From a Divorce Lawyer, The Questions We Get at the Dinner Table

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(reposted from my LinkedIn Blog): Certainly “divorce law” is not the most comfortable dinner conversation topic when out with friends. Often when the discussion turns to “How’s work?” or “Tell us about what you do”, there’s an uncomfortable pause when I explain that I am a family lawyer. I often get looks wondering if that means I handle divorces, or simply all sorts of law for families (like wills, etc.). I then explain that yes I am a divorce lawyer, but I prefer to call myself a “Freedom Lawyer”.

It breaks the ice and is certainly truthful, at least in the minds of many who have been divorced. But what happens next is almost always one of two things. Either the conversation moves right along to another topic, perhaps because people do not know what to say (which is fine with me, I do not want them to be uncomfortable), or more often someone starts to tell a story about their own, or a friend’s divorce. It still amazes me how many people are touched by the process. And it seems to always be a cathartic discussion.

People who could never discuss their own situation when it was happening, have now moved on and can have some perspective. They see the process in the broader sense and actually seem to enjoy discussing how it works, and how people each seem to handle divorce differently. And I realize that these discussions are much more pleasant than the ones we often have with people in the midst of a divorce. These dinner discussions seem to become a commentary on human nature, on how different people handle the same process differently. How some people put their head in the sand while others want to fight for “principle”.

And these discussions, this hindsight and retrospective, helps me improve as a lawyer. Because when I am in the middle of a divorce case, I must always think about how can I help them get to a place where they can reflect and be glad that moment is behind them, but also know that I helped them through it. No lawyer is perfect and certainly we get blamed for a lot, but we too must evolve and learn and grow and try not to just look at the moment, but to think ahead to that dinner discussion, and how we want our clients to look back at the process we helped them through. And hopefully, if we do our job well, the discussion will be a positive one and one that makes us proud of our profession and the difficult work we do.

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The Stream

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(Copied from my LinkedIn Influencer Post): I was asked last week to participate in a discussion on “The Stream“, a news show on Aljazeera America, on how divorce affects children. It will air next week. “The Stream” (it is a series, like “Nightline”, etc.) is a neat show with a great format involving guests, anchors and social media participation by viewers. The hosts do a great job of keeping the conversation moving, involving the
viewers and the 3 guests (me, an expert who wrote the book and a child of divorce- those are 3 separate guests) covering the topic in a comprehensive way. I was asked to be on as the author of Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future. The anchors and the guests interact with each other and the audience viaTwitter and other social media.

The issue covered in this show is really about how divorce affects children in ways most people do not consider. How it can change their outlook on life, love and relationships. It is an underexplored topic and I hope more stories on this issue surface since children always bear the unintended consequences of divorce and understanding this is the first step to reducing the negative impact divorce has on children.

Here are the details for when the show airs:

It will air Monday 9/8 at 12:30p EST, and Wed. 9/10 at 12:30p EST and Saturday 9/11. Here’s how to find out how to watch:http://america.aljazeera.com/tools/getajam.html

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Everything you wanted to know

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When to file for divorce is a question only you can answer (except, unfortunately, if your spouse has filed or files first, then you will be thrust into a divorce, even if you aren’t or weren’t ready for it).  A good lawyer or friend or therapist will not tell you that you must file.  All they can do is to tell you what they advise or what they think may happen if and when you file.  And no one ever knows for certain what will happen.  So what should you do? Be prepared. Read, learn and consult.  Read everything you can about the process and consult with whoever you can, but do your best to find those respected in their professions.  I recently wrote a short piece on this which you can find at: http://nextdivorce.com/magazine/issues/premiere-issue/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-divorce.

Divorce is never easy.  Though some cases are shorter and simpler than others, they always involve emotions across the spectrum and it may be hard to think rationally when going through the process. So learn as much as you can, think about the consequences of acting hastily, and then, after you have consulted and read and learned, be sure to make the decisions you are comfortable with.  It is your life and you will live with the results, so think things through, get as much advice as you can, and perhaps do your best to try, if at all possible, to act rationally, not emotionally, even though the emotions can be overwhelming.

