Perna and Abracht is a full service law firm helping clients in the areas of Business law, Family law, Divorce, Personal Injury, Estate Planning and Administration, Workman's Compensation and Real Estate.

Perna and Abracht is a full service law firm helping clients in the areas of Business law, Family law, Divorce, Personal Injury, Estate Planning and Administration, Workman's Compensation and Real Estate.

Perna and Abracht is a full service law firm helping clients in the areas of Business law, Family law, Divorce, Personal Injury, Estate Planning and Administration, Workman's Compensation and Real Estate.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Divorce In A Pandemic: 5 Things To Do Now

Divorce Lawyer

Some married couples who have been ordered to shelter-in-place due to COVID-19 have found they are no longer satisfied with their marriage and are considering divorce. You may not be able to take all the actions you would wish due to the courts being temporarily closed or badly back-logged. However, there are common-sense steps you can take now that will help your divorce lawyer achieve a better eventual outcome on your behalf.

1. It starts with you. What is your most important job? Being an attentive parent. The bright side of lockdown is that you have extra time to spend with your children. Remember that if you are facing a custody dispute, you will be evaluated as to whether you can provide a safe and stable home environment for the children. If the children are taking online classes, take an interest in their schoolwork and homework. Supervise the time they spend online and connecting with friends, to make sure they do not make any new friends who are inappropriate for any reason. As the shelter-in-place orders are lifted, stay in the home with the children. A child custody attorney will tell you, no matter how much your spouse annoys you, if you were to move out and leave the children with your spouse, a judge could interpret that unfavorably for you in the custody arrangement.

2. Dear Diary. Now is the time to keep a diary of all your activities with your children. Record the time you spend with them during homeschooling, supervising homework, and doing enjoyable activities such as cooking, baking, exercising or watching appropriate television programs and movies on TV. Also, record the time the other parent spends with them. Have there been arguments or ridiculing comments made in front of the children? Record all this too.

3. Documentation is important, but it gets tricky if you are in isolation with your family. There are likely no witnesses to parental behavior (other than your children). Gather records of online education and other ways to document the time you have spent with the children. Discreetly, when you can, make copies of documents pertaining to finances, including pay stubs, records of any loans, credit card statements, bank records, and retirement savings records. Your child support lawyer will need these to help protect you financially. This may be the ideal time to work on a new Will, and find a lawyer to draw up a Will. To make sure everything stays confidential, obtain a cell phone that is not part of your family’s plan, and create an email account that your spouse cannot access.

4. Social Media “diet.” Put yourself on a social media “diet.” Post less and more discreetly to social media, because it is easy to make a mistake that can cost you in your divorce or custody case. Do not mention your divorce or custody case on social media, belittle your spouse, or complain about your domestic situation. Ask yourself: “How does this Social Media post reflect on me as a parent?” In general, the less posted is better while you are going through a divorce or child custody litigation.

5. Establish legal counsel. If you are contemplating divorce, it is never too soon to establish your legal counsel. Law offices may be closed, but lawyers will certainly take or return your call. Now is the time to place in your lawyer’s hands the documents you have collected and recorded. If you have a specific question about your situation, schedule a free consultation with an experienced legal team. This, can be done electronically (ie., by telephone, Facetime, skype, Zoom or the like) until the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

When And How To Terminate Child Support? Everything You Need To Know

Child Support

It is not unusual for divorced couples to struggle with obligations such as child support and visitation schedules. It is also tempting to link these obligations in your mind. For instance, if one ex-spouse withholds or alters child custody, the other ex-spouse may retaliate by delaying child support payments – or vice versa. This is a mistake, according to the best child support lawyers, because the court views these obligations separately.

A parent’s obligation to pay child support continues no matter what the relationship between parents or between parent and child. Do not stop paying child support even if the child is not available for your scheduled custodial time, as the consequences for you are often dire.

What should you do if your ex-spouse is not following the court-ordered custody schedule? You may take this matter directly to the court, but it is advisable to first take the matter to your family custody attorney to learn about your options. It is always best to explore all of your options for resolving the matter before taking the court’s time and attention and incurring more legal fees than necessary.

If custody is strained due to changing needs as the child grows up, it may be worth a discussion of the custody schedule with the ex-spouse. Every schedule is based on the individual needs of the child and family, and good divorce lawyers can help you formulate a custody schedule and get agreement to it from the other parent. Different custody schedules include:

●    Alternating weeks of custody;
●    Overnight visits every other weekend;
●    One weeknight visit per week;
●    One- to six-week visits during school breaks and summer;
●    Special holiday and birthday custody schedules; and
●    Any other reasonable schedule that works for the parents and children.

