Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Does Social Media Effect a Family Law Case

By: Steven D. Fichtman

In this digital age, we’ve all gotten used to sharing a lot about our lives on our social media accounts. But there are some things that should never be posted! If you’re staying home “sick” from work, don’t talk about your actual whereabouts; if you’re going out of town, don’t tell everyone when your house will be vacant; and don’t post about your ongoing family law case.

There is a good chance your spouse will check your social media accounts and, now, opposing lawyers and even judges are getting in on the act. It is common place in today’s family law cases for participants to learn more information about you from your social media pages. Sometimes, a person’s Facebook account can provide enough information to lose their family law case.

Often a party will not need to look too far to find messages about a spouse, lawyer, or even the Judge. These messages can be easily saved, printed, and used against you. A good rule of thumb is not to post statements that you would not want your mother to read (or, at the very least, your judge).

Another issue we have run into is that individuals involved in family law cases sometimes post embarrassing photographs of themselves which can also be used in court. While a photograph from a party you went to six months ago may sound like a great image to include in your profile, that same image can be used by an opposing lawyer against you. During your family law case it is not a good idea to post photographs of yourself that you would not want a judge to see. Obviously it will be hard to convince a judge what a wonderful parent you are – even if it’s true – when there are photographs of you intoxicated, incapacitated, or in an uncompromising position available for anyone to see.

The most egregious mistake you can make is to post information you have discussed in communication with your lawyer. Often times in your family law case there is a strategy adopted from the onset which will be used throughout the case and ultimately through to trial. Clients sometimes post those private communications and even trial strategy on their social media accounts. Needless to say, this can be devastating to your family law case as it will not only encourage your spouse to change their behavior, but the opposing lawyer will also learn your strategy and be prepared to defend against it. When information is posted for everyone to see, it may have a devastating impact on your case.

So if you’re involved in a family law case, before you post about your spouse, children, opposing counsel, judges, or communications you had with your lawyer, understand that social media can easily jeopardize your case long before you ever step foot into a courtroom.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bill of Rights Day

The Law Office of Keith R. Taylor Celebrates the 220th Anniversary of the
Adoption of the Bill of Rights into the United States Constitution  

On December 15, 1971, exactly 220 years ago today, history changed forever. The tenth state, Virginia, ratified the Bill of Rights making it part of our Constitution. This historic moment saved a new and fragile United States of America from an inevitable collapse of the ongoing negotiations between the states about the new Constitution following the failure of the Articles of Confederation.

Even today, the Bill of Rights remains the heartbeat that holds America up as a pillar of inspiration for liberty-seekers around the world. Its balance of political principles and personal freedoms has endured the changes that history has brought to our nation and has proven the Bill of Rights to be one of the most important documents for establishing global human rights.

The power of the document is even more amazing when you consider, as Chris Bills, Executive Director of MyBillofRights.org points out, that it only applied to about 5% of Americans in 1791. Since it didn’t apply to slaves or Native Americans or, in large part, to women, that really only left white men with enough property and position. But because the language of the Bill of Rights itself was not limited to a certain type, color, or class, it was able to evolve as our national concept of liberty evolved through the years. When we came through the tragedy of the civil war, we had the Bill of Rights as a blueprint for our future and, today, it is universally accepted that the freedoms in the Bill of Rights belong to us all as Americans.

While in today’s politics, “compromise” seems to be a nasty word, it is easy to forget that the Bill of Rights was the product of such tremendous compromise that it saved the fate of our nation. When the Federalists sat down with the Anti-Federalists and came to a compromise, it was not because they lacked conviction, but because they respected the knowledge of others and knew the limitation of their own.

Our founders knew that a lack of compromise was a road to tyranny and that concentrations of power would be had at the expense of personal liberty. It was on this basis that they established a system of checks and balances, focused on the liberty of each individual. America is the first nation in history that was founded on such a set of principles. Our greatest achievements as a nation can be traced to the times we fought to defend these principles and our worst failures when we abandoned them. At we sit at a crossroads in our nation with a difficult path ahead, there could be no better time to revisit the principles of our Bill of Rights and look to it for inspiration.

Unfortunately, on a day memorializing one of the most important moments of our collective national history, very few are celebrating. The Bill of Rights is barely taught in our schools and is largely ignored in the public sphere. It seems more widely known that December 15th is National Cupcake Day. It is our hope that you will take a moment today to consider the Bill of Rights and the tremendous impact it has had on our nation. Think about the principles it embodies and how we can embrace them today to move forward through a difficult time in our nation. Read the Bill of Rights, talk to your kids about what it means, and appreciate what a blessing it is to be an American.

Of course, you could also eat a cupcake. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What if my will was written in another state?

By: Attorney Adam A. Czaya

Wills written outside of Florida are valid in here in Florida if they were validly written in that state (or country). Florida, however, does not recognize holographic wills (wills that do not have two witness signatures and the signature of the testator). So you will need to make sure that your will does have two witness signatures and your own signature in order for it to be valid here in Florida.

However, even if your will is valid, you may want to consider re-writing your will now that you're here in the Sunshine State. There are advantages to having a Florida will including that Florida allows the testator to create a separate document that distributes tangible personal property without amending their will. Tangible personal property includes things like fur coats, specific pieces of jewelry, or pieces of art. This is very convenient and many people like the advantage of being able to keep a separate list of these tangible personal property items and who they want to leave them to because the process for updating or changing this list is much simpler than revising your will.

A separate writing is only valid if the document is specifically referred to in the will itself. If your will was written in a state that does not allow the use of the separate tangible personal property list, it will most likely not be referred to in your will and you will not be able to take advantage of this convenient statutory provision. More detailed information regarding the separate memorandum distributing tangible personal property can be found at § 732.515, Florida Statutes. If you're considering updating your last will and testament from Florida or from another state, feel free to call our office and schedule a consultation with me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Merry Chri--um--Holidays?

