Bankruptcy Saved my Family — Can it Save Yours?

What You Should Know If You Find Out That A Previous Marriage Is Still Valid

If you’ve heard of the popular television reality show that follows four women married to the same man, you may wonder how their marriages are legal. The simple answer is that they aren’t. Only one woman is legally married to the husband in the relationship and the others are defined as spiritual unions. Just the same, the state of Utah investigated the family, putting them under threat of criminal prosecution and jail time. Why are anti-bigamy laws so serious? What happens if you find yourself in a bigamous relationship by accident?

Why is bigamy a crime?

Bigamy is generally considered a crime against the government, rather than a crime against an individual. Legal marriage also confers other entitlements, such as Social Security spousal benefits and citizenship through marriage.

Because of the importance of the legal marriage contract, penalties for bigamy can include and heavy fines and substantial jail time. In the Utah case, for example, each wife could have served five years in prison and the husband could have served twenty.

While the law in Utah is still being disputed in court on appeal, the criminal laws of most states only address situations where someone has two or more (supposedly) legal marriage certificates and intentionally entered into a bigamous relationship. People who merely claim to be married spiritually aren’t generally at risk of prosecution, nor are those who are in accidental bigamous relationships.

How does an accidental bigamous marriage happen?

In some states, in order to get married a second time, you have to give definitive proof that you are divorced or that your previous spouse died. However, not every state has this requirement, which has caused some people to enter into a bigamous relationship because they didn’t realize that their first divorce wasn’t finalized. It often happens when one spouse takes responsibility for filing the final paperwork with the courthouse and never does. A spouse who was missing and presumed dead might also resurface after a number of years, very much alive. 

Occasionally, one spouse purposefully hides a previous, still existing marriage from the other spouse. In that case, the spouse doing the deceiving is guilty of bigamy, but the innocent spouse is only accidentally in a bigamous relationship.

What should you do if you find out that you’re in a bigamous marriage?

If you find out that you or your spouse has another, still valid, marriage somewhere else, you have more than one option. The previous marriage automatically invalidates your current marriage, so you can technically walk away without doing anything (if you are so inclined). However, that could present problems if you have financial entanglements or children with your current spouse. You could also run into problems down the line if you seek to remarry. Even though your current marriage isn’t valid, there would still be a marriage on record and you’d be required to prove that it wasn’t valid to avoid possible charges of bigamy yourself.

If you intend to leave the marriage, you might consider getting a formal annulment. While an annulment is really just a legal declaration that your bigamous relationship is null and void (which you already know), going through the process provides you with the proof you might need later to show that the marriage was invalid. The process of annulment can also be used to ask the court to rule on things like child custody, child support, and the separation of property. 

If you intend to stay in the marriage, the first thing to do is to find out what needs to be done to end the other marriage. In some states, once the divorce from the other spouse is finalized, your current marriage is automatically validated. In other states, you’ll have to get a new marriage license and remarry.

If you find out that you’re in a bigamous relationship, contact a family law attorney like The Law Office Of James R. Kennedy Jr. to discuss all the possible legal ramification and for advice on how to proceed.

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2 Very Useful Services Offered By A Divorce Attorney

Divorce attorneys can be some of the most useful and versatile legal professionals available, mostly because of the many services that they can provide you both during and after a divorce. Listed below are two very useful services offered by a divorce lawyer.

Mediation Services

A divorce will often be one of the more traumatic, time-consuming, and expensive legal situations that most people will every experience. However, a divorce attorney can often help alleviate some of those issues if you and your future ex are on at least civil terms with one another. If you and your future ex are capable of being civil with one another and able to be in the same room without screaming and fighting, then many attorneys will recommend mediation services. 

These mediation services will require you, your future ex, and the lawyers for both sides to sit in a room and negotiate the divorce terms. It is expected that every detail of the divorce agreement will be hashed out in this meeting so that the completed agreement can be submitted to a judge for his or her approval. For example, the mediation meetings will cover alimony, child support, child custody, visitation right, and distribution of any marital assets.

This can make the divorce process go so much faster as once the judge approves the mediation agreement then the divorce is finalized. This is definitely a great option if you want to avoid months of adversarial court issues and expenses.

