Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Social Security Benefits and Same Sex Couples

SAME-SEX COUPLES IN NON-MARTIAL LEGAL RELATIONSHIPS - SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS 

The battle for the right to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota came to an end in 2013, 
when the Minnesota Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act. Shortly after this victory 
and similar victories in other states, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Federal Defense of Marriage Act as Unconstitutional. This prompted Federal Agencies, such as the Social Security Administration to publish new policy instructions regarding the processing of benefits for couples in same-sex relationships and allows the agency to recognize some non-marital legal relationships for determining benefits. 

Many states recognize same-sex couples right to marry, however there are many states that have yet to recognize civil unions and marriages of same-sex couples. This new policy enacted by the Social Security Administration applies to every same-sex couple who are married, or under a legally recognized relationship status, in some cases you will be eligible for benefits even if your state has yet to legalize same-sex marriage. If you live in a state that recognizes Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships, the Social Security Administration will process your application for benefits.

According to their website, the Agency consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the new policy allows them to process many claims in states that do NOT recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships. The Social Security Program Operations Manual, GN 00210.004, defines Non-Marital relationships as Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships. The manual describes the procedure for determining whether a non-marital relationship can be treated as a marital relationship for determining you or your
partner’s eligibility for benefits. 

The first test the SSA uses is state law. If your state allows inheritance from legal relationship 
unions in cases where the decedent died without a will, you will pass this first prong of the test. 

The second test is used to determine if the non-marital relationship is recognized for benefit 
purposes using a two prong analysis.

1) was the non-marital legal relationship valid in the place it was established, and 

2) does the non-marital legal relationship qualify as a marital relationship using the laws of the 
state of the non-surviving partner/spouses domicile as of the time of application, or while the 
application was pending, or at the time of the death of your partner.

In other words, if your non marital legal relationship was valid in the state in which it was 
established, and that non-marital relationship qualifies as a marital relationship in the laws of the state in which the benefit holder (your partner or spouse) lived at the time of the application or during the application or at the time of their death, you will pass this prong of the test.

The SSA manual also addresses claims from non-marital legal relationship applicants for 
Title 2 or Medicare claims. In order to be eligible for these type of benefits, the non-marital 
legal relationship must meet a one year duration-of-marriage requirement. However, there are 
exceptions and alternatives to which you should pay special attention.

The SSA will determine whether a non-marital legal relationship couple meets the one year 
duration of marriage requirement based on whether the claimant alleges that the relationship 
began as a non-marital legal relationship that later converted to a marriage, or he or she had more than one non-marital legal relationship with their partner, or he or she had a combination of one or more non-marital legal relationships and marriages to their partner, which may, in total, meet the duration of marriage requirement.

If you are interested in learning more, log on to the official Social Security Website: 

www.socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples. 

Or use this link to find out whether your state recognizes and has given inheritance rights to 

your non-marital legal relationship with your partner.SSI Same Sex Unions

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Adoption Process

Adoption
  1. A wise first step in beginning the adoption process is to attend a free information or orientation meeting. Most agencies offer orientations that are generally open to the public.
     
  2. Many agencies require prospective adoptive and foster families to attend training classes designed to equip families with the tools they will need to parent children with special needs. Training classes are offered statewide, and most classes range between 12 and 20 hours. Families often receive training provided by one qualified organization and continue the adoption process with a second organization. The MARN Pre-adoption Training page publishes the training schedules for many Minnesota agencies. Whether a family works with a public agency or a private agency, they will need to inquire about the agency's training requirements.
     
  3. At the conclusion of training, families who choose to continue the process of becoming a resource for a child must submit an application for either adoption or foster care. Those families pursuing foster care must work with their county social service agency. The requirements may vary depending on the county of residence. If pursuing adoption, a family may choose to work with a private agency or a county social service agency.
     
  4. The social worker will guide the family through the process of completing the paperwork. The timeline for completion of a homestudy may vary depending on the social worker's caseload; how promptly the family returns paperwork; and/or on the flexibility of the family's schedule in accommodating home visits.
     
  5. Once the information is gathered by the family social worker, it may take several weeks for the homestudy to be written. During this period the family may begin to identify children they are interested in by reading the Star Tribune waiting child column or by watching Thursday's Child (broadcast on KSTP). They may also take the this time to gain more information about children with special needs, to attend educational seminars and training classes, and to connect with parent support groups.
     
  6. Once the homestudy is complete, the family's social worker will present it to the social workers of the children in whom they have an interest. In some counties, the homestudy may be made available to all guardianship or child social workers. Adoptive families will also be registered on the Minnesota State Adoption Exchange.
     
