Can my criminal record be expunged?

May 13th, 2018

I’ve had a couple of phone calls in the past few weeks from people who want to have their records expunged.  Both of these were for petty larceny convictions which started as felony shoplifting.  The person took the advice of their friends and pled guilty, got a small fine, and thought they were off the hook.

Fast forward 8 or 10 years, and these same people now want to rent an apartment.  Surprise! The apartment manager did a criminal background check and found the petty larceny charge.

I had another call from someone who had a brush with the police over 40 years ago and it is now keeping him from getting a job.

Bad credit stays on your credit report for 7 years.  Even a financial judgment or bankruptcy falls off eventually.  In Virginia, criminal convictions stay on your record forever!

But what about an expungement?  An expungement is a civil process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed, generally after the expiration of time.  Each state has its own process and time frame.  In Virginia the time frame for sealing or destroying record of a criminal conviction is NEVER.  That’s right.  In Virginia, if you are found guilty of a crime, or if you plead guilty to a crime, that criminal record will remain forever and cannot be expunged.

Is there an expungement process in Virginia?  The answer to that is Yes.  But the only way a criminal record can be expunged in Virginia is if the criminal arrest was not finalized by a guilty verdict in any form.

So, if you were arrested but never tried; or if you were arrested and tried but found not guilty, then the expungement process might help you get that arrest off of your record.

But, if there was a guilty plea, or the Judge found that there was evidence sufficient to find you guilty, the charge cannot be expunged.  This happens even if you have a deferred or first offender status disposition that results in a dismissal after you do whatever you are ordered to do (usually a class of some sort and a period of time during which you get no new charges).

And if you are arrested for anything, it is always a good idea to get an attorney.  You may not be aware of all of the consequences that can keep coming back to haunt even you years later!

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Automatic Contract Renewals

May 13th, 2018

Do you have any contracts that have automatic renewals?  Sometimes there might be automatic renewals in a property lease, but most often they are in business contracts for a service, such as a phone service or vending machine service.

The automatic renewal provision might be a great idea for you.  If the rate stays unchanged, the automatic renewal might allow you to keep getting great service at a steady rate that you can count on.  Or, if there is a rate increase, an automatic renewal will allow you to plan for what the new rate will be.

But an automatic renewal might also be a bad thing.  What if you ‘know’ that your contract was for 3 years and you ‘think’ that you only need to give a 30 day notice at the end of your contract period to be able to end that contract?   What if the contract actually says that you need to give a 90 day notice of intent to not renew?

You guessed it!  If you go past the 90 day notice period, you are now ‘stuck’ with a new contract period!  One that you really didn’t want!

Can you get out of that renewal contract?  Maybe.  But it will be expensive.  You might be able to negotiate with the company to have them let you out of the contract even though the contract you signed was very clear about the notice period.  You might have to take them to court and let the judge or jury decide whether the renewal term was so outlandish that it should not be enforced.

What should you do?

If you are signing a contract (of any kind) check carefully to see the length of the renewal period and also verify the notice requirements.  Then mark your calendars to check on that renewal period at least one month prior to when you need to contact the other side.  That gives you a reminder to at least consider whether or not you want to have an automatic renewal.  And take a highlighter and highlight the automatic renewal and termination notice sections of the contract so that it is easy to see.

It’s also a good idea to review each of your on-going contracts at least once a year to check for upcoming renewals.  Pick a date, any date, and make this a special day!

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Do I really need an attorney?

April 20th, 2018

The short answer is ‘no’. I am not aware of any law that requires you to use an attorney.

HOWEVER, (and this is a big however. That’s why it is in all CAPS) even if you aren’t required to have an attorney, you will be held to the same standards as an attorney. That means that you will be expected to follow all of the same rules that an attorney would need to follow. You will be expected to file the same papers in the same order as an attorney. And you will be expected to address the court in the same manner as an attorney.

Here is a true story that I’ll tell as an example.

I once had a leak (just a small drip actually) in the outside water pipe at my house. We decided that it would be too expensive to hire a plumber to fix it, so we decided to do it ourselves. How tough could it be? So we got a big wrench and started to undo the faucet that was attached to the pipe. It was hard to turn! So we tried harder. And then the pipe cracked! and not right at the end. No, the pipe cracked just under the ground. We had water everywhere! And we ended up having to turn all of the water off to the house. And of course it was evening, so we couldn’t even get anyone to come out until the next day. And of course the next day was a Sunday.

We ended up paying a plumber to come out on an emergency basis (double time) and on a Sunday (triple time, although since it was an emergency we were already going to be paying double time). And we ended up paying to have the entire pipe replaced including under the ground, which meant that my plants had to be displaced (and yes, they all died).

And we spent the night in the house with no running water.

The moral of this story?

It ended up costing me a lot more than it would have cost if I had just called the plumber in the first place!

Now, I really look at any leak to decide if I really, REALLY know I can do it myself. And if there is any question, I call a plumber.

And I go through the same thought process when it comes to hiring an attorney.

‘Do it yourself’ does not always save you money!

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Do you have a Small Business ?