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Part of being an attorney includes helping the public in ways other than simply representing them.  I have been pleased and fortunate to have been involved for over a year in a project which I hope will do just that.  Many experts in various fields, from across the country have worked together to create a useful tool for those going through a divorce.  It is a brand new magazine called “Next”.  It is full of resources and great articles covering many aspects of divorce.   In addition to the great content, the technology of this magazine is amazing. It simply looks great on any device or computer.  I implore you to check it out at: www.nextdivorce.com/1  We have also set it up so that it may be viewed without a charge, even though it is worthy of a subscription cost.

 

My previous project, writing a book for people who are going through or may go through a divorce (Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future) was fulfilling, and the book is still selling rapidly (on Amazon or at www.divorceprotect.com).  But this new project, Next magazine will be published regularly throughout the year with new and current articles on topics of timely importance.  I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback and suggestions (or contributions) for future articles.  Please let me know what you think.

 

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Father’s Day

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Lots of things come to mind, but for me, as a divorce lawyer, it sounds more like “Parent’s Day”.  All parents should be celebrated and hopefully able to be with their children on this day.  Rather than single out one parent, why not focus on one, but maintain the importance of both? And yes this applies to Mother’s Day as well.  Two loving parents are better than just one.  And in fact, California has recently authorized judges to designate three legal parents (think same sex couples plus the other sex parent whose semen or egg was needed).  Generally we must all agree that the more people loving, caring for and supporting a child, the better. Of course there are exceptions and of course (and unfortunately) there are bad parents. But when all parents love and support a child, doesn’t that increase the child’s chances for happiness, success and a good future?

In my line of work, every day I see people fighting over kids, each convinced they love the child more and know what is best for the child.  But today, Father’s Day, should be a day on which we stop and say “let’s be sure our child knows we all love and support him or her, that we can cooperate, that if we are not together as parents, we can at least exchange the child agreeably and with kind and soft words”. 
For a child to know that his or her parents love each other, or at least that they respect each other and can get along, is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. And this is not just for divorced, or never-married families.  Marriages and intact families should also strive to offer this gift to their children.  This would not only help children, it would reduce the need for lawyers to be , and I for one, think that is a good thing
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100,000 followers, really?

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Over a year ago LinkedIn invited me to be one of their “Influencers”. I did not know what that meant and at first thought they may want me to pay for the privilege.  They said the world’s most influential people were being invited. People like Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Barack Obama. I laughed and knew there must be a catch. But I’ll be darned if there was no catch.  They simply wanted me to share my opinions and perhaps provide the perspective of a family law attorney on topics of their and my choosing.  And it has made me think deeply about things.  Topics they have asked me to write about include what would I advise my 22 year old self, what set me on my career path and other introspective topics.  And I am grateful to LinkedIn for the platform and the prodding. I don’t think my musings are any more relevant or insightful than anyone else’s, but they are mine and I’m glad LinkedIn asked me to share them.  And after more than a year of doing so, I am incredibly flattered and fortunate to now have more than 100,000 followers.

I hope to continue to contribute and explore and read the comments and feedback.  It has truly been an experience and I look forward to continuing this posting journey.  If you want to know what I’m talking about, feel free to check out my posts and feel free to follow me at:

http://tinyurl.com/RKesslerLinkedIn

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(From our LinkedIn Influencer Post): What a few weeks of legal seminars!

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A few weekends ago I was in Chicago for a presentation to the Sports Lawyers Association in Chicago (list of the amazing speakers). It was snowing outside and raining knowledge inside.  I sat in on many of the other presentations and learned a lot about sports law along with 850 other lawyers and law students.  Then the next week and weekend were spent at the annual Georgia Family Law Institute in Amelia Island, Florida with over 600 other Georgia Family Law attorneys (including most of the lawyers from our firm).   And then the following week was spent presenting at the Alabama annual Family Law Program, speaking to their judges on “Things Family Law Attorneys would like you to know”.  The program agenda can be viewed at    http://www.alafamlaw.org/DOB%202014%20Agenda%20-%20FINAL%20w-vendors%20through%204-21-14.pdf. I then sat in on the other presentations and learned about national and local trends in family law in our neighboring state.

