceived slight, getting a protective order is absolutely inappropriate.  Personally, I think people who get ex parte protective orders for the wrong reasons should have to pay the other person’s costs and attorneys fees when the motion and temporary PO are dismissed.  And maybe have some sort of sanction thrown at them by the court, like being ordered to do community service.

My client this morning who I was defending was in a situation where the protective order was being used as a tool to try and control and manipulate him.  The Petitioner in this case, his baby mama, was not in need of protection by the court.  They’re not even Utah residents–they’ve both been living in California up until she took off and came back to Utah, taking their tiny baby daughter with her.  He filed for custody in California a week or so after she left, when it became apparent that she couldn’t be trusted to allow him contact with his child.  And 3 weeks later, after dodging–but finally being served– with the California court papers, Baby Mama filed for a protective order.

Long story short, I won this one.  The protective order motion was denied, and the ex parte/temporary order was dismissed.  The reason I won is because my client was excellent at documenting stuff–he saved all the texts, emails, and Facebook messages the two had exchanged.  And he was totally upfront with his less-than-perfect behaviors.  He had also not been abusive to her–in fact, SHE had assaulted HIM; SHE had been the one threatening HIM. And in the end, we were able to prove that Baby Mama did not meet the requirements to get a protective order against my client.

Gifts from Client 4-19-18

Gifts from my client :).  He was very grateful, and very nice. The best kind of client to have.

I like to win.  A lot.  And when that win can knock down what I see as abuse of  protective orders, and protect a person from losing constitutional rights in a quasi-criminal action, all the better.  I hate people who cry wolf.  They truly degrade the value of the protective order, which hurts everyone out there who honest to God needs one.

Fear

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he isAs a noun, fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”  As a verb, to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”  Fear can be a huge motivator to either do, or NOT do, a particular thing.  Sometimes fear is based in reality; sometimes, just in the perception of reality.  Fear can be crippling, can prevent one from taking necessary, reasonable action, or can motivate one to take actions that are unreasonable, dangerous, or out of proportion to the circumstances.

So what does that have to do with the law?

Family law actions are emotional things.  While the divvying up of assets, assignment of debts, allocation of custody and parent time, and awards of child support and alimony are black and white things, underlying the entire process is a mess of emotions, largely unpleasant ones.  Anger, pain, rage, desperation, panic, despair, sadness, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness….Swirling in with that horrible mix is Fear.

Fear is a huge part of any major life change….fear of the unknown–what happens with my budget when I’m limited to x amount of dollars a month?  What happens to my retirement goals when I have to pay out x dollars a month?  Why should I have to pay money to this person who is hurting me?  When will I get to see my kids?  What if my ex makes my kids hate me?  How will I pay all the expenses I need to for my kids?  What if I can’t pay the rent on this child support/alimony amount?  How am I supposed to get a job and take care of my kids at the same time? Who’s gonna hire me???  Is anyone ever gonna want to be with me again????

I would suggest that much of the reason people behave irrationally, do dumb things, say dumb things, try to avoid legal action, or any of the thousands of different ways people end up hurting themselves in family cases is out of fear:  “If I avoid the process server, they can’t serve me, and this will all go away.”  “He said there’s a warrant out for my arrest if I try and show up to court….I can’t get arrested!”

Mark Twain CourageWhile legal proceedings can be scary, the best way to deal with them is through Knowledge.  Be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute to seek legal advice.  If you’re scared about a threat made by the Other, ASK someone who knows or can find out about whether there’s any truth to the threat.  If you married a bully, be ready to deal with a bully.  Is it scary?  Hell YES it is.  But avoiding it, hiding, pretending it’s not happening, remaining willfully ignorant will do more to hurt you in the long AND short run than squaring your shoulders and addressing the situation.

Case in point:

I got divorced in 2005.  At the time, I’d been a stay at home mom, had 4 kids, the oldest of which were 8 year old twins, and had no money to my own name other than what my husband brought in.  My marriage had come apart, and my mental health was deteriorating.  I couldn’t stay married and live.  And No, I’m not being dramatic when I say that.  I was scared to death.

So how did I handle it?

I rolled over and died, in a manner of speaking.  My husband hired a lawyer, who drafted an agreement taking everything away from me except for some really minimal bits of Stuff.  I didn’t fight to get custody of the kids I’d been primary caretaker of for their entire lives.  I didn’t even attempt to stay in my house, or get alimony, or ask for half of the rest of our marital, not-insignificant assets.  I signed my husband’s agreement.  That became the terms of my divorce, and gave him custody of my kids.

I flat out gave up.  Out of paralyzing, crippling Fear.  Everything my husband said about how miserable he’d make me if I tried to get even statutory minimums under the law for ANYTHING, I believed.  All the little demeaning, demoralizing comments he threw out at me, I believed.  I was terrified–terrified of a legal fight, terrified of my kids getting hurt any worse than they already were, terrified of losing my mind before it was all said and done…Terrified.  Scared.  Panicked.

