Friday, December 6, 2013

I'm still here....

It's been quite a long time since I've posted anything and I apologize for that.  Since the last post, I've moved the office across the street.  It is a bigger space and more cost efficient.  That, of course, means savings for my clients as well.

There is a lot going on in the legal world and I will start by sharing a very informative article from the Illinois State Bar Association regarding the new Illinois Conceal Carry requirements.  Check it out and then feel free to contact me with any questions!

Illinois Conceal Carry

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The dangers of DCFS

I can imagine that an encounter with DCFS is every parent's nightmare.  I mean, sure, when I was young, I would get smart with my mom and threaten to call DCFS.  She was so horrible!  She was punishing me for crazy things like telling a lie or not doing as I was told...the horror!  Her comeback always was go ahead, they can have you!  Of course, we all knew that I would never make that call and, even if I did, my parents would not have wanted DCFS to take me away.  But, it all made good fodder for the fights during the teenage years!

DCFS is an organization that, I believe, could really make positive differences in this world.  The problem is, at this point, it seems that they rarely do.  I have yet to meet an attorney who has anything positive to say about DCFS.  We want to avoid them like the plague.  We don't want our clients involved with them at all.  We don't want our clients calling DCFS on the other parent.  It's not good when DCFS is  involved and, chances are, they will stay involved for a year or more.

What many parents don't realize is that they have rights.  Typically, DCFS shows up and the parents panic.  The parents are scared to death that DCFS has shown up to take away the children.  Because of this fear, most parents are willing to invite DCFS into the home, sit down, and spill their guts to the investigator.  The investigator will act like he has the power to do this anyway even if the parents don't want to talk to him.

It's the investigator's job to find the truth.  In order to do this, the investigator needs to talk to everyone.  I understand that.  I know, from handling divorces and custody cases, it is terribly difficult to figure out who is telling the truth.  However, there are too many times that I've seen pictures of a child with bruises and the investigator settles the case as unfounded (essentially, not guilty).  Then, when I know a tip was called in to the hotline simply out of spite, the investigator settles that case as indicated (guilty).  There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to how the investigator calls the case.

I've seen an investigator question parents and children who are the subject of the hotline tip.  Sometimes, there is another child in a different household, who is not involved at all but is the child of one of the involved parents.  The investigator will tell the other parent to not allow the child any kind of visitation with the parent who is under investigation.  Often those are emotional cases and the other parent is happy to comply.  So, now, not just one, but two families are being torn apart.

My question here is where does that investigator get his power?  Does that investigator actually have the power to discontinue a court order?  I think not.  I've had this very conversation with an investigator and I reminded her that she does not have the power to go against a court order.  She was well aware of that fact, yet still carried on with trying to stop the visitation.  End result was that the investigator left a mess for the attorneys to deal with for months which costs the clients time, money and energy.

Parents in these situations are scared and that is completely understandable.  However, parents have rights and those rights need to be protected as well.  DCFS, in general, needs to revisit the law and rules that govern the organization and remember that all parties involved have rights.

If I have client that is involved with DCFS, I manage that relationship very closely.  I introduce myself to the investigator (or case worker, depending upon when I'm hired) and I let them know I am here to help facilitate the process.  I advise my clients to be cooperative and I explain the process.  I've had situations where I've refused to allow DCFS to speak with my client unless I'm there.  I've had other situations where I've allowed DCFS to speak with my client anytime.  How I approach this is dependent upon how well I already know the investigator or caseworker.

Bottom line.....lawyers are expensive and people typically don't want to spend the money.  BUT, if DCFS shows up at your door with allegations against you, you would be well advised to seek experienced counsel immediately.  Don't let DCFS trample your rights.  Keep them in check.  Make them follow the rules.

If you are interested in learning more on this subject, a very good book regarding the parties' rights is Child Welfare Law and Practice.  If you click the link it will take you to Amazon.  I'm not trying to sell the book.  I just thought it would be convenient for everyone if I linked it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Divorce and emotions....

Most of my cases are divorce and, as you might imagine, involve lots of emotion.  What I see a lot of is two people who are barely handling things and getting themselves through the process when in comes someone to stir the pot.  Often, a parent or friend or some other person, pokes his or her nose in where it doesn't belong and then one of the people involved in the divorce loses his or her cool.

This is bad.  Very bad.

Honestly, the key to divorce is cooperation.  I know it seems insane to think about cooperating with your spouse when you are divorcing.  But, it really is for the best.  It is easier to cooperate and get things done, than it is to argue, fight, let others influence the process, and just prolong the divorce.  I'm not saying you have to agree on everything.  Obviously, that's not going to happen.  If it were that easy, you probably wouldn't be getting divorced.  But, I don't think it's asking too much for both parties to be reasonable in their demands.

