Tag Archives: attorney Patricia Tichenor

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Children get into trouble; it’s a given part of their growing-up process. However, when their actions cause damage to someone else’s person or property, many parents may not realize that they too could be liable for their child’s actions.

The courts decided long ago that it was unfair for someone to bear the financial burden or medical expenses resulting from another person’s wrongdoing. In fact, the first state law of this type was enacted in Hawaii in 1846. The reasoning behind this legislation was that parents have a legal responsibility to supervise their minor children, and if the minor child causes property damage due to negligent, malicious or willful actions, the parents can be held liable.

A child may willfully disregard a parent’s direction, or the mischief may occur because of improper supervision, and the damage can be as simple as a baseball going through a neighbor’s window or spray-painted graffiti, or as complicated as a computer hacking issue. Far too frequently, you read in the news that a child finds a handgun and accidentally shoots another child, or that a minor child takes a car and causes an accident.

Parental liability extends to both criminal and civil liability. Parents may be legally forced to compensate an injured party or repair damage done by a child’s actions. Parents may also be subject to lawsuits or criminal sanctions in some cases. Parental liability ends when the child becomes of majority age of 18, or if the child is legally emancipated by statute and deemed no longer under a parent’s supervision or responsibility.

Non-Criminal Liability for a Minor
Non-criminal liability, also known as vicarious liability, extends to actions that might include vandalism, defacement, or property destroyed in a hate crime. Parents are also liable for negligent actions when they know they must supervise the child and fail to do so, known as negligent supervision. Not only parents, but grandparents, guardians, and anyone having custody of the child can be liable.

Use of the family car also carries liability. The Family Car Doctrine holds the owner of that car liable for any damage caused by the driver of that car, if the owner knew of and consented to the family member’s use of the car, even if the minor child is not listed on the auto insurance policy. The uninsured motorist provision would not apply if the minor child is living in the insured’s household.

Criminal Liability for a Minor
Some states hold parents criminally liable when children gain access to firearms, or if parents know that their child is in possession of a firearm and do not take it away. More serious penalties are applied if the minor child causes injury or death. In Virginia, it is considered a misdemeanor to recklessly leave a loaded firearm within reach of a child so as to endanger the limb or life of any child under the age of 15; however, exceptions can be made if the gun is stored in a locked box and secured with a trigger lock. Criminal liability also extends to certain unlawful computer and internet activities, such as hacking, cell-phone and video cameras, and viewing (or sharing – such as “sexting”) pornography or other inappropriate photos.

Delinquent youth also fall under the area of parental liability. In Virginia and nearby North Carolina, parents are required to reimburse the State for costs associated with the detention, care, support or treatment of their child while under state agency supervision.

Children under the age of 18 are typically processed through the juvenile justice system, and not the adult criminal justice system, and are subject to laws designed for juvenile offenders. In some cases, the child may need a lawyer to represent them. But since they cannot contract with an attorney on their own, parents need to be involved.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As family law attorneys in Northern Virginia, The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. can assist parents in addressing issues of parental liability or their child for acts of mischief leading to civil or criminal liability involving a minor child. Whether you need expert advice, or to engage the services of an attorney, call attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi today to get an experienced advocate on your side.

Legally Establishing Paternity

Legally Establishing Paternity<br>NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg, VA

Legally Establishing Paternity
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

A new baby always creates excitement within a family, with doting parents, grandparents, siblings and extended family members sharing the joy.

In most cases, parentage is well known and accepted. However, in others, the identity of the father might be in question. Under Virginia law, only one man can possess paternity of a child at one time, and as a child’s biological father may not necessarily be the child’s legal father, the question of paternity exists. Here are some methods to establishing paternity.

Father’s Name on Birth Certificate
When a child is born to a married couple, paternity is presumed under Virginia law, and normally a mother’s and father’s name is listed on the birth certificate. For unmarried couples, paternity may not always be clear. In order to place the father’s name on the birth certificate a Paternity Statement should be prepared. In Virginia, paternity can be established in the hospital by signing and notarizing a no-cost form called the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) prior to being discharged from the hospital.

Establishing paternity itself can be more of a challenge, and there are several acceptable methods that are simply defined here. For more details, please contact your family law attorney.

Genetic Testing

A scientifically-reliable genetic test, consisting of a blood test or genetic test, can establish or disprove paternity with at least a 98% accuracy rate. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a Motion for Genetic Testing is generally filed with the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court and possibly the Circuit Court.

Written Statement
The mother and father can create a written statement, taken under oath, that acknowledges paternity. This process also confirms that both parties were provided with oral and written descriptions of the right and responsibilities of acknowledging paternity, and any consequences of signing the acknowledgement, and includes the potential right to rescind within 60 days.