April 14th, 2018

A lot of people set up a small business as a sole proprietorship, and this is fine. Often, there is no real compelling need to set up a separate business entity (such as a Corporation or an LLC), and the IRS will allow you to use Schedule C to track your business income and expenses.

The problem is when people don’t keep their business finances separate from their personal finances.

Most people are aware that they need to keep receipts for their business expenses, but often they forget that you also need to keep accurate records of your business income. If you don’t have accurate records, and you use the same checking account for both your business and personal finances, it is possible that the IRS will allocate some of your personal income to your business. For example, if you are the ‘team mom’ for a sports team and all of the members send money to you so that you can send one check to the photographer, it is possible that the IRS might allocate those ‘picture’ checks as income to your company.

The easiest way to eliminate this potential problem is to have a separate bank account for your business and use that account for all of your business financial activity and ONLY for your business.

Also, as mentioned previously, keep very good accounting records for your business, including receipts where possible and notes to yourself when an actual receipt is not available. Use this method for both income and expenses.

You can also obtain a separate EIN for your business. This EIN is like the Social Security Number you have for your personal identification, but it is used only for the business. Using this separate EIN is also useful if you need to provide tax id information to others and you want to keep your personal SSN secure from possible identity theft.

The other way to help eliminate potential problems with the IRS is to always file your taxes on time and be sure to make all of your payments on time and in the correct amount.

You don’t necessarily need to have an Accountant or CPA to assist you in this process, but if that is what it takes to keep you on track, you might find that it is cheaper to pay the Accountant or CPA to help you get it right the first time instead of paying someone to help you with an audit later!

The bottom line is that if you are running a business, you need to treat it like a business.

If you have further questions about your small business, or if you need some help in getting started, please contact our office at 757-234-4650 to schedule a short meeting. We would like the opportunity to help you get started!

Can I adopt?

April 14th, 2018

The short answer is ‘maybe’.

There are different types of adoption. You can adopt a baby, using an adoption agency or through a private placement. You can adopt an older child, again through an adoption agency or through a private placement. Some times, that private placement might be from a family member or a friend. Or you can adopt your step-child. This is the ultimate in private placement.  There are some situations where you can even adopt an adult.

Generally, any adoption will mean that you are subject to a visit by social services to evaluate your home and family dynamics. This is not meant as a mere hindrance to you, this is for the protection of the child. Remember that the best interests of the child come first!

Even though a step-parent adoption may seem easier, it still entails the biological parent giving up his or her rights to the child. This can sometimes be a very emotional time for parents. Even a father who has never set eyes on his child, and has never shown any interest in paying support or being a part of the child’s life may balk at giving up his parental rights.

Do you need an attorney? I don’t know of any law that requires someone to use an attorney. However, anyone who decides to proceed ‘pro se’ (which is a confusing term to mean that you do it yourself), will still be held to the same standard as an attorney. So it is often even cheaper to get an attorney at the beginning and do it right the first time.

And one very important thing to remember is that children are not for sale! This means that you must be very careful about what payments you make on behalf of the biological parents, or payments made directly to the biological parents.

My suggestion is that if you are considering an adoption of any kind, call your attorney and at least get some initial background information before you proceed. It can save you a bundle in the end!

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

How long does it take to get divorced?

February 13th, 2018

I get this question a lot.

People call and ask if they can get divorced in three days (I guess there are places where that can happen, but it is NOT in Virginia!).

A quick, easy, painless divorce in Virginia is almost impossible, but you can help things move more quickly if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can agree on things. Even with a ‘simple’ no-property, no children and non-contested divorce, the courts will require a separation of at least six months. Why? Because the Commonwealth of Virginia thinks that marriage is a very serious commitment and leaving a marriage is a very serious decision.

Another question I get is whether or not a ‘better’ attorney can make things go faster? The answer is ‘not really’.

There are certain procedures that must be followed, and some of these take time. There might be a way to reduce this time if possible, but that really takes a lot of agreement between the parties. And if the parties could agree with each other, the chances are that they wouldn’t be in the process of needing (or wanting) a divorce!

I’ve also found that ‘non contested’ divorces have a way of turning into ‘contested’ situations. Which means that the ‘simple’ case often turns into a more complex case as things progress.

I’ve heard of divorce cases that dragged on for 10 years, although this is definitely NOT the norm!

So, how long does it take to get divorced? I’d plan on a minimum of six months from the date you make the decision to the date of the final decree. And that’s if things all go as well as they can.  It may be a little faster than this, but you should always plan on a few ‘hiccups’ along the way.

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

What’s in a name?

January 8th, 2018

I have a name. Actually, I have lots of names. Kristina Beavers, Mom, Grandma Kris, and maybe some I don’t even know about. I’ve also had a last name when I was a child, and different last names when I was married to prior husbands.

A name is how people identify you. And it’s also how you often identify yourself.

So, what do you name your child when he or she is born? We all struggle over the first and possibly middle names, but did you know that you can also select a last name? And, no, that last name doesn’t need to be the same as the father, or the mother. What this means is that Susie Baker, who is married to Tom Taylor can have a child and name her Jane Smith. (note that these names are as samples only and not an indication of any real persons).