A delay in child support might be due to a parent being laid-off from a job. If there is a legitimate change in circumstances, you may seek a formal modification of child support. This petition can be taken to the court that issued your child support order. Discuss this with your attorney rather than simply stopping the child support payments. The consequences of nonpayment are serious and can include losing your driver’s license or even serving jail time.

Child Emancipation

An older child may request emancipation from a non-custodial parent. The court will consider the age and maturity of the child before granting emancipation. The age of 16 may be considered appropriate, but this will vary by state and by court. The court will ask the child to express his or her reasons for requesting emancipation and may also consider whether the child has had a job or is a good student.

Other reasons for emancipation might include marriage to an older spouse, military service, abandonment of the parental home, and economic independence of the child (the child is an entertainment or sports celebrity for example).

It seems as though emancipation for any reason would end the parent’s child support obligation, but the court must formally relieve the parent of this obligation. Courts are reluctant to terminate child support obligations due to concerns that the state later may need to support the child financially.

Graduation from High School or Becoming an Adult

A parent paying child support is usually not obligated to continue to pay support once the child graduates high school or becomes an adult in the eyes of the state, but the parent should get the support obligation formally terminated by the court rather than just stopping payments.

If you are struggling with terms of custody and/or child support agreements, be sure to sit down with an experienced attorney from Perna & Abracht LLC before you take any further action.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thinking If Probate Is Necessary? 3 Things That Could Happen If You Do Not Probate A Will.

Probate Law Firm

Very often, Wills are written many years before a person passes away. In the Will, the person names an executor for the Will. An important part of the executor’s job is to probate the Will after the person’s death. What happens if the executor is no longer living or simply decides he or she no longer wants to be executor? Based on our experience as a probate law firm, three things are likely to happen if the Will is not submitted to probate:

1. Penalties

You are not legally required to serve as someone’s executor, even if you promised to do so at one time. However, that does not mean you can just set aside a Will and ignore it. The Will must be turned-over to someone who will properly handle it so that the deceased person’s estate does not suffer damages such as late tax payments, and so the beneficiaries of the estate can be distributed their rightful inheritances.

Attorneys who specialize in Wills know the dangers of not properly handling a Will after the death, including the named executor possibly becoming the subject of a civil lawsuit by someone who believes they were financially damaged by the failure to file the Will. Most states have a requirement that a Will be filed within a certain amount of time, ranging from 30 days to three months. If a Will is not filed within the state’s time limit, there usually are consequences.

If the named executor endeavors to hide the Will for his or her financial gain, the executor may be criminally liable. Let’s say a parent left the entire estate to his or her church and left nothing to the only child. If the child decides not to file the Will, the laws of intestate succession likely allow the child to receive the estate, and the named beneficiary (the church) would get nothing. This deception would likely be interpreted as a criminal act.

2. Creditors’ Claims

Usually there are unpaid bills when a person passes away. It is the executor’s job to pay the bills to creditors who make a timely claim. Probate will limit the amount of time a creditor has to submit its claim. The executor may reject the creditor’s claim if it is not filed within the allotted amount of time.

What happens if there is more debt than assets in the estate? This is called an insolvent estate. The family of the decedent is not obligated to pay these debts, but the law sets forth a priority and method for the estate to partially pay these debts.

3. Transferring Title

Probate will allow the executor to more easily transfer title to property to the Will beneficiaries. But what happens if the estate is very small, with title to one piece of property as the only asset? The best estate attorneys suggest that there is a streamlined process in many states called “transfer by affidavit.” This may allow the executor to transfer the title without going through probate. State law dictates the maximum fair market value for property that can be transferred in this way.

If you are an executor of a Will or are in possession of an original Will, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney at Perna & Abracht LLC right away. Every state has its own laws regarding Wills and probate, and you need the most-current advice to avoid unintended or unexpected consequences.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

When Is The Best Time To Start A Will?

Local Estate Lawyers

The short answer is “now.” A Will is an important document that every person of age 18 and older should have in place. Many people are under the impression that only wealthy individuals need a Will, or that a Will is something you should think about later in life. Any attorney for Will preparation will tell you that in this time of COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure you have a Will in place.

Below we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Wills.

What is it?

A Will is a legal document that expresses your wishes after you have passed away. Specifically, a Will tells your executor (the person you have named to carry out the Will) how you wish to distribute any money, bank accounts, investments, real estate and other financial assets.

The key here is that you follow important guidelines so your Will is considered a legal document, according to local estate lawyers.  If you do not do so, your Will can be declared legally invalid, and your wishes will not be followed. Consult with an Estate Lawyer to:

Write it down. A Will that is only spoken (called an Oral Will) is not legally recognized.

