Maintaining Respect and Friendship between Parting Couples through Mediated Divorce

The process of divorce is always a demoralizing and emotional experience, especially for one who does not want to end the marriage. Besides the costly court fees, divorce cases also usually last a long time, affecting not only the divorcing couple’s daily personal activities, but their time at work too.

Besides the divorce case itself, there are other issues that the couple will need to settle which, if they cannot agree on amicably, will have to be decided by the court instead. These divorce-related issues may include child custody and support, visitation rights (of the non-custodial parent) alimony or spousal support and division of property, assets and debts.

Since the laws that cover divorce and all other issues related to it are complex, requiring the assistance of a good family lawyer becomes necessary; and couples need to know that the more knowledgeable and experienced their legal counsel is, the better their rights and interests would be fought for – but all these also require additional costs.

Aside from court settlement there is another way through which a divorce may be settled – one that is guaranteed to spare the couple from lengthy courtroom time and costly fees – Mediation.

Mediated divorce is a private process and does not require the presence of a lawyer (though any of the partners may be assisted by one if he/she wishes). Through the help of a mediator, who is chosen by the couple and who makes suggestions regarding what may be the best options (to settle divorce and all other issues) based on the couple’s circumstances, the couple makes the decisions on how everything will be settled.

There are other benefits that make the mediation process more advantageous than court procedures, some of these include:

  • Confidentiality: while the couple have a free hand in making decisions that will work best for both of them, their personal lives and interest are also kept from becoming public news and gossip. In the mediation process, whatever transpires is kept between the couple (and their lawyers, if they each have one) and their mediator.
  • Cost: a court settlement can take weeks, months or even a year to finish, while a mediation process may take only hours or days, saving the couple from incurring off time from work and costly court fees.
  • Compliance: since the issues were decided by the couple, making sure that each party abides by the decision is more ensured.

The mediation process is gaining greater popularity in settling divorce and other related issues as it also makes the process less stressful for the divorcing parties. The process also builds an air of respect and friendship that may determine the couple’s attitude towards each other, even long after the divorce has been settled.

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Capital Drivers Crash Twice as Much as Anyone Else

A recent report from the Allstate America’s Best Drivers pinpoints Washington, D.C. as a city where drivers crashed nearly three times as frequently as the national average in 2013. If you are a driver in the nation’s capital, you are likely to be involved in a vehicular crash every 4.8 years. New York drivers, including cab drivers, are involved in car accidents every 7.3. years, while Houston and Chicago average 8 years. Other danger zones include the cities of San Francisco, Newark, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Miami.

In contrast, drivers in Colorado clock in at 13.9 years, earning the encomium as the safest state to drive in nationwide. Other safe places to be for motorists include Sioux Falls in South Dakota, Madison in Wisconsin, Boise in Idaho, Tucson in Arizona, and Brownsville in Texas, plus 15 other cities, most of which have less than 500,000 inhabitants.

The report concludes that driving in the big city is inherently more dangerous than in small towns. This is understandable as there is less traffic and emergencies, fewer public transportation and large vehicles, and infrequent crosswalks which constitute the cause of most car accidents. Another factor may be the faster pace of life in the big city, where everyone is rushing about and doing several things at the same time, leading to speeding and distracted driving.

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Understanding Long-term Disability Repayment

It can happen that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will overpay a beneficiary, and may ask for long-term disability repayment. According to the website of the Hankey Law Office, P.C., a law firm in Indianapolis, Indiana is one of the states with the lowest approval rates compared to the national average. The most common reasons for an overpayment are:

  • Failure to inform the SSA of changes in your financial situation
  • Marriage
  • Improvements in physical disability
  • Return to work or increase in income
  • Errors made by SSA in computation or double payment of benefits

In Indiana, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits of a claimant are based on the determination of the state’s Disability Determination Service Bureau, but they can make mistakes in approval as well as denial. When the SSA eventually learns of the overpayment, they will send a letter to explain why an overpayment was made and request a long-term disability repayment. Even when the overpayment is not your fault, you are still obliged to pay it back unless you can get a partial or full waiver. The letter should also specify your options for payment and the right to appeal both the overpayment and long-term disability and request a waiver if:

  • It will represent a hardship for you to repay the amount overpaid
  • You do not believe it was an overpayment

However, it is important to communicate your concerns with the SSA as soon as possible. Ignoring the letter may result in wage garnishment or asset seizure to cover the amount owed. The SSA will always work with a beneficiary to make long-term disability repayment as painless as possible, but still it may be a stressful and difficult process.

