Bankruptcy Saved my Family — Can it Save Yours?

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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Keeping Your Small Business’s Intellectual Assets Safe

You’ve put a lot of work into your startup and the products and services that you offer. The time to start protecting your assets is at the very start of your business. You don’t want to see a competitor come out with a product that you’re still designing. Here are the areas of your business that you need to keep safe.

Partner Agreements

As your business evolves, you’ll likely work with a number of other businesses. These partners will become a major part of the team you need to get products out onto the market. But these partners can also be a threat if your intellectual assets aren’t protected. A lawyer specializing in negotiating and creating partner agreements will keep both you and your partners safe. Noncompete and nondisclosure agreements make sure that vital information stays within the working relationship of all partners.

Patent and Trademark Applications

Patents keep your ideas from being copied by competitors. A patent lawyer will advise you as to what products and concepts can be patented. Items must be unique and useful to be eligible for a patent. Products or processes that are an obvious solution fall into the category of common use and can’t be patented. This is why it’s important to get a legal specialist involved in any patent applications.

Trademarks tag symbols, words, or phrases to your company and are a part of your branding efforts. Establish your trademarks early to prevent having to change branding material because someone already has something trademarked. Lock down those phrases and images that help consumers recognize your company.

Employment Agreements

Your small business employees have access to all of your intellectual property. At times, you may use part-time or contract help. You need a human resources consultant to put together employment agreements to protect your information from being shared outside of the company.

Import and Export Licenses

When you extend your products and services globally, you’ll be faced with regulations in other countries. A consultant knowledgeable in import/export laws will make sure that you’re compliant with all of the regulations without disclosing too much about the business.

There are several ways that your business information can end up outside of your company and in the hands of people who want to take advantage of you. Protecting the above areas of your company will give you some confidence that your business is safe while you are growing and seeking your own niche in the market. Contact a patent lawyer, such as one from Kaufhold & Dix Patent Law, to learn more.

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Time For The Divorce Settlement: 4 Ways To Help The Negotiations

You’ve reached the point of no return. It’s time to file for divorce. The last thing you want is a long, drawn-out process. So, you’re going to do everything in your power to help the negotiations go as smoothly as possible. Here are four steps you can take to eliminate the headaches.

Start Small

Going into negotiations, you’re going to want every round to be a win for you. Unfortunately, so will your spouse. Instead of going for the big issues right away, start on the small details. Starting with something small – that you know you can win – will help you build your confidence before you head on to the big ticket items on your list.

It’s also important to note that giving up on a small issue can be to your advantage, especially early in the negotiations. For instance, relinquishing on a small issue may make it easier to win on a larger one later on.

Stay Focused

It’s important that you stay focused on the big picture – whatever that may be. Keeping your focus on the issues that are most important to you will help avoid pitfalls. For instance, if you have children, you want to keep your mind on custody issues. If you start getting side-tracked during negotiations, make a list of your priorities. Go back to that list whenever you feel yourself losing focus again.

Acknowledge Concessions

You’re expecting a battle on a major issue. You’re surprised when your spouse concedes without a fight. Acknowledge that concession. It may take every ounce of pride you have left to make the acknowledgement, but it makes future negotiations easier. Not only that, but if negotiations break down and you end up in court, it will look better for you if you have attempted to keep things amicable.

Avoid Heat of the Moment Decisions

Don’t let emotions get in the way of your negotiations. If you have to make a decision that is difficult to make, it’s okay to ask for additional time. No one expects you to make decisions in the heat of the moment. In fact, that’s discouraged.

Making decisions in the heat of the moment can lead to problems later, especially if you were dealing with feelings of guilt or depression. Before you reach a decision, ask for a break. Walk away for a moment and regroup.

Divorce is never easy. However, negotiations that go smoothly can eliminate many of the stressful moments that divorce proceedings often bring with them. These simple tips will help your negotiations go more smoothly. For more advice, speak to a divorce attorney, such as those at the Law Office of Jared T. Amos.