Then of course it has been back to the office for work and to implement many of the good ideas and tips learned at these programs. Attending and presenting at seminars is very valuable, but my passion is truly in the practice of law. I’ll look forward to the trials (and tribulations) of practicing without a seminar break for a while.  But even while I’m away at programs, we are fortunate to have lawyers working around the clock and keeping me well in the loop on cases in which I’m involved.  And the iPad, iPhone and IMac certainly keep me connected.  
The balance is to be able to stay up with current trends in the law, locally and nationally and to use that knowledge and the tips learned, to better assist our clients.  Hopefully the things learned at these Continuing Legal Education seminars help me and my firm provide better service to our clients. It is for them that we try to be the best we can be.  And we are always learning.  As they say, it is a law “practice”, since we are always trying to improve. 
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It has been a busy CLE (Continuing Legal Education) season

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The American Bar Association Spring Conference just concluded and later this month the Georgia and Alabama Family Law Institutes take place with hundreds of family law attorneys trying to learn the latest trends and laws relating to family law. Before that though, there is a big one in Chicago. It is the Sports Lawyers Association where I am excited to be presenting on Family Law for Athletes.  700 lawyers who represent athletes are expected to attend. Should be a great conference:
http://www.sportslaw.org/conference/conference2014/agenda.cfm

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This is a blog I wrote for LinkedIn

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I just read an article about China now having 10,000 divorces per day (click for the article). That number astounds me. I know China has a lot of people, but gosh, the number of divorces here in the states is high and we wrestle with the insufficient resources we have to handle American divorces (not enough money to now support two homes, therapeutic involvement for the family, financial support for children, legal assistance to the parties, etc.).  We have been grappling with how to improve our family court system, whether it’s by having courts dedicated to handling family law matters, or guidelines for child support and alimony, it seems we are always playing catch up.  And some may say we should make it harder to divorce. I do not think that will solve things.  Rather, people may be forced to remain in bad marriages, and they will spend even more money and energy trying to get out of them, money and energy that should instead be used for their families.  Of course, if people decide to stay married, that may help, but like many other social trends, divorce may be something that is best addressed by social awareness.  Raising consciousness about how hard divorce can be on children may help.  But truly each case is unique and perhaps the explosion in the amount of divorces in China is not due to the laws making it easier to divorce (which of course play a role), but perhaps the explosion is due to the quantity of people that have been waiting to divorce, have been legally unable to divorce, and that see the new laws in China as a way to fulfill their hopes of a new and better life?  I am not saying they are right, but don’t all human beings have a right to choose their own fate?  We can promote laws that inhibit divorce, but we should be very careful when we pass laws that may confine others to situations that we would not want to be forced to endure, to force people to remain legally connected, if truly they think they and their children would be better of “uncoupling” as the recent flurry of articles surrounding Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce discuss.  Uncoupling a bad relationship to allow people to move on, may be a good or bad thing, but shouldn’t it be there, not our choice?

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Upcoming Family Law Seminars

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It has been a busy year already for seminar presentations.  I have presented at a few already, most recently one for the Georgia Bar on media and the law, focusing on the new same sex legal issues surfacing in Georgia and elsewhere.  And this month I will be presenting at three more (the brochures can be accessed here: SAME SEX LEGAL ISSUESGENERAL PRACTICE AND TRIAL INSTITUTEWINNING SETTLEMENT STRATEGIES )  One of the seminars is an update on the newest family law cases.  Another is how to effectively settle a family law case, while the third is an entire seminar devoted to same sex legal issues.  If you are a lawyer who practices family law, these seminars may be for you, but more importantly, if you are a general practitioner, at least two of these (and hopefully all three) should be right up your alley as they are basically framed as presentations on family law for the general practitioner.  But the biggest beneficiary is me. Preparing the papers and PowerPoints for these programs, and then actually presenting them keeps me fresh.  Now that my chairmanship of the family law sections of the American Bar Association and the Georgia Bar are behind me, this seems to be the best way for me to stay current and to benefit our firm and our firm’s clients.  I actually enjoy working on programs like these as they force me to look at the big picture, to survey Georgia (and U.S.) law and to have a good feel for trends and directions in which the law may be heading.  If you have suggestions for things, cases, issues to be included in any of these programs or others, please let me know, especially if you are aware of a new law, case, strategy or issue which might be relevant to share with the audience.  Thanks in advance for your help.

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This V-Day, take stock in how you communicate

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Almost everyone could do more to avoid or reduce the chances of going through a divorce (not counting abusive situations). Some common reasons for filing for divorce might seem obvious, but they are usually incorrect.

