Injured in a Slip and Fall Accident

October 14th, 2013

Just a few short years ago, a Georgia man was awarded $400,000 in a slip and fall case against a Kroger store – a record Georgia verdict for the type of rotator cuff injury the victim received. The victim, Karey Chambers slipped on spilled yogurt, and while Kroger claimed the injuries Chambers received stemmed from a “pure accident,” video surveillance showed a Kroger employee walking past the spilled yogurt numerous times, triggering “constructive knowledge of the surroundings,” therefore liability on the part of Kroger.

Over eight million hospital emergency room visits annually are the direct result of some type of fall, with slip and fall accidents accounting for over 12% of that total. There are a number of factors involved in a slip and fall in a public place such as:

  • Obstacles which should reasonably have been removed
  • Lack of hazard warnings around rain or snow-soaked entrances
  • Dangerously stacked store items
  • Spilled liquids which should reasonably have been cleaned up or marked with a hazard warning
  • Faulty freezer equipment resulting in wet floors
  • Freshly mopped spills with no hazard warning signs

Victims of Slip and Fall Accidents
While any person of any age can become the victim of a hazardous surface resulting in a slip and fall, women over the age of 60 are among those most likely to be injured. In fact, one in every three adults over the age of 65 will suffer a fall each year.

Where Slip and Falls Occur
Other than grocery stores, the most common places slip and fall accidents occur include:

  • Public restrooms
  • Parking lots
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Swimming pool areas
  • Areas of construction
  • Stationary or moving sidewalks or escalators
  • Curbs
  • Nightclubs

When we walk in public places we deserve to be advised of any hazards which may be present. Shiny floors or poor lighting may disguise hazardous conditions in some cases or, in the case of grocery store slip and falls, the shopping cart may prevent the person from seeing an upcoming hazard.

Who is Responsible?
Both parties – the person walking and the business owner – have some degree of responsibility in a slip and fall accident. When a slip and fall lawsuit is filed, the injured party will need to show that reasonable care was exercised while the property owner will need to show that reasonable care was taken to keep the public safe from harm. Several questions need to be considered prior to filing a slip and fall lawsuit due to personal injury incurred. If a spill was responsible for your fall, was the liquid on the floor long enough for the property owner or an employee of the property owner to have knowledge of the spill?

If the spill occurred just moments prior to your fall, then the property owner may not be liable simply because there was not sufficient time to become aware of the spill and clean it up.  Were you paying attention to your surroundings at the time of your fall and would a “reasonable” person have been able to avoid the fall? Were your injuries severe enough that you were forced to seek medical attention? Will your injuries affect your ability to earn a living or alter your ability to complete your daily routines?

How We Can Help
If you are the victim of a slip and fall which resulted in injury and was directly due to negligence on the part of the business owner, the personal injury attorneys at McLeod Law Firm, P.C., can help you obtain the compensation you are entitled to. We understand that you have medical expenses, may be unable to return to work and could also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering. We will work hard to ensure you receive the necessary compensation to rebuild your life and look forward to your future. Call (770) 536-0202 today for a consultation.

Share

Benefits of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement

October 9th, 2013

Undoubtedly, pre-nuptial agreements are considered to be a foreboding omen of bad luck among some couples in Georgia and across the U.S. Specifically, it is often the case where people view these types of agreements as unnecessary, in that they believe they function to treat a marriage like a business contract rather than a sacred and sacrosanct bond between two people. Others view a pre-nuptial agreement as a threat to the trust that two people should have in each other both before and during a marriage. Although a divorce is never the expected outcome, a pre-nuptial agreement can provide a couple with a number of benefits. If you are contemplating entering into a pre-nuptial agreement or have heard a number of myths associated therewith, it is important for you to consider the positive aspects of these types of agreements, such as:

