Tag Archives: P.L.L.C.

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.

Post-Nuptial Agreements – Could a Contract Save Your Marriage?

Post-Nuptial Agreements-Could a Contract Save Your Marriage?

Post-Nuptial Agreements – Could a Contract Save Your Marriage?
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

As strange as it may seem, a post-marital or post-nuptial contract might be the secret to a strong marriage. It could also heal the wounds that might otherwise result in divorce.

This can be especially true for people who are re-marrying and bringing with them separate assets, an inheritance from a deceased parents, or children from a prior marriage for whom they want to ensure protection of their inheritance. Having an agreement in place can save them the thousands of dollars it may cost them to secure in a contested divorce.

Post-nuptial or post-marital contracts can also be customized to meet the unique goals of each couple, whether dealing with chores or other household responsibilities and how these tasks might be divided between the couple, or addressing the use of therapy and relationship-building exercises in the face of a spouse’s infidelity.

What is a Post-Nuptial Agreement?
A post-nuptial agreement is a formal, written agreement created and executed after a couple marries or enters a civil union, with the intent to settle a couple’s assets and affairs in the event of a separation of divorce. It might cover matters such as property division, spousal support, death of a spouse, or the breakup of a marriage. In most states, child support and child custody are not included in a post-nuptial agreement.

There are generally three types of post-nuptial agreements:
1. One that assigns marital property upon death of one spouse;
2. One that creates a separation agreement in order to avoid time and cost of divorce proceedings; and
3. One that limits or sets forth rights in a future divorce, such as limiting alimony based on duration of the marriage, waiving alimony, or addressing marital property division.

Similar to a pre-nuptial agreement, there are certain legal requirements for the post-nuptial agreement to be valid (and these vary state-by-state):
• Written agreement
• Voluntarily executed without coercion or force
• Full and fair disclosure of assets, income, property, and debts
• Fair (not one-sided)
• Signed by both parties and notarized

When Should I Prepare a Post-Nuptial Agreement?
There are no guidelines for when to prepare your post-nuptial agreement. Some couples create one when tensions are high, others put one into place to protect assets and future assets. Before agreeing to any post-nuptial document, have an experienced family law attorney review it—especially if you are feeling uneasy about it. You can always negotiate the terms prior to signing, but not afterwards. Most agreements will withstand a challenge in the courts, leaving you stuck with something you might not want or should not have agreed to.

Contact Your Attorney

Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor in Northern Virginia are experienced family law attorneys who can help you navigate the process of drafting and reviewing post-nuptial/post-marital agreements. Please contact us today—before you sign.

Choosing a Power of Attorney

Choosing a Power of Attorney

Choosing a Power of Attorney
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Quickly defined, a Power of Attorney (POA) is a powerful estate planning tool that allows you to appoint a spouse, trusted family member, or friend to assist with handling your financial and medical affairs during a period of disability when you might not be able to do this for yourself. This person may be referred to as your attorney-in-fact or agent. Your agent may be given these powers immediately the day you sign your POA, called non-springing, where you believe any delay to obtain a finding of disability by a doctor would be create greater problems or, instead, as springing powers granted only when one or two licensed physicians determine in writing that you no longer have the capacity to manage your financial or medical care decisions.

A Power of Attorney is a binding legal agreement that must be put into writing, witnessed, and notarized to become valid. For purposes of a financial POA, you must also make it clear, in writing, whether you are giving your agent permission to access and handle all or only some of your accounts for the POA to hold up in court.

You do not have to choose the same person as your agent for financial and medical matters; however, they do need to work together to make decisions on your behalf, according to your wishes. For instance, if you need medical treatment, your financial POA must work together with your medical POA to disclose financial information, fill out forms, or provide funds.

What’s important to keep in mind is that, absent a POA, if you become disabled and no longer have the capacity to handle your finances or make your own medical decisions, there will be delays and greater legal expenses incurred for a member of your family (perhaps even someone you would never choose for the job) to petition a court to be appointed Conservator of your assets or Guardian of your person. It is not unusual even in an uncontested matter for the costs to equal ten times the amount it would cost to simply retain an attorney to prepare a well-written POA to address these matters now before the worst happens.