If someone cheats, for example, most people think that is the reason the couple is divorcing. But when you look at it a little deeper, most cases of adultery occur long after problems arise in the relationship. For instance, if the spouses had not had sex for 10 years and then one party had an affair, is the affair truly the cause of the divorce? Sure, the affair may be the proverbial “last straw,” but there were likely problems for years.

Yes, I could repeat stories of couples who filed for divorce because “he cheated” or “she spends too much time at work” or “we don’t talk anymore” or “he has been gambling away our retirement,” but before these events occur, there are many opportunities for spouses to try to fix things. Thinking about how the other partner feels, trying to address their concerns, listening: These are small things that can go a long way.

In my opinion, communication is the No. 1 problem in marriages that leads to divorce. Spouses often forget the good things they like and love about each other and don’t recognize or appreciate them over time. People come to expect the good qualities and complain about the negative ones. Communication, even if assisted by a therapist, family member, church leader or a close friend, can help spouses keep their marriages intact.

Other reasons that form the basis for most divorces are a bit cliché. My favorite is “the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence.” Also, if absence makes the heart grow fonder, then perhaps closeness makes the heart grow less fond? Or put another way, you “don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.”

There were reports years ago about the divorce rate being very low in Israel, when every man (and woman) had to serve mandatory reserve military duty of 30 to 90 days per year. It seemed that just when marital strife was at its height, one spouse had to leave for a month or so and each realized what they actually missed about the other.

If a marriage can’t be reconciled, the saddest part for me is that most often, only one person feels that way. If both parties agreed on divorce, it would be easier, but when one person is committed to divorce and the other is not, people do crazy things to try to save the marriage.

People offer to give their partner all their money if he or she will stay. If what you want is a marriage, throwing money at it or making promises to do better isn’t enough. Recognizing poor communication, listening to your partner and making time to discuss and hear how the other feels are the very best ways to reduce the chances of divorce.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, in addition to roses or chocolates, book an hour or two with your spouse to simply talk and reconnect. Perhaps a “staycation” at a nice hotel? Yes, it could cost a bit, but not as much as a divorce (and is certainly less painful).

This V-Day, take stock in how you communicate

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Happy New Year

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We take this opportunity to wish all of our clients, fellow attorneys, friends and colleagues a happy New Year.  As family law attorneys, every year has its trials, tribulations and triumphs. But most importantly, in the long run, we hope we are able to help ease the burdens of our clients and smooth their transition into their post-divorce life so it will be more bearable and hopefully much better, once the issues that brought them to us are resolved. That is our goal. We particularly want to wish a happy and healthy New Year to those in the midst of family law litigation.  May 2014 bring peace and comfort.

We also want to look back and reflect on the growth of our firm in 2013 with the addition of attorney Karine Burney and law clerks Taylor Statfeld and Jamie Beton. They helped make 2013 a better year for us.  We look forward to 2014 and the new additions of attorney Michael Deeb and paralegal Karla Ingold. We also look forward to our expansion to the 34th floor of our building in our downtown office as we will now be occupying parts of both the 34th and 35th floors.  We hope our growth and our investment in space and personnel helps us do an even better job for those who put their trust in us by having more resources on hand.

Family law is a difficult but often rewarding field. There are disappointments, delays and frustrations, daily. But in the long run, we hope the difficulties our clients experience will pass and that their burdens will be lessened. We truly wish them the best. And we wish them and all of our friends, colleagues and families a very good new year.  May 2014 bring you and them joy happiness, and most importantly, good health.

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Making the GA Child Support Guidelines easier to determine

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 The one question all lawyers get, not just family lawyers, is “how does child support work?” Or “how is the amount of child support determined”. Whether it’s a friend of ours, or someone we just met, people seem to always want us to be able to quickly give them a thumbnail response about how child support works, or how much it should be in a certain (usually “their”) situation. The answers are often long, complex and confusing. There are calculations that need to be done. Questions that need to be answered (how many children, who pays for health care, etc.). It is not really a simple question. But it seems like everyone asks this question sooner or later, even if it’s just out of curiosity because they have a friend going through a child support situation.