Divorce Agreement Enforcement

Another useful service that can be provided by a divorce attorney is assistance enforcing the divorce agreement once the divorce has been finalized. This is useful because it is extremely common for an ex to refuse to comply with the agreed upon divorce terms. For example, your ex may be refusing to turn over a portion of the marital assets, hiding marital assets, violating the child custody arrangement, or refusing to pay alimony or child support.

In all of those situations, you can contact your lawyer who will be able to get in touch with a judge in order to get a court order that will help enforce the divorce terms. In the case of hidden assets, the judge may order that the assets be sold and a portion of the proceeds be paid to you. When it comes to refusal to pay child or spousal support, the judge’s court order may permit the start of wage garnishment. 

Sit down with a divorce attorney today in order to discuss the many services that he or she can offer you. These attorneys can provide assistance through mediation for the divorce proceeding or by enforcing a divorce agreement if your ex is being difficult once the divorce is finalized. 

For more information, visit sites like

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2 Tips For Getting Medical Expenses Covered For A Car Accident That You Were Not At-Fault

If you are involved in a car accident, then you may experience both damage to your car and bodily injury. If you were not at fault for the car accident, then the other driver’s insurance company should take care of your medical expenses. The amount that the insurance decides to cover depends on how severe your injuries are. Injuries with longer-lasting effects will require a larger payout. Use the tips below to make sure that the other driver’s insurance company takes care of your medical expenses after a car accident.

Get a Thorough Examination Immediately After the Accident

If you are involved in a mild car accident, then you may not notice any medical issues immediately after the accident. Even if you do not feel pain or notice any open wounds, it is important to go to the hospital and get checked out by a doctor. There are a number of injuries that may not be apparent right after the car accident, but they may surface few months down the road. If these medical conditions begin to surface in the future, then you can use the initial examination as proof that those injuries and issues were caused by the accident. If you fail to get a medical examination immediately after an accident, then you will have to find an alternate way to prove that the car accident caused your injuries.

Save Proof of All of Your Medical Expenses

Most medical expenses incurred inside of a hospital should be covered by the insurance company. In addition, if you have Medicare, then your insurance will typically cover medical expenses incurred outside of the hospital, including in-home care. As a result, it is important to save proof of all medical expenses that you experience after the accident. For example, if you have to purchase heating pads from the store due to the injury, you should save the store receipts. Use these receipts as proof when you decide to file your claim.

Medical expenses from a car accident can easily add up. This is especially true if you do not have medical insurance or if you have a bare-bones policy. As a result, use these tips to ensure that the at-fault driver’s insurance will cover all of your medical costs from a car accident injury caused by another person’s negligence.

To get more tips on seeking medical compensation after a car accident, contact a car accident law firm like The Best and Westover. 

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Here’s What Happens If You Hide Assets During A Bankruptcy

The bankruptcy system is designed so that creditors receive an equal opportunity to receive a portion of the debtor’s assets. However, there are some debtors who find a way to exploit the system to use it in a manner that it was not intended, which is considered a form of fraud. One of the most common forms of fraud is when you try to hide your assets and doing so can have a negative impact on your bankruptcy case and can lead to a criminal prosecution.

Advisory Proceedings

If there is evidence that you were trying to hide your assets, the trustee may choose to file a lawsuit known as an advisory proceeding. Your discharge could be revoked entirely. Also, if the property is discovered, the property can be recovered even if it is in the possession of someone else.

Temporary Injunctions

Sometimes, the asset is being depleted rapidly and an advisory proceeding is not rapid enough. For example, you may have hidden money that you are rapidly trying to spend. The courts can choose to file a temporary injunction that can halt the transfer of the assets. The trustee will simply need to demonstrate evidence that the asset is being depleted before the temporary injunction can be granted. If you have not filed for bankruptcy yet, you will need to wait at least two years before you file for bankruptcy to avoid being accused of bankruptcy fraud. You can sell your asset with the intention of using the profit to pay off creditors. However, if you sell the asset for less than what it is worth, this can also be considered fraud. It is best to leave your trustee responsible for selling your assets to pay off creditors.