Christmas versus Holidays: A National Debate
In the last decade, a great debate has grown that begins each year in December. We have seen a trend in many state governments and in many corporate entities to take the Christmas out and put the Holidays in. We started having “holiday trees” in town squares and Walmarts, and “happy holidays” as the quote on City Hall signs and as the required greeting in stores nationwide. What many did not expect from this change was a huge backlash. After loud protest by many who felt the change was overly politically correct and insincere, most of the changes were reversed. Yet this year, as every year, it has come up again. Lincoln Chafee, Governor of Rhode Island is facing public backlash after dubbing his 17 foot spruce a “holiday tree.” According to the Associated Press, he said that calling the tree “a holiday tree is in keeping with Rhode Island’s founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance, where government and religion were kept separate.” Since his decision, Chafee has heard mockery and scorn from the residents of Rhode Island as well as from national media. 

So, is calling it a holiday tree a nice way to include those of faiths other than Christianity? Or is it overly politically correct and just plain silly? Many are of the mind that a large decorated evergreen is a symbol of Christmas whether you call it that or not, and trying to change it seems insincere. Some atheists are even bothered by the change to “holiday tree.” As Christmas has become more secularized, they feel that they can celebrate with a tree and gifts without it necessarily being a religious holiday for them. Most do not get offended when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas but, in fact, wish it right back. There are, of course, extreme views on both ends. Some groups (popularly voiced by Lou Dobbs, for example) feel that refusal to say “Merry Christmas” or have a “Christmas tree” is a deliberate attempt to alienate Christians, while others feel government use of the term "Christmas" alienates those of other faiths or no faith, and even violates First Amendment rights mandating separation of church and state. What is your opinion? Do you feel that political correctness has gone too far, or do you think dubbing December the month of Holidays, rather than Christmas, is an appropriate reflection of the diversity of our nation?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to Walt Disney!

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”

Walter Elias “Walt” Disney was born on December 5th, 1901 in Chicago. In 1923, he established the Walt Disney Company, which is now the largest media conglomerate in the world by revenue. Best known for the classic films and, of course, his creation Mickey Mouse, Disney also spawned the creation of 14 theme parks around the world. In his short 65 years, he completely changed the face of American entertainment and showed generations the magic of a good story. So today, on his birthday, we would like to recognize Walt Disney as a businessman, entertainer, and American icon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Citrus County Holiday Events this December

There are a number of exciting events and activities going on in and around Citrus County this December to celebrate Christmas. Here are some highlights – you won’t want to miss them!

December 2nd – Inverness Historical Society Tree Lighting (5:30-7:00 pm)
Taking place at the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum in downtown Inverness, the Historical Society will be hosting a tree lighting along with Christmas Carols and a visit from Santa!
December 3rd – Crystal River Christmas Parade (6:00-9:00 pm)
The Crystal River Christmas parade will begin at NE 3rd and head down Highway 19 toward Port Paradise Road. The parade will feature dozens of floats, Christmas music, marching bands, and of course Santa.
December 3rd – The Nutcracker at the Curtis Peterson Auditorium in Lecanto (6:00pm)
The Nutcracker School of Dance Arts at Inverness presents their annual production of “The Nutcracker,” Saturday, December 3rd, at Lecanto’s Curtis Peterson Auditorium at 6 pm.
December 10th – Inverness Christmas Parade (12:00-2:00 pm)
The Inverness Christmas Parade, presented by the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, will take place in the downtown square at noon. With floats, lights, and music it will be fun for the whole family.
December 18th – Citrus Springs Christmas Parade (2:00pm)
Beginning at Fountain on Citrus Springs Boulevard off Route 41, the parade will feature family and business floats, marchers, and awards for the best and funniest floats. Contact the Citrus Springs Civic Association for more information.

If you're looking for a chance to give back this season, check out our other post here to learn some great charities where you can volunteer or donate to give back to our community this month. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Season Community Events - Part I

As we officially begin the Christmas season, many want to use this time to give back to our community. If you're looking for an opportunity to provide a helping hand or get more involved in a Citrus County charitable organization this Christmas season, we're here to help you with some ideas. Our attorneys and staff are involved with a number of wonderful organizations that provide many opportunities for us all to give back at this joyful time of year. Here are just a few of the upcoming events in Citrus County to give back to our community:

December 3rd - Rotary Club of Crystal River's K-Mart Christmas Shopping
Every December, the Rotary Club of Crystal River teams up with the Crystal River Big K in the Crystal River Mall to provide Citrus County youth the chance to purchase Christmas gifts for their families. Many of the children would not have gifts to open on Christmas morning without this opportunity to purchase them on this charitable day. After shopping, the group also helps the children wrap their gifts. If you would like more information on the Christmas Shopping or would like to learn how you can help, visit the Club's website or give them a call at 352-417-1160. 

All Month - Citrus United Basket Toy Drive
Citrus United Basket provides financial assistance, food and clothing, as well as employment support to local residents in need. For Christmas, they are having a food and toy drive. They are located at 103 N. Mill Ave. in downtown Inverness. For more information call 352-344-2242.

Through December 22 - Spot Family Center Toy Drive
The Spot Family Center is collecting new, unwrapped toys for distribution to needy Citrus County children on December 23 and 24th. There are 8 collection centers throughout the county.They also need volunteers to help wrap gifts at wrapping parties on December 13, 15, 20 and 22. For information on wrapping parties, or toy drop-offs, visit their website.