If you are disputing the overpayment claim, or requesting a waiver, you may have to go through a complex process that is not always easy for a layman to make sense of. It would be best to consult with a long-term disability lawyer in Indiana to assist in your case.

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FMLA Employer Rules in Texas

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is a federal law that requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with unpaid leave for medical and family reasons without fear of losing their position or job. In Texas, the law is reiterated under the Texas Government Code in Section 661.912 (Family and Medical Leave Act) although it is essentially the same as that described by the federal government. There are no special state laws regarding family and medical leave aside from the FMLA in Texas. Even then, according to the website of Houston-based Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., covered employers still attempt to deny eligible employees with their rights under the FMLA.

Private and public employers in Texas with a minimum of 50 employees within a 75 mile radius in the previous 20 weeks or so are covered by the FMLA. To comply with the regulations, all employers covered by the law should:

  • Post a notice of FMLA employer responsibilities and employee rights
  • Include adequate information regarding the FMLA in the employee handbook or as part of the orientation for new hires
  • Determine if the leave being requested by an employee may qualify as FMLA leave and to inform the employee if it is, and the deductions from FMLA entitlement that will result

Employers are barred from refusing an eligible employee’s request to avail of FMLA or to discourage employees from applying for FMLA benefits. An employer may also be subject to sanctions for discriminating or retaliating against an employee who has applied for FMLA, complained of unlawful behavior of an employer regarding the FMLA or for filing or testifying against an employer for FMLA-related charges.

FMLA enforcement is undertaken by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, and will receive complaints and allegations of FMLA violations against employers in Texas. Furthermore, an employee may be eligible to bring a civil case against a noncompliant employer. Check with an experienced FMLA attorney to know more about your options.

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Coping with Bus Accident Injuries

Recently, a multiple-vehicle accident involving two buses, an 18-wheeler, and a car resulted in a massive traffic jam on Connecticut’s I-95 and injuries to at least 10 people. There were no fatalities, but the bus accident injuries could have been avoided if the driver of one bus was able to brake in time. The bus driver and the motorist were both cited for not maintaining safe following distances.

Bus accident injuries happen far less frequently than car accident injuries. However, bus accident injuries can all too easily turn serious if not deadly, especially on the highway because of its sheer size, the presence of passengers and high speeds. Most buses which travel on US highways travel long-distances, which is why the drivers are held to higher standards than normal motorists.

Bus drivers need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in their employment, and these have stringent requirements because these drivers literally hold the lives of others in the palm of their hands. When a bus driver violates regulations and is over-fatigued, driving under the influence, or simply incompetent, it renders the driver as well as the operator liable for bus accident injuries that may occur. In most cases, bus drivers receive safety training and know to follow the rules of the road to keep their passengers safe.

But there are always exceptions.

Some drivers follow other large vehicles too closely, as what recently occurred on I-95. In that instance, the 18-wheeler had been cut by another vehicle, forcing the big rig to suddenly brake. The bus behind the truck also braked on time. Unfortunately, the bus behind the first bus was following too closely and rammed the first bus, sending it forward to ram the truck. The car, which was following the second bus, was also unable to stop on time.

Both the second bus and the motorist may be considered liable for bus accident injuries that occurred in this instance, but that is something to be determined after investigation.

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Steps for Requesting Visitation Modification in California

The court’s decision regarding custodial arrangements is not set in stone. As a child gets older, or the situation changes for one or both parents, it may be necessary or desirable to make a request for visitation modification. In fact, parents in California may find that they will need to make changes to the custodial agreement every 3 years or so. This is easy enough to do if the child’s parents are in accord, but it there is a problem reaching an agreement, it may be necessary to get legal assistance in filing for a visitation modification in a court in California.

When requesting for a formal visitation modification, the first thing the requesting parent has to do is to provide documentation showing why the changes are necessary to serve the best interest of the child. If the change in circumstances only affect the parent and not the child, it is harder to get the court’s approval for visitation modification as it is the priority of California courts to encourage a consistent and stable parenting arrangement.