  7. The process up to this point can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months, depending on the agency. It is important for the adoptive family to be active in this part of the process. It is not the family social worker's responsibility to seek out a child.

    Waiting for placement can be a frustrating time for families. During this period, many families choose to prepare a "life book" about their family to share with children during future pre-placement visits.
     
  8. Once a family has been selected as a potential good fit for a child, detailed information about the child's past will be shared with the family. It is crucial at this stage to ask very specific questions regarding the child's needs. It is important to assess realistically the family's ability to parent a particular child. When the family and the workers feel certain about proceeding, the adoptive family will begin visits with the child in the foster home. Later they will visit with the child away from the foster home and eventually in the new adoptive home. This part of the process can go quickly or slowly, depending on the needs of the child. During this transition the adoptive family needs to be patient and respectful of the foster family the child will be leaving behind.
     
  9. After placement, the child's guardian will work closely with the family to ensure that the paperwork for adoption assistance is in place before finalization. The finalization takes place in a court of law before a judge, at which time the adoption is legal and a new birth certificate is issued identifying the adoptive parent(s) as the legal parent(s). Adoptions are usually finalized nine to twelve months after placement.
     
  10. Before and after finalization, it is important for the adoptive family to develop a support system of family, friends, adoptive parent groups, and others that can be supportive during this transition. Contact with birth siblings is sometimes requested. Parenting children with special needs is often challenging. It will be important to the success of the family to take advantage of the information and trainings available in the State of Minnesota.
Applications for both adoption and foster care typically include a physician's report; reference letters; a criminal background check for anyone living in the home who is age 13 and older; birth certificates; marriage certificates; and divorce certificates (if applicable). It is important to keep in mind that having a criminal background does not necessarily disqualify anyone. (For information refer to www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us section 259.67). Adoptive and foster families are not required to own a home or meet a minimum income standard. Most agencies require that a parent be at least 21 years old. When an application is submitted with the necessary forms, an adoption/foster care homestudy case will be opened and assigned to a social worker.
It is important during home visits or interviews that the family be forthcoming and clear about its strengths and weaknesses. Weaknesses don't necessarily disqualify a family. It is the information gathered at these interviews that the social worker uses to create a homestudy document.
This homestudy will be used to introduce and represent a family to a child's social worker. The homestudy should be a detailed and accurate family portrait. The family should discuss any sensitive or confidential information about their family history. Adoption and foster care social workers are looking for families with "real life" experience and the ability to cope with challenges.

For a free consult with an attorney call Keenan Law Firm LLC, at (651)252-7238.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What to tell your attorney

Meeting with an attorney does not need to be overwhelming, but some people may be nervous at the first meeting. RELAX! Attorneys exist to help people solve legal problems.  You, as a potential client, should treat the first meeting as an opportunity to build a working relationship.  You want to make sure that your side of the story is told, but you also need to inform the attorney of anything that could be used against you. BE HONEST! Everything that you say to an attorney during a consult is protected by the attorney client privilege.  The attorney client privilege is established whether you hire the attorney, or not.
During the consultation, an attorney, is not only trying to get your side of the story, but also a feeling for potential issues that my arise during the case.  The more your attorney knows, the better the attorney can represent you.   Some of the potential questions that an attorney may ask are as follows:
  • Do you have friends in common with the other party?  If so, will those friends have favorable things to say for you or the other party? What kind of things would they say about you?
  • What is the worst thing someone could say about you regardless if it is true?
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • Have you been treated or placed in treatment for mental illness or addiction?
  • Did you previously have another attorney handle this case?
  • Do you have a history with the MN Department Human Services?
  • Do you have children? If so, where do they live and are you supporting them financially?
  • Have you been involved any other litigation previously? If so, what was the result?
  • Are you being truthful?
  • Is there anything, good or bad, that you haven’t told me that I should know about to provide the best representation for you?
Remember, the attorney is your advocate, and wants the best possible outcome for you. However, they can only do that if they are equipped with all the information. The best thing for you to do is to be open and honest with the attorney.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Advanced Healthcare Directives

Advanced Healthcare Directives

Medical professionals respect the wishes of patients who are competent adults, even when the loved ones of a patient may disagree.  All too often, a medical patient is unable to communicate, due to incapacity. In situations when a patient's ability to speak is impaired, the patient's wishes aren't clear without a HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVE.

