Archive for the ‘Family Law’ Category

The Monster in the Closet- Alcohol Dependent Spouses

Hiding WomanMarriages are often faced with many challenges. From figuring out how to manage money and how many children to have, to who is going to do the dishes, we have all experienced them. Some challenges may be obvious, but some may be so cleverly disguised or hidden. It is stated that nearly 17 million adults in the United States have alcohol-related problems. “Alcohol remains the number-one drug problem in the United States.” [1] With this kind of shocking statistic, it is not uncommon to see marriages affected and divorces finalized as a result. You may be wondering how to determine if you or your partner is falling victim to alcohol dependency: the ugly monster in the closet that no one wants around, but does not know how to get rid of. First take a moment to understand what it is and how it shows up in the life of those affected.

Alcohol Dependency Signs

It can be very hard to detect the presence of alcoholism in a marriage. Many times a spouse may not realize they have a problem. Alcohol dependency is a more serious kind of alcohol use disorder involving three or more of the following:

  1. Loss of control: drinking more or drinking for a longer period of time than intended.
  2. Tolerance: needing more alcohol to reach the desired effect.
  3. Not able to decrease the amounts consumed or stop altogether.
  4. Continued drinking despite knowing the problems it has caused or made worse.
  5. Spending large amounts of time drinking or recovering from it.
  6. Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not consumed. These include vomiting, dizziness, shaking, nausea, anxiety, seizures, hallucinations, tremors, insomnia and sweating.
  7. Missing or willing to give up social or recreational activities in order to drink.

Confronting a spouse who has alcohol dependency is a task that is not easy to do. As with most issues in life, change cannot be brought about without an acceptance of the problem. If your spouse refuses to accept their problem, you will have to prove their alcohol dependency in court. This is a major importance when children are involved and custody hearings begin. This can be easier to do with proof of any messages related to their drinking, pictures of empty beers, documentation and testimonials from friends and family members. Remember an alcohol dependent spouse will do what they can to deny or place blame on you, but with proper documentation in court, it will be easier to prove their dependency.

Although it may be hard to continue with the divorce when all you really want to see is your spouse get the help they need, it is important you and your children have a safe environment free from any alcohol abuse. Stay diligent and expose the monster for what it really is.

Sources:

[1] EMedicine Health, “Alcoholism.” http://www.emedicinehealth.com/alcoholism/article_em.htm


Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Co-Parenting: There’s an App for That?

Co-Parenting AppsCommunicating with your ex-spouse during or after a divorce can cause a lot of hostility and unneeded frustration for you and your children. You may be wondering how you are going to parent your children together when just seeing your ex-spouse causes your heart to race and blood to boil. Thankfully we live in the 21st century and technology is more sophisticated than ever before. With many online resources for separated parents, co-parenting with your ex-spouse has never been easier.

The increased demand for technology that makes parenting with an ex easier has led to a development in a number of apps that assist with effective scheduling and planning for both parents and in some cases, everyone in the family. Many of these apps allow you to post schedules, record upcoming events, negotiate a change in visitation, post important topics, and post about expense and payment tracking in a neutral environment.  Even in instances where you may be tempted to reply to a scheduling request change from your ex in a hostile tone, certain apps warn you before sending a message to give you a chance to rethink your reply.

8 Apps for Co-Parenting

Below is a list of the top eight most useful co-parenting apps for separated parents who prefer to avoid phone conversations and face-to-face visits.

