Archives for May 2012

It’s Getting Harder to Hide Money from Your Spouse

Veronica Dagher of the Wall Street Journal writes about the different ways that electronic discovery is assisting spouses and their divorce attorneys with finding hidden marital assets.

To get an idea of just how widespread financial mischief is, consider a couple of surveys. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, 31% of U.S. adults who combined assets with a spouse or partner say they have been deceptive about money, and 58% of these adults say they hid cash from their partner or spouse.

The numbers also confirm that technology is playing a growing role in uncovering that double-dealing. In 2010, 81% of the members in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said they had seen an increase over the past five years in the use of evidence from social-networking sites. This year, 92% said that over the past three years, they have seen an increase in the number of cases using evidence taken from smartphones.

Part of the reason electronic discovery is booming is that more people are using technology to hide assets in the first place. They set up covert business deals using text messages or social networks, for instance, or figure out ways to create cash hoards online.

Read the entire story.

If you are considering divorce, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help by connecting you with a competent family law attorney who will work to protect your rights, while helping you navigate this often confusing experience.  Call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Few Borrowers in Foreclosure Apply for Free Review

Only a tiny percentage of the 4.3 million homeowners facing foreclosure have applied for a free foreclosure  review to check for errors, despite the fact that they could be eligible for up to $100,000 if errors are found.

The review process was put into effect as a result of the “robo-signing” scandal, where several banks admitted to mishandling some foreclosure documents, resulting in some homeowners wrongfully losing their homes.

In the wake of the scandal, federal bank regulators required 14 mortgage companies to establish the Independent Foreclosure Review process.

The review costs homeowners nothing, but at last count, only 165,000 people — fewer than 4 percent of those eligible — have applied.

The original April 30 deadline has since been extended to July 31.

Read the entire story by Yuki Noguchi at NPR.

Find out if you are eligible for an independent foreclosure review.

If you are facing foreclosure and would like assistance with reviewing your options, contact a home ownership and loss mitigation counseling agency for free counseling on the options available to you to prevent or mitigate the foreclosure.

If it is determined that you will need the assistance of an attorney, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who specifically handles foreclosure matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

 

Is Divorce Mediation Right For You?

From Alison Patten, licensed attorney and mediator, who blogs at LemonadeDivorce.com.

Here’s what you need to know about mediation:

1. Many divorce cases are suitable for mediation (even when there is ongoing conflict; even when trust is damaged from an affair).

2. Mediation can involve just one mediator and be low-cost, or can involve outside experts (such as an accountant, a financial advisor, and consulting attorneys). You decide what you need and what you can afford.

3. Other than doing your divorce yourself, mediation is often the least expensive and fastest way to get divorced. It is the most “hands-on” and you control the process. Perhaps for this reason, couples rarely have “mediation regret” — even in cases where no agreement was reached.

So your real task, when considering mediation, is to check for any compelling reason NOT to mediate — the “red flags.” If any of these factors exist in your situation, mediation may not be right for you.

Read the full article from the Huffington Post.

List of Certified NH Marital Mediators.

After a successful mediation,  it is a good idea to have an attorney review your mediated agreement before filing it with the court.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can help with a referral to a competent attorney who provides unbundled legal services  to review your divorce agreement.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight Created

For immediate release:  April 5, 2012
Contact:  Laura Brewer – 919-508-7821

Mortgage Settlement Monitor Begins Work
Joseph Smith appointed to oversee 49-state, five-bank pact; opens office in Raleigh
RALEIGH, N.C. – Joseph A. Smith, Jr. today officially assumed his position as the monitor of the mortgage servicing settlement among 49 states, the federal government and five major banks. In this role, Smith will work to ensure that the banks follow the requirements outlined in the settlement agreement. Today also marks the formal creation of the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight (OMSO), the body Smith has set up to facilitate his work.

Participants in the settlement unofficially named Smith as their choice in early February when news of the agreement became public, but both the settlement and Smith’s appointment became official when the United States District Court for the District of Columbia made final consent judgments affecting each of the banks.

