1. How to Avoid Parenting Time Drama Over the Holidays

    With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day all occurring within a short time span, the holiday season usually adds a whole different layer of difficulties and headaches for divorced parents when it comes to parenting time schedules this time of year. Whether it is trying to find a time to visit with grandparents, family and friend visiting from out of town, holiday parties and events, the multitude of church and school programs, or simply figuring out child care during the children’s holiday break from school, the holiday season easily amplifies the usual difficulties that accompany parenting time schedules.

    It is important, however, to remain calm and follow some simple tips to help minimize unnecessary stress and tension between you and your ex, and ensure that your children get the most out of this time of year.

    1. Put Your Children First.

    The first question you should ask yourself when setting up plans and vacations around the holidays should be, “How would my children like to celebrate this time?” Children love this time of year and look forward to spending time with both parents and extended family. Your children’s needs should be first and foremost. Be willing not only to be flexible and supportive, but also be overly accommodating to your children’s need to include both parents, such as allowing more phone calls to your ex to share excitement over the holidays or simply because the children feel anxious or homesick.

    The key is to remember that you need to think of what is in your children’s best interest, even if it might conflict with what would make you personally happy. The holidays are a very important time of year for your children, so you should strive to do everything in your power to ensure your children’s happiness and keep out any unnecessary stress and strife.

    1. Plan to Be Flexible & Cooperative.

    Many parenting time plans contain agreements for the holidays that generally divide up the holidays equally between both parents on an alternating yearly schedule. Usually Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are considered two separate holidays (the same is true for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day). So for example, while one parent is awarded Christmas Eve (and the overnight) one year and the other parent is awarded Christmas Day, the schedule is usually switched the following year.

    There are times, however, when it is in the best interest of your children and your co-parenting relationship with your ex to allow some flexibility or a slight change to the parenting time schedule if both parties agree. Remember that your children and their needs come first. The goal during the holiday season is to make arrangements that satisfy everyone (especially your children) as much as possible, and that will not trigger an unnecessary dispute resulting in going back to court. Therefore, when it comes to modifying parenting time plans during the holiday season, we always tell our clients to choose their battles wisely and really consider if the fight is  worth it. Remember that the door swings both ways, and you might appreciate a return of the favor one day.

    1. If It is Necessary, Don’t Wait to Fight the Right Battles.

    With everything stated in No. 2 in mind, there are times where the right battles do occur, and the other parent is being unreasonable or not putting the children’s best interests first. If you believe that there will be a problem with this during the holidays, it is important that you take steps to resolve this issue now, and talk to an attorney well in advance so that there will be sufficient time to negotiate a resolution or go to court if necessary. Courts are closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day and their calendars typically fill up weeks in advance. If you wait too long before reaching out to an attorney, you risk the possibility that the court may not be able to help you in time.

    1. Coordinate Gift Giving.

    Share your children’s wish lists and coordinate gift giving to ensure not only that your children do not receive duplicate gifts, but that both parents also feel included and share the overall costs of the gifts. As stated before, the more cooperative and easy-going Mom and Dad are during this time of year, the more your children can relax and enjoy this special time of year and part of their lives with both of you.

    Resist the temptation to turn the holiday into a competition to one-up your ex for the best presents, activities, or vacations. In the end, it doesn’t help anyone. Instead, when shopping for presents or planning vacations, think of ways to mindfully include the other parent. For example, you could consider joining forces with your ex to buy one bigger present for your child that comes from both of you. Not only would this avoid turning the holidays into a competition, but it would also tell your child that even though the two of you are no longer married, you will both always be there for them.

    1. Make New Traditions.

    For many families, the holidays are entrenched with traditions. After a divorce, however, it may be too emotionally difficult or even impossible to continue following those traditions. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have new family traditions now. Instead, take this time to make new traditions with your children.

    Ultimately, the holidays are about taking time out of our normal, everyday lives to celebrate and spend time with our loved ones. Get creative and come up with new traditions to follow that will be positive and happy experiences for you and your children.

     

    We hope that you will not only find these tips useful during the holidays, but also throughout the year. With the right mindset, both you and your children will enjoy the holidays and look forward to celebrating them again next year.

    To discuss any concerns about your parenting time schedule during the holidays or any other time of the year, do not hesitate to contact us at (651) 340-9642 or (651) 964-2024 (videophone).