•    State who you are: full name and address so you are clearly identified.
•    Name your executor. This is a person you entrust with fulfilling your wishes. It may be a close relative or friend, or it may be a lawyer or other professional that you trust.
•  Provide clear instructions about who will receive your assets. Do not assume your assets will “automatically” go to your spouse or children.
•    Name guardians for your underage children and pets (if you have any).

Why do I need it?

A person who dies without a Will is considered “intestate.” That person’s money, bank accounts, and investments are frozen and real estate cannot be sold until a state court decides who will receive the assets. Most states have guidelines for the court in terms of distributing assets to surviving relatives. However, this court process takes time, and your surviving dependents might need the assets quickly. Think about your children who may be depending on court-ordered child support; they will receive the money you have left to them much more quickly if they are named as heirs in your Will.

In addition, the state’s guidelines for the court may be entirely different from the way you wish the assets to be distributed. Perhaps you would like to leave your boat to your best friend Jim who went fishing with you, or maybe you would like to leave money to your church or school. They will be entirely “cut out” by the state. If you were injured in an accident and want that settlement to go to your children rather than your spouse, the state may look upon the disbursement very differently than you do.

Who can help me?

Once you have gathered information about your heirs and all your financial accounts, it is important to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney. At this point, your lawyer will direct you as to additional information you may need to gather or next steps to finalize the Will.

Monday, May 11, 2020

What Is The Length And Process Of A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Medical Malpractice Law Firm

Medical malpractice lawsuits, which are customarily impacted by the backlog in the court system, are likely to be set back even further by the temporary closing of courts during the COVID-19 lockdown. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers will tell you that a case that goes to court will take years to make its way through the court system, and/or for any settlements to be paid. Most medical malpractice lawsuits are settled out of court, but attorneys on both sides are required to file motions and utilize the court process in other ways.

For all these reasons, personal injury lawyers carefully weigh the pros and cons of a court trial when representing a medical malpractice plaintiff. Often the individual and his or her family are in need of the settlement funds, but the attorney must ensure that the settlement offered out of court is fair to the plaintiff.

The process of a medical malpractice lawsuit includes at least four important steps.

1. Discovery

The discovery phase is triggered when your attorney files a medical malpractice complaint, and all involved sides are informed of the lawsuit. Each side of the medical malpractice lawsuit will request from the other:

●    Information
●    Evidence
●    Documentation

During this phase, both sides are building their case, should it go to trial.

2. Expert witnesses

Your attorney and opposing counsel each will call upon a medical expert to investigate the facts of the case, assess them against the accepted medical standard of care, and advise the attorneys on whether medical negligence has occurred. The medical experts are also required to determine if and how the negligence may have caused additional, undue injuries to the plaintiff (you).

It is possible these medical experts might both find that the health care provider met the medical standard of care and negligence had not occurred. The lawsuit then would likely be dropped.

However, if either expert finds the standard of care was not met and negligence occurred, more experts may be called upon. If the experts agree that negligence probably did occur, the medical malpractice lawsuit will proceed.

3. Settlement negotiation

The defense is likely to try to settle the case out of court, as 90% of medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. Going to trial is time-consuming and costly, and defense counsel will try to avoid it by making settlement offers. You can expect the initial settlement offer to be below the amount that your attorney might counsel you to accept. This is a delicate process, and one you should place in the hands of an attorney who is experienced in negotiation. If your attorney does not feel a fair settlement is offered, then your attorney is likely to take the case to court.

4. Payment of settlement

When a settlement is reached, or the court has ordered the defense to pay you, two types of payments may occur:

●    A structured payment, often awarded to birth injuries or malpractice against children, as the funds must last over a lifetime of medical care and support.
●    A lump sum payment, which is the total settlement. The plaintiff is advised to seek the advice of a family estate planning attorney to ensure the funds are managed well in terms of tax obligation and investment planning.

If you believe you have been injured due to medical malpractice, do not delay contacting an experienced medical malpractice law firm. There are statutes of limitation on these cases which vary from state to state. Contact Perna & Abracht, LLC today to get expert advice on your situation.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Importance Of Your Estate Plan During A Pandemic

Estate Planning

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be changing everything, including one’s priorities. With tens of thousands of Americans already dead from the disease, one priority that should move up for many individuals is estate planning. Top estate planning law firms say it is important to have your affairs in order if the worst happens, and it is also important to know that several elements of an estate plan will help should you become ill.

Here are the parts of your plan that will help in the event you become sick with COVID-19:

Sometimes this is called a “Living Will” or “Health Care Directive.” This document names one or more persons to make health care decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. Be sure to think carefully about who you will appoint.