The best thing for you to do is hire a lawyer you can trust, one that is honest with you about the process, and let that lawyer explain your legal rights.  Then, start working within that arena.  A divorce settlement and a joint parenting agreement can be anything you want it to be if the parties can come to agreement.  Think outside of the box sometimes.  That might be what gets you what you need.  Don't allow a family member or friend attempt to negotiate on your behalf.  I will tell you right now that person doesn't have your best interests in mind.  That person likely has a score of his or her own that he or she is looking to settle.

Divorce is a terrible time.  But, it's an extremely important time.  A time when you need to have your wits about you and know your rights.  This is a time when you need to be calm and think logically.  Whatever you do, don't allow yourself to be pushed around and frightened into doing anything.  Hopefully, you are able to hire an attorney that you trust and is honest with you about everything.  That attorney is there to assist you with your legal needs and make sure the problem is approached calmly.

One other thing, communication is key.  Communicate with your attorney and make note of whether your attorney is communicating with you.  If you find yourself in a situation where your lawyer rarely returns your calls, it is probable that your lawyer is not returning opposing counsels calls either.  Not communicating prolongs the process. AND, it just upsets everyone involved.  In this world of texting and emails, there really is no excuse for not communicating basic information to your lawyer or your soon to be ex-spouse.  Leave off the commentary.  Just a simple text "I'm running 15 minutes late" is sufficient.  If the other party responds with a nasty text, just ignore it....take the high's worth it in the long run.

Good luck everyone and, please, have a happy and safe 4th of July!!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Death book....

Sounds strange, doesn't it?  But, do you have one?  You should.  I came across this idea one day when I was surfing the internet and it's great.

Typically, everyone tries to keep all of their important documents organized in some fashion.  But, does everyone in your family know where your important documents are located?  For instance, say you're in an accident and can't make healthcare decisions for yourself.  Does your appointed agent already have a copy of your healthcare power of attorney?  If not, does your agent know where you keep that document?  The document won't do any good if it's filed away where no one can locate it.

That's where the death book comes into play.  Pull all of your important documents such as copies of your will, trusts, powers of attorney, car titles, life insurance policies, car insurance policies, investment accounts, essentially anything important that someone would need if the worst happened to you.  Organize everything in a three ring binder and note where the original of each document is located.  Include a sheet that lists all of your important contact information such as doctors, attorney, accountant, etc.

Lastly, label this book in some way that indicates how important it it death book or in case of emergency book....just call it something that makes it obvious that this thing is important.  Then, make sure your family and/or agent knows about the book and it's location.

Doing this will help everyone in the event there is an accident or something happens to you.  Now...go do this before you forget!

Be happy everyone and stay safe!!!
Letisha Luecking Orlet

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Are you aware of your household financial situation?

Who handles the finances in your marriage?  If you don't, do you know what's happening with the money?  Do you know what kind of bills you have?  Do you know what your spouse makes each pay period?  Do you know what type of investments you have?

Whether you are divorcing or not, you should know the financial situation of your household.  I think it's a great idea for one person to handle the money.  Frequently, that just makes life easier.  However, it's also very important for the person not handling the money to know what's out there.  Obviously, in the case of divorce, it is extremely important to know the financial situation.  You need to know what assets and liabilities will need to be split between the parties.

However, what a lot seem to forget, it is also important in the event of an emergency.  If the spouse that handles all of the money is hit by a bus and either dies or is critically injured, how will the other spouse survive?  Everyone should be fully aware of what money is kept where, the existence of investments and life insurance policies, what type of debt well as how all of these things are titled.  The surviving spouse will need to access these things in order to keep the household afloat while the injured spouse is recovering or, in the event of death, move on with life.

If you take care of your finances online, make sure there is always a current list of login ids and passwords for the other spouse--remember to include the answers to security questions.  This does go against conventional wisdom of never write these things down, but you have to do something!  I believe there are computer programs that allow for storage of passwords, etc. and it is secured.  That might be a better way.  Remember to include the website addresses as well.  It's also a good idea to keep a simple list of assets and liabilities.  This way your spouse always knows what it "out there" for the household.

I, honestly, didn't think this was an issue anymore and I've been surprised by how many people give all of this to the spouse to handle and then simply forget about it themselves.  It really is so much easier to do it this way.  And, you really can do it this way....just make sure there is some sort of document for the other person and that person knows where it is.  That way, you're covered....just in case.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Community Outreach

I'm very excited to start spreading the news about a presentation I am helping put together.  A friend of mine, who is a nurse, and I are going to start presenting a program on end of life decisions.  She will discuss with the group the decisions that will need to be made and how those decisions affect everyone involved.  She is experienced in this area of health care and feels strongly that it is important for people to plan for these unexpected events.

