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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Updates to Leandra's Law Makes Driving Intoxicated with a Conditional License a Felony

Today I wanted to let you know about a new and very important change in New York State Law amending the law currently known as "Leandra's Law" or the Child Passenger Protection Act.

As you should be aware, Leandra's Law imposed strict penalties on the operation of a vehicle with children in the car while intoxicated. It mandated that an ignition interlock device, or IID, be installed in the vehicle of anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated. Furthermore, if a person is convicted under the law, they will be reported to The Statewide Central Registry of Child Abuse and Mistreatment.

Recently, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to make Leandra's Law even tougher. The new law makes it a class "E" felony to drive intoxicated on a conditional license rather than just a traffic infraction, which is not a crime. Driving while intoxicated with a revoked license will remain a felony.

The law also limits the circumstances when Court can waive the installation of the IID. Now the installation can only be waived when the person swears under oath they are not the owner of any motor vehicle and will not drive during the period of the interlock restriction. If the person lies under oath, it is considered perjury, which is a felony.

Obviously, every driver should drive safely and responsibly, but contact an experienced DUI attorney in the event that you are charged with a DWI or any traffic offense.

Kevin P. McKernan is a member of the National College of DWI Attorneys. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Divorce in the Social Media Age

Divorces are often stressful, conflict filled events. Add technology such as cellphones and social media into the mix and divorce can be downright troublesome. Many people are not aware that what they say or do online can affect life outside the virtual world, especially during legal dispute such as divorce. Here are some helpful tips on what you should avoid doing online during a divorce.

1. Remember that anything you put on Facebook or other social media sites is public and can therefore end up in anyone's hands, even if you enable a "Friends Only" privacy setting. You don't want to look bad in a courtroom when the opposing attorney brings up your not-so-amicable Facebook statuses. You should never share anything on social media that you wouldn't want brought up in a courtroom.

2. Don't forget to change your passwords. Attorneys always advise getting rid of any shared bank accounts or credit cards during your first divorce consultation, but often forget to advise their clients to change their social media passwords. In such an emotionally charged time, one spouse may log into the social media accounts of the other and not only "hack" the account by posting unflattering statuses or comments but read private messages. You should also think about how you plan on separating things like cell phone service accounts. These contracts can often be expensive to break, so try to plan for the financial hit.

3. Remember that your soon-to-be-ex may also post unflattering things online. Facebook, Twitter and/or other social media updates can and have be used as evidence that a particular person is lying to the court. There have been countless divorce cases where one partner tries to hide certain assets or income from the court in order to look financially destitute when he or she isn't. If your soon-to-be-ex is claiming unemployment while uploading pictures of brand new vehicles to Facebook, you can submit that evidence into court.

4. Texts and e-mails are also admissible as evidence. Use caution when sending your soon-to-be-ex or even mutual friends texts or emails about things pertaining to your divorce. Remember, almost anything you write can be used in court.

If you keep these tips in mind, you will be able to avoid unnecessary stress during the divorce process. Remember, if you have any questions or concerns during the divorce process, you should consult with your lawyer before you take any action.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pre-Nuptial Agreements are Important!

In the past, a "pre-nuptial" was considered to be sensitive conversation topic with a decidedly negative association. Celebrities or those born into fortunes were the only people who signed pre-nupital agreements. Today, pre-nuptial agreements are now considered truly smart financial planning for the future. With couples now facing a 50% divorce rate and increasingly complex financial dynamics, it is incredibly important to draw up a pre-nupital that will protect the future of both you and your soon to be spouse.

Pre-nuptial Agreements are legal agreements drawn up before a couple is legally married that outlines how the couple's finances will be handled in the event of a divorce. Pre-nupital agreements are useful because they capitalize on the good will a couple has in plenty while in their honeymoon stage. This is the ideal time for the couple to work together as partners and come to a financially sound and fair agreement for both parties. If the relationship does come to an end, not only will the couple experience reduced stress since there is no need to work out the financials, but both partners will be protected.

As an attorney, I recommend pre-nuptial agreements for all my clients, but pre-nuptials are especially important for couples who are planning on bringing assets into the marriage. Some clients mistakenly believe that only those with large or significant assets need a pre-nuptial agreement, but this is a common misconception. Pre-nuptials are a great way to protect your hard-earned assets if a "worst-case" scenario arises, so why not make sure your future is safeguarded? Pre-nuptial agreements are also important for those who have children from a prior relationship, those who will be receiving an inheritance, and those who are financially supporting their partner through university or professional school. Basically - if there are factors that could financially complicate your marriage, it is better to work them out and set them onto a legal document now.

Another great thing about pre-nuptial agreements is that they are easy to draw up. Those looking into pre-nupital agreements simply need to contact a lawyer who is well-versed in the family law of your state to discuss your options and what you kind of stipulations you personally would like in your pre-nuptial. You are able to customize your pre-nupital agreement to include stipulations about your pets, living situation, and even infidelity. A lawyer should be able to write the specifications you desire into your agreement and answer any questions you and your partner may have.

 If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to reach me at my office.

- Kevin P. McKernan

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Four Important Documents for Recent Divorcees

The process of getting a divorce can be long, drawn-out and draining on both your time and emotions. As with any big life change, you must remember that this is also an important time to review and if necessary update your legal documents. Below is a list of legal documents you should review again as soon as possible after the divorce.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Ins and Outs of Loan Modification

If you have had trouble paying your mortgage each month and/or your home is at risk for foreclosure, you may have been told to look into mortgage modification. In fact, in 2012, five of the country's biggest banks came to a settlement agreement with the government so that more homeowners could gain access to loan modifications if they were experiencing financial hardship.

How Loan Modifications Work
When you apply for a loan modification, you must send in a bevy of financial documents. Your mortgage bank is looking to calculate the percentage that your monthly mortgage and insurance payment takes in relation to your monthly gross income. This is commonly known as your "debt to income" ratio. If your lender sees that your "debt to income" ratio is too high for you to make your monthly payments without financial hardship, they will make you a modification offer, which you as the homeowner may either accept or deny. In order to make your payments more affordable, your mortgage lender may lower your interest rate for a certain amount of years, forgive certain loan amounts, and/or extend the term of your loan.

Unforeseen Consequences
However, for many people, loan modification was not the catch-all solution that they hoped for. Modifications require a lot of time and paperwork, with banks often dragging their feet during the process. Additionally, in some circumstances, certain modifications can actually negatively effect you in the long run. The negative aspects of loan modifications can be seen in this statistic given by the Comptroller of the Currency, John Dugan, who asserted that in 2008 over 53% of loan modifications in the United States resulted in another default after six months.

How to Get Help
If you are considering a loan modification, make sure you seek legal counsel before you do so! It is incredible how many people make the mistake of signing an incredibly important legal document without first consulting an attorney. A good lawyer will be experienced in loan modifications, having assisted clients with them many times before, and can correctly gauge whether or not the modification is the best for your unique financial future.

If you are a homeowner who was taken advantage of by unscrupulous mortgage lender, you still have options. There are ways to stop or delay the foreclosure sale of your home. If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial that you consult an attorney. At the height of the housing boom, mortgage notes and other financial documents were passing through banks at a never before experienced speed. This resulted in a high amount of clerical error and sometimes illegal financial practices. An attorney can closely review your case to check for substandard practices that you could potentially change the outcome of your foreclosure.

If you are struggling with a loan modification, feel free to contact me at my office at (718) 317-5007.

- Kevin McKernan