And so, out of blind, crippling, numbing, paralyzing fear, I gave up.  Everything–my kids, my home, any portion of 10 years of marriage…all of it.  Without a fight.

Ask me how much I regret that.  And when you do, bring tissues, because I’m going to cry my eyes out on you, even though it’s been nearly 13 years since all that happened.fear-is-the-mindkiller

DON’T YOU BE LIKE ME.  You be BRAVE.  Find your support people.  Face your fears, even if you have to face them quietly, by seeking out help online, or at a victim’s crisis center.  Get real information.  Do a little research.  DON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!  For the love of all that is good and holy, I am begging you, do not let fear take your life from you.  You can do it.  I swear, it’s hard as hell, but you CAN.  And you Must.

A final Scene from the story of fear in my life:  I am at my Aunt Nancy’s house, curled up on the floor in her bathroom, sobbing out of fear and the misery that came from letting my fear cripple me when it counted most.  She is sitting next to me, on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest, her arm around my shoulders.  She is saying, “I wish I could poor courage into your spine so you can stand.”

I say to you–Imagine me pouring courage into your spine.  Stand up. You may be afraid, but don’t let it control you.  You are not alone.

Be Brave.

Things I Care About: Do Unto Others

Golden Rule Plus

If you’ve read very many of my blog posts, you kind of start to get a feeling for things that I’m passionate about. Like

Fathers’ Rights.  I deeply believe that the best way to keep our kids whole through the divorce process is for them to have BOTH parents in their lives.  In this world of family law, where custody seems to default to moms, we should not forget that there are a lot of really great dads out there who are heartbroken at losing time to just Be around their kids on a daily basis.  While that may not be practical in a divorce,  that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to keep Dad there as often as possible.  And intentionally keeping a loving father from his kids IS child abuse.  We need the courts to take it more seriously, and we need a general shift in societal thinking that defaults away from thinking that single moms are always saints.

and

Domestic Abuse.  By this I mean ALL forms of abuse.  We tend to think only in terms of physical violence as being abusive, but psychological abuse may be far more pervasive, and can take a helluva lot longer to get over.  Victims of abuse tend to be less likely to have custody of their kids, because they tend also to have less access to resources with which to hire a lawyer in a divorce.  Moms who don’t have their kids could well have been victims of domestic abuse in their marriages, and every day of their lives without their kids is just another stab in the heart by the abuser.  We as a community (especially a community like I live in here in Utah) need to lay off judging moms who did not get custody as though they’re some sort of addict or loser.  Heaping misery on the wounded is cruel; we are better than that.

and

Kids.  It seems like in any divorce action, kids always end up being the Big Losers.  They don’t get any choice in their whole worlds getting thrown into chaos; in Utah, they have no choice, really, who they get to live with.  And even if they DID have the option, how do you choose between two parents you love dearly?  I remember being a freshman in college and having a nightmare that my parents were divorcing, and that I was begging them not to, and they wouldn’t listen.  I woke up sobbing, and had to call my mom to make sure that it was just a really bad dream.  The biggest pain in my life is knowing the MY kids never got to wake up from that Really Bad Dream.  I’ve been divorced nearly 12 years, and I still feel horrible every time I think about it (like now, writing this post, and blowing my nose and wiping my eyes.)

and

Fairness.  and Decency.  and Human Kindness. and Equity.  I mean, seriously….whatever happened to these values?  I see them evidenced in some divorce cases, but way more often it’s as though the parties feel a need to feed the fight, and take whatever they possibly can, and hurt the other person, no matter what the cost.  I know I’m way too sensitive (part of why I can’t do this family law thing full time anymore), but I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to apply a little Golden Rule into their lives, even if their lives include ex spouses.  Do unto others as you would have them do to you, ya’ll.  Or better yet, don’t do things to them that you wouldn’t want them to do to you.Even Better

And if we would all live by just that one little rule, what a wonderful world it would be.

Utah’s Continuing War on the Bio Dad

Just in case ya’ll thought that things are getting better for unmarried biological fathers in Utah, think again.  I was recently made aware of an ongoing case in Utah that will be heard by the appellate court NEXT FRIDAY, January 20th, that shows that the state’s vendetta against bio dads is alive and well.  The dad, Jose Vargas, is just trying to raise his daughter.  That’s it.  But the state is bound and determine to prevent that, and to give the child over for adoption.  Why???  Seriously, Utah–What The Fu**???

Jose has a GoFundMe page to try and raise the money he needs to pay his lawyer–who continues to represent Jose even though he’s not getting paid right now, I might add.  Links to articles about the case are below.  And help out with the legal fees as well, if you’re at all able.