In response to the agreement, Smith said, “Today, in keeping with the charge I’ve received from the Court and the parties to the settlement, I have opened the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight and begun to carry out my duties as Monitor.

“The mortgage settlement is a bipartisan achievement that holds promise for millions of people. Our nation depends on its home financing system not only to function properly, but also to inspire confidence in the people who use it. By itself, this settlement will not remedy every problem that system faces. But trust in our mortgage system can move forward if we use this opportunity to show fairness, transparency and accountability. This is a responsibility I take seriously.”

Smith will receive periodic reports from the settlement participants and oversee bank compliance with the agreement. The Monitor will then report his findings, determinations and actions to the Court and a Monitoring Committee of state and federal government representatives. The Monitor is empowered to work with noncompliant institutions to establish corrective plans, or, if necessary, to recommend penalties or to seek injunctive relief to enforce the settlement.

“Since the settlement was announced last month, people have understandably paid a great deal of attention to the specifics of the consent judgment – who will pay, who will receive, and how much,” Smith said. “Those are important matters to determine. But this settlement also serves those who do not participate in the transfer of money: the neighbors of distressed borrowers whose property values stand at risk because of foreclosed properties in their midst, the communities in which they live, the people saving now toward the goal of home ownership, and everyone whose living depends on a robust housing and home finance industry.”

More information about the mortgage settlement.

More information about the Office of Mortgage Settlement.

If you believe your home was illegally foreclosed on and you have not been contacted by a settlement administrator, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association may be able to help with a referral to an attorney who can review your situation.  A consultation with a competent attorney can make all the difference!  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

Rental Caps Pose Problems For Condo Owners

Rather than attempt to sell property in a depressed market, many condominium owners want to be able to rent out their units.  Unfortunately, rental caps may prevent owners from being eligible to rent out the property for years due to the number of units in the building that are already being rented out.

It’s a conundrum many condo-unit owners face these days. They might want to leave town for a job opportunity, or they need a home with more space for an expanding family. Sometimes, it’s the unit of a parent who has died, and the heirs would rather rent out the property than sell in a depressed market. Given the red-hot market for apartment rentals, becoming a landlord seems the best option.

But if there’s a rental restriction in place, these homeowners may find themselves out of luck, forced to stay put, keep the unit vacant, sell for a low price or, worse, end up in foreclosure.

These types of rules aren’t new, but over the past few years many boards of both condo associations and those governing single-family-home communities have taken “a very hard and fast look at the rental policies they have in place to see if they work appropriately,” said Paul Grucza, executive vice president of Classic Property Management in Arlington, Texas.

There are usually good intentions behind these rental rules. Many associations are protecting their communities from getting a reputation for having “transient” residents. And some share a belief that owners in residence take better care of their properties than renters.

Read the entire story by Amy Hoak – MarketWatch of the Wall Street Journal.

If you are having issues with your condominium association, the Lawyer Referral Service can refer you to competent attorneys who specifically handle condominium law issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.

25 States Consider Animal Abuse Registries

As reported by Chris Christoff / Bloomberg News:

Those who batter, abuse or kill dogs and cats would get the same public scorn as sex offenders in bills introduced in legislatures throughout the United States.

Online registries for convicted animal abusers already have been approved in three New York counties, including Suffolk, where the nation’s first takes effect Monday. Twenty-five states have considered such laws since 2010, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is leading the campaign.

Backers say the bills recognize a growing awareness of animal rights – and the public-safety benefits of stopping abusers, who studies show often go on to harm humans.

“There’s a mountain of evidence that says we need something like this,” said Michigan State Rep. Harvey Santana, a Detroit Democrat who’s proposed a registry there. “There is a strong correlation between people who abuse animals and graduate to abusing people.”

Read the entire article at the Concord Monitor.

What to do if you witness or suspect animal abuse.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can assist with referrals to attorneys who handle your type of legal matter, or with referrals to other community resources.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.