Blogs > The Law Blogger

The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Casino Winnings & Lawsuit Proceeds to be Attached for Child Support Arrears

The Michigan Senate is expected to pass a pair of bills designed to utilize proceeds derived from lawsuits and casino winnings, to satisfy past-due child support. The new law will require the recipient to provide notice of the expected windfall to the custodial parent.

In the case of lawsuit proceeds, the child support-payor's family court lawyer, or the litigator that obtains the proceeds for the payor, will be responsible to provide notice via ordinary mail of the payor's gains to the custodial parent. Gambling proceeds would be tapped when the casino checks a winner's name against a list of "deadbeats" supplied by the Michigan Support Disbursement Unit.

The bills, currently under consideration in the Senate's Family and Human Services Committee, may be submitted to Governor Granholm yet this legislative session.

The new provisions will provide modest indeterminate relief to the State of Michigan by replacing expenditures for other "means-tested" assistance programs. The proceeds gained from gambling and litigation windfalls are also expected to reduce administrative costs involved in tabulating and collecting child support.

If you are receiving child support or alimony, and are aware that the payor in your case has experienced a windfall, contact us to explore your rights to these proceeds.

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Identity Theft Concerns in Family Court Orders

The Michigan House of Representatives introduced a trio of bills which will require judgments of divorce, orders of filiation (between non-married parents) and child support orders, to omit parents' personal information.

Note: a parent's name and address are deemed outside the scope of the phrase "personal identifying information", as that term would be used in the legislation. Personal information is defined as: telephone number, driver license or state personal identification card number, Social Security number, place of employment, employee identification number, employer or taxpayer identification number, government passport number, health insurance identification number, mother's maiden name, demand deposit account number, savings account number, financial transaction device account number or the person's account password, stock or other security certificate or account number credit card number, vital record, or medical records or information.

These bills continue the Legislature's efforts to combat identity theft. Several years ago, social security numbers (once routinely included in a variety of support-related orders and divorce decrees) were precluded from being submitted to family court, even where a form or order contained a field for the information. Now, only the last four-digits are used, as it is a misdemeanor to include a person's social security number on a public document. The bills also come on the heals of the passage of the Identity Theft Protection Act in 2004.

The new privacy legislation, introduced to the House in April, was recently considered by the House Judiciary Committee at a meeting on Wednesday, June 3, 2009.

Family law attorneys are becoming increasingly sophisticated and creative in drafting family court orders in such a fashion that avoids telling the public too much about their clients. If you have additional questions on this or other family law topics that may affect your case, feel free to give us a call to discuss your situation.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Oakland Prosecutor Rejects "impaired" Plea Bargains and Declines Sobriety Court Participation

Jessica Cooper has demonstrated a top-down command structure since taking over the prosecutor's office in January. One of the commands from the top is that first-time drunk drivers charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) are no longer offered the customary plea reduction to operating while "impaired". This new policy may result in unnecessary jury trials.

Having an OWI reduced to "impaired" provides two advantages: less stringent mandatory driver's license sanctions ordered through the Secretary of State (60-90 day restricted license compared to a 6-month hard suspension), and a lower driver's responsibility fee ($500 for two consecutive years, compared to $1000 each year). Other fines, costs and attorney fees are higher in the OWI context.

Even for first-time offenders, a reduction to impaired is not always offered in cases where the blood-alcohol level (BAC) far exceeds the legal limit. With the proscutor's new policy, however, there are no apparent exceptions, even where the BAC is relatively low.

The new policy has been informally acknowledged by numerous Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys over the past several weeks. Defense attorneys are now considering jury trials, where a simple plea to impaired would have resolved the case.

For repeat offenders, alcohol abuse treatment is mandatory and other punishments are increased. Sobriety or "drug courts" have sprang-up in the past several years to address the problem.

In another important policy development from Cooper's office, the Oakland County Prosecutor will no longer participate in these sobriety courts, now spread throughout Oakland County. A sobriety court emphasizes drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration. Such courts utilize a team approach to manage the intensive probation process. Obviously, the "team" includes the prosecuting attorney, along with a therapist, probation officer, defense attorney, and judge.

The statistics emerging from these courts have forged a consensus among professionals throughout Michigan, and the nation; sobriety-style courts are effective in dealing with drug and alcohol abuse crimes. The Oakland County Prosecutor's office should be participating in society's effort to address irresponsible addictions. The end-result is safer public roadways.

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