  1. Certainty.  A pre-nuptial agreement is an ideal way in which prospective spouses can set out their respective expectations regarding their finances, assets and other aspects, resulting in the parties knowing exactly what to expect in the event of a death or divorce.
  2. Preservation of property. Parties to a pre-nuptial agreement are able to preserve the status of the property and financial assets that they bring to the marriage as “separate”.  This may be highly beneficial should the parties decide to divorce.
  3. Debt protection. If one spouse comes to the marriage with debt, a pre-nuptial agreement can protect the other spouse from being forced to satisfy his or her debts that were incurred prior to the marriage.
  4. Protects a family business. A family business is extremely important to protect, especially in light of the income it generates and the property it owns. Pre-nuptial agreements are a great way in which to preserve the status of the business as one belonging to the family.
  5. Reduces conflict during a divorce. By entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, it provides a couple with guidelines over “who gets what” in a divorce.  As such, there is less to argue and debate about during the pendency of their divorce.
  6. Protects family members. Oftentimes, pre-nuptial agreements protect the interests of children from a prior marriage.  This way, a spouse can protect his or her children and/or family members who would otherwise lose out to marital property in the event of a divorce.
  7. Reduces the expenses associated with a divorce. Since over 50% of marriages currently end in divorce, it is definitely worth considering the costs associated with filing such an action. Should each party’s respective rights be spelled out in a pre-nuptial agreement, it can effectively reduce conflicts and other problems that can lead to expensive legal bills and other associated expenses.

Overall, it is important to understand that pre-nuptial agreements, especially in Georgia, will be rendered unenforceable by a judge should they not be improperly (meaning, the terms of unfair, coercive, etc.) and in accordance with the law.  As such, a family law attorney is in the best position to assist you in discussing all of the above factors and additional ones that may pertain to your case to ensure that you have a fully enforceable and well-drafted document that is protective of your interests.

Contact the McLeod Law Firm, P.C. Now to Learn More!
For more information on whether a pre- or post-nuptial agreement is right for you, or if you would like to learn more about your legal options should a divorce be on the horizon, contact the McLeod Law Firm, P.C. to schedule your initial case evaluation. We invite you to contact us at (770) 536-0202 to find out more about how we can make a difference for you. Don’t wait to obtain the qualified and highly dependable legal representation you need.  Call us now to learn more about our highly seasoned family law services.

Share

Alternatives to Divorce Litigation

October 3rd, 2013

Alternatives to Divorce Litigation in Georgia: Arbitration & Court-Referred Mediation
In Georgia, state law dictates the process by which parties can pursue a divorce. For example, it outlines the particulars of who may be eligible to file for divorce, the underlying legal process related thereto, and several other important and related factors. However, it also provides a number of formalized procedures by which prospective divorce applicants can go their separate ways without the hassles associated with a traditional, more adversarial type divorce.

Specifically, under Georgia law, individuals contemplating a divorce are afforded the option to forego the standard divorce route by choosing either arbitration or a form of alternative dispute resolution known as court-referred mediation (private mediation is also an option however, for purposes of this article we are focusing on this specific form) to settle their marital differences. However, it is important to consider that the decision to choose one method over another depends upon a number of factors, including how well the parties are able to get along, the end result that each party is seeking, and the amount of money that the parties are willing and/or able to spend to obtain a resolution of their case.

While there are a number of inherent differences between arbitration and mediation, they both have a number of benefits in common, such as the fact that they typically are quicker to resolve, less expensive than a traditional divorce proceeding, and completely confidential. Notwithstanding, the differences between the two are significant and must be fully considered before choosing which path to follow. Accordingly, it is crucial to speak with a qualified Georgia family law attorney to guide you through the process and help you make a decision regarding what best fits in light of your specific set of circumstances.

