Law

Agreements To Share Expenses or Property

Generally, if it is legal for two persons who are not living together to enter into an agreement, it also is legal for the couple living together to enter into a similar agreement. The fact that two people are living together and unmarried does not make an agreement automatically illegal. So, if two people wish to agree about how much each will pay for rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, auto expenses, etcetera, the agreement can be valid and enforceable. If one party does not keep his or her end of the bargain, that person can be sued. 

If the loss of a large amount of money is involved, a lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit may be worthwhile. If the dollar amount is relatively small, the wiser course of action probably is to walk away, hopefully with some added wisdom for dealing with the next relationship. Similarly, if there is no practical way to collect the amount due from the person who broke a promise if, for example, the person has virtually no assets and no steady source of income a lawsuit is not likely to be worth the effort. 

Living Together in The Eyes of The Law

There is nothing illegal about an unmarried couple living together. The couple generally can live wherever they wish. Some local zoning laws prohibit more than three unrelated persons from living together in one house or apartment, but those laws would not apply to a two person household. The government’s attempt to limit a couple’s right to live together would probably be considered a violation of the couple’s right to free association under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. 

A few states still have laws on the books prohibiting fornication sexual relations between two persons who are not married but such laws are almost never enforced. Some states also have laws against sodomy, which, among other things, prohibit sexual relations between people of the same sex. Those laws are rarely enforced if the conduct is private, consensual, and between adults (although in 1986, the United States Supreme Court in a divided decision did uphold a Georgia law criminalizing private sexual relations between two men). 

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Called Off The Engagement, Do I Have To Give Back The Ring?

If an engagement is broken off, what happens to the engagement ring? Normally it should be returned to the person who gave it. The ring usually is viewed as a gift given in anticipation of marriage. If the marriage will not take place, the condition upon which the gift was given has been removed, so the gift should be returned. 

If the parties have given each other presents during their relationship such as birthday presents or holiday presents those gifts normally do not have to be returned. Those presents usually would be viewed as unconditional gifts, such as those between friends. Once the gift is given, the recipient is entitled to keep it, unless the person making the gift placed a clear condition when presenting the gift. 

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Burden Of Proof And What it Means.

Whenever a party brings an allegation in any type of case, that party must prove those allegations. The standard or burden of proof varies depending on the type of case involved. In civil cases, for example, the burden of proof is usually preponderance of the evidence. This standard requires the plaintiff to prove that the allegations in the complaint are more likely true than not. Many commentators have described it as the plaintiff ’s burden to tip the scales of proof in the plaintiff ’s direction. Others have attempted to quantify it by saying that if the plaintiff can establish the facts to 51%, then the plaintiff has satisfied preponderance of the evidence. There are different burdens of proof in different types of actions. For instance, in criminal cases, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. If preponderance of the evidence is considered to be a slight tipping of the scale in the plaintiff’s favor, proof beyond a reasonable doubt would require the government to swing the scale entirely to its side. Although preponderance of the evidence is the most com- monly seen burden of proof, there are situations in which a civil litigant might have to prove his or her case by clear and convincing evidence. The standard of “clear and convincing evidence” is higher than preponderance of the evidence and less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It falls somewhere between these two burdens. Clear and convincing evidence requires the fact finder to determine with substantial certainty that the party’s allegations are true. 

How Does Civil Law Differ from Other Areas of Law?

There are dozens of other branches of law. Administrative law deals with the rules and regula- tions that govern governmental agencies. Admiralty law governs the law of the sea. Bankruptcy law is concerned with discharging debts through court proceedings. Criminal law focuses on punishing lawbreakers. Domestic law involves divorces, alimony, and child custody issues. Civil law is different than these other areas of law in several important respects. For instance, civil cases differ from the previously mentioned types of cases in all of the following ways: 

What Is Civil Law?

Civil law refers to the large body of cases brought by individuals against other individuals. When a person sues someone for defamation or a corporation seeks to enforce an employment contract against an employee, these are both civil cases. What makes civil litigation so interesting is that there are an almost infinite variety of cases that fall under the general heading of civil law. Unlike criminal law or other specialized areas, legal professionals who work in civil litigation must be prepared for a wide assortment of cases. Fortunately, the rules that govern civil cases are uniform and relatively straightforward, even if they do apply to a myriad of case types. 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

What is a retainer agreement?

A retainer agreement is a legally binding agreement between you and your attorney. Pursuant to a retainer agreement, you engage an individual lawyer (or the partners and associates of a law firm) to perform certain services for you and agree to pay for these services. Upon signing the agreement, you are required to pay the retainer, an agreed upon amount which is prepayment to the lawyer for services to be rendered and expenses to be incurred on your behalf. The Rules of the Court require that a retainer agreement state the following: 

1. Names and addresses of the parties entering into the agreement;

2. Nature of the services to be rendered;

3. Amount of the advance retainer, if any, and what it is intended to cover;

Are my conversations with my lawyer confidential?

The attorney/client privilege requires your lawyer to treat everything discussed between you and your lawyer as confidential. However, the privilege may be waived if you choose to discuss confidential information with a third party present or if you send a fax or e-mail message to a fax machine or computer that is not used exclusively by the attorney and the attorney’s staff. Be aware of the pitfalls, as well as the benefits, of technology. Also, beware of holding confidential conversations in settings in which your conversations may be easily overheard. 

For information on serving legal papers visit www.undisputedlegal.com.  Open Monday – Friday 8am-8pm.  “When you want it done right the first time” contact undisputedlegal.com

What steps can I take to minimize my legal expenses?

Minimizing expenses requires an understanding of how lawyers charge for their services. The overwhelming majority of lawyers charge for their time at an hourly rate. They keep daily records of time spent on each of their clients. Typically these records are divided into minimum billing intervals. Every time your lawyer answers a phone call from you, a member of your family (with your permission), or your spouse’s lawyer, works on documents or correspondence relating to your case, participates in negotiations on your behalf, prepares for trial, or appears in court, the time so spent will be charged to you at this hourly rate. When you save your lawyer time, you save yourself money. Here are some steps you can take to minimize your legal costs:

1. Be organized. Your lawyer will need an accurate picture of your financial situation. Try to assemble a complete collection of relevant documentation and organize it in a coherent way. Important documentation includes personal and business federal and state income tax returns, bank statements, mortgages, loan statements, stock option plans, brokerage accounts, employee withholding statements (W-2’s), 1099 forms, pay stubs, and pension and other retirement statements. Other important documents include financial statements prepared in connection with loan applications, closing documents relating to the purchase and sale of a home, deeds, title certificates, registration statements for vehicles and boats, insurance policies and premium statements, and documentation of loans and gifts from family members and others. Your lawyer will also require information regarding trusts, inheritances, collectibles and collections, frequent flyer accounts and reward programs, rights in intellectual property such as copyrights, patents and trademarks and the fruits of the creative process, such as publishing a novel.

What is a Health Care Proxy

A Health Care Proxy is a document which allows you, as a competent adult, to appoint another person as “agent” to make decisions for you regarding your health care in the event you lose your decision-making capacity or the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequence of health care decisions. The Proxy can be general and apply to all medical decisions, or it can impose limitations and spell out specific instructions. Some states may limit its applicability in certain situations.