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Archive for October, 2010

Family Law

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:00 PM
Thursday, October 14, 2010

by James Hawthorne

There are many difficult situations a family can face. When the unthinkable happens, such as a divorce, finding out about child abuse or a child abduction, or having to deal with estate settlements, the legal terms and rules will not be your first concern. The amount of work to be done when life changing events happen can seem overwhelming. If you need to work with the legal system it can seem even harder.  The legal system is a very complex system, it might seem expensive and time consuming to seek advice from a lawyer, but doing so can in the long run save you both money and time.

It is important to seek advice from a lawyer who specializes in your specific legal problem. He or she will use expertise and experience to reach the best possible outcome to the situation.

Family law is the area of the law that deals with domestic relations and any family related issues. Situations such as the nature of marriage and domestic partnerships, issues involving spousal or child abuse and child abduction, and issues arising from the termination of a relationship such as divorce, annulment, property settlements, and parental responsibility are all included under the category of Family Law.

Agreeing to settlements without the aid of a family attorney can be very risky and without the legally binding agreements, trouble can arise if one of the parties involved in the settlement decides to change his or her mind. This is especially important in property settlements. “Property” in a property settlement is interpreted as almost anything that is capable of being owned. A property settlement includes everything belonging to a couple, regardless of who bought it, who’s name it is in, or if it was owned before the marriage. In the situation of a property settlement, it is easy to see how the amount of work can become overwhelming. This is where a family lawyer can be extremely helpful.

When most people think of a lawyer, they immediately assume they will be going to court, but in family law situations, this is not the case. Going to court is often a last resort. Most family law cases can be solved through simple negotiations between the parties involved. The lawyer will help obtain a satisfactory settlement and attempt to insure that complications will not be ongoing.

Outcomes are not simply a 50:50 split of the assets, but rather a division based on the circumstances relating to the specific situation. This sometimes requires an outsider to have unbiased view of what those circumstances really are. The family lawyer will help determine and organize information about factors such as age, health, education, and job qualifications to decide how the case will be settled.

If parties are open and honest in a family law situation, settlement of a case should go smoothly and result in a satisfactory outcome, for everyone involved. Any type of family trouble can be extremely stressful, and can cause strong emotions and thoughts. A family attorney is a sound investment that will listen to those thought and concerns but will then give objective advice about legal obligations and rights of entitlement until a desired settlement is reached.

The information you obtain from this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. DNA Identifiers does not offer legal services

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A Family Law Lawyer Can Make it Go Smoother

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:32 PM
Friday, October 8, 2010

by Justin DiMateo

Smoothing things over can be an unpleasant task for many amateurs in divorce cases.  It is a necessary task that many people are not prepared to face. Bitter words and harsh times can create even more uncomfortable, awkward and very tense situations for the parties involved and for those around them. Having a professional who can help to eliminate, mediate or fix situations and help to draft and create fair, just settlements can be invaluable to couples as they go through the divorce process.

Often when people think about family law attorneys, they often think of lawyers as seen on television who have sinister ideas and intricate plots to destroy the lives of their opponents. What you will discover if you spend any time at all with any attorney is that this is not the case. Most attorneys are committed to discovering what is fair and implementing a settlement that reflects this. Family law attorneys are not interested in taking a bad situation and making it worse. This does not benefit them or their clients.  It also goes against the sense of fairness and equality that they fight to protect. A family should never go through a divorce alone, without the counsel of a professional to help them through what can become ugly situations.

This is especially true if there are children involved in a divorce.  Divorces care become a bitter messes from the very beginning and involving children can just make the situation worse. Former couples can spend countless dollars and a great deal of time trying to decide who is going to have custody of their children after their divorce. Couples often forget in situations such as these is: what is best for the children?

A family law attorney will bring their expertise in these situations and past experiences in similar cases to help the family decide what is best for the children. A messy divorce, can create a tense and uncomfortable situation for their children. Having a family law attorney to help the parents through these troubled times can help to smooth the situation and create a fair and calm environment for the children.

Everybody knows, divorce is not a fun experience for any party involved, and that includes the children. A family law attorney can help the situation by bringing information, experience and fairness to the situation. This will help the ex-husband and ex-wife sort out their divorce and make the decisions that are best for everybody involved.

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History of The Unification of Family Law Jurisdictions to Deal With All Relationships

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 1:46 PM
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

By Paul Boers

Under the Commonwealth Constitution, the Federal government has the power to make laws with respect to marriage. As such, the various States and Territories historically were left with the power to make laws dealing with matters arising out of the breakdown of de facto relationships, including parenting and financial issues.