  • Our Family Wizard- Created by a divorced couple, this app provides visitation and child custody schedules, parenting plans, calendars, and other tools. Resources and links for counseling and other legal services also included.
  • Kidganizer- Create profiles for each child and add information regarding schedules, finances, and send alerts to remind family members of important events including doctor visits, parent teacher conferences, and more.
  • 2Houses– This app offers a calendar to organize custody and events, post information about doctor’s visits and school documents, post to photo albums, and record notes about food allergies and other important information in a journal. An expense module section allows for managing child related expenses.
  • Skedi- Great for all family members. This cloud based app syncs with your calendar and allows easy management of drop offs, pick-ups, and assigning certain tasks to other family members. Ideal for busy families on the go.
  • Cozi- The “Must-have app for the modern family.” [1] This program allows parents to post and share calendars, add to-do lists, chores, shopping lists, recurring events, forward events to family members, and set up alerts via text and email.
  • About One- Need to access paperwork quickly while on-the-go? This app acts as on online file for keeping heath information, receipts, instructions for caregivers, school reports, upcoming events, paperwork, and emergency contact information.
  • Custody Junction- Still in the middle of getting a divorce? Schedule current and future visitations for up to two years in advance. Reports can be customized regarding visitation, support payments, hours spent with the child and more. These reports can be shared with lawyers and court monitors.
  • My School Bucks- Manage your child’s school payments for lunches, field trips, after school activities, and more. View account balances and recent purchases and set up notifications for upcoming payments. When one parent may be low on cash, the other can contribute without sending checks to the school. This app also allows parents to see a child’s menu selections and get low balance alerts.

“Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may seem absolutely impossible.” [2] These helpful co-parenting apps are a great way to begin the process of peaceful co-parenting. By focusing on your children and refraining from acting on your anger and pent-up feelings, you can help your children adjust to the difficult changes that divorce brings.

Sources

[1] Youthletic, “8 Apps That Help Organize Co-Parenting Schedules.” https://www.youthletic.com/articles/8-apps-that-help-organize-co-parenting-schedules/

[2] Help Guide, “Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents.” http://www.helpguide.org/articles/family-divorce/co-parenting-tips-for-divorced-parents.htm (October 2016).


Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

It’s Their Way or the Highway: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Parents fightingYou have heard it one too many times. You have dealt with their selfish comments, their inability to apologize and their abusive, harsh words. It makes parenting so much harder than it needs to be. When narcissism takes over, simple conversations can become unbearable and non-productive. Co-parenting with a narcissistic ex-spouse may be one of the most difficult things you have to go through, but you must rise above it. The first step to understanding how to co-parent with a narcissistic ex-spouse is to recognize the symptoms.

“Narcissism is the personality trait of egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness.” [1] A child with narcissistic parent, “…realizes early on that he exists to provide a reflection for the parent and to serve the parent, not the other way around.” [2] Everything they do must fit perfectly into the mold the parent originally intended for them. A narcissistic parent often times competes with the child and belittles them when their superiority feels threatened. The relationship becomes damaged and, often times, leaves the child feeling unloved. It is important that the child has at least one stable parent who continues to show love and selflessness to the child regardless of how the other parent behaves.

Symptoms of a Narcissistic Parent

These characteristics help to identify a person with a narcissistic personality:

  • Lacks empathy or care for others
  • Is often arrogant and portrays haughty behaviors
  • Demands constant admiration
  • Has an inflated sense of self-importance, often exaggerating their achievements
  • Provokes and baits you
  • Belittles others in an attempt to reassure their own self worth
  • Denial about painful circumstances or of their own narcissism
  • Intimidation of others with similar or more advanced talents or achievements
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Often times lies or over exaggerates to prove a point

How to Co-Parent with a Narcissistic Ex-Spouse

There is no winning with a narcissist, only coping. The most important thing to remember is that your child needs a stable role model to set a proper example.  Regardless of how your ex-spouse acts, you can control how you respond and deal with the conflict. Below are a few very important tips for co-parenting with a narcissist.