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Four Things Not To Do Before Declaring Bankruptcy

If you plan to declare bankruptcy in the next few months, there are certain financial moves that you should think twice before doing. While bad financial decisions could lead to bankruptcy, these bad moves could prevent you from getting the debt relief provided by a successful bankruptcy. Most of the four following items involve not so much the act itself, but the timing. Pay special attention the four following things not to do before you file for bankruptcy.

1.  Frivolous Luxury Spending

Your recent credit card use could come under close scrutiny if you charged certain unneeded items in the period leading up to your filing. To be specific, charges of more than $650.00 within 90 days of filing. If you can show that the items charged were necessary, the creditor’s may withdraw their objection. For instance, charging a car repair so that you can get to work or get your children to school is an allowable use, charging a $2000.00 window tinting job would likely be considered a luxury expense, and disallowed.

2.  Cash From A Credit Card

Taking a cash advance from a credit card will also draw attention from your creditors and the bankruptcy trustee, and possibly trigger a disallowance. Since cash use is difficult to trace, don’t withdraw more than $925.00 in total in the 70 days prior to filing. This amount is not per card, it’s $925.00 in total.

3.  Playing Favorites

From the bankruptcy trustee’s prospective, the process of bankruptcy includes a fair distribution of any available assets. Ensure that you don’t pay more than $600.00 of a debt to any one creditor in the 90 days before you file. The term creditor here could mean any credit card, bank, business associate, relative or friend. Doing so could cause a “take back”, enabling the bankruptcy courts to create a more equitable distribution of debt.

4.  Property Transactions

If the bankruptcy court suspects you of intentionally hiding assets, you may be liable for criminal charges. Each state has specific rules about the amount and length of time allowed between the giving or selling of assets before bankruptcy filing. The court is particularly interested in property that appears to have been sold at below-market value.

Many of the above situations have state-specific rules, so consult with your bankruptcy lawyer to avoid running afoul of the laws of your state. With your attorney’s advice, you may need to delay your filing for a few months in order to comply with good pre-bankruptcy behavior. Get an experienced bankruptcy professional to help you get your debts forgiven in an ethical and legal manner, and get started on your fresh financial future.

To learn more, visit a website like

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How to Handle a Workers’ Comp Claim

If you are interested in pursuing a workers’ comp claim, then you’ll need to take a couple of basic steps. First of all, you’re going to need to ensure that your injury actually qualifies for workers’ comp.

So what injuries qualify?

Not all workplace injuries are created equal. In order for your injury to be a valid basis for a workers’ comp claim, you will need to prove that your injury was due to the fault of someone besides yourself or your employer. For instance, if you are exposed to toxic substances during the course of your employment without being properly warned, then you have an excellent chance of successfully filing for workers’ comp.

However, injuries where you are at fault are probably not valid. If you disregarded warnings or if you endangered yourself unnecessarily, then the chances of winning are pretty slim. It can be pretty difficult to draw the line regarding which injuries qualify and which do not. Therefore, you should hire an expert to determine how good your chances are of winning workers’ comp with your injury.

What kind of expert?

A workers’ compensation attorney is your best bet in this situation. These lawyers have extensive experience in the field, which means that they can be of great service to you. A workers’ comp attorney consultation will generally tell you what your chances of winning are, and how much you can expect to win. On top of that, they might even be able to discuss the topic of a lawsuit with you.

Can you sue after getting workers’ comp?

By definition, workers’ comp prevents you from suing your employer. In this sense, workers’ comp exists to protect your employer from public relations damage and to prevent lengthy lawsuits. However, in some cases, you might actually stand to make more money by filing a lawsuit rather than workers’ comp.

Depending on the exact nature of your injury, your employer might be willing to pay far too little in a workers’ comp payout. In these cases, your only chance of covering medical expenses and lost wages might be a lawsuit for a much larger sum. However, lawsuits also have a couple key downsides relative to workers’ comp claims.