To help simplify the answer, we have developed an App for the Georgia Child Support Guidelines. It is the first of its kind in Georgia. It is available for iPhones, Android phones and on the web (iPad version is coming in the next few days). Links to the App appear below. The App certainly should not and does not substitute for legal advice or for using the official calculator and worksheets, but we hope it will give a broad, initial projection so that people in a child support situation can have a general idea of the possible child support result in their case. There are many variables which can affect the determination of child support and certainly no one should rely on the App as if it were legal advice. But if you want a very general idea of what child support should be in a given situation, the App will give you a general idea. Of course there are many factors that are not taken into consideration in the App, such as other support obligations, extremely high income, unusual parenting time arrangements, etc. But what we hope is that this App will provide a modest amount of comfort or knowledge to those who have no idea about child support, so that they will not be shocked once they hire an attorney or use the official child support worksheets to determine child support. As a family law firm, we felt that developing the App was something we could and should do to help the general public better understand this often confusing, but very common family law issue.

Try it, there’s no cost and no ads. We just hope it provides a little bit of help for an often difficult to understand issue. And if you like it, please rate it and share it.

To locate the App in the ITunes App Store, search “GA Child Support” or click: https://appsto.re/us/9GxPP.i. The Android version can be found in the Play Store or Google Play by searching “GA Child Support” or by clicking: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.shaun.kschildsupportcalculator. To learn more about the Georgia Child Support Guidelines, feel free to visit the overview (and you may view and use the full calculator) on our site at: http://www.ksfamilylaw.com/resources_child_support.php

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Divorce: Protect Yourself

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(Copy of my newest “Influencer” blog for LinkedIn)

I am so excited/relieved to announce that the book I started writing over fifteen years ago is done. We just received the first copies this month and I am really filled with all sorts of feelings seeing a book with my name as the author. I started this project to help people considering or going through a divorce. It is basically an overview of what I want my potential clients and others about to go through a divorce to know. Certainly it cannot encompass everything and each situation is different. But I wanted people to have hope, to understand the process and to understand that there actually is a process. There are answers to the questions they have and that they will have.

So many people helped me along the way (most are listed in the Acknowledgements), but really, my clients have taught me. I have learned from them how to endure hardship, how to react to the unimaginable. How to be patient when you want to scream in righteous anger. And I wanted to give back by writing a book. “Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future” (available at www.divorceprotect.com) is that book. It is a general overview of the divorce process. It is NOT legal advice and anyone going through a divorce should hire their own lawyer and rely on that lawyer’s advice. The book can be a supplement, a starting point, but of course a lawyer in the jurisdiction where you live is who should be advising.
The week after the book was printed I appeared on the Today Show (http://youtu.be/um_kH0e_Zrw) to discuss how words can affect divorce and it has been selling quickly ever since on Amazon, Kindle and directly from the book’s website www.divorceprotect.com.

I am so grateful to those who helped me get it done, and again, to all of the good people who have hired me and my firm over the years. This is for you. I wish you happiness and a future that is all you desire.

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WHAT A BACKGROUND CHECK COVERS (AND WHAT IT DOESN’T) By KENNEY MYERS (guest blogger)

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The background check. It sounds intimidating, all-encompassing, legally binding and almost invasive in scope. Many people — employers or employees — never deal with them directly, and have only the vaguest ideas of what they really are or what they might reveal. In the childcare industry, though, background checks can be life-changing documents, for both nannies and families. They can guide parents to make hiring or firing decisions; they can proudly vouch for a nanny or haunt them for years. For these and many other reasons, it’s important for you to learn about background checks no matter what part of the hiring process you’re in. When you truly understand what a background check is and what it isn’t, you can use them to make the best decision possible regarding childcare.

Background Checks: A Definition

A background check isn’t just a phone call to someone’s former employer to verify work history. If you’re dealing with childcare, it doesn’t mean just verifying that your nanny worked where she or he said they did. There’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, the phrase “background check” is so broad it’s almost meaningless.

In the context of employment, a background check is a thorough investigation of criminal and automotive history, and it’s performed to give employers the most information possible when it comes to making a hiring decision. According to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners — a trade group devoted to ethics and best practices in the field — these types of background checks are typically conducted by licensed third-party consumer reporting agencies that are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA regulates the method of collecting and distributing consumer information as a way to protect employees and consumers. It’s crucial to note that fair and legal background checks require the consent of the person you’re investigating. If an agency tells you they can run a background check on a nanny you want to hire without actually telling the nanny, that’s a red flag. You need their authorization for the search.