I will be there to offer information on Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Property and Living Wills/Final Directives.  I will also be able to provide these basic forms free of charge and assist in completing them.

Right now, we are putting the program together and looking for groups to present the program to.  This is generally a subject that no one really wants to talk or think about.  Many people likely consider this an issue to be dealt with by older people.  However, it's important for everyone to think about these issues and plan for them.

For one moment, stop and think what would happen if you were in a catastrophic accident on your way to work this morning.  I know, I know....not what you want to be thinking about at all.  But, consider what would happen if you were alive but in a vegetative state.  Do your loved ones know your wishes?  What if you had a massive heart attack and ended up on life support in the hospital?  Does your spouse know how to access all of the financial information?  Does your spouse know what bills need to be paid and when?

These are the things you need to consider.  It would be stressful enough if a loved one was in the hospital fighting for his or her life and then you realize that power bill wasn't paid, but you don't know where it is or how to even access the money to pay it.  You want to make sure that your loved ones are able to survive until you get better or until they are able to recover from losing you.  Plus, you want to make sure that your wishes are known to everyone and that those wishes are carried out.

I will definitely keep you posted about this project.  If anyone has suggestions of groups we should meet with, please leave a comment.

Have a great day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day....Post Divorce

The first Valentine's Day after divorce will likely be difficult....whether you asked for the divorce or not.  It is likely to be an emotion filled day.  Try to get out ahead of this and plan something for yourself so you don't end up sitting at home having your own personal pity party.  Here are some suggestions for you:
  • Plan an activity for yourself....something you love to do or something you have always wanted to do, but your ex-spouse didn't want to do.  Get out there and DO SOMETHING!  Live your life and enjoy yourself!
  • Go the opposite route and do something that is completely unrelated to your past.
  • Consider making this a volunteer day for yourself.  Help out at a local shelter or food bank.  This should warm your heart and bring some perspective to your life.  You will see that there are problems so much bigger than your divorce.  
  • Get together with friends.
  • Don't stay home alone and feel sorry for yourself.  This will not help you.  Thinking about the past will not help you and thinking about what all of the "happy couples" are doing will not help you.  
  • Make the day about you.  Love yourself.  Love your friends.  Love your dog and/or cat.  Call an old friend that you haven't talked to in awhile and just say hi.
Life is full of little moments that you should grab and make the most out of them.  You have control of your own happiness.  There will be lots of firsts again after your divorce.  It is important for you to not dwell on what was or what could have been.  Keep your chin up and focus on the positive things in your life.  Love yourself.  You can and will recover.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Time: A Priceless Commodity

So, the life of a small town lawyer is often very interesting.  It does take some time to get to know people.  But, as my practice grows, I get to know more and more people.  I am finding this to be a very small world and I love it more and more each day.

For over 10 years, I worked in Clayton, Missouri and I always had a commute of at least 30 minutes one way.  More recently, my commute was a solid hour on a perfect weather day one way.  Now, I work closer to home and my commute is only 15 to 20 minutes.  That is so wonderful.  There are no traffic jams and when it rains, no big deal, everyone keeps driving!  So much of my life was spent wasted commuting to a job that I hated.  My commute alone is enough to make me blissfully happy now.  

I feel that I am very lucky to be able to start my own practice and that I have my husband to support me through this...and by support, I mean financial and emotional.  I am trying to make this a success so that someday, he can quit his awful one hour commute each way and find something closer to home.  It's amazing how much your outlook on life changes when you are doing something you enjoy AND it is close to home.  Life becomes so much easier and you have so much more time.  I now have more time to do anything I choose....whether it be working late, playing with the dogs, spending time with family, getting household chores done in the middle of the week, doing volunteer work....anything.  

Sometimes, you have to weigh doing something you enjoy (or, at least, don't hate) closer to home and making a smaller salary against all of the negatives of working at that high paying job in the big city.  Consider your quality of life.  Cut down on material things.  Take the time to enjoy your life instead of being constantly focused on the almighty dollar and material possessions.  I firmly believe that if you do this, your life will improve in so many ways.

Starting and maintaining a law practice is stressful.  But, I try to remember all of the positives to this small town practice and all of the reasons I wanted to have this type of practice.  It warms my heart every day that I'm able to help someone through a difficult time.  I love working in a small town where I'm able to walk not only to the courthouse, but also to the post office, the hairdresser, the flower shop, the post office, the bank and many other stores. People are friendly and nice.  It's refreshing.  I love it.

Sometimes, when I think about it, it does seem a little odd to me...I love my job, where I work, the people around me...I guess I'm still adjusting to it since I spent so long disliking all of those very same things.  This is such an improvement and I encourage everyone who has the chance to make a positive change such a this to just do it.  You won't regret it!