  • Limit contact and decrease emotional connection.
  • Get everything in writing. Promises not kept about paying child support and so on can be used in court to prove irresponsibility.
  • Avoid conflict and keep your conversation only about the children.
  • Keep firm boundaries. “Your boundaries will provide the consistency that you and your children need to be healthy.” [3]
  • Do what is best for your children regardless of the effects it has on your ex-spouse.
  • Make up for the narcissist’s neglect and give your child the reassurance and love they need.
  • Be a good role model for your child and also encourage their interests.
  • Try parallel parenting: “Parallel parenting allows both parents to make decisions regarding the children when the children are under their care.” [3]

Although challenges may never seem to stop, your child needs you to be the strong, stable parent.  They need encouragement, reassurance and support from at least one of their parents.  In doing so, they will not only succeed in life, but thrive. Remember that, when dealing with a narcissistic ex-spouse, it is important to refrain from retaliating as this can be used against you in court.  Adhering to these guidelines as much as possible, and putting agreements in writing, will make it easier for your attorney or lawyer to present your case to the judge.

 

Sources:

[1] Divorced Moms, “Is Your Child Being Emotionally Abused By Your Ex.” http://divorcedmoms.com/articles/coparenting-with-a-narcissist-what-to-do-when-your-children-are-being-emotionally-abused- (May 10, 2016).

[2] Psychology Today, “Narcissistic Parents’ Psychological Effect on Their Children.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-is-2020/201405/narcissistic-parents-psychological-effect-their-children (May 1, 2014).

[3] Love to Know, “Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.” https://family.lovetoknow.com/co-parenting-narcissist


Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Custody Disputes Involving a Child with Autism

Custody Cases when child has autismWhen custody disputes involve an autistic child, additional factors and individual needs should be considered. It is important for all those involved to understand what autism is and what concerns may be important when litigating a case in court, discussing settlement, or representing a child with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a serious developmental disability impairing one’s ability to communicate and interact. According to The Centers for Disease Control, “ASD is a developmental disability that causes substantial impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary—from gifted to severely challenged.” [1]

Not all autistic children have the same symptoms or individualities. Autistic children often have personality traits such as little to no speech, speak in monotone, are introverted, avoid social interaction, are unable to verbally express themselves and sometimes have behavior disorders such as obsessive-compulsiveness or explosive temper tantrums.

With this array of behaviors, the family must consider what is best for the child. There is one component of Autism that seems to be a common thread in all the studies and research. Autistic children require structure and routine in their lives. Divorce and custody disputes disrupt an autistic child’s normalcy. What was once our house become two separate places: Mom’s house and Dad’s house. So the question is “Who will be the best caregiver to support an autistic child’s special emotional needs and which type of custody is best for this child?”

Here Are A Few Questions to Consider:

  • What was each parent’s role during the diagnosis phase of autism and how did each parent accept it?
  • Was each parent proactive with early intervention and therapy?
  • Which parent actively participated in the daily recommended interventions and what was their level of interaction?

Giving consideration to these questions helps determine the type of custody arrangement that will be best for the child.

Helpful Information to Gather at the Commencement of the Action:

It is important to know a lot of detail concerning the autistic child. Sometimes it is helpful to hire a medical professional to explain the terminology and concepts.
Information that is important to gather includes:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and credentials of all professionals with whom the child receives treatment
  • Medications given to the child, including the frequency and dosage
  • Therapies in which the child participates. This includes information about where the therapy is received and the name of the provider
  • The cost of each therapy or service

It is important to fully understand the information that has been gathered. It may be necessary to consult an expert in the field in order to feel comfortable arguing the merits of the case, settle the case, and/or properly represent the minor child. If all the information is not fully understood, representation of the minor child ultimately suffers as a result.

The Court’s Role in Autistic Custody Determination

For the courts to make the determination in a custody case, they consider a host of factors such as character and reputation, the primary caregiver, child’s preference and prior abandonment (or surrender) of custody. In special needs cases, the type of disability, its severity and how the disability affects the best interest of the child is a key factor that adds another dimension to the case. [2]

Sources:

[1] Autism Science Foundation, “What is Autism?” http://autismsciencefoundation.org/what-is-autism/ (2016)
[2] General Assembly of Maryland, “General Assembly.” GAM-Article. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmStatutesText.aspx?article=gfl§ion=9-107&ext=html&session=2015RS&tab=subject5
[3] Lawrence R. Jones and David L. Holmes, NJ Lawyer Magazine, “Autism and Divorce, Guidelines for Family Court Practice” http://poac.net/download/resources/Divorce.pdf, (February, 2009).
[4] Chantal Sicile-Kira, Psychology Today, “Divorce Cases Involving Children with Autism” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-autism-advocate/201505/divorce-cases-involving-children-autism, (May 31, 2015).
[5] C.A. Curie, Autism Key, Autism, “Divorce and Putting Children First” http://www.autismkey.com/autism-divorce-and-putting-children-first/ (March 13, 2011).
[6] The People’s Law Library of Maryland, “Child Custody in Maryland” http://www.peoples-law.org/child-custody-maryland (February 8, 2016).

Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.  By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Mistakes Witnesses Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Family Law - Be a Good WitnessA great witness can be the difference between losing and winning a case. So can a harmful witness. So how can you make sure you are on the correct side of this line? Here are a few pointers I have developed over my many years working with witnesses.

Mistake #1: Lack of Preparation

It is tempting to think that since all you are doing is telling your story, preparation is not really necessary. There are several problems with this line of reasoning – primarily that the other side is doing just the opposite. Although you are telling your story, there are many ways that differences in phrasing, non-verbals, and even hesitations may conversely effect the words you are speaking. In addition to this being a completely new, and often times intimidating experience, keep in mind that there will be another side who has spent countless hours and days preparing for your interview and looking for the areas they might find weak. Even if you have done nothing wrong and are just there to relay your story, their goal will be to find your weaknesses. Daniel Small puts it plainly in his 2013 article for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: “You’re walking into a strange environment with a great deal at stake, where everyone else is experienced, comfortable, and prepared. You can’t adequately prepare for this challenge without professional help, period.”[1]

The Solution: Prepare, prepare, prepare. This is what your legal team is here for. As veterans of the field, we know what to watch for and we can help you know how and when the important questions will come. With practice and repetition, your lawyer can help you clearly, confidently and accurately convey your meaning to the court.

Mistake #2 – Speaking Too Soon.

By the time your day in court arrives, you will have been over and over the matters of discussion to where they seem beaten to death or mundane. Keep in mind, this is usually going to be the courts first time hearing the details of the case. Answering hastily or anticipating a line of argument can greatly damage your credibility and/or the case. [2]

The Solution: Always wait a second or so before you answer. This gives you time to collect your thoughts and answer clearly. It also gives your attorney time to object if needed. Make sure you understand any question before you begin answering, and then answer the question fully but without going further into future potential questions.

Mistake #3 – Speaking Too Much or Volunteering Information.

As important as it is to answer your questions clearly and accurately, it is also important to stop when you are done. With all of the preparation you have done, you may know where a question is headed and volunteer too much information or information out of order.

The Solution: Answer each question as positively and definitely as possible, and then STOP. Your lawyer to take the questioning where it needs to go. Along this same topic, Stop speaking instantly when an attorney objects to a question or if the judge interrupts you. Wait for the judge to tell you to continue before answering any further.

Mistake #4 – Giving The Answer You Think The Questioner is Looking For Instead Of The Absolute Truth

This might seem like common sense, but sometime I can be tempting. For example, an attorney may ask you: “Have you talked to anybody about this case?” It might be tempting to say “no” but the judge will know that is probably not true as you have likely been approached by the prosecutor, police officers, federal law enforcement agents, etc. [3]

The Solution: Always tell the full and complete truth. Try not to guess at where a line of questioning is going to how to steer it in the right direct. That is the lawyer’s job. Your job is to clearly and accurately describe your own experience. In the case above, it would be better in this case to say clearly and precisely who you have spoken with (including friends or family members) There is nothing improper about this and it build your credibility as a witness.

Mistake #5 – Not Dressing The Part.

It may sound trivial, but the old concept that first impressions are everything is also true in the courtroom. Often witnesses are so worried, stressed, or busy that they neglect to pay attention to the impression they are making.