What is Arbitration and the Benefits Associated With this Process?
There are two types of arbitration methods in Georgia: non-binding and binding arbitration. With respect to both forms of arbitration, a neutral arbitrator presides over the matter, hears both sides, and renders a final decision. In binding arbitration, the parties are generally unable to appeal a decision rendered by the arbitrator absent a showing of prejudice or bias. Conversely, in non-binding arbitration, the parties may appeal their case to a Georgia trial court however, if the arbitrator’s decision is consistent with the trial court’s ruling, the appealing party may be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the party defending the appeal. In general, arbitration is most beneficial for parties that wish to avail themselves of the substantive finality of an arbitrator’s decision without having to expend significant amounts of money associated with a traditional divorce proceeding.

Regardless of the type of arbitration you ultimately choose, an experienced family law attorney is in the best position to assist you in fighting for your rights and protecting your legal interests during the entire process.  Just because arbitration (whether binding or not) is a less formal type of setting does not mean that a lawyer is not necessary. Many times, people choose arbitration as a way of avoiding attorney’s fees yet later on realize that they should have had one from the beginning. The skills, experience and knowledge of an attorney are essential and should not be dismissed should arbitration be your preferred method of divorcing your spouse.

What is Court-Referred Mediation and How Can it Help Me?
A
fter filing one’s case and prior to going to trial, a couple can opt for what is mentioned above as “court referred mediation”. This helps parties determine certain issues such as child support, child custody, alimony and other important aspects of a divorce case. This way, parties, especially with the assistance of an attorney, can try and resolve at least some of their major issues without having a judge decide them (which can have undesired results).  In general, should parties choose to mediate the terms of their divorce in this manner, it is essential for them to realize that the mediator’s role is simply advisory. In other words, it is unlike arbitration where the arbitrator functions more like a judge and renders a final decision over the matter. Overall, mediation is most beneficial for parties that are able to cooperate with each other and work both inclusively and collaboratively to resolve their case. Moreover, it typically involves less research, paperwork and preparation and also allows the party to be heard, yet in a less acrimonious and time consuming manner. As mentioned, a family law attorney can certainly add a significant amount of value to the process, as they can help you to make decisions during mediation and understand all of your legal rights and responsibilities.

Contact the McLeod Law Firm To Learn More!
For more information on the above, or if you are considering a divorce in Georgia, contact the McLeod Law Firm, P.C. of Gainesville Georgia to schedule your initial case evaluation. Unlike a large law firm, our highly experienced team of family law attorneys and staff provide each and every client with the personal attention, respect and regular communication they rightfully deserve. We invite you to contact us at (770) 536-0202 to find out more about how we can make a difference for you. Don’t wait to obtain the qualified representation you need – call us to learn more.

Share

High Value Asset Divorces

October 1st, 2013

High Value Asset Divorces & How an Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Make a Difference

Regardless of whether you categorize yourself as a high income earner or not, you may nonetheless own a substantial amount of high-value assets that could become the focal point of a divorce case. For instance, perhaps you worked hard to build and maintain a successful business, or you inherited a highly valuable family estate. As such, if you feel that a divorce is on the horizon, it is crucial to understand that without competent legal counsel, your property may become vulnerable for the taking by your spouse.

Specifically, Georgia is an “equitable property division” state, meaning that judges are afforded a significant amount of discretion in determining what a fair division of assets is in someone’s divorce and marital separation case. Keep in mind that “fair” does not necessarily mean “equal”. For the purposes of illustration, a judge may ultimately determine the fate of your highly valuable property in a way that you do not consider to be fair in light of the amount of time and effort you expended in obtaining it. Keep in mind that during this process, the judge’s analysis of your property and resulting division may be contingent upon many factors, such as:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The separate assets owned by each individual to the marriage;
  • The earning potential of each spouse and their respective financial needs following divorce;
  • The existence of a business; and
  • The conduct of the parties during the divorce (i.e. a finding that one or both spouses hid assets or liquidated a marital bank account).