Lawsuits take a lot longer to complete than a workers’ comp claim. If you desperate need money after being injured, then a lawsuit might simply take far too long to cover your medical bills. On top of that, lawsuits are a whole lot more expensive that workers’ comp claims. Due to their increased length, you will need to pay an attorney a lot more money for lawsuits. In the end, you might not even win the lawsuit, which could leave you deeply in debt. For more information on workers’ comp, visit sites like

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3 Ways to Protect Your Small Business Trademark

Does your small business have a trademarked name, slogan, or other piece of marketing language? A trademark can be a great way to protect your brand and your ideas. However, a trademark is effective only if you take the time to protect it. The U.S. Trademark Office isn’t going to monitor your trademark for you. If you don’t take action to monitor and protect your trademark, then it’s almost as if you don’t have a trademark at all. Fortunately, there are at least three effective steps you can take to easily monitor your trademark and keep it unique to you:

Set up an online alert system. Perhaps the easiest and most effective step you can take is to set up an alert system on your favorite search engine. Nearly every major search engine has this functionality. You set up a news alert for your trademarked language. Then if that language appears anywhere online, you get an email alert. Some uses could just be coincidental and others may be legitimate uses of your trademarked language, so you’ll need to research uses before you fire off cease-and-desist letters. Still, though, you’ll at least be aware if the trademarked language is appearing anywhere online.

Use a monitoring service. Of course, your trademark may be so valuable that you want more in-depth coverage than just a news alert. In that case, you may want to hire a monitoring service. They’ll watch online just like a search engine alert system. However, they’ll also monitor trademark filings to see if anyone is attempting to trademark any language similar to yours.

They can also advise you on whether to pursue a cease-and-desist or whether a usage is legitimate. If you need to take action, they can help you do so, or refer you to an experienced trademark attorney.

Hire a trademark attorney. It’s possible that you may find someone using your trademarked language and you send a cease-and-desist letter, only to find out that it is the other party, and not you, who has the senior, legitimate claim. That can be frustrating and can do serious damage to your trademark.

Instead, work with a trademark attorney from the start. They can help you determine whether your name or slogan is unique and whether you have legitimate claim on the trademark. They can also help you with all paperwork and make sure that your trademark application goes through without a hitch.

For more information, talk to a trademark lawyer in your area, like one from Altman & Martin. They can help you protect your name, slogan, and other branding language.

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Probate And Adopted Children

Experts estimate that about 135,000 children are adopted each year in the United States alone. While bringing an adopted child into your home can be beneficial, adoption often presents some unique problems when it comes to inheritance.

In order to ensure that your adopted child is provided for in the event of your death, here are three circumstances you should prepare for when planning your estate.

1. Adopting a child that is not related to you.

Making the choice to adopt a child you have no relation to can be exciting. Many couples find that these types of adoptions provide a way for them to build their family when traditional pregnancy methods fail.

Fortunately, the law recognizes adopted parents as the sole parents of any non-related children who have been adopted. Work with your attorney to establish a valid will, and your adopted child will be taken care of according to your wishes after your passing.

2. Adopting a child from a relative.

Sometimes adoptions occur because one relative doesn’t have the ability to provide for a child. Another relative, like a grandmother or aunt, will take custody of the child through the adoption process. In these types of adoptions, it is essential that you have filed the necessary termination of parental rights paperwork.

Both biological parents must typically agree to give up their rights as a parent, and having documentation will allow your attorney to include your adopted relative as a beneficiary in your estate.

3. Adopting your spouse’s child.

Blended families are becoming more common in today’s social landscape. If you want to ensure that your stepchild will be provided for in the event of your death, completing the adoption process can be beneficial. In order to include your stepchild in your will, you must have your spouses ex terminate his or her parental rights. If this proves to be a difficult task, you can have parental rights terminated by a court of law.

You need to prove that your spouse’s ex has abandoned the child through lack of communication, prove that your spouse’s ex is unfit to be a parent due to lack of resources, or show that the father (where applicable) listed on the child’s birth certificate is not the real father in order to terminate parental rights. Once this process is complete, you can validate your adoption and include your stepchild in your estate plans.

Being able to provide for an adopted child after your death doesn’t have to be difficult. Take the time to identify the type of adoption arrangements you have made, and then work with your attorney to take the steps necessary to include your adopted child in the estate planning process.

To learn more, contact a law firm like Gruber & Associates, PC

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