     

    PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT FAMILY LAW CASES CAN BE VERY COMPLEX AND ARE UNIQUE TO YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR A LEGAL OPINION. YOU SHOULD NOT CONSTRUE ANY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE AS LEGAL ADVICE OR A LEGAL OPINION IN YOUR CASE. FURTHERMORE, READING THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE DOES NOT MAKE YOU A CLIENT OF GILBERT LAW PLLC. AN ATTORNEY SHOULD BE CONTACTED FOR ADVICE ON SPECIFIC LEGAL ISSUES. NO ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN IN RELIANCE ON THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE AND/OR ITS WEBSITE, AND GILBERT LAW PLLC DISCLAIMS ALL LIABILITY IN RESPECT TO ACTIONS TAKEN OR NOT TAKEN BASED ON ANY OR ALL OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS ARTICLE AND/OR ITS WEBSITE TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

     

  2. Requesting Accommodations: Protecting Your Rights

    Whether you need an accommodation at work or for a planned event, how you request an accommodation can have a huge impact when it comes to protecting your rights. There are several common “pitfalls” that individuals in need of accommodations frequently fall trap to, which not only usually sets them up to not receive their requested accommodation, but also prevents them from fully protecting and enforcing their rights.

    With that in mind, here is a list of tips that you should follow when requesting an accommodation:

    1. Make Your Request Known. Do not assume that others know what accommodations you need or know the best method of communication with you even if you think that it is obvious, such as being deaf or hard-of-hearing.

    Remember: Only You Know the Best Method and Accommodation for You!

    1. Make Your Requests in Writing. Whether it is by email, text, letters, or hand-written notes, it is important to make your request for any accommodations in writing, if possible, so that you have evidence of to whom you made a request, when you made a request, and that in fact you did make a request.
    2. Give Advanced Notice. If possible, try to give at least two-weeks’ notice of your request. This is especially important for planned events at which you need an accommodation.
    3. Follow Up in Writing. Always follow up and/or confirm your request in writing, such as through email, text, letters, or hand-written notes. Do not wait until the last moment to follow up. Rather, you should follow up and/or confirm a few days before you need the accommodation for the planned event.
    4. Keep All Communications. The most critical piece is to keep copies of all of your written communications requesting an accommodation. Keep copies of your initial written request, your follow up written communication, and any written response from the person or entity to whom you made your request.

    If you think that you have been discriminated or retaliated against for requesting an accommodation, contact us here for a phone consultation at no charge. We look forward to fighting for you, enforcing your rights, and bringing you justice.

    PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT DISCRIMINATION AND/OR RETALIATION CASES CAN BE VERY COMPLEX AND ARE UNIQUE TO YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OR A LEGAL OPINION. YOU SHOULD NOT CONSTRUE ANY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE AS LEGAL ADVICE OR A LEGAL OPINION IN YOUR CASE. FURTHERMORE, READING THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE DOES NOT MAKE YOU A CLIENT OF GILBERT LAW PLLC. AN ATTORNEY SHOULD BE CONTACTED FOR ADVICE ON SPECIFIC LEGAL ISSUES. NO ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN IN RELIANCE ON THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE AND/OR ITS WEBSITE, AND GILBERT LAW PLLC DISCLAIMS ALL LIABILITY IN RESPECT TO ACTIONS TAKEN OR NOT TAKEN BASED ON ANY OR ALL OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS ARTICLE AND/OR ITS WEBSITE TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

  3. The Necessity of Wills & Trusts for Blended Families

    As divorces become increasingly common in today’s world, more and more people now have blended families as a result. Blended families can be defined in a wide variety of ways including, but not limited to, families with divorced parents, half-siblings, step-siblings, remarried parents, and deceased parents. Because not every blended family is going to look like the Brady Bunch, there are numerous aspects of having a blended family that can create challenges. Due to these challenges and complicated circumstances, it is critical that people with blended families know their options under the law and have an estate plan in place.

    Thankfully, with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney, many issues can be avoided through open conversations and careful, intentional planning to create an estate plan that considers the unique aspects and dynamics of your family situation to alleviate most of your concerns and allow you to focus your time and energy on your loved ones.

    What Is the Issue?

    There are many issues that can arise if you do not have a proper estate plan in place that accounts for the specific circumstances of a blended family. Estate planning involves anticipating, considering, and planning for everything that could happen in the world of “What If,” which is the hypothetical world were everything that you hope or think won’t happen can happen.