In light of the above, the point to take away here is that you must take certain steps to safeguard your high-value assets during your divorce. Accordingly, a family law attorney specializing in divorce is in the best position to help you in this regard. Specifically, when representing a client who wants to protect their high-value assets, a qualified Georgia marital separation and divorce lawyer will address, review and determine several of the following (typically at issue in these types of cases) in order to help guard what is rightfully yours:

  • The valuation of a business or one’s professional license. When one party is claiming entitlement to the value of a spouse’s business or professional degree (especially if one party supported the other in obtaining it), it is important to work with an attorney who can coordinate with valuation experts to determine a fair value of what they are worth. Oftentimes, one spouse will naturally claim they are valued at more than the other, making it important to have this information at one’s disposal should their valuation numbers be challenged by their spouse.
  • The valuation of a marital home. This is another area of high-asset divorces where things can become a bit complicated. Like with the valuation of a business or professional degree, the valuation of a marital home often becomes highly contested, especially when it may be placed on the market as a result of a divorce, or, if one chooses to keep the home and buy the other out.
  • Verification of one’s income. Oftentimes, high-asset divorces involve conflicts between divorcing spouses regarding one or both of their sources of income and how much they actually earn. This is crucial information to obtain, especially since one partner may claim that the other makes more than they actually do.
  • Separate property versus marital property. It is crucial that the parties to a divorce case determine what is separate and what is considered to be marital property. Separate property is comprised of  assets that were acquired prior to the marriage and/or assets that were acquired by gift or inheritance that were not later made part of the marital estate. Marital property is comprised of assets that were acquired during the marriage. The line between these two often becomes blurred and becomes a point of contention in divorce litigation.

Contact the McLeod Law Firm
For more information on the above, or if you would like to learn more about your legal options in your high-asset divorce case, contact the McLeod Law Firm, P.C. to schedule your initial case evaluation. Specifically, our team of legal professionals has successfully represented clients located throughout northern Georgia in all types of family law proceedings – regardless of how challenging or complex – for over two decades. We invite you to contact us at (770) 536-0202 to find out more about how we can make a difference for you.

Share

Divorce – QDRO’s and Retirement

September 16th, 2013

Qualified domestic relations orders, commonly known as “QDROs”, frequently confuse individuals going through a divorce.  However, they are actually relatively simple in concept, though must be drafted with extreme care and attention to detail to ensure they effectuate the intent of the parties of the divorce.  A QDRO is an order approved by a judge pertaining to retirement assets to someone other than the participant.  While the parties to a divorce can agree to virtually all terms of marital settlement agreements, any provision related to payment of retirement assets to someone other than the participant—for example, a former spouse or a child—must be approved by a judge.

Under federal laws governing retirement plans, otherwise known as ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), only certain individuals are eligible to receive another’s retirement benefits under a QDRO.  29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(B)(ii)(I).  These individuals include current or former spouses, children, and dependents.  29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(B)(ii)(I).

QDROs must contain certain information, including the participant and alternate payee names, the name of the retirement plan, the amount of the payment to be paid to the alternate payee, and the length of the payments to the alternate payee.  29 U.S.C. § 1056(d)(3)(C)(i)-(iv).

QDROs are generally of two types—shared payment or separate interest.  The distinction is based upon the identity of whose life expectancy on which the alternate payee’s payments are based.  If the payments are based on the participant’s life expectancy, the QDRO is a shared interest QDRO.  In essence, the alternate payee receives a share, or portion, of the participant’s right to payment when the participant becomes eligible to begin receiving benefits.  If the alternate payee dies before the participant, the alternate payee’s right to payment is absorbed by the participant.  The participant is required to make certain elections under his or her plan to ensure that the alternate payee’s right to payments does not cease upon the death of the participant.

A separate interest QDRO is based upon the life expectancy of the alternate payee.  The payment is based upon an actuarial calculation of the life expectancy of the alternate payee and is adjusted to equate to an appropriate amount for a lifetime annuity that equals that of the participant.  This is done because ERISA prohibits increasing benefits under a QDRO, and failing to take a longer life expectancy of the alternate payee into consideration could potentially do just that.