The Solution: Dress appropriately and professionally. Avoid clothing. Make-up or fragrance that could be distracting. You want to convey that you understand the importance of this proceeding and you take it seriously. [4]

We hope this primer on the common pitfalls with help you feel more prepared and confident about your upcoming day in court. Remember, we are here to help you navigate these strange waters. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your attorney or team as you prepare – that is part of what we are here for!


 

SOURCES

[1] Daniel I. Small, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, “Three Big Mistakes Witnesses Make” http://www.hklaw.com/files/Uploads/Documents/Articles/Small_MassLawyer_ThreeBigMistakes.pdf, (October 17, 2013).

[2] Clark Head, “How To Testify Effectively In Court” http://www.lawyerssacramento.org/How_To_Testify_in_Court.html

[3] The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, “Tips For Testifying In Court: Victim Witness”, http://www.justice.gov/usao-mdpa/victim-witness-assistance/tips-testifying-court, (April 22, 2015).

[4] Anthony Flores, “Taking the Terror out of Testifying: Tips for Nonattorneys who Testify in Child Welfare Proceedings”, http://courts.mi.gov/Administration/SCAO/OfficesPrograms/CWS/ChildWelfareServicesTraining/CWS%20Training%20Materials/4.11.12.CWS.WorkshopA1.Taking.the.Terror.out.of.Testifying.pdf, (April 2012).

 

Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.  By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

 

New Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland as of October 2015

Mutual Consent Divorce in MarylandOn October 1, 2015, Maryland enacted the “mutual consent” grounds for divorce. The new statute was signed by Governor Hogan on May 12, 2015 and stipulates several criteria for Maryland to grant an absolute divorce decree without the standard one year separation requirement that the parties to live separate and apart from each other. [1]

Criteria for “Mutual Consent” Divorce in Maryland

In order for the divorce to be granted on grounds of “mutual consent”, the following criteria must be met (as outlined in the statute):

  • The parties do not have any minor children in common.
  • The parties execute and submit to the court a written statement agreement signed by both parties that resolves all issues relating to alimony, and the distribution of property.
  • Neither party files a pleading to set aside the settlement agreement prior to the divorce hearing required under the laws of Maryland.
  • Both parties appear before the court at the absolute divorce hearing.

If the divorce falls within these criteria, the couple filing for the “mutual consent” divorce can continue living in the same household during the divorce settlement negotiations without delaying the actual date of divorce. This allows time for the couple to settle financial issues, property division and prepare for separate living arrangements.

“Mutual Consent” divorce should be helpful in assisting an amicable divorce.

What Prevents “Mutual Consent” Divorce in Maryland

“Mutual Consent” divorce is extremely helpful because it allows couples, seeking an amicable divorce, to obtain a divorce even if they are still living together. In our community there are many individuals that cannot afford to move out, and live separately for one year, in order to obtain an absolute divorce. For those couples who do not qualify for mutual consent divorce, you must meet the requirements of one other divorce grounds listed below:

  • One year separation without cohabitation
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor or felony charge (must comply with sentence duration limits)
  • Cruelty
  • Excessively vicious conduct
  • Insanity

Which Divorce is Right for Me

When considering a divorce, you should always consult a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction. The Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado, LLC practices primarily in the area of family law. We have offices in Frederick County, Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County. Contact us today at 301-340-1911 or schedule an appointment with a Maryland divorce attorney online to discuss your options.


Source:
[1] General Assembly of Maryland, Legislation by Session: Family Law-Grounds for Divorce-Mutual Consent, Chapter 353 (2015 Regular Session), http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=01&id=sb0472&tab=subject3&ys=2015rs, (May 2015).

Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.
By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

7 Challenges and Considerations to Keep in Mind when Representing Non-English Speaking Clients

Representing Non-English Speaking ClientsAlthough traditionally America is a very monolingual society, the percentage of our non-English speaking population, or those with limited knowledge of the English language, is growing rapidly.  In fact, the number of people in the U.S. who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled over the past three decades![1] As attorneys, we are often faced with the challenge of representing such individuals with different linguistic background from the court and potentially ourselves. As a bilingual (Spanish/English) attorney, I have experienced these challenges on numerous occasions and can offer my insight when you are faced with such a scenario: 

  1. Listen, Listen, Listen– The first step in providing fair and accurate representation to anyone, is a clear understanding of your client’s situation. When introducing a language barrier or even a slight difference, this becomes a challenge on its own. Ask numerous questions and listen to the whole story repeated. This becomes especially important if you yourself do not speak their language. Taking the extra time to repeat your questions another way and listen for inconsistencies assists in ensuring that nothing gets lost in translation.
  2. Use the Right Translator– Most often, in situations involving a non-english speaking client, a translator will be required for some or all of the court proceedings. Even the best translator adds an additional factor for consideration in your case. As such, here are a few considerations when selecting your translator:
    • Dialect – make sure your translator not only speaks the langue, but also the dialect of your client. These subtle differences can make a dramatic impact on the meaning in many cases.
    • Gender – I find it is best to use a male translator when representing male client vie versa. In certain instances, which come up frequently in family law, the gender and physical factors present in the case are critical elements and an accurate portrayal through your translator can influence the perception of the jury and help them understand the relationship between the parties.
    • Legal Status – Make sure you understand the difference between and “official” translator and an “unofficial translator” and their implications in court. An article published by David Zachary Kaufman on AmericanBar.org puts it this way: “An ‘official’ interpreter is an adult who has been tested for competency and knowledge; an ‘unofficial’ interpreter is anyone else—like a relative or child of your client. In criminal cases unofficial interpreters cannot be compelled to testify about what they hear when interpreting if their presence is ‘reasonably necessary’ for the legal representation… This test does not apply to official interpreters: They cannot be compelled to testify, period.” [2] I would urge you to delve into this in your own state before making your final decision.
  3. Be Aware of Cultural Differences – The vast majority of the time you are representing a non-English speaking client, in addition to pure language differences, there will be culture differences to overcome. An Oregon Supreme Court Task Force reported that “The dominant culture of this … nation is reflected in its courts. Largely non-minority judges and court staff do not understand the cultures of minorities who appear in the courts. “[3] Consider this throughout each step of the process and take steps to clarify and point out cultural difference where necessary.
  4. Anticipate Additional Costs – Representing a non-English speaking client can be more expensive, even for non-complex cases. Attorney L. Richard Brinkman Jr. recommends obtaining a family member or friends to help cut down on the cost where possible. He says “Be aware that using an interpreter slows down communications, requiring all matters to take a longer time. Billing for this extra time may be difficult, and you must decide how to confront this problem in each case. Of course, more complex matters will require more highly skilled interpreters. Certain matters of litigation or more complex transactions may require actual translations of documents. This will be a great expense to the client if the client does not have someone to perform the services.”[4] Even if you speak the same language as your client, a translator will still be required for parts of the process within the court, so keep this in mind as you assess probable costs.
  5. Use the Full, Correct Name – This may seem elementary, but small mistakes can be surprisingly common and troublesome when representing a non-English speaking client simply due to cultural differences. Often the attorney, court clerk, or other individual miss-spells the name of the represented individual due to unfamiliarity, which ends up wasting time and causing hassle.[5] To complicate matters, in some other cultures, individuals will offer their family name first so it is important to identify and spell out their full legal name, including their middle name, and, if possible, verify it with multiple official documents for the outset.
  6. Practice With Your Interpreter – Pre-trial interviews with your interpreter and non-English speaking client or witnesses can be extremely helpful to the outcome of your case. It helps the client or witness become familiar and comfortable with the process. It also helps the interpreter become familiar with the facts, names, locations and specialized vocabulary. All of this will protect your client or witnesses credibility in court and eliminate distractions from the actual case.[6] 
  7. Beware Culture Bound Terms – Just because words have been translated, either by yourself or an interpreter, it does not always mean that meaning has been clearly communicated. A perfect example of this is your client being read their Miranda rights. They may have heard the technical words, but not fully understand that it meant they were not obligated to talk to the police or that the information they shared could be used to prosecute them.[7] Keep this in mind as you prepare your case, during the proceedings, and during your communication with your clients. Along these lines, I typically try to avoid using acronyms or legal terminology without first explaining exactly what they mean to my client. These can go over the head of an English-speaking layperson, let alone someone who needs it translated!