To go ahead with requesting for visitation modification in a California court, the requesting parent needs to:

  1. Fill out Form FL-300 (Request for Order) and optionally Form FL-341 (Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment). These will detail the proposed new arrangement
  2. Have the form/s checked out by a qualified lawyer experienced in visitation modification requests to ensure everything is correctly filled out
  3. Make copies of the forms for keeping, sending to the other parent and submission to the court
  4. Submit the form/s to the court clerk and pay the filing fee
  5. Receive two copies stamped “Filed” and a court date, or a mediator date if required
  6. Have someone else serve the other parent in person or by mail with the filed application and Form FL-320 (Responsive Declaration to Request for Order) at least 16 days prior to the assigned court date, depending on if Item 4 and “Court Order” boxes of your Form FL-300 are checked. If they are, the papers must be served in person
  7. Have the server file a properly filled out Form FL-330 (Proof of Service) or Form FL-335 (Proof of Service by Mail)
  8. Determine if attendance to mediation orientation or child custody recommending counseling is necessary
  9. Attend court hearing or mediation, whichever is applicable

Forms that may be useful

  • Form FL-341(A)- Supervised Visitation Order
  • Form FL-341(B) – Child Abduction Prevention Order Attachment
  • FormFL-341(C) – Children’s Holiday Schedule Attachment
  • Form FL-341(D) – Physical Custody Attachment Form
  • FL-341(E) – Joint Legal Custody Attachment

There is a lot of work that goes into getting a visitation schedule modified. Being aware of the legal process involved can help you improve your chances of getting the desired outcome.

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The Blame Game in Railroad Crossing Accidents

Railroad tracks and trains are privately owned and operated, so railroad companies are wholly responsible for the safety and maintenance of both tracks and their trains. According to the website of Detroit law firm Ravid and Associates, P.C., trains continue to provide reliable and safe transportation for many Michigan residents, and railroad crossing accidents are comparatively rare. However, when they do occur, the results can be devastating. A motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a train collision than in one with another car, even when the train is moving at 30 mph.

Railroad companies still tend to blame victims of railroad crossing accidents, but the fact is most of these incidents occur due to the lack of or defects in safety systems such as flashing lights, gates, and warning signals. The predictions are the precursors for pinpointing which intersections need improvement, including studying sight lines, vegetation growth and better signs.

In most cases, people respect and obey railroad crossing signs and victims could have avoided being involved in accidents if they had enough warning or if the safety systems worked properly. It is not unheard of for railroad companies to cover up their own negligence when railroad crossing accidents occur. A 2004 report from the New York Times reveals how some companies lose or mishandle evidence that is crucial to an accident investigation to avoid liability. Many of these victims live within 25 miles of the scene of the accident, and in the last 20 years in excess of 6,500 people have died as a result of railroad crossing accidents.

If you suffered an injury or someone close to you died as a result of the negligence or carelessness of others, you need to bring your case to a personal injury lawyer in your area. If possible, take your own steps to preserve evidence in railroad crossing accidents that may help you and your lawyer in proving your personal injury claim.

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Social Security Benefits for Those Living with a Disability

Living with a disability can be financially challenging, as it may be difficult to receive the treatment you need while continuing to support yourself and your family.  Often, individuals with disabilities are unable to work at all, in which case, maintaining financial stability may seem all but impossible.
Fortunately, the Social Security Administration has several programs in place to support those who are in need of financial assistance after a disability has made it difficult or impossible for them to work.  By applying for Social Security disability benefits, many people may be able to secure the assistance they need to make ends meet despite their inability to continue working.

How Social Security Disability Benefits Work

If a person is unable to continue working because of an injury or illness, they may qualify for Social Security benefits.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a list of disabilities that commonly qualify for financial support, which includes:

  • Herniated discs
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Arthritis
  • Epilepsy
  • Blindness
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Immune system deficiencies

These are by no means the only issues that may qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits, but if you are unable to work because of any of the conditions listed above, it may be worthwhile for you to look into filing for Social Security disability benefits.

Once a person has applied for benefits, they can expect to hear back within a short amount of time.  Frustratingly, in many cases, applicants will receive an initial rejection letter, however there are multiple levels of appeals available to those in need.  If your application is rejected, do not give up and do not reapply. Instead, you should appeal the initial rejection. Social Security applications are complicated and often require several appeals before they are approved.

Improving Your Odds

If you are interested in applying for Social Security disability benefits and want to simplify the application process as much as possible, the following tips may be helpful:

  • Keep your medical records handy—The more information you can provide the SSA, the easier it will be to prove your disability and get things filed completely on your first submission.
  • Stay persistent—The process can take months to complete, but by following up with your application and appealing any rejections, you may be able to secure the assistance you need.
  • Consider working with a professional—A Social Security Disability lawyer can help you and your loved ones deal with this challenging process and keep you up to date with any issues as they arise.

A successful Social Security disability claim can make it much easier for you to make ends meet despite being unable to work, so it is worth it to stay persistent even if you aren’t approved right away.

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Aggressive Behavior in Dogs

Although dogs are the most popular pet in the United States, they can act aggressively in certain situations. Recognizing aggressive behavior in dogs can help to keep yourself and your loved ones safe around a potentially dangerous dog. Some people believe that certain breeds are the only dogs that will act aggressively, but in reality, any dog can react in an aggressive manner to something it views as threatening.