Whether a shared payment or separate interest QDRO, it can provide a valuable negotiation point and strategy tool in the division of assets and liabilities between spouses in a divorce.  It is important to discuss all aspects of a QDRO with your divorce attorney, because any misunderstanding about the terms of a QDRO can lead to a QDRO that does not do what you, as the client, intended or thought it would.  Key considerations include the importance of the amount versus the length of payments and reversion interests.

David McLeod has been representing individuals facing divorce for over twenty years, and he is experienced in helping clients make long-term decisions such as those involved in structuring a QDRO.  If you are an individual living in Georgia currently involved in or contemplating a divorce, contact Mr. McLeod today to set up a consultation.  He can be reached at (770) 536-0202.

Share

Marital Settlement Agreements

September 9th, 2013

Divorces are often complicated, messy events.  It is a confusing time in the lives of individuals going through a divorce.  Because of this, many people struggle with making sense of all aspects of a divorce.  However, the ramifications of your divorce will be with you long after your divorce is finalized.  Thus, it is imperative that all aspects of your financial relationship with your spouse are adequately addressed in the documents that outline the terms of your divorce.  The attorneys at McLeod Law Firm, P.C., of Gainesville GA are experienced in asking the right questions to ensure this occurs.  Before you meet with any attorney, below are some considerations regarding documenting the terms of your divorce go as smoothly as possible.

Marital Settlement Agreements
In Georgia, documents known as marital settlement agreements set forth the terms of a divorce.  Marital settlement agreements should address the following:

Division of Assets
One of the key aspects of all divorces is the division of assets.  Most divorcing couples have at least some assets that need to be allocated.  These assets can include real estate; bank accounts; stock portfolios; personal property, including household furnishings, housewares, collectibles, and electronics; cars; and watercraft.  In order to help make certain that all assets are accounted for and are allocated equitably, a list should be made of all of the assets that you acquired during your marriage.  A list should also be made of all assets that you owned prior to your marriage, as these assets are generally not subject to your spouse’s claim to them.

Allocation of Liabilities
Of considerable concern in a divorce is the allocation of liabilities.  Liabilities related to joint debts of the couple or incurred in relation to everyday living expenses are generally subject to sharing.  However, that does not mean that these debts will be equally allocated, as the allocation of debt also depends upon the distribution of assets and income of each spouse.  Moreover, debts incurred by one spouse solely for his or her benefit or for excessive purposes, such as luxury items, should not be shared.  Accordingly, as with a list of assets, a list of debts should be compiled and examined to determine which debts are marital debts and which are not.  If your spouse is uncooperative in providing information regarding suspected debts, information can be subpoenaed or your spouse can otherwise be compelled to provide the information.  You do not want to find out after the divorce that your spouse incurred significant debt for which you may be responsible or for which you need to go back to court to seek a determination of responsibility.

Child Support
Child support is a very important element in a divorce if children are involved.  In Georgia, child support is calculated based upon the income of both parents, along with a variety of other factors, including the number of children, who has primary physical custody of the children, childcare expenses, insurance costs, and educational expenses.

Life Insurance
Very often, spouses are the beneficiaries of one another’s life insurance policies.  Whether these beneficiary designations will remain should be addressed in a marital settlement agreement.  Similarly, if children are involved, life insurance policies with the children as beneficiaries may be necessary, depending upon the income of the individuals involved.  If such a policy is contemplated, the specific obligations of the spouse procuring the insurance policy should be set forth in the marital settlement agreement.

Alimony
Alimony is the award of support paid by one spouse to the other.  There are several different types of alimony.  Prior to the finalization of a divorce, a spouse may be able to obtain temporary alimony.  Additionally, the marital settlement agreement will outline alimony payments to be made after a divorce.  Alimony subsequent to a divorce may be for a shorter-term duration, such as a few years, or may permanent and endure for the life of the spouses.  If significant changes occur in the life of either spouse, alimony awards can be modified post-divorce.

