We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind

Why Do Domestic Violence Victims Stay With Their Abuser

Author: Robin Friedman

September 15th, 2014

If you are anything like me, you probably watched the video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer(now Janay Rice) in the face and cringed with anger and sadness.  I was shocked by the brutality of it.  And then I thought when it couldn’t get much worse, I heard the part of the story about how Ms. Palmer went on to marry Ray Rice and refused to testify against him in court.  It gave me the chills.

Those of us who have not lived through the experience of being in an abusive relationship cannot fathom how anyone would allow a significant other to treat them like that.  Initially, I became angry with Ms. Palmer for marrying Mr. Rice and refusing to testify against him, and that is the natural reaction most of us have. But, it is the wrong reaction.  Statistics show that a victim of domestic violence will attempt to leave her (or his) abuser numerous times before actually leaving for good and ending the relationship.  Leaving exposes the victim to great risk- roughly 75% of women who are killed by their abusers are murdered when they attempt to leave or after they have left a relationship.

We(meaning the friends, family and supporters of victims) cannot effectively convince a victim that she must leave her abuser.  That is a decision that must come from within.  So, the correct response from us in this situation would be to support Ms. Palmer, be a resource for her when she is in need, get her in touch with professionals that can help, and encourage her to make the decision to leave on her own.

If you are ready to leave an abusive relationship and need assistance obtaining a domestic violence protective order, contact one of our family law attorneys to schedule an appointment.

Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren

Author: Linda Grear

September 9th, 2014

Throughout history, grandparents and extended family have raised children; however, in our current society more and more grandparents are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren. In the United States, there are 2.4 million grandparents raising grandchildren. The idea of the two-parent family simply no longer reflects today’s modern families.

Reasons why grandparents rear grandchildren:

  • To reduce financial and emotional overloads of their own children or to help in transitional situations such as when a parent is sent overseas to work or for military service.
  • To shape the grandchild’s personal and cultural identity.
  • To prevent placement in a foster home.
  • To care for grandchild whose parents are incarcerated or have contracted illness.
  • To reduce grandchild’s contact with substance-abusing parents.
  • To curtail family crises, including physical and psychological abuse or neglect of children.

Rewards and drawbacks: Although there are great rewards for grandparents raising their grandchildren, such as the preservation of family history and values, the resolution of conflicts between parents and children, improved school behavior and social skills, and a life-long loving connection with grandchildren, there are also great challenges for these grandparent caretakers.

Some grandparents experience health problems due to caregiving demands, including depression, insomnia, back problems, and hypertension. Grandparent caretakers often find that they have little time to themselves because tight schedules can mean less time for other family members, friends and community activities. Additional household costs and expenses can become a financial hardship.

Get Legal Help

There are formal legal arrangements (legal guardianship, legal custody, or adoption) that will enable you to qualify for certain benefits and make decisions about your grandchild’s life. In New York, you will need legal custody or legal guardianship to enroll your grandchild in public school.

Get Support and Take Care of Yourself

It is important to seek help and support. A full database of support groups and services, for you and your grandkids, awaits you at AARP.org/grandparents. There you will find fact sheets for local support groups, legal assistance, public benefits, and state laws.

College Bound? Get Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy for your student!

Author: Linda Grear

August 14th, 2014

If you have children getting ready for college, you should consider having them prepare Durable General Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy documents.

From a practical perspective, you may be paying your child’s tuition and housing expenses, as well as covering him/her as a dependent on your health insurance; however, in the eyes of the law, a child is a legal adult at the age of 18 years and is entitled to privacy protections for financial and health care matters.

Under federal privacy rules (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act known as “HIPPA”) medical providers such as doctors, nurses, and hospital staff cannot speak with you regarding an adult patient’s medical condition without the patient’s consent.  In other words, if your child gets sick and requires medical care, medical information cannot be disclosed to you, even though you are the parent, with proper legal authority.

In the event of a medical emergency, parents may want to assure that they have legal authority to get information from their child’s medical providers.  A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows a patient to designate an agent to make health care decisions in the event they are unable to speak for themselves.  Additionally, the document may contain a HIPPA authorization to allow doctors and medical providers to release medical information.

A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints an agent to handle personal financial matters and obtain financial information.  There are situations where a Power of Attorney would be useful to collect financial aid or student loan checks payable to the student, handle issues related to financial assistance, and bill paying.  This may be particularly helpful if your student is studying abroad.  If your child runs into issues with his/her passport or the authorities in another country, you can have the authority to help.

Your child may be hesitant to give up privacy rights and may only want you to have access on a need-to-know basis. A family meeting to discuss the pros and cons may be helpful, but, ultimately your child’s decision.  Before your child heads off to college this Fall, sit down and create a plan for handling medical emergencies and other unexpected obstacles.  It will give both parent and child peace of mind.

If you have any questions about the above material, or wish to speak to attorney, please contact HoganWillig, Attorneys at Law at (716)636-7600 or visit www.hoganwillig.com. HoganWillig’s main office is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York with additional offices in Lockport, Lancaster and Buffalo.

2014 Super Lawyers Announced

Author: Hogan Willig

August 11th, 2014

HoganWillig is please to announce that the attorneys Corey J. Hogan, Diane R. Tiveron, Steven M. Cohen, Nelson F. Zakia, Thomas R. Cassano, J. Michael Kelleher, Kenneth A. Olena, Steven G. Wiseman, Elizabeth M. DiPirro and Kevin S. Mahoney have been selected to the 2014 New York State Super Lawyers list. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Also listed as Rising Stars were Michael J. Colletta, Geffrey Gismondi, Amanda J. Kelly, Katherine V. Markel and Ashlea L. Palladino.