    For example, one common issue that blended families need to consider is that if you are remarried and have children from a previous relationship, a traditional “simple will” that leaves all your assets to your new spouse if he or she survives you, and then divided equally among all your children—including your children from your previous relationship, your step-children, and any children you have with your surviving spouse—likely will not meet your goals because once your surviving spouse receives all the assets, there is nothing preventing him or her from deciding to leave it to someone else when he or she dies. As a result, your children from a previous relationship could be excluded and ultimately never receive an inheritance from you.

    Another issue is that if you have step-children that you would like to inherit from your estate, unless your will or trust specifically identifies them and explicitly includes them, they could be left out from an inheritance. Making provisions in your estate plan for your “children” will not include your “step-children” unless your estate planning documents make that explicitly clear.

    So, What’s the Solution?

    Husbands and wives need to sit down and have an open and honest conversation together about what they want to happen after their death. Avoiding this issue will only cause trouble for your loved ones later, or even fighting in probate court after you are gone. These conversations can be difficult and emotionally-charged, but you will be rewarded in the long run and can avoid even more difficult and emotionally-charged situations down the road. If your children are adults, you may also want to consider including them in these conversations so that everyone understands yours wishes and knows what to expect.

    Then it is critical to sit down with an experienced attorney to determine which estate planning tools will work best for your unique goals and family situation. Whether it is creating a will to ensure that your property passes to the loved ones of your choosing with the right distributions, or a trust to provide for your new spouse while they are alive while simultaneously ensuring that your children end up with some property as well, an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through these decisions and carefully consider and craft an estate plan that is specifically tailored to meet your family’s needs. This type of planning choice takes care of all the family members and proactively plans for the world of “What If.”

    By having an open and honest conversation and working with experienced estate planning attorneys to establish the proper estate planning tools for your unique family will ensure that everyone’s wishes are honored and that all members of your blended family are included and treated respectfully.

     

                The attorneys of Gilbert Law have over 10 years of combined experience of helping blended families meet their estate planning needs. Contact us today at (651) 340-9642 to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs today, or click here [insert link] to register to attend Gilbert Law’s Estate Planning Workshop on November 4, 2017 to receive a discount on drafting your estate planning documents.

  4. North Dakota Courts, Police and Jail Agree to Policy Changes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

    IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    September 22, 2017

     

    North Dakota Courts, Police and Jail Agree to Policy Changes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

    Jamestown, ND – The North Dakota Supreme Court, Stutsman County and Jamestown Police Department have agreed to make policy changes and pay a settlement for a deaf Bismarck woman who was wrongfully arrested, held in solitary confinement, and made to appear in court without an interpreter.

    In June 2016, the deaf woman filed suit in federal court against the Supreme Court of North Dakota, the North Dakota State Court Administration, the City of Jamestown, County of Stutsman, Chief Judge Gerald VanWalle, and Judge Timothy Ottmar alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act when she was denied effective communication by law enforcement and the courts. The deaf woman also filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the City of Jamestown and Officer Brian Davis violated her Constitutional rights by arresting her without probable cause when she called 911 seeking assistance.

    Federal law requires all public entities to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. The failure to provide any means of communication is discrimination based on disability.

    As a result of the settlement, Stutson County and Jamestown will implement important improvements to their policies and procedures for interacting with deaf and hard of hearing people, including annual training for officers and deputies, and an on-call American Sign Language (“ASL”) Interpreter system.

    “There can be no justice for deaf and hard of hearing people if law enforcement and the judicial system are not accessible and this agreement ensures full access to justice in this area. Justice should be accessible for all in every part of the country,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf which represented the deaf woman along with Gilbert Law and Stein & Vargas, LLP.

    ###

    Heather Gilbert is an attorney and court-certified sign language interpreter. She is the President of Gilbert Law PLLC, a St. Paul, MN based law firm dedicated to representing the legal rights of disabled and other protected classes experiencing discrimination.

    The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premiercivil rights organization of, by, and for, deaf and hard of hearing individualsin the United States.