Is this a good idea? I don’t really think so. For one thing, people may assume that you and the child have the same last name. That can make things very confusing when meeting people from your child’s school. That can also cause problems when you sign permission slips for school trips or when you take your children on trips yourself.

I’ve even had clients that gave their children a last name that didn’t match the last name of either parent.  That was a little confusing.

So when you have a child and are thinking of a name, be sure to think about how that name might cause problems for you and the child throughout the child’s life.

And if you happen to have a name that you don’t like, you can usually get that name changed legally, but there are some steps that need to be followed.

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

A New Year’s Plan

January 1st, 2018

The New Year is a great time to make resolutions and set goals.

But goals probably won’t be met unless we also have a plan of how to get there. If we are traveling to DisneyWorld, the goal is to get to the magic kingdom. But we can’t get there unless we know which road to take and calculate how long it will take us to get there. We might need to stay overnight on the way, so we need to find a hotel and make advance reservations. We might be lucky and just find a great hotel at a great price right where we want to stop at the end of the day. But, we might also be unlucky and find that we get tired of driving just after we go through the last town for 100 miles. If we plan ahead, we’ll know for sure that we have a room when and where we want one.

Now is a great time to think about what you want to do in the coming year, and to make the plans to ensure you get what you want.

Are you a young parent who does not yet have a Will or estate plan? Do you know who will take care of your children if anything happens to you?

Or are you an older person who’s children have grown up and are out of the house? Have you updated your will or estate plan to take these changes into account?

Are you thinking about starting a new business this year? do you know what steps you need to go through to get that accomplished?

Has your family life reached the stage that you just can’t stand it any longer? And you want to make sure that you and your children are protected financially?

Are you finally going to purchase that house this year?

One of my personal goals this year is to lose weight (yes, again). This time I have a plan of how to approach it and monthly mini-goals along the way so that I can adjust what I’m doing if it doesn’t seem to be working for me. And I have it on paper so I can touch it and read it every day to make sure I’m on track.

Another goal I have is to make sure that my own estate plan is up to date. My plan includes reviewing my living will to make sure that I haven’t changed my mind about any of my previous decisions. It also includes checking to make sure that any investments I’ve made this past year are included and that things I’ve sold are removed from my trust documents.

I have goals for my business and what I want to accomplish this year. My plan includes pieces on marketing, new subject areas and customer service. And I set milestones for each month so I can check my progress to make sure I’m still going in the right direction.

As you can see, I have lots of goals (and plans) for this new year.

If you need help with any legal aspects of your plans for this new year, call the office at 757-234-4650 and we can set up an appointment to discuss your goals and how to get there.

It’s that time of year !

December 14th, 2017

Sure, it’s holiday time and everyone is running around being busy. And the kids are going to be out of school for awhile. And the weather has taken a definite turn to the colder.

But, more importantly, the end of the year is approaching!

That means that most of us really need to start thinking about taxes and what we can do now to get ready.

If you had a great income this year (and I know there are some out there), you might want to consider paying some expenses before the end of this year, even if they aren’t really due yet. And it might be a good time to make a donation to a charity that needs your help more this year.

If you had a less-than-stellar year (and I know there are probably even more of these out there), you might want to consider pushing paying some of those expenses until after January 1st. Just be sure to get those payments in on time! A tax break next year won’t be worth as much as a late fee next month!

It’s also time to get your records in order. I always set up a large envelope on my desk so that I can just ‘shove’ in the tax records as they arrive. That way, I don’t have to go all through the house looking for that mortgage interest statement that came included with the December (or January) billing statement. I can always put the papers in order later, but at least I know where they are.

And also remember that nerves get frayed at this time of the year. Sometimes we get upset by things that normally would be overlooked.

So while you’re getting your tax papers in order, remember to count to 10 (or 20) and to cut everyone some slack as the holiday’s arrive. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you! 🙂

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Keep copies of contracts!

November 19th, 2017

I know you’ve heard it before….”An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on!”….But what about a written contract?

If you don’t have a copy to prove that it ever existed, it can be just like an oral contract.

Yes, oral contracts can be upheld. But it’s much harder to prove the agreement when there isn’t a writing.

And sometimes, there was a written contract, but we ‘trusted’ the other person and tossed our copy of the contract because we don’t want to accumulate clutter. This can be a problem when you need to prove that the contract ever existed, or when you need to prove one of the clauses in the contract.

Also, if you ever sign a mortgage loan document, make SURE to get a copy of the entire contract. And make sure that your copy contains the same terms as the copy you signed and gave back to the loan broker (or notary).

I like to trust people, but there are some very not-nice folks out there these days who are trying hard to make a living. And sometimes, those people do things that aren’t quite right.

There are also companies that are being bought or sold and perhaps with a name change.  In the process, their copy of the written contract may be lost by mistake.

It’s always better to be safe.

So protect yourself and keep copies of the contract. At least until the contract has been totally performed.

And yes, that means that you should keep your home mortgage contract for 30 years (if that’s the length of your mortgage) or until you receive notification that the mortgage has been paid off.

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com