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USCIS’S NEW ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY

USCIS’S NEW ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a new policy change that allows USCIS officers to deny any application, petition or request without issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). This new policy change goes into effect on September 11, 2018. Before this policy change, USCIS officers were allowed to issue RFE’s or NOID’s when the evidence submitted at the time of filing did not establish eligibility for the benefit sought. Under the new policy, if you do not submit all the required evidence along with the initial filing as well as all evidence establishing you are eligible for the relief sought, USCIS will deny your application, petition or request. They will no longer be issuing RFE’s or NOID’s to give you a second chance to submit missing evidence/documents. What does this mean for you? You better be sure you submit all required evidence to USCIS when you initially file your application, petition or request, otherwise you will be getting a big fat denial letter from USCIS in the mail. So, unless you have money to spend on paying for filing fees again or time to waste, do yourself a favor and consult with an experienced immigration lawyer prior to filing any applications, petitions or requests with USCIS to avoid having it be denied for lack of evidence. Trust me, it’s worth it!

WHY YOU NEED UNINSURED (UM)/UNDERINSURED MOTORIST (UIM) TO PROTECT YOURSELF

There are many types of auto insurance from minimal to full coverage, to protect your damages.  Most states, like Texas, require car owners to carry liability insurance or the minimum car insurance.  With liability insurance, recovering all damages caused by a driver who is at fault will depend on how much their liability insurance policy is.  This minimum amount of coverage does vary by policy and, unfortunately, in catastrophic auto accidents, liability insurance is not enough to compensate for more serious injuries including brain damage or spinal damage.  In such situations, a person injured from an at-fault driver may recover the remaining damages or all damages through their own insurance if they have uninsured and underinsured or full coverage.

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects those hit by an at-fault driver who does not have liability insurance and therefore unable to pay any damages they have caused in an auto accident.  If the negligent driver who caused the accident is affluent and does not have insurance, you may sue this person to recover all damages.  Most often however, uninsured drivers do not have significant assets in which you may attempt to recover from.  On the other hand, many motorists carry minimal policy limits which do not cover all damages and leave you with outstanding bills to pay.  Thus, underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), protects those involved in an accident with an at-fault driver whose insurance coverage does not cover all damages and/or medical expenses.  In this scenario, after the minimal policy for the at-fault driver has been exhausted, your underinsured motorist coverage will step in to pay all outstanding bills and other damages.

Although car owners are required by law to carry the minimum car insurance policy or liability insurance, it is highly recommended to get full coverage insurance including UM/UIM insurance. The minimum insurance coverage or liability insurance only covers damages to another vehicle if you are found at fault for the accident.  However, if you are hit by a reckless, negligent driver who has no insurance or not enough insurance to cover all your property damage and bodily injury damages, you would only be able to recover these expenses through your own insurance if you have UM/UIM coverage.  There have been too many accidents where the no-fault driver ends up with many medical bills and expenses and unable to pay these damages because they do not have full coverage on their auto insurance policy and the at-fault driver does not have insurance either.

Full coverage policies also include Personal Injury Protection (PIP) which, depending on how much the policy offers, allows you to recover your medical expenses no matter who is at fault for the accident.  It is in your best interest to protect yourself with full coverage auto insurance policy so you are not left with outstanding medical bills or other damages caused by a negligent driver.

FATIGUE: A DANGEROUS FACTOR IN TRUCKING ACCIDENTS

Commercial trucks can become dangerous weapons on the road to smaller vehicles and pedestrians, weighing up to 80,000 pounds.  Thus, it is extremely important for all truck drivers to be properly trained and have the ability to drive these trucks for long periods of time on the road.  Unfortunately, many truck drivers become fatigued, distracted, are inexperienced or reckless drivers,  suffer from lack of sleep or sleep apnea, or fall asleep on the road causing serious or even fatal accidents.  If you were involved in a trucking accident, you have a right to recover all your damages and more from the at-fault party!  Even if you were a family member of one in a fatal accident, you also have a right to be compensated. It is extremely important to begin the claims process immediately by an experienced attorney.

All trucking companies and truckers must follow the regulations and policies controlled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  FMCSA states that any person with a medical condition that prevents them from driving safely is restricted from driving unless with proper medical treatment.  Further, if a person has sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops or is irregular which may cause sleep deprivation, he/she should not operate a vehicle, especially a commercial truck.  This condition may cause the driver to not get a good night’s sleep, be over worked, or fatigued which can create the worst nightmare for all others on the road.

Additionally, even if a driver does not have a medical condition, truck drivers may become fatigued or distracted while driving as commercial truck drivers are required to drive many hours at a time.  Although, there are regulations, drivers still may also become distracted by a phone call, text, email, eating, drinking, trying to give commands through the smart phone or searching on smart phone or tablet, or even conversations in the vehicle.  Of all these, the most dangerous one is texting and driving which is a leading cause of accidents.  The best ways to prove distracted or fatigued driving is to get a written statement from the at fault driver at the scene, witness’ statements, police report, etc.

Those injured from a trucking accident will have tremendous amounts of economic damages including medical bills, lost wages, property damage, emotional and mental distress, and more.  In order to protect your or a significant other’s interest and recover all damages caused by a negligent, careless, reckless truck driver on the road, the claim must be filed immediately.  Even if you lost a family member in a trucking accident, you are also entitled to recover damages for the loss.  Do not delay!