    Stein & Vargas, LLP is a civil rights firm based in Washington, D.C.and committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of society

    CONTACTS: 

    Heather M. Gilbert, Gilbert Law PLLC

    651-340-9642

    heather@gilbertlawpllc.com

    Marc Charmatz, National Association of the Deaf

    301-587-1788

    marc.charmatz@nad.org

    Mary Vargas, Stein & Vargas, LLP

    202-559-8609

    mary.vargas@steinvargas.com

  5. Welcome Meredith Olsoe, our new Legal Assistant!

     

    We are thrilled to welcome our new legal assistant, Meredith Olsoe. Meredith is a sign language interpreter who recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language Interpreting. Prior to accepting this position, Meredith served at Communications Services for the Deaf teaching both American Sign Language and English to students as a second language. Meredith brings extensive knowledge of computer and literacy skills as well as being a master organizer.  She has already proved to be an invaluable addition to Gilbert Law. We are thrilled to have her on board!

    About Meredith: Meredith Olsoe is the legal assistant at Gilbert Law PLLC. She is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of North Central University’s Carlstrom Interpreting program. Her passion for the Deaf Community and her outgoing spirit make her a great addition to Gilbert Law. She works to provide excellent support to both the firm and its clients throughout all aspects of the litigation process. Meredith also handles client intake and all of Gilbert Law’s office logistics. Some of her other hobbies include playing the piano and making music whenever and wherever possible. She and her husband are expecting their first little girl this Christmas!

  6. Wills and Trusts Workshop November 4th! (ASL only)

    Wills and Trusts in ASL: Planning to Pass on Your Legacy

    In this 2-hour presentation, workshop participants will learn about what happens to possessions, property and minor children at time of death with no will according to Minnesota law; discuss the basic purpose of a will, how it works, and how to make changes; and the important role of the Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney Forms to complete your estate plan.  Participants will complete an intake form throughout the workshop to make drafting your will with our ASL attorneys quick and easy.

    Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017

    St. Catherine University

    Mendel Hall, Room 106

    2004 Randolph Avenue

    St. Paul, MN 55105

     

    Seminar: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 pm

    PRICE: $30.00 per person; $50.00 per couple

    Register Here on Event Brite

     

    Sign Up to draft your estate plan the same day and save 20%:

    20% discount for the first 6 individuals or coupled that sign up to complete their estate plan ONSITE on November 4th! (This is an average savings of $95 for an individual estate plan or $190 savings for a legally married couple).  50% down payment due 30 days prior to event.

    or

    Don’t have time to do your estate plan onsite November 4th?

    If you attend the workshop and complete your forms, Gilbert Law will give you a 10% off discount for your estate plan to be completed at a later date.  Just give us your contact information at the end of the seminar and we can schedule a date for you to come in sometime this fall 2017.  Coupon expires 12/31/2017.

    Register Here!

     

  7. Tips and Tricks: Top Ten Things NOT to Do When You File For Divorce

    Top 10 Things NOT to Do When You File for Divorce

     

    Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are unique to your specific situation. The information provided here is not legal advice or a legal opinion. 

    Deciding to file for divorce is not an easy decision that is made lightly. Once you have made the decision to go ahead and get divorced, however, there are certain steps that you can take to better prepare and protect yourself during the divorce process and beyond. This means that there are also actions that people considering filing for or going through a divorce should not do if they want to set themselves up in the best position. With that in mind, here is a list of the top ten tips on what you should avoid when filing for divorce.

    1. Don’t Put Off Gathering Your Financial Documents.

    Divorces require lots of documentation, which can take time to gather. Documents such as paystubs, account statements, mortgages, and car loans are all likely to be relevant to your divorce. Some spouses have bad reactions to being served divorce papers and will make it difficult for you to access documents after you have filed. Save yourself time and potential future headaches by gather all of the documents you will need before you file for divorce.

    2. Don’t Use Your Children as Pawns.

    Divorce is hard on children without their parents using them as pawns to get a “win” in the divorce or pushing them into a tug-of-war over which parent loves them more. Instead, continue to support them emotionally and financially, and love them unconditionally just as before the divorce. Baring extreme circumstance, you and your spouse will likely end up sharing custody of the children. If you and your spouse can come up with a workable arrangement that gives both of you time with the children based on your schedules and your children’s schedules, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of most couples who file for divorce.

    3. Don’t Forget to Change Your Passwords.

    Spouses are often aware of each other’s passwords for things such as email, financial accounts, and social media accounts. With all of the other distractions and circumstances that usually occur when people decide to file for divorce, however, most spouses forget to change their passwords. This could allow the other spouse to easily access all your financial accounts, read your confidential emails to your divorce attorney, or alter your information in these any of these types of accounts without your permission. Besides the embarrassment that this type of access will likely cause, these types of actions could have detrimental effects on your personal life, work life, or divorce proceeding. Therefore, take a proactive approach and be sure to change your passwords right away.