A spouse is eligible for alimony if he or she has a financial need and the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony.  Factors taken into consideration in determining both the amount and duration of alimony payments include current income, earning potential, division of assets, allocation of debt, the standard of living during the marriage, the spouses’ ages, the length of time of the marriage, and the behaviors of each spouse that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
Every marriage is unique; every divorce is unique; and every marital settlement agreement will be unique.  Therefore, the above considerations are not an exhaustive list of things to be addressed in a marital settlement agreement.  In order to ensure that all aspects of your relationship with your spouse are properly dealt with, it is important to retain an experienced divorce attorney.  There are many things that are easily overlooked, and it is much more difficult to address them after the fact.  McLeod Law Firm, P.C., has extensive experience representing divorcing individuals and counseling them through the negotiation of a marital settlement agreement.  We can be reached at (770) 536-0202.

Share

Child Custody Disputes

September 4th, 2013

Divorce is a devastating event for most individuals.  Your entire world is turned upside down, sometimes quite literally overnight.  Custody disputes can be one of the most painful, bitter aspects of a divorce.  Spouses often act in self-interested ways that do not fully or partially take the best interests of their children into consideration.

Georgia Custody Laws
Under Georgia law, there is no presumption as to which parent is entitled to custody.  Either a mother or father is equally entitled to seek custody, whether full or joint.  Do not assume just because you are a father, you are not entitled to seek the custody you want.  All decisions about custody are measured by an evaluation of what is in the best interest of the children.

There are two types of custody sharing arrangements in most states, including Georgia—full and joint.  Full custody involves one parent having full control over the children.  Joint custody involves both parents having control over the children.

There are two types of control arrangements at issue in Georgia, as well.  Physical custody involves the parent with whom the children have their primary living arrangements and the parent who is the primary caretaker.  Physical custody can be sole or joint.  Legal custody involves the ability of one or both parents to have a say in the major decisions involving the children, and likewise can be sole or joint.

Custody arrangements are set forth in what is known as a parenting plan.  The parenting plan provides for things such as holiday visitation schedules; visitation schedules more generally; transportation arrangements; allocation of expenses related to the children, such as schooling; and how decisions and decision-making is allocated between the parents.

Georgia also provides that children fourteen years of age or older can make an election about which parent the child wants to live with.  However, a judge can overrule this election if he or she believes it is not in the best interests of the child.

Custody disputes can involve who has physical custody, and related visitation issues, who has legal custody, or both, and whether that custody is sole or joint.  Regardless of the nature of the custody dispute, individuals engaged in custody disputes can become emotional, irrational, and hostile.  Some parents use custody disputes as a tool to exact revenge on the other spouse, and will resort to all manner of negative tactics, such as threats, libel and slander, and manipulation of the children, to get what they want.  When this happens, it is important to retain an attorney who is experienced in difficult custody disputes to ensure that your interests as a parent and an individual are fully protected.  Emotions, including anger, can run very high, and attorneys not used to this may not be quite sure how to deal with such emotions, especially over a long period of time.  Additionally, it is not uncommon for parties to be in court on a regular basis when custody disputes are ongoing, so it is also important to retain an attorney that you trust, because you will be relying on him or her for months or even longer to come.

The professionals at McLeod Law Firm, P.C., located in Gainesville GA, have been navigating the rocky waters of child custody disputes for over two decades.  If you live in Georgia and are in need of an attorney to help you through a difficult custody dispute, we are here.  Contact us today at (770) 536-0202 to set up an initial consultation.

Share

McLeod Law Firm, P.C. – Division of Assets

August 27th, 2013

During a marriage, many couples amass a significant amount of assets.  This is especially true for high net worth couples.  Divisions of these assets can be a critical part of a divorce.  In order to ensure that assets are divided appropriately, a thorough analysis of the assets of the couple, and the assets of each spouse, must be made… ideally by an experienced attorney.  Negotiations regarding division of assets can be particularly contentious for high net worth individuals, as there is quite simply a lot at stake.  Because of this, it is helpful to retain an attorney to assist you through this process.