Should I get a Prenup?

Texas Law allows parties to have a premarital agreement, or prenup, between both people so they may enter into a contractual agreement regarding property issues and other matters prior to marriage.  This contract remains in effect during marriage and in the event there is a divorce, the prenuptial agreement will govern how property will be divided as separate or community property at the divorce or death of a spouse. The prenup may also address issues such as spousal support or alimony.  That is, aprenup may include that one spouse will pay alimony to the other spouse if that spouse did not attend marital counseling before filing for divorce.  A prenup can also ensure financial stability if one spouse enters the marriage with debt and the other spouse does not have debt and would like to protect their income as separate property. A prenup may also protect separate property upon death of a spouse.

However, a prenup may not include terms that violate public policy or impose criminal penalties.  A prenup cannot waive a spouse’s 401k or other defined benefit plan.  This may only be waived by agreement after the divorce.Further, a prenup is not designed to protect against creditors.  That is, you cannot make your separate property your spouse’s separate property to avoid paying your debts.  Also, a prenup may not waive one parent from child support which would be court ordered.  However, a higher amount of child support than the Texas Family Code requires may be agreed to.  Visitation and conservatorship may be included but a Family Court will review those terms in light of what is in the child[ren]’s best interest.

If there is no prenup, then any property, not separate property, including property acquired during marriage, income obtained during marriage, income from separate property, will be characterized as community property.  Community property will be divided in a ‘just and right’ manner and not always equally.  This includes salary, 401K benefits, and pensions.  Income from separate property, such as distributions from separate property, investment growths in stocks or mutual funds, rental property income, is considered community property.  Separate property prior to marriage or property received by gift, devise, or descent will remain separate property.

A prenup is enforceable only if is made properly and meets the requirements outlined in the Texas Family Code. To be enforceable, a prenup must be (1) in writing, (2) signed by both parties, (3) both spouses disclosed assets and liabilities prior to signing the agreement, and (4) both spouses waived the right to further disclosure.  An oral agreement is not acceptable.  A prenup may be rejected by a court, for example, if some evidence supports the finding that one party signed involuntarily or any clause in the agreement was unconscionable at the time it was signed.  An unconscionable term is when one spouse fails to inform the other spouse of property, other assets, and debts if the other spouse did not waive their right to this information.  Also, a prenup may not be pressured the night before or day of the wedding, especially without any notice. Both spouses should have separate counsel to review the agreement and ensure it is fair and equitable to both parties.

PROCEDURE FOR DIVORCES IN TEXAS

Divorces are scary to think about and can be a very difficult process.  Although your attorney will ease this burden for you by handling your case, it is great to understand the entire process.

First step is filing the Petition for Divorce in a Court that has the authority to hear your case and grant your divorce.  In Texas, for a Court to have jurisdiction and be the proper venue over your divorce, you will need to have been a resident of the County for the preceding 90 days and of the state the preceding 6 months prior to filing suit.  You will also need to name both parties correctly in the petition.  Your name would be ‘Petitioner” and your spouse’s name would be “Respondent”.  Further Texas has a No Fault divorce which mean divorces may be granted without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.  Filing for divorce based on ‘insupportability’ is used in almost all divorces as an all-encompassing category.However, other grounds do exist including:  adultery, abandonment, conviction of a felony or imprisonment for over one year, cruel and inhuman treatment.  Further, after filing the petition, there is a 2 month “cooling off” period before a Court will grant your divorce to facilitate reconciliation.  There is an exception to this rule for those on active military duty or domestic violence.

After filing the petition, the next step is to give legal notice to your spouse, the Respondent.  A process server will give your spouse a file-stamped copy of the petition and file a Return of Service with the Court to prove that your spouse has been officially served and received notice.  Without this proof of service, a Court cannot verify that your spouse has been served with the petition.  However, if your spouse has run away or cannot be found, you can get a thorough background search.  Also, a Court will grant alternative service in particular cases.  After service has been completed, Respondent has the Monday following 20 days from the date of service to respond.  Otherwise, if there is no response and Respondent was properly served, then the Court will grant you a divorce by default without needing Respondent’s signature.  The divorce will only be finalized after the 60 day waiting period.

However, if you and your spouse agree to the divorce, then you both can waive service. This is an uncontested divorce which is where you and your spouse agree to get a divorce, your spouse will sign the waiver and decree.  You would not pay for a process server and your spouse would not need to be served or need to respond to service.  Uncontested divorces do not costmuch whereas contested divorces can become very expensive with litigation costs.  In either a contested or uncontested divorce, the three big issues must be negotiated:  child custody, child and spousal support, and community property vs. separate property division.  For child custody, you and your spouse must decide if you will share custody equally or who will be the primary custodian and who has visitation rights.  Additionally, the non-primary custodian pays monthly child support to the primary custodian.  Further, Texas allows for spousal maintenance in limited circumstances when the receiving spouse is not able to earn sufficient income. Third, any property acquired prior to marriage and by gift or inheritance is separate property.  Any property acquired during marriage is Community property.  You and your spouse can also agree to how property is split. Last, if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on the divorce, child custody and visitation, child support and/or spousal maintenance, and property division, the next step would be to proceed to trial.