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Smart Home may not be such a smart choice

Author: Krystal Chapin

August 10th, 2014

In an era where getting the latest and greatest technology is of utmost importance, we must be conscientious to step back and analyze the implications of living life in such a way. Technology can and has undoubtedly allowed our world to make major advances in almost every field of study. Nevertheless, our technology-driven world can also have security consequences that can affect each of us. The most common place technology introduces itself is inside our homes; our supposed “safe place”. But just how safe is it?

Smart technology has evolved to let users control a number of functions remotely from a computer, tablet, or smart phone. It is typical for the connection to be made via the internet, which is often not secured. An unsecured connection allows not only your personal information to be accessible, but also opens the door for a potential hacker to steal your valuables and even your bank account. Many use the latest applications (apps) to do simple tasks such as turn on lights or adjust the thermostat, but are also able to perform security measures such as turning on the alarm system or checking a bank account, with the simple push of a button. These great conveniences can make individuals extremely vulnerable. It is easy to unknowingly trade security for convenience while using these applications.

This is not intended to dissuade people from using technology, but rather to urge safe practice when using these great advances. The Target scandal of 2013, where millions of customer’s credit cards pins were stolen, provides a cautionary tale. If it can happen to a large scale corporation that employs thousands to provide security, it can happen to you.

However, there are measures that consumers can take to make themselves less vulnerable to these security intrusions. It is in the best interest of those who employ many smart devices around their home to hire a computer technician to configure a network that is different from the one used by personal computers. This network can then be setup to only communicate with the smart devices through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN). For around a $75 dollar fee and an hour of their time, an individual can save themselves from the slew of headaches that can be the result of a hacker. A simple step that everyone can preemptively take is to make passwords longer and more complex. To do this successfully, a password should be 10 to 15 characters long, use capital and lower case letters, and include numbers as well as a special character (.!?&* etc.) This simple step can resonate through all online activity to constantly keep you safe from the smart world we live in.

Refinancing: A Smart Move

Author: Krystal Chapin

August 7th, 2014

Should I refinance my mortgage? This is a question many people ask. Luckily, there are a number of reasons why refinancing may be a smart financial move.

Refinancing a mortgage means paying off an existing loan and replacing it with a new one. The most common reason a person may look to refinance is to get a lower mortgage rate. It is important to pay attention to the current average rates in order to get the lowest rate possible. A homeowner may also refinance in order to shorten the term of their mortgage or convert from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage, or vice-versa. It is wise to consider refinancing a mortgage now, while the interest rates are near record lows.

A refinance is also a way to get cash in your pocket. This can be done by getting a mortgage on a paid-off house. Although this isn’t technically a refinance, it’s a similar idea. This is a great option for individuals who are mortgage-free and have thought about purchasing a second home, an investment property, or starting a business. This way, they can cash out their first home and use the money to fund a larger purchase.

When used carefully, a refi can be a valuable tool to consolidate debt. Cash-out refis have dwindled since the housing bust began, however there are still a few. Many use these funds to pay off credit cards, lower overall debt service, and save money.

Some homeowners also decide to refinance in order to consolidate two mortgages.  The most common situation is to combine the first mortgage with the home equity line of credit. Although some home equity lines of credit often have low rates, many people want to refinance to get rid of them in fear the rate may jump to a greater percentage a few years down the road.

Lastly, refinancing may be a viable option for an individual attempting to address family matters. Divorces tend to lead to refis often as a means of removing the absent spouse from the note; thus, the other party is no longer legally responsible for the loan payments. Using a full service law firm like HoganWillig is a benefit in such a situation where a marital case and a real estate transaction are taking place simultaneously, because they can both be handled under one roof.

New Legislation Protects Unpaid Interns in New York State from Discrimination

August 4th, 2014

Last week, New York State became the fourth jurisdiction to outlaw discriminatory employment practices against internship applicants and unpaid interns.  By amending New York Human Rights Law, the Act, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, prevents employers from harassing, discriminating, and retaliating against interns, even if their positions are unpaid.

The new legislation is the result of a 2013 case in which federal District Judge Kevin Castel dismissed an unpaid intern’s sexual harassment claim, on the grounds that the state’s anti-discrimination statues only extend coverage to employees who receive compensation. Following this decision, State Senator Liz Krueger introduced the bill, which gives interns the same legal protection from employment discrimination and harassment as paid employees.  Effective immediately, employers cannot discriminate against interns during the hiring process or throughout the course of employment, based on the interns’ age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, domestic violence victim status, or pregnancy.  New York State is the fourth jurisdiction to extend this type of protection to unpaid interns, joining Oregon, Washington D.C., and New York City.

While the new law does not mean that employers are legally obligated to pay an intern wages, compliance with the revised anti-discrimination statues is crucial to New York companies’ business operations.  Employers who offer unpaid internships should consult with counsel on revising their anti-discrimination policies to explicitly include protection for interns.  Comprehensive anti-harassment training should be conducted, and any complaints made by interns should be investigated and handled in the same manner as complaints filed by paid employees.  Finally, employers should provide notice of these important changes to human resources, hiring departments, and managers.

If you have questions about the structure of your company’s unpaid labor program, or on how to revise your anti-discrimination policy in compliance with the new legislation, please call our office at (716) 636-7600.


We Practice Law for Your Peace of Mind