In the mid 1980s various States and Territories conferred upon the Federal government the power to deal with parenting issues arising out of de facto relationships. Previously, contested parenting issues involving children from de facto relationships were dealt with in the State Civil Courts. After the Federal government acquired the power to deal with children of de facto relationships, all parenting disputes, whether arising from marriage or de facto relationships, were then dealt with in the Family Court jurisdiction.

Financial issues arising out of marriage relationships have always been dealt with in the Family Court. However, financial issues arising out of de facto relationships were historically dealt with in the State and Territory Civil Courts.

To add to the confusion of which jurisdiction to turn to in contested financial cases after the breakdown of a relationship, the Federal government established the Federal Magistrates Court in 2000. The idea was for the Federal Magistrates Court to deal with the simpler cases, whereas the Family Court was to deal with the more complex cases. Loose guidelines indicated which was the appropriate jurisdiction to deal with any particular case. However, those guidelines were not clear, and not consistently applied.

In late 2008 the Federal government passed legislation to amend the Family Law Act after various States conferred upon the Commonwealth the power to deal with financial matters arising out of de facto relationships.

This meant that any de facto relationship which broke down after 1 March 2009 would be subject to the new laws under the Family Law Act. Those new laws would treat financial issues arising out of the breakdown of de facto relationship on a par with marriage cases. Previously the economically disadvantaged party in de facto relationships usually achieved a poorer result in property settlements than in equivalent marriage cases.

This was seen as a sensible move as potentially de facto relationships which had broken down involving contested parenting and property issues could end up having parenting issues litigated in the Family Court/Federal Magistrates Court and financial issues in the State Civil Courts. Now all issues arising out of the breakdown of de facto relationships will be litigated in the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court.

In a move which will relieve confusion over which jurisdiction in which to commence proceedings, it has been announced that in 2010 the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court will merge. The practical result of this will be that any contested parenting or financial issues whether arising out of marriage or de facto relationships, will now all be dealt with in the one Commonwealth Court rather than having to navigate the minefield of State Civil and Commonwealth Courts.

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What You Should Know About Family Law

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:57 PM
Friday, October 1, 2010

By Gabriel Adams

Family Law is the branch of the judicial system that was designed to deal with the issues that arise within the family unit or domestic relationships. Throughout the United States, it is the family courts that often have the heaviest caseloads, many jurisdictions tackle issues from gaining custody of a child to dealing with the proper procedure of finalizing a divorce.

Within the judicial system, family law extends from the wealthiest families to the poorest. No social or economic class is spared the family court system when any area of family law is involved. Below are some of the many different areas of regulation attached to family law:

When two people wish to get married, they have to go through family law to get the proper license to mary. This applies to civil unions as well as domestic partnerships. A civil union provides same-sex couples the rights, benefits, and responsibilities similar to marriages of opposite-sex couples. A Domestic Partnerships recognizes relationships between two people who live together but have chosen not to enter traditional marriage, common-law marriage, or a civil union.

Family law also deals with the legal issues that can arise during marriage. Family courts will step in when married couples physically hurt one another. Family courts oversee the adoption processes and settle surrogacy issues. Family courts have authority when a parent abducts his or her own child. Child abuse is also an important branch of the law that falls under the most pressing family-related concerns.

Family court also are where marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships are ended. Wether through divorce and annulments. Family courts will see that property settlements and alimony payments are arranged. In the United States, the responsibilities of the parents are dealt with under family law, such as custody hearings, visitation rights, and child support awards.

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Familial DNA Testing May Target Minority Communities

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:00 PM
Friday, October 1, 2010

Concern spreads as familial DNA testing becomes more widespread.  Familial DNA is becoming more widely used to help capture suspects, the worry is that familial DNA testing may result in minority communities being unfairly targeted.

Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California stated that, since familial DNA was successfully used in the capture of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., the alleged Grim Sleeper who killed 11 victims between 1985 and 2007.  Because of this successful use of familial DNA testing, prosecutors have begun to argue that it should be more widely used. However, groups like the ACLU argue that the technique not only raises issues of constitutionality and rights to privacy, but fairness.

While in a traditional DNA forensic analysis, police take a DNA sample that has been recovered from a crime scene. That DNA is analyzed (a profile is created) and then the profile is compared to a database of DNA taken from convicted felons.  This search is looking for an exact match between a convicted felons’ DNA profile and the profile from the forensic sample.