Often, the spouse is selected to be the decision maker in a Health Care POA. This seems only natural, but you should think about what would happen if both you and your spouse become ill due to COVID-19 – and there is fair probability this could happen.

Another potential problem with naming your spouse is there is always the possibility of divorce. If you do not keep your documents up-to-date, your ex-spouse could be named as your health care POA. Any divorce lawyer will note there are several downsides to this!

You might select an adult child as co-agent. This also seems natural, but if your child does not live nearby, it could present a problem in an emergency. The Wills lawyers recommend that you  choose someone who could appear at your nearest hospital without much delay. In light of the pandemic, you should consider whether your agent is in a high-risk group for COVID-19 morbidity: age 60 or older or a person of any age with diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, or any chronic medical condition.

Whomever you select, naming more than one agent is advisable at a time like this when travel is restricted and more people are likely to be sick at the same time.

Financial Power of Attorney (POA) or attorney-in-fact. This is an agent who will make financial decisions for you in the event you are too sick to do so yourself. If you do not name a financial POA, your bills (including court-ordered child support) may not get paid and other important decisions will not be made until a court can name an agent for you. Costs and complications can escalate if several people think they should be named and others should be excluded.

It is best to select this person or persons yourself. In this time of uncertainty, it makes sense to choose two agents. This allows them to talk over any tough decisions, and it minimizes the possibility your funds would be misspent. However all the same considerations apply as with the health care POA: your spouse might become ill at the same time you do, and other individuals may not be the best choice if they are in the COVID-19 high risk category.

You might think of this as your financial welfare team who may be needed in the short-term to manage your affairs and make decisions until you recover. It is possible to become incapacitated for the long term, and then your affairs will require a different type of management. You may name one agent for short-term financial management and another individual for long-term incapacity.

A complicating factor in this age of social distancing is that states require witnesses to finalize documents, as well as notarization of signatures. Your estate planning attorney is likely to have a solution that will enable your plan to be finalized during the pandemic.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Failing To Pay For Child Support In The Quarantine? What You Should Know

Child Support

As unemployment has increased rapidly due to the pandemic and quarantine, you may find yourself struggling to meet child support obligations. Often contested in a divorce, child support is an issue that is both emotional and financial. Parents should know that courts may enforce harsh penalties if you do not make your scheduled payments.

What are the possible consequences?

•    A warrant – civil or criminal – may be issued for your arrest.

•    You may be found in contempt of court.

•    You may be fined, put in jail, or both.

•    If you are still working, your wages may be garnished.

•    If unemployed, your unemployment compensation may be garnished.

•    Your tax refund may be denied.

•    If you own a property, a lien may be placed on it to cover any payment that you owe.

•    Revocation or suspension of your driver’s license, passport, professional license or hunting/fishing/boating license.

Act proactively

Because these penalties are very serious, if you are having difficulty making payments, be sure to take proactive steps rather than just miss a scheduled payment. These may include:

1.    Seek a divorce attorney consultation to discuss your next best steps.

2.    Requesting the local enforcement agency to set up a temporary payment plan to keep you from falling entirely behind.

3.    Go to the court to have support orders revised. Be prepared to show your change in circumstances, such as unemployment or reduced employment. Other reasons the court may consider a change in support orders include a change in custodial arrangements or medical emergency.

There are differences in state laws and enforcement of penalties, but please know that all states are prepared to enforce court-ordered child support, even if one parent has moved to another state. In such a case, federal charges may be brought. In a federal case, the non-paying parent will be required to pay the support owed and may be imprisoned for up to two years. If the non-paying parent is in military service, he or she may be discharged from service.

Support vs. Custody

Good child custody lawyers will tell you that while the courts take child support very seriously, the courts view support as an issue separate from custody. One parent may not restrict court-ordered visitation of a parent who has not paid child support as scheduled. If the court has granted visitation rights, the parent has those rights until the court would restrict or change them. Courts look unfavorably upon a custodial parent who prevents the other parent from having court-ordered visits with the child or children, particularly if it is related to non-payment of support.

A point of law is that the child is the one entitled to receive support from the parent. Parents should not use payment of support or other support-related issues as a weapon against the other parent. The court will look unfavorably on any such behavior.

In a pandemic as we are experiencing, top estate planning law firms will tell parents concerned about their child’s future security to thoroughly review provisions for children. If you do not have a Will,  it is time to contact a lawyer to draw up a Will.

No matter how worrisome your employment situation may be, it is important to act responsibly and seek the advice of a highly experienced child support attorney who can counsel you on your best course of action.

This blog was originally posted on

Divorce In A Pandemic: 5 Things To Do Now

Some married couples who have been ordered to shelter-in-place due to COVID-19 have found they are no longer satisfied with their marri...