Although paternity must be proven, other evidence that may be considered for establishing paternity includes:
Cohabitation: evidence of living together or sexual relations between the known parent and the alleged parent at the time conception should have occurred.
Conduct: common use of the father’s name, references acknowledging the father, or conduct conducive to assuming fatherhood.
Claims: claiming the child on legal documents such as tax returns or documents filed with the local, state or federal government, or their agencies.

Adoption
Proof of legal adoption to establish paternity outside of being a biological parent.

Petitioning for Paternity
A petition to establish paternity must be created and filed with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, with the Circuit Courts having concurrent jurisdiction in matters pertaining to paternity.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
Paternity can be complicated, especially if multiple potential fathers are involved, and knowing your rights, options, and responsibilities are important. If you have questions concerning paternity, ask your family lawyer, like Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi, the attorneys at The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. in Leesburg, Virginia. We are the caring professionals families can turn to when they need answers, guidance, or defense. Contact us today.

Estate Planning When You Own a Business

Estate Planning When You Own a Business_NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg

Estate Planning When You Own a Business
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

When you own a business, a large part of your family’s income and wealth is most likely tied up in the business. Therefore, you need to plan what will happen to that business following your becoming incapacitated or your death. This type of estate planning is often called succession planning.

You may want to keep the business running within your family. You may want to sell it at a fair price and split the profits, either before or after you pass away. Or you may want to ensure that the business passes along to existing co-owners. No matter which outcome you choose, planning ahead will help your business survive and aid in preventing large or unexpected tax liabilities.

Without proper planning, even if the business should die along with the owner, estate taxes can still be owed. This type of tax, known as the IRS’ death tax, can range from 35% to 50% of the business value, and is due within nine months of the death. Lack of liquid funds can result in the sale of a business at far below its actual value.

Your estate plan for business succession takes careful preparation, especially if it is owner-dependent, as with many professional practices. You must consider the systematic transfer of management, assets and ownership, and answer questions like “Who will own the business.”

If the business has co-owners, partners or shareholders, you might want to establish an agreement that the remaining owners automatically purchase the shared interest in order to avoid family members from taking interest. It can also establish a sale price and allow or disallow partners to purchase your share. This is known as a buy-sell agreement.  Funds to purchase shares of an existing business often come from life insurance, and an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) can be created to provide funding for the buy-sell agreement.

For a family-owned business, decisions as to which family members will inherit and run the business need to be made, and questions like “If two children will be involved in the business and one will not, should the assets be divided equally?” should be answered.

One of the main reasons for creating a succession plan for your business is to avoid probate and minimize estate tax burdens. You may want to establish a trust that transfers your business assets to your family members or partners while still providing you with an income. This is known as a grantor-retained annuity trust (GRAT) or grantor-retained unitrust (GRUT). Or you could establish a family limited partnership to hold the business assets. Because the rules for establishing trusts are complex, it is always best to consult with your attorney.

Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney

Creating any estate plan takes time, and it is never too soon to set a succession plan into place, especially since death could happen unexpectedly. That is why you need to talk to an estate planning attorney like Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. Located in Reston, and serving clients throughout Northern Virginia, we can help you create an estate plan to ensure proper succession of your business and your assets. Contact us today.

Domestic Violence Should Not Be Kept Quiet

Domestic Violence Should Not Be Kept Quiet <br>NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg

Domestic Violence Should Not Be Kept Quiet
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Although we all want our happy ending, domestic violence happens. It can begin with verbal abuse such as shouting or name calling, then escalate over time to pushing, hitting, and sometimes even death. Within the Cycle of Abuse, your abuser apologizes for his or her actions, begging your forgiveness and promising never to do it again. But then it happens again. And again. The same cycle.

Often the violence escalates. The abuser tells the victim it is all their fault, or that no one will believe them if they tell others. They create fear in their victim that discourages the victim from leaving.

This pattern, or cycle, of domestic violence is not indicative of a healthy relationship. Nor should it be accepted. Your safety, and the safety of your children, is at risk.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is defined as a willful and systematic pattern of control of one intimate partner over another that can include physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse. It also includes willful intimidation, physical or sexual assault and battery, and other abuse behavior.

Because it is such a difficult issue, domestic violence law was developed to punish those who cause physical or emotional harm to those with whom they share a close relationship. The most notable Federal legislation is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); however, most domestic violence offenses are prosecuted under state law. Although they vary from state to state, convictions for domestic violence require specific standards for the defendant’s conduct and relationship to the victim in reference to direct and indirect contact.