Proving That You Accidentally Hid An Asset

If you have concealed assets, the next step for investigators is to determine if you knowingly concealed assets. For example, you might have failed to report assets that you simply forgot about. The most common assets to forget are those that you have not yet received. For instance, you might have lottery winnings that you have not yet received a payment for because the state paying for the earnings is insolvent. Also, if you co-own property and the property is in the possession of the other owner, you may forget that you also owned the property. If you can demonstrate that you did not knowingly conceal your assets, with the help of a bankruptcy attorney like Collins Toner & Rusen, you may be able to avoid prosecution.

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What Are The Main Causes Of Mass Incarceration In The United States?

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world, with over one and one half million individuals presently incarcerated and additional millions involved in some way with the criminal justice system.

Federal and state sentencing mandates and policing policies, along with the privatization of many prisons, have led to an ever increasing problem of mass incarceration and its results on both the incarcerated and the vulnerable communities that are most affected.

 Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

Spurred by the crack cocaine epidemic that was wreaking havoc in impoverished urban areas in the 1980’s, the act of congress imposed tough mandatory minimum sentences for mostly non-violent drug offenses.

Possession of five grams of crack cocaine, which was predominantly used in poor African American communities, was given the same penalty as possession of five hundred grams of powder cocaine, which is the form preferred by affluent Caucasian users.

The possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs could also lead to long prison sentences mandated by the minimum mandatory guidelines imposed by Congress that essentially took the power of sentencing from judges and juries.

While criminal law attorneys could not even inform juries of mandatory minimum sentencing during a trial, some attorneys developed techniques such as questioning their accused client about how much jail time they expected to receive if found guilty of the relatively minor offense. This informed the jury indirectly of the disproportionate jail time the accused would receive for something as simple as possession of a small amount of marijuana, in the hope that they would refuse to convict.

Zero tolerance policing

Instituted by Rudy Giuliani, the newly elected mayor of New York City, in the 1990’s as a method of reducing crime, this approach focuses on arrests and prosecution for petty crimes. Offences such as loitering, prostitution, and possession of small amounts of drugs were thought to contribute to overall decay, scaring away law abiding citizens and attracting serious offenders to an area.

Crime rates in New York City did plummet dramatically, leading other major cities to adopt these policies in the hope of having the same success. Whether the adoption of zero tolerance policing or the eventual decline of the crack epidemic that began in the 1980’s led to the reduction in violent crime, zero tolerance policing did lead to the arrest of hundreds of thousands of individuals for minor offenses.

Some of these cases were never prosecuted, but many individuals that were caught up in these mass arrests were incarcerated and obtained criminal convictions, which caused them to lose their current jobs or face difficulties in finding employment. Individuals with drug convictions are also barred from federal student loan programs.

Because this type of policing was used predominantly in poor, marginalized communities, distrust of the police and further deterioration of family structure occurred.

Criminal law attorneys can help clients to expunge their criminal records for minor non-felonious offences by filing requests for expungement or by requesting that their client enter a drug counseling program if they are facing a misdemeanor drug charge. Either option will seal their records to allow them access to employment or to federal student loan programs. 

Speak to a criminal law attorney or learn more here.

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3 Things Step-Parents Should Know About Divorce

In fiction, step-parents often get a bad rap – think of the wicked stepmother archetype that exists in a number of children’s fairy tales. In real life, step-parents are often important and much-loved figures in the lives of their step-children, which can make a divorce in a blended family an especially wrenching affair. That step relationship can also become legally complicated. If you’re a step-parent who’s headed for divorce court, take a look at what the laws say about your relationship with your step-children.

Before a Divorce

Many people mistakenly believe that a step-parent has no legal rights or responsibilities to their partner’s children, even during the marriage. However, that’s not entirely true. Usually, step-parents are obliged to act in loco parentis (in lieu of a parent) when the biological parent is not around. That means that you have the same authority and the same duty of care as the biological parents when those biological parents are not around.

Furthermore, in some states you may be required by law to provide financial support to your step children. At least 20 states have a statute addressing this responsibility. In some states, like Delaware, the requirement exists only if the biological parents are unable to support the children. For example, if your spouse loses their job, you’re obligated to support your spouse’s children the same way that you’d support your mutual children. These laws recognize that step-parents and step-children are not legal strangers – they do have a recognizable relationship. However, things may change with divorce.