These are just a few of the considerations to keep in mind when representing a non-English speaking client, but you will find that as you begin to think along these lines, other details will come to mind. As with anything, the more experience you have, the more smooth and natural the process will go. If you have any specific questions please leave a comment below and I will do my best to reply in a timely manner. 


[1] Camille Ryan, “Language Use in the United States: 2011” http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-22.pdf,  (August 2013).

[2] David Zachary Kaufman, “What Did You Say? The Perils of Clients Who Don’t Speak English” http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/whatdidyousay.html, (2007).

[3] Oregon Judicial Department, Report of the Oregon Supreme Court Task Force on Racial / Ethnic Issues in the Judicial System: Office of the State Court Administrator, 73 Oregon Law Review 823-947 (Spring 1994).

[4] L. Richard Brinkman Jr., “Representing Non-English Speaking Clients” http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/nonenglishclients.html (February 2007).  First published in 2006 Missouri Bar Solo and Small Firm Conference, Missouri Bar Association, 2006.

[5] L. Richard Brinkman Jr., “Representing Non-English Speaking Clients” http://www.americanbar.org/newsletter/publications/gp_solo_magazine_home/gp_solo_magazine_index/nonenglishclients.html (February 2007).  First published in 2006 Missouri Bar Solo and Small Firm Conference, Missouri Bar Association, 2006.

[6] Mary Lou Aranguren, “Representing non-English Speaking Clients: 10 Points Attorneys Should Know” http://www.courts.alaska.gov/language/ten-points.pdf (April 1998)

[7] María Cristina Castro, “Effective Communication with Non-English Speaking Clients” http://apps.dpa.ky.gov/library/manuals/inter/effective.html

The Harm Caused to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Effects of Domestic Violence ExposureDomestic violence refers to an ongoing experience of physical, psychological, and/or sexual abuse in the home. It is used to establish power and control over another person. The bulk of conducted studies have focused on the effect of domestic violence on the primary victim, and only recently has awareness been growing as to the effect on secondary victims, mainly, children. Children who are exposed to domestic violence may witness it in a few different ways:

  • They may see actual physical and/or sexual abuse
  • They may hear threats of violence or sounds of fighting from another room
  • They may be aware of the tension in the home between their parents
  • They may observe the aftermath of the violence, such as bruises or torn clothes

Although this exposure can come in a variety of ways, the effects on children can be very severe. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence are more likely than their peers to experience difficulties in their lives. These difficulties can be broken down into three main categories:

Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

  1. Emotional, Behavioral, and Social Problems: Children who experience domestic violence in their homes are more likely to become antisocial or aggressive towards other children or adults. They may also develop depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, disobedience, or a variety of other negative traits.
  2. Cognitive and Learning Problems: Exposure to domestic violence may lead children to experience difficulties in school and lower scores on assessments of verbal, motor, and cognitive skills. This could translate to slower learning ability, limited problem solving skills, and a lack of conflict resolution skills.
  3. Long-Term Problems: Perhaps worst of all, research has shown that boys who are exposed to domestic violence as children are more likely to engage in domestic violence as adults. Likewise, girls who are exposed to domestic violence as children are more likely to become victims of it themselves. It has also been found that children who are exposed to domestic violence have a higher likelihood of developing depression as adults, which can sometimes lead to premature death.

Not all children who are exposed to domestic violence, however, will experience these difficulties. The impact may often depend on factors such as the age of the child, their gender, the nature of the violence, and the time that has elapsed since the exposure. Either way, it is important to remember that children learn by example. More importantly, we can all agree that domestic violence will never have a positive impact on a child’s life.