Familial DNA looks not for an exact match but for partial matches.  They both use a database of convicted criminals DNA profile.  In Familial DNA testing if there are partial matches, then there is an assumption that the forensic sample may be from somebody who is related to the convicted felon whose DNA was a partial match. All the police have to do then is look at the person’s family (including obtaining DNA samples) and see if one of them might be the perpetrator.

The issue that the American Civil Liberties Union is that because Familial DNA testing relies on partial matching they are not completely accurate and that they widen the number of people who could fall under suspicion and be investigated by police.

The American Civil Liberties Union believes that because the criminal justice system disproportionately arrests and convicts people of color, they are therefore over-represented in the DNA databases used to conduct these test, leading to communities of color being adversely affected by familial searches which extend beyond the offender and include the offender’s family.

Attorney Daniel Grimm wrote in an article that, “the databank system is not racially neutral.  Over time this scenario risks constructing stigmatic myths about ethnicity and criminal conduct that can be devastating to those affected.”  The arcicle titled “The Demographics of Genetic Surveillance: Familial DNA Testing and the Hispanic Community” was published by the Columbia Law Review. Grimm goes on to point out that due in part to population growth, high arrest and conviction rates the Hispanic community will be affected more by Familial DNA testing than any other racial group.

While the ACLU worries about the over representation of minority communities professor Erin Murphy, with the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, is concerned with the possible contamination of samples, and intentionally malfeasant analysts.  According to Erin Murphy Familial DNA testing, relies not just on the genetic information being accurate, it also on a DNA analyst’s ability to reason, processes of elimination, subjective judgment calls and inferences.

The only fair solution is to have a universal DNA database, where all members of society have their DNA logged, or to to restrict familial searching to extremely serious cases where all other leads have been exhausted, according to Jennifer Mnookin a professor of law at UCLA.

In the Grim Sleeper case, California Attorney General Jerry Brown only allowed Familial DNA searching after all other investigative leads had been exhausted. Investigators did not knock on doors for all the possible matches.  Instead they refined their list of suspects based on additional DNA tests and circumstantial evidence.  Such as evidence that revealed the suspect lived in the area where the murders took place or that the suspect could have committed the crimes over the two decades which gave insight as to his possible age. In addition prior to going public, investigators obtained an exact DNA match between their Familial search suspect and the forensic evidence.

What worries organization like the ACLU and many others is that widespread use of Familial DNA testing is that there will be a lack of oversight and law enforcement will not take the same strong precautions  that were taken in the Grim Sleeper case.  According to reports, the Denver District Attorney has already used familial DNA testing in less serious crimes, such as car thefts and burglaries. Familial DNA testing is something that is in use and probably won’t be going away.  It is now up to the courts to determine how widely used the process becomes.

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Attorney General Investigates North Carolina Crime Lab

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:05 PM
Friday, October 1, 2010

In August a report was released regarding an investigation into North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime lab. Two retired FBI agents were assigned to conduct the investigation following the release of Greg Taylor after he spent 16 years in prison for a crime it appears he did not commit.

Reason Magazine who first reported the story stated that, “The report found that SBI agents withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16 year period. Three of those cases resulted in execution. There was widespread lying, corruption and pressure from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials on crime lab analysts to produce results that would help secure convictions.”

The 2009 National Academy of Science Report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” was critical of many aspects of the current forensic sciences process reported that crime laboratories need to be independent from the direction of law enforcement.

The report went on to state that while there are many forensic field screening tests that look for the presence of blood there are many substances that will produce a false positive result for the “presence of blood”. This means that it is very important that field screening is followed up with “confirmatory” lab testing to confirm the field findings.

Agents with The News & Observer reported that, “according to the review, the cases involved SBI lab reports that were overstated, misleading or omitted important information about negative test results that would have been favorable to the defendants. The SBI’s lab work is often powerful evidence in criminal cases, shaping decisions at the heart of a defense that include decisions about plea bargaining or how to cross examine witnesses. The SBI has followed more updated procedures on blood analysis since 2003, and more recent work is not under scrutiny. The tests that are examined in the bulk of this report are no longer in use.”

According to lab notes discovered in 2009, the North Carolina Crime Lab had performed more specific tests, which registered negative results for the presence of blood when examining evidence from the Taylor case. During the hearing an analyst never mentioned those results or any additional. The analyst testified that his superiors taught him to write his reports like that.

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