Things That Will Appear on a Background Check

A proper background check can cover a variety of areas, including (but not limited to):

• Drug test information.

• Verification of employment, and if the applicant has earned any licenses or degrees they claim to have earned.

• Criminal record checks verified through local, state, federal and even international courts.

• Registry investigations, including searches of sex offender registries and child abuse registries.

• Credit history (minus an applicant’s actual credit score).

• Driving records.

As you can tell, the point of a good background check is to give an employer as much information as possible about the applicant in front of them. This is important in any job, but it’s especially important when you’re hiring a nanny, someone who will spend long, unsupervised hours every day with your children for months or even years. A nanny needs to be able to transport the children, make purchases for household items and be trusted caring for the kids; all things that tie into the areas covered in a background check.

To find this information, consumer reporting agencies check a variety of databases, including a family of systems at the FBI. There’s the FBI Identification Record, which covers criminal history and information connected to arrests. There’s a caveat here, though: some state laws prohibit using arrest and conviction records when making hiring decisions, so even if you find out an applicant had some criminal issues in their past, you might not be allowed to let that bias your decision. According to the NAPBS, California restricts the use of some marijuana-related convictions in the decision-making process if the applicant’s conviction is more than two years old. You should always consult with your consumer reporting agency about the findings of a background check to see what’s clear for you to know and use for employment purposes.

There’s also the Interstate Identification Index System (aka, the III), which allows for federal and state law enforcement agencies to share information about misdemeanors and felonies for background check purposes. However, the burden falls on the states to keep the databases updated, so sometimes the III might not have the latest data, especially about someone who’s lived in many states.

In addition to database checks there are also primary records searches. Considered the “gold standard” in criminal background checks, the county courthouse criminal records check requires a court runner to manually check the records at county courthouses if the records aren’t current and available online. Since sometimes records for felonies and misdemeanors are stored in different courts within a county, it is imperative that the proper court house records are checked to get an accurate picture of what, if any, records are available on an applicant.

The point of all this is that, though there are many helpful resources available for conducting background checks, there remains no single unified system that contains complete and updated criminal history for people. Searching multiple databases and sources is a good measure, but it’s also the only one we have.

Things That Won’t Appear on a Background Check

This naturally leads people to wonder: if there’s no single database for background checks, is it possible for some things to be overlooked? Yes.

Some things won’t appear on a background check because they’re not relevant or allowable to the scope of employment. For instance, medical records are out, as are records for anything that might have happened to the applicant as a juvenile. As mentioned above, while credit history is covered, specific credit score isn’t. Minor things like parking tickets may not be included, either, because they’re not fingerprintable incidents.

But the biggest thing that a background check won’t catch is obvious: if the applicant committed a crime and got away with it. That, and if the applicant committed a crime outside of the area that was searched. By definition, a background check can only turn up things that made it to the courts. A check can list a person’s criminal history, but that doesn’t mean it lists their entire history. Such a thing would be impossible.

That’s why it’s so important to remember that a background check is not a shield against future criminal activity, but merely an information-gathering tool designed to give employers the most information possible to help them make the best decision they can. You should absolutely perform a background check on anybody you’re considering hiring as a nanny, but you should never let that check give you a false sense of security. Just as old criminal history can be a sign that someone’s turned their life around and gotten their act together, so too can it indicate someone who might be willing to break the rules again if given the opportunity.

The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as a bulletproof background check. A background check should be used in conjunction with other interviewing tools, ranging from fact-finding questions to time spent with someone to gauge their personality. Using as many information gathering tools as possible and pairing what you’ve gleaned with good judgment will help you to make an educated and informed hiring decision.

http://www.kenneymyers.com/blog/what-a-background-check-covers-and-what-it-doesnt/

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TOP LESSONS I’VE LEARNED AS A NANNY By Kellie Geres (guest blogger)

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I am approaching 25 years as a professional nanny/household manager. I’ve been fortunate to work for some amazing families, and am blessed with friends and colleagues near and far. I’m not the perfect nanny nor the perfect household manager, but I am the best I can be in a profession I