Recognizing Dangerous Dog Behavior

It is important for everyone to recognize possible signs of aggression. If a dog is displaying signs of aggression, a person should move away from the dog and avoid confronting it. Some of the most common signs of aggression include:

  • Repeatedly showing teeth to an owner, visitors, or other animals
  • Showing signs of protectiveness over food or toys
  • Growling or whining when stranger or strange dogs approach
  • Snapping or biting

These do not necessarily mean that a dog is going to harm you, but they are behaviors that should be taken seriously.

Types of Aggression

Dogs can act aggressively for many reasons. The following are some different types of aggressions:

  • Territorial Aggression—Dogs are instinctively protective of their home, yard, and anything they consider a “safe space.” When others get too near to their territory, they may act aggressively towards the intruder.
  • Possession Aggression—Protecting items that the dog views as theirs can lead to aggressive behavior. Often, dogs are overprotective of treats and food, but the behavior can be triggered by anything.
  • Dominant Aggression—When feeling threatened by another dog or person, some dogs will attempt to prove dominance in the pack.
  • Fear Aggression—When dogs are afraid, their instincts may tell them to fight the thing that is frightening them.
  • Punishment Aggression—Dogs that are being punished may be afraid for their well-being or unhappy that their toy was taken away. This can sometimes trigger aggressive actions.
  • Predatory Aggression—When a dog’s instincts to hunt are triggered, their aggression levels may increase. They can be triggered by joggers, squirrels, or anything else that is running away from them.
  • Maternal Aggression—Mother dogs may react aggressively towards people or animals that approach their litter. This behavior is instinctual and intended to protect their babies.

Whether you are visiting friends, hanging out at the park, or observing your own pup, understanding the possible causes of aggressive behavior may help you to avoid an unnecessary injury. Teaching your children and loved ones the importance of recognizing this type of behavior can also help them to stay safe around dogs they are unfamiliar with.

Victims of dog bites may have the right to file claims against the owner of the dog for failing to control their pet. Often, these cases are intended to provide the victim with financial compensation for the costs of their medical treatment and other expenses. By working with a dog bite lawyer, victims may be able to take the legal action needed to protect their rights.

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Living with a Visitation or Custody Schedule

Raising children after a divorce can be overwhelming and fraught with a mixture of excitement and frustration for anyone; however, there are a number of unique matters which must be considered and dealt with that can make various times of the year particularly difficult.

For parents sharing custody or with visitation schedules, one of the most important issues to be considered is how these schedules and time with the children will be affected over the various holidays that crop up through the year, including summer vacation. While this can cause a great deal of anxiety, it can be made easier by employing the following tips:

  • Have a detailed, pre-planned parenting plan to work from – whether this is a plan that was developed during divorce proceedings (and every divorced parent should have one of these) or a modified plan that better fits you and your ex-spouse’s current lifestyles, any divorce lawyer will advise you to make sure you always have a parenting plan in place prior to starting the holidays. This way, you, your spouse, and your children can easily know where the kids will be and what to expect. This often cuts down on tension and arguments, and makes everything much easier on the children.
  • Make plans as far in advance as possible – if you plan on going on vacation or visiting other family members, whether you have the children or not, make sure these plans are made ahead of time as much as possible. That way everyone else can know where you will be and plan accordingly. This also gives children more structure, which is important.
  • Make sure to keep all involved parties informed of changes/needs – should issues arise or plans change, make sure everyone who is involved is told of these problems and changes, from your ex-spouse and the kids to a required third party (if you have supervised visitation). Even if these changes don’t directly affect your visitation or parenting time, the other parties should be aware of things that could potentially cause changes.
  • Start new traditions – holidays are full of family traditions, whether it’s taking a road trip in the summer, going caroling on the first week of December, or any other traditions your family may have. However, there may be many of these traditions that cannot happen at all or have to be modified because the whole family can’t be together or you do not have your children on certain dates. This can be very upsetting for children, particularly if the parents make a big deal about it. As such, being positive and starting new traditions that better suit you and your children’s new lifestyle can immensely help with the transition and ease tensions.
  • Focus on the holidays themselves, not the dates – children get excited about the holidays, rather than the actual dates. So if you can’t see your children exactly on the 25th of December for Christmas, but have to wait until the 27th, make sure to focus on celebrating the holiday and being together. That way the children won’t feel upset or pressured because they weren’t able to see you and those they love on certain days.

Whether you utilize these or other tips to help you after a divorce, it’s always important to remember to do what you can to make the holidays a happy and enjoyable time for yourself and your family.

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