Choose the Right Person for your Power of Attorney

Choosing the right person is of paramount importance. Select someone you can trust, who has your best interests at heart. Do not select someone who has had legal issues in the past or a person with whom your family does not get along. You may want to discuss your choice of person with your family before signing any documents, but this is not necessary. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule, including same-sex couples and unmarried couples who may want their partner in the driver’s seat even if their family does not like or approve of the partner.

It is absolutely critical that you designate a person who is capable of handling your affairs and ensuring that the provisions of the POA you sign do not open the door for abuse by someone to benefit himself or herself over (which you should be their first priority) as well as your other family members by engaging in self-dealing behavior with your assets. They must fully understand their duties and be committed to taking them seriously. It is, therefore, recommended to talk to the person(s) you designate to discuss what you expect, and disclose the scope of your affairs before signing any documents. Note whether this person will charge a fee for their services; family members generally do not, but professionals like accountants and attorneys usually do.

You may also want to select a second person to serve as your secondary Power of Attorney in the event that your first choice cannot or will not perform their responsibilities, or passes away.

What if I Want to Change my Power of Attorney?
You may at any time change your assigned Power of Attorney by using a Revocation of Power of Attorney document and creating a new POA document, as a new POA document typically provides for revocation of all prior documents upon signing it. Shredding your older POA after signing a new one is absolutely critical to ensure that only the most current POA is found and utilized in the future.

Consult Your Attorney

Selecting your Power of Attorney may be one of your most important life decisions, so your choice should be considered carefully. Attorneys Patricia E. Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., specialize in Estate Planning issues and can assist in creating the legal documents you need. Please contact us today.

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparent Visitation Rights<br>NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg

Grandparent Visitation Rights
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Until as recently as 40 years ago, the legal concept of grandparent visitation rights did not exist. This is because parents have a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children.

There are a number of reasons why grandparents might be denied visitation by family members, including a rift or estrangement within the family, divorce, death, adoption, incarceration, abuse, substance abuse, or chronic problems. In some cases, there may be actual safety issues for the grandchild. Communication problems, or control or boundary issues, can also be the cause for disallowing communication. In other cases, grandparents have been left to raise the grandchild, sometimes for years, but later find themselves confronted by the return of a parent seeking to reclaim their rights to the child.

Whatever the reasons, these life events can cause grandchildren to experience a sudden break and extended separation from a grandparent with whom they may have a strong bond, causing long-term damage to the child.

Several States sought to address the concerns these life events raise through statutes, applying a best interests of the child test to establish statutory visitation rights for grandparents, but with two different approaches being taken:
1. Restrictive Visitation Statutes, under which grandparents can seek visitation rights if the parents are divorced or if one or both parents are deceased.
2. Permissive Visitation Statutes, under which grandparents can request visitation rights even if both parents are still married and still alive.

However, as these State statutes became more commonplace, their constitutionality came under attack, leading to a 2000 United States Supreme Court Ruling which found such statutes could, in fact, be unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Troxel v. Granville, that a Washington State statute was unconstitutional as written because it allowed a judge to substitute and/or overturn a parent’s decision regarding denial of visitation with a grandchild where the parent was also found to be perfectly fit to make such a decision. The Supreme Court held that parents have a fundamental right under the constitution to make the decision as to visitation between a grandparent and a grandchild absent a finding of unfitness on the part of the parent.

Because of the legal complexities surrounding grandparent’s rights to visitation, it is often best to try to mediate these issues when possible between parents and grandparents with the help of an experienced attorney-mediator. Through this process, a neutral third party can assist in creating a legally-binding agreement for all parties. If however, a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, an experienced family law attorney should be employed to assist grandparents with preparing the most persuasive court pleadings possible in order to address why their specific case warrants the granting of visitation rights with their grandchildren.

Contact Your Attorney
If you have questions about grandparent rights, or wish to petition for rights in your own case here in Northern Virginia, it is good to have an experienced attorney by your side to walk you through the process. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in all aspects of family law. Please 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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