A healthcare directive is a document which clearly spells out an individual's healthcare goals, wishes, and beliefs. These goals usually have to do with use of pain killers, life support, and choice a facilities.  

These documents are so important, and every adult should have one.  A person who has a healthcare directive prepared on their behalf is called a PRINCIPLE.  Along with providing guidelines to follow, a health care directive appoints an AGENT.  The agent's role is to communicate these guidelines to medical professionals. Choose an agent who knows you well and who you trust.

When the document is complete, give a copy to your doctor and agent, and ensure your agent knows where to find the original.  The agent cannot override the wishes of the principle.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Should Children Decide?

It is time for the other parent to have parenting time with the kid(s), but your child throws a fit or expresses a desire to not to go to the visitation.  Should you let your child decide not to go to the visitation? The short answer is no, as Orders for parenting time, are court orders.  Disobeying court orders has consequences..  
Generally, the court avoids making the child chose between parents concerning custody; however, they will take into account the child’s wishes as long it does not appear that the child was influence by one parent over the other. Parenting Time Orders last until the child turns 18 and can be written stating that the order is enforceable by law enforcement.
Minnesota imposes penalties on parents that wrongfully fail to comply with the Parenting Time Order.  Per Minnesota §518.175 Subdivision 6, parents that wrongfully fail to comply with the Parenting Time Order can be made to: 1) pay a $500.00 civil penalty; 2) have a bond be posted to secure compliance with the order; 3) pay attorney fees; 4) reimburse costs incurred as a result of the violation; 5) be subject to any other remedy that serves the best interest of the child.  Also, in some cases, continuous violations of the Parenting Time Order can be used as basis to re-evaluate the custody agreement.  These penalties do not apply if you do not send your child to the visit due to suspicion of abuse; however, you must schedule a hearing with the court regarding changing visitation as soon as possible. Also, the court will allow exceptions for not adhering to the Order if there is a family emergency, illness of the parent or child, or if there are special events as long an alternative time is scheduled as soon as possible.  
Chances are if your child does not want to go on the visit or throws a fit,, they are experiencing some separation anxiety.  The best thing that you can do for your child is to talk with your child about the upcoming visit and have a similar routine for your son or daughter at the other parent’s home.
Remember, you are the parent and know what is best for them. They will thank you later for helping foster a relationship with their father or mother with by adhering to visitation schedule.
For a consultation call Keenan Law Firm at (651) 252-7238.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Protect Your Loved Ones with a Will

Some people think that wills are only for rich old people, but that assumption is just not true. Having a will is a good idea for every person whether or not they have money or kids or important belongings to be divided. The top two reasons to create a will are to save money by avoiding the probate process, and to reduce conflict confusion between your loved ones after you pass. Many people might consider the task of creating a will morbid, but what is even harder to think about is what happens to your things if you die intestate; that is, dying without a valid will. 

The rules of intestate succession are codified in MN law. When a person has assets to be divided at 
their death, the state will decide who gets what. Dying without a will means that you have no choice 
over who gets your belongings. People who wish to disinherit a child would not be able to unless it 
is spelled out in a will. People who wish to leave money or belongings to close friends, charities or
extended relatives would not be able to unless it is spelled out in a will. And as a worst case scenario, A 
person who dies intestate, and without any familial relations passes their estate to the state. 

A person with children especially need to consider writing a will because without one; there could be a 
custody dispute over any minor children. Husband and wife should both have wills that take care of the 
children in case of the other person’s death. 

Having a will drawn up is easy as most lawyers will do it for a flat fee, especially if it is not complicated. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Annulment in Minnesota

Annulment
An annulment is similar to a divorce. However, an annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed.   
The most common reasons for annulment  are:

- One of the parties was not able to give voluntary consent at the time of the marriage because either they had a mental illness, under the influence of alcohol/drugs, or they were forced to get married.
- One of the parties lacked the ability to consummate their marriage with sexual intercourse and the other party didn't know this at the time of marriage.
- One of the parties was under the legal age for marriage. (In Minnesota, the legal age for marriage is 18, or 16-17 with parental consent.

Statute of Limitations
You must be aware that there are statutes of limitations that apply to annulment cases. Details of the statute of limitations are below:
- In cases regarding mental illness, intoxication, force or fraud use, the petitioner has no later than 90 days from when they first learned about the problem.
- In cases regarding lack of consummatio, either party can file no later than one year from the time they first became aware of the situation.
- In cases where one of the parties were not at a legal marriage age, the underage’s parent or guardian must file for annulment before the  underage person reaches the legal age of consent.

For more information, speak to an attorney.