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The Harm Caused by Parents Who Argue in Front of Their Children

Sad ChildOne opinion rarely touched on by authors discussing the negative effects of parents arguing in front of their children is that the damage could be made worse when parents stay in unhappy marriages. Parents who pursue neither help nor separation tend to argue more and more, which can be increasingly harmful if it is done in the presence of the children.

It would be almost impossible for parents to never argue, fight, or disagree in front of their children. Sooner or later it is bound to happen. The best case scenario is that when you do have a disagreement, you keep it civil. Arguments in which there is a lot of yelling and foul language can have harmful effects on your kids.

  • Bullying – When children witness their parents bullying each other, they may learn to bully others, and as teens to even aim that bullying at their parents.
  • Fear of Relationships – In the beginning, children are usually scared by their parents arguing. Eventually, this fear translates into disgust. As grownups, they are likely to develop a fear of being trapped in unhappy relationships and tend to end them early.
  • Blame – Sometimes children will think they are the reason that their parents are fighting, even if this is not the case. They may become confused and sad if they think they are to blame.
  • Negativity – Children who are witness to their parents fighting may eventually develop symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggression, hostility, and high levels of stress.

Sad BoyEven though fighting and arguing in front of your kids can be damaging, there are also some positive lessons children can learn from it. The key is to do it the right way. An occasional argument in which the parents treat each other with respect and listen to each other can actually be a good learning experience for kids. It can teach them how to maturely deal with disagreements and conflict in their lives.

Whenever you have an argument with your spouse in front of your children, be aware that you are teaching your children by your example. If an argument is bad, consider apologizing to your children after the fact. Reassure them that you love each other and that the issue is resolved.

If, however, you cannot control your anger and aggression during arguments, it may be time to seek some help and counseling for your marriage. If this doesn’t solve the problem, it may be time to consider a divorce. If you remain in a combative marriage, you risk causing harm to your children.

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The Benefits of Having a Child Specialist in a Collaborative Divorce

A collaborative divorce occurs when two spouses are able to work out an agreement without going to divorce court. It helps them achieve their goal of becoming divorced, while also helping them adapt, cope, and ready themselves for the next chapter in life. The collaborative divorce team pays careful attention to the psychological and emotional well-being of all parties involved. While this may be the best route to take when considering a divorce, it can still be a very difficult and confusing time in life, especially for any children involved. This process is new to them, and they probably don’t understand what is going on. It also doesn’t help that the majority of parents are unsure of how to talk to their children about the divorce. Fortunately, the collaborative divorce process offers someone to effectively help the children through the process.

The Child Specialist

The Child Specialist is one of two neutral members on the collaborative divorce team (the other being the Financial Specialist). Their job is to meet with the children, get to know them, and understand how they are feeling. The children are given a clear and defined “voice” in the process through the Child Specialist. This voice can empower them, helping them to feel confident, comfortable, and connected in the process. Ordinarily a very scary and confusing time in the life of the children, the divorce process can become tolerable, and often easier to handle, through the use of a Child Specialist.

The Child Specialist has two main roles in the divorce process. The first is to meet with the children and learn what their questions, fears, and concerns are and what they are struggling with as it relates to the divorce. By taking some of the stress away, they are able to earn the trust of the children. This allows the children to be open and honest. The Child Specialist doesn’t ask the children which parent they would rather live with, as this could put the children in the middle of the parents’ issues.

The other main role of the Child Specialist is to keep the parents informed. They bring the needs of the children into focus, informing decisions and choices made by the parents on a custody and child sharing plan that is in the best interests of the children. The Child Specialist will also help the parents know what to expect from their children based on their age and stage of development. They will help answer and questions the parents or children have about divorce and any immediate decisions that need to be made, without recommending or deciding on issues of custody.

The important thing to remember is that a legal attorney is not trained to help explain to parents how their children are handling the divorce, what their concerns are, or any effects that the divorce may have on their lives. The Child Specialist can help with all of this, and make the divorce process easier for both the parents and the children.

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