Equitable Distribution
Georgia is an equitable distribution state.  This means that assets are not necessarily divided equally; rather, they are divided based upon the financial circumstances of each spouse and the principal of fairness.  Thus, there is no set formula or calculation.  Division of assets is closely tied to allocation of debts, as well.

Parties can agree to a division of assets between themselves.  If a couple cannot so agree, a judge or jury will determine the division of assets.  He or she will examine factors including the earning capacity of each spouse, the contribution of each spouse to any particular asset, the length of the marriage, and whether any children are involved.  For example, if there are children, the marital home will typically be awarded to the spouse having primary physical custody.  Depending upon whether the home is subject to a mortgage, the judge may award the other spouse a more sizeable portion of other assets, such as bank accounts.

What Is Subject to Division?
Assets are classified as either marital, and subject to division, or non-marital, and not subject to division.  Marital assets generally include all assets that a couple acquired in contemplation of or during the marriage.  Such assets include income, vehicles, the marital home, investment accounts, and household furnishings.

Regardless of whether it was acquired during the marriage, certain assets are non-marital.  These include inheritances and gifts.  Likewise, assets that were owned by one spouse prior to the marriage are normally considered non-marital assets.  However, if non-marital assets have been used to purchase marital assets, such as a house, or otherwise commingled with marital assets, the determination is more convoluted.  In such an instance, an examination of the nature of the purchase or commingling and the contribution of each spouse after the purchase or commingling, along with the division of other assets and allocation of liabilities, will be necessary.

Retirement Accounts
Individuals with high net worth often have significant amounts invested in retirement accounts.  Depending upon whether these accounts were established prior to or during the marriage and the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, retirement accounts are subject to division.  This is true regardless of the nature of the retirement account—for example, a self-directed IRA or a pension plan.  This is also true if only one spouse contributed financially to the marriage, but the other spouse contributed to the marriage in other ways, such as caring for the home and children.  Division of assets involving retirement accounts must be done in a very specific manner to ensure that the administrators of the plan adhere to the terms of the division instructions

Contact Us
Attorney David McLeod has over two decades of experience representing individuals in divorces, and he can help you understand the assets to which you are entitled.  If you have questions about the divisions of assets, or would like to set up an initial consultation, the McLeod Law Firm, P.C., can be reached at (770) 536-0202.

Share

Is Driving While Texting More Dangerous Than Driving Under the Influence?

August 20th, 2013

Although the state of Georgia passed a ban on texting while driving in July of 2010, state records reveal that fewer than 50 people per month have been convicted of the offense since the passage of that law. State troopers say the law—while a good start—is difficult to enforce. The police officer must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver behind the wheel was actually texting, not dialing a number or talking, which can be difficult barring other witnesses. Other states such as California, New Jersey, New York and Nevada have enacted even stricter laws, banning the use of any type of handheld cell phone. This means police officers in those states are not required to prove the driver was texting—only that they had a cell phone in their hand.

The Dangers of Texting While Driving
Even less of a deterrent, the penalty for texting while driving in Georgia is a mere $150 fine plus one point on the offender’s driving record. Gwinnett County happens to be the only county in Georgia where enforcement of the no-texting law is more than minimal. In fact, more texting drivers were convicted in Gwinnett County than in all other Georgia counties combined. Despite the dearth of public service announcements and news reports of fatalities due to texting, many people seem to feel they are exempt from the no-texting rule or that the practice really isn’t as dangerous as many believe it to be. Contrary to these beliefs, studies show that texting drivers are a whopping 23 times more likely to crash than those who are not texting and that the driver’s eyes leave the road for an average of 4.6 seconds each time they send or receive a text. This is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded if your car is traveling 55 mph.