Custody and Visitation

It’s understandable that you might want to continue a relationship with children that you’ve been living with and caring for, possibly for most of their lives. You should know up-front that the chances of a step-parent being awarded custody are very slim. Even if your spouse is an unfit parent, family court would most likely try to place the child with the other biological parent or a biological family member before considering a step-parent. With that said, custody is a remote possibility in unusual cases.

What is likely more achievable is visitation. Technically speaking, a divorce puts you back into the category of a legal stranger to your step-children. However, the job of a family court judge is to issue a ruling in the best interest of the children. The child’s best interest trumps all other considerations.

 If you can show that spending time with you is in your step-child’s best interest, you may be able to win visitation. You’ll have an especially good chance if the child also wants the visitation. Step and half-siblings may also enter into the equation – no judge wants to destroy a sibling bond, so if there are mutual children that you may get custody of, or you brought children of your own into the marriage who bonded with your step-children, then a judge may grant custody in the interest of preserving the sibling relationship.

Child Support

Just as step-parents are rarely awarded custody, they are also rarely ordered to pay child support. Legally speaking, you’re no more obligated to support your step-children than you are to support your next-door neighbor’s children. The main exception to this rule is called the Estoppel Doctrine. This doctrine basically says that if you renege on a promise to the child and that broken promise financially harms the child, you may be ordered to pay child support. This only applies if you assumed the role of a parent and provided financial support, if you interfered with the child’s relationship with their biological parent, and if the child relies on your financial support.

More commonly, step-parents may end up paying child support by mutual agreement. For example, you could offer child support to your spouse in exchange for visitation rights. If you both agree on it, those stipulations can be written into the divorce decree.

Because divorcing as a step-parent can be complicated – particularly if you want to maintain a relationship with your step-children – you need good legal representation. An experienced family law attorney in your area can help you figure out your legal rights. 

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Holy Evidence: Do Courts Always Forbid Priests From Repeating What’s Said In A Private Confession?

Whether you’re the plaintiff or the defendant in a criminal case, if it involves a member of the clergy, you may be misinformed about their role as a witness or confused about  the admissibility of their testimony as evidence.

Clergy-parishioner privilege protects certain conversations.

Some conversations between you and your priest, rabbi, or imam are considered confidential and protected. This means that your religious leader can’t be ordered to testify against you or report what you say in a private, confessional conversation.

Even though clergy are considered mandatory reporters in the case of child abuse and are offered no immunity for failing to report in some states, they sometimes skirt their duty to report by claiming confessional privilege. “We may want to tell the authorities,” they say, “but our church doctrine forbids us from violating the sacred trust of the clergy-parishioner relationship.”

Courts and laws have recently challenged the admissibility of confessional evidence.

The priest-congregant privilege is being challenged, however, by some state courts. Recently the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a civil lawsuit against a Catholic priest could continue. The priest is being accused of not reporting abuse, and the case has been appealed several times based on the lower courts’ interpretations of what is considered confessional in nature and what is considered legally admissible in court.

The Roman Catholic Church is one of the religions that will excommunicate any member of their clergy who violates the Seal of Confession, which is their law against priests revealing anything said by a parishioner in the confessional booth. They argue that the courts are trying to force the priest to violate church law, but higher courts have ruled that since the teenager waived her right to keep her conversations with the priest confidential, he can not now claim the privilege for himself.

Each state has its own rules concerning who can waive the confidentiality privilege.

Most faiths do not have strict punishments in place for revealing confessional communications, and require their clergy to report abuse even when that abuse is admitted to in a private setting. Clergy are free to waive the confidentiality privilege if they choose regardless of their religious institution’s laws. You, as an actor in a two-party conversation with a member of the clergy, also have the right to waive the privilege of confidentiality.

However, the court may rule that information shared during a confessional situation is still not admissible as evidence even after one or both parties waive confidentiality. Some states require both parties to waive their privilege, while some states allow only one party to waive the privilege before conversations are legally allowed to be entered as evidence.

Because the rules vary from state to state, you should get solid legal counsel on the admissibility of clergy testimony specific to your court case. Consult an attorney (such as Fadely Lewis PLLC) who is familiar with clergy-parishioner privilege in the state where your case will be handled.

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