This has got to stop.  And it can stop with THIS dad, God willing.

jose

Jose Vargas holds his daughter, Major.  Photo was published in the Deseret News, and provided by Mr. Vargas.

http://www.elle.com/life-love/a40251/father-daughter-custody-utah/

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865670699/I-have-to-try-Father-suing-to-raise-daughter-caught-in-complicated-legal-tangle.html

https://nationalparentsorganization.org/recent-articles?id=23238

 

***UPDATE:  In this case, the juvenile court had adjudicated parentage in Mr. Vargas’ behalf (means:  the juvenile court held that Jose is the child’s legal father, which would give him rights).  The State opposed that order, and appealed it (trying to say the juvenile court wasn’t allowed to make that call.)  The case was argued on January 20, 2017, before Utah’s Court of Appeals.  The court found in favor of the Juvenile Court/Mr. Vargas.  The formal opinion was filed on March 30, 2017.  Unless the State appeals to the Utah Supreme Court (and the Supremes don’t actually have to agree to listen to their case), this case is over, and is a big WIN for Mr. Vargas and bio dads.  So many thanks to his attorney, Caleb Proulx, who went the distance with him!

From the FB Archives: April 16, 2013

Is it really about what we do with it?

Life is not perfect; I think we all know that.  I’ve had a rough couple of days.  I was up working until 11:00 last night (Yeah! E-filing! Damn YOU!!!! E-filing!!!)  I woke up with the knowledge that I had another full day, but at least my first “You must wear clothes and look presentable” appointment wasn’t until 11 a.m.  Before that, I got an email from a client thanking me profusely for the teeny tiny itty bitty thing I had done for him, and a phone call from an older lady who has called me no less than a dozen times in the past 3 months, thanking me for helping her.  I did precious little for her; I just answered the phone when she called.

This afternoon I had two new client consultations.  Not difficult stuff.  One may become a new client; one can probably handle things on her own.  The first one was distraught….Have ya’ll noticed I’m a big fat cry baby?  I try really hard not to cry with my clients, but damn it!  I suck at that…

I had other work that I did, work that pays, work that will hopefully protect my client from BigLaw’s nasty allegations come next Monday when I have to be in SLC at 9:00a.m. for a hearing.  I hope I did enough.  I hate responding to BigLaw’s filings.  They really suck.  But then there is this Woman, my client, with a child.  And I am again emotionally sucked into it without even wanting to be.

I have gotten better.  I don’t cry with all of them anymore.  I can pat their shoulders, squeeze a hand, and give them reassurance, while telling them what to expect.  I can walk away, relieved that they can’t afford a lawyer because I just KNOW they would turn into Super Needy client who runs out of money and becomes the most demanding at that point.

I had some personal distress this week as well.  And this morning, as I was sunk in the Lows of that, I had the Highs of my client and this old lady telling me that I am definitely OK.

It’s a weird place to live, my head….My therapist thinks I’m great.  He doesn’t have to deal with my neurosis….

carrying-too-much

Like the poor jackass pictured above, it’s possible I was carrying a little too much…

From the FB Archives: January 20, 2012

*Note:  In this case it turned out that my client had probably screwed over the second ex wife while he was still competent…He more than likely got what he deserved when this was all said and done.  But when I knew him, he was just a nice, very confused, little old man.

little-old-man

Exemplar Little Old Man: not an actual photo of my client…

So in a way, being old and senile is good…

I went to Vernal, UT, today.  Not my favorite place in the world, but not my least favorite either.  I had a pre-trial hearing in a divorce case.  My client is in his 80’s.  He suffers from dementia; possibly Alzheimer’s, but no firm diagnosis on that.  We actually bifurcated this case back in November, after mediation, when the other side said they wanted to take everything my client had, I declined, and they determined they wanted a trial.  Whatever.  Point being, we agreed to split the case and have a divorce entered as to the parties at that time, and then work out the property settlement later.

My client was in the courtroom today.  He had no idea what was going on, but seemed very pleasant and un-bothered by the whole thing.  When we were done in the courtroom, we went out into the hall.  My client’s now ex-wife was out there.  When he saw her, his face lit up.  He went over to her, smiling, put his arm around her, and told her how lovely she looked.  She leaned her head on his chest and he kissed her forehead.  They chatted for a few minutes until his daughters ushered him away so that we could discuss what had happened and where we go from here.

I watched this little exchange between these people in their 80’s who should not have gotten divorced, and it made my heart hurt.  Ache, actually.  Had to really work on not crying for awhile on the way home.  And then I thought how very lucky my client is–he doesn’t know he’s divorced.  Hell, half the time he doesn’t remember ever marrying this woman (30 years ago) and confuses her in his mind with his first wife.

 

Maybe being senile can be a good thing…

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