Domestic Violence Presents Shocking Statistics

As reported by the National Domestic Hotline:

  • On average, 24 people each minute are victims of physical violence, stalking or rape by an intimate partner.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced physical violence, stalking or rape by a partner
  • Approximately 80% of female victims were previously victimized by the same intimate partner.

And domestic violence doesn’t just happen to women. Fifteen percent of domestic violence victims are men reports the Huffington Post.

What is confusing to many is why victims stay with their abusers. There are many reasons. They may stay because they or their children have been threatened, or they may be fearful of what actions their abuser might take once they leave—whether to themselves, those who left, or other family members. Abusers can also employ psychological abuse where they call their victims names and put them down. This creates a cycle of self-doubt and worthlessness that leaves the victim unable to take action. Some victims are even convinced that they caused the abuse.

What to Do if You are a Victim of Domestic Abuse

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and report your abuse to the police. They can issue a short-term Emergency Protective Order on the spot. Keep records of all police reports and incidents. This will be helpful in filing future actions if necessary. If you are injured, seek medical attention, and take photographs of your injuries. This will also aid in supporting your claims.
  • Engage the support of those who care about you, whether they are family members, neighbors, friends or professionals. Tell others about the abuse privately. You do not need to go through this alone.
  • Create a safe escape plan for yourself and your children in case you must leave your home quickly. Have a destination planned or contact your local domestic violence shelter for safe and anonymous harbor. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or Doorways’ 24-hour confidential domestic and sexual violence hotline at 703-237-0881 locally.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As family law attorneys in Northern Virginia, The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. can assist clients in filing a Temporary Restraining Order or Protective Order that will force the abuser to stay away. We can also aid in creating a case against the abuser and defending our clients in court for child custody and support issues, property settlements, and divorce proceedings. Call attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi today to get an experienced advocate on your side.

The Act of Revoking or Changing a Will

The Act of Revoking or Changing a Will

The Act of Revoking or Changing a Will
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Once you have prepared your Will, whether through a trusted attorney or by using an on-line software program, there may come a time when you need to update or change it. Since life is never stagnant, you should ensure that any life changes appear in your Will so that your wishes are carried out following your death.

It is not unusual for people to try to make changes to their Will simply by hand-writing on their existing Will, or typing up a short, separate letter to put with their Will. Unfortunately, these methods of making updates or changes are not only unlikely to be unenforceable, but, in the worst-case scenario, they may actually result in your invalidating your existing estate plan in its entirety.

Even if you use an attorney and have them prepare a Codicil to your existing Will, this separate document that adds to or amends the terms of your Will is often misplaced or lost by the time of your death. This is why it is often better to have a new Will prepared and signed which revokes your existing Will, thereby ensuring that your most current plans or wishes are honored. A Codicil is also best used when there is not enough time to prepare and sign a new Will and only so long as very small or simple changes are to be made. A new Will that clearly states your intention to revoke all prior Wills will cancel your original Will.

Can a Power of Attorney Change a Will?
If you have issued Power of Attorney to someone, they are not granted the right to change your Last Will and Testament, although they may be able to do damage to your estate by liquidating or moving assets you intended to pass along to your beneficiaries. To prevent this, you should consider appointing more than one person to serve as your financial Power of Attorney and specify that they must act either unanimously or by majority when it comes to determining your affairs. If abuse is suspected, your loved ones can file a case for breach of fiduciary duty with the courts, but that does not ensure that your beneficiaries are able to recoup the value of missing or mishandled assets. This can be especially difficult where transfers involve real estate holdings, stock, or even family heirlooms.

Reasons to Change your Will
Both your circumstances and the law can change, and this may trigger the desire to make changes to your Will. In addition, you should periodically review your estate plan (Will and Powers of Attorney) to ensure that your current circumstances and goals are properly addressed. Such changes can be triggered by new or changed relationships as a result of a divorce, re-marriage, birth or adoption of a child, emancipation of a special needs child, disability of yourself or a beneficiary of your existing documents, or a newly-acquired asset including money and real estate. In addition, obtaining guidance on how to avoid probate for assets that you may wish to pass outside the terms of your Will can be invaluable advice when updating your estate plan.

Contact Your Attorney
To create a legal and binding Will, to make changes to an existing Will, or to prevent eventualities that may impede your ability to pass along your assets to your beneficiaries, it is always best to consult with an Attorney. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi are specialists in the area of estate law and can assist with all matters concerning Wills, Trusts, and Estates. Contact us today.

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
Professional Legal Services or Legal Representation
(703) 669-6700

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