Accidents Due to Texting While Driving
The state of Georgia attributes nearly 4,000 crashes last year to cell phone use (including texting) resulting in nine fatalities and 955 serious injuries. There are three types of distracted driving: visual (removing your eyes from the road), cognitive (letting your mind wander from your driving) and manual (taking your hands from the wheel). Texting is particularly dangerous as it combines all three forms of distraction. Driving a vehicle and texting is considered to be six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Texting while driving is now the leading cause of auto accidents and fatalities among teenage drivers—replacing drinking while driving. So, while the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths has dropped nearly 52% since 1982, non-alcohol related traffic fatalities have jumped 78%–likely due in large part to driver’s texting while behind the wheel.

Drivers must ask themselves if seeing a text sent to them immediately or answering a text is really worth the potential of causing a serious or fatal auto accident. Like any form of distracted driving, when your attention is away from the road—even for a few short seconds—the odds of having an accident increase exponentially. If you are the victim of an accident caused by a texting driver the attorneys of McLeod Law Firm want to help. We are committed to our clients and proud of our experience and track record. While every case is different we will listen to the specific details of your accident then clearly detail your options. We believe you deserve a highly seasoned advocate in your corner who will work hard to ensure you receive a fair settlement for your injuries. Call (770)536-0202 today to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

Share

Tips to Avoiding Facebook Faux Pas’ during a Divorce

August 13th, 2013

Whether contemplating a divorce or currently going through the process, it is important to keep in mind that Facebook messages can become one of the most hotly contested issues in one’s case. The reason being is that sometimes people fail to realize that Facebook messages, despite innocent intentions, can be wrongfully construed or even suggest that a person is acting inappropriately while still married. In fact, I would say that about 30% of the divorce cases I handle are impacted in some form or another by Facebook.

That is why if you believe that a divorce is on the horizon or are already in the midst of one, exercise caution when using social networking websites. Specifically, you never know how your ex, the judge or perhaps a jury will view your behavior and as such, it is important to consider the following tips when using Facebook (and other social networking sites):

  • Avoid posting information about yourself on Facebook until your divorce has been completed. While details may seem innocuous at the time of posting, it could cause you serious legal headaches down the road. For example, if you post information about your endeavors with your new beau while you are still legally married, your current spouse can use this against you in court. As such, put off these types of posts until well after your divorce case is finalized.
  • Don’t alter your Facebook profile page’s relationship status setting until your divorce is over. Publicizing a new relationship prior to the official court mandated end of your existing one can lead to unnecessary legal trouble. Remember that any information that you provide online can and may likely be used against you either in court or during divorce mediation.
  • Be careful with who you choose to be your Facebook “friends”.
  • If you don’t want people to know something, then don’t post it on Facebook. You never know who will talk and spread information about you that you otherwise want kept private. That is why you should never take any risks by sharing personal and otherwise confidential information on Facebook.
  • Avoid connecting with old flames on Facebook. While dealing with the emotional and physical toll of a divorce, it isn’t uncommon for people to seek out the solace and compassion of a former boyfriend or girlfriend. Keep in mind that this could lead to undesirable consequences, and could be deemed as infidelity by the court. As such, wait until your divorce proceeding is finalized before taking this often irresponsible, yet often innocently intended step.
  • Think before hitting the send button. Always ask yourself whether the post you are about to send is insensitive to your current spouse. Whether you care or not about his or her feelings, it is still important to realize that it is easy for them to find out what you are posting. Moreover, their reaction to your posts, whether positive, neutral or negative, could be misconstrued and result in major legal problems.
  • Consider suspending your Facebook account until your divorce is over. Sometimes, when clients of mine are really “into” Facebook, I advise them to suspend their accounts until their divorce case is completed. This way, it prevents them from engaging in risky behavior that could lead to serious and sometimes irreparable legal consequences later on.

Contact the McLeod Law Firm Today!

For more information on the above, or if you are considering a divorce in Georgia, contact the McLeod Law Firm, P.C. of Gainesville Georgia to schedule your initial case evaluation. Unlike a big firm, our team of legal professionals provides each and every client with the personal attention, respect and regular communication they deserve. We also take the time necessary to guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions in your case. We look forward to providing you with superior legal services!

Share