    Also change/make-up odd security questions for the accounts, since your spouse likely knows the answers to the standard questions such as, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What city were you born in?” If you cannot make-up a question (and sometimes you can’t), then make-up the answer. The computer does not know whether you are telling the truth; rather it is only ensuring that you provide consistent answers.

    4. Don’t Post Compromising Updates or Photos on Social Media

    Think twice before posting a rant about your spouse or posting an update that shows you drinking or engaging in an objectionable activity on social media. During a divorce, your ex-spouse may request that you produce your complete social media profile to use against you in court. We have been involved many case where a person’s Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit post directly contradicted their testimony and ultimately hurt their case.

    5. Don’t Refuse to Negotiate or Mediate a Settlement.

    From a legal prospective, marriages are a business partnership. Therefore, negotiation and mediation are about settling the business end of the marriage. It is better to put your emotions aside, deal with the business issues of the marriage that need to be dealt with, and then address your emotions separately.

    Refusing to be reasonable during divorce settlement negotiations often land you in court, which means that more money is going to your attorney and you end up with far less to negotiate over. Do yourself a favor, save your money and be reasonable during negotiations.

    6. Don’t Expect to Come Away with a Windfall.

    People often do not realize the large impact a divorce will have on their finances. Besides attorneys’ fees and court costs, a divorce means that you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will have to begin supporting two household on the same income that used to only have to support one, which means that you likely cannot afford to keep your house and all of the cars and all of the accounts and go on big vacations every year. If you were the breadwinner in your family, you might have to pay child support or spousal support. If you were the lower-earning spouse in your family, be prepared that support is likely much less than you originally expect. Either way, both sides will need to make financial adjustments.

    7. Don’t Fight over Things You Don’t Care About.

    It is easy for spouses going through a divorce to look at every item or every decision as a win for only one side or the other. However, this is when things start to backfire for couples, and they end up losing the things that are important to them while keeping things they never use. For example, don’t fight over the power tools you never use or the ugly vase your Great-Aunt Irma gave you as a wedding present, when you care more about fully custody of your children. Keep your eyes on your main goal and a bigger prize rather than sweat the small stuff.

    8. Don’t Forget to Change Your Will & Other Estate Planning Documents.

    Getting divorced does not automatically revoke a will or other estate planning documents, such as power-of-attorney documents or healthcare directives. If you do not want your soon-to-be-ex-spouse from receiving an inheritance from your estate, you need to update your estate planning documents. While you can update these documents at any time, if you die before updating you will, it could cause problems for your family, children, and loved ones in probate court.

    9. Don’t Refuse to See a Therapist

    Divorces are not an easy experience to go through emotionally. Therapists can provide you with the help you need to get through and manage the range of emotions that you will experience when dealing with a divorce. Therefore, it is a good idea to seek help before you become extremely depressed or angry. Therapists can not only provide you with the one-on-one support by being someone to talk to, but can also show you how to relax, teach you how to talk to you children about the divorce, and how to remain calm throughout the divorce proceeding. Critically, however, a therapist can help you figure out how to become self-sufficient and move forward with your life.

    10. Don’t Go Through the Legal Process Alone.

    The legal system can pose many different types of complications for individuals going through the divorce process on their own. It is always a good idea to contact an attorney when contemplating filing for divorce so you do not take certain actions that may negatively affect the divorce proceedings or you later on down the road. Hiring an attorney means that not only will you have someone to help you navigate this system, but that you have someone in your corner advocating on your behalf and protecting your financial estate and your custody rights.

    At Gilbert Law, we work hard on behalf of our clients to protect their assets and rights to parenting time and custody by offering our customers efficient, customized service at reasonable prices. With our help, you will be able to take a step back and see what options are available to you to achieve your goals in order to make the right choice for your family moving forward.

    If you are considering filing for divorce, contact us here for a phone consultation at no charge. We look forward to walking by you on this journey.

    Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are unique to your specific situation. The information provided here is not legal advice or a legal opinion. You should not construe any of the information provided here as legal advice or a legal opinion in your case. Furthermore, reading the information provided here does not make you a client of Gilbert Law PLLC. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues. No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained in this article and/or its website, and Gilbert Law PLLC disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this article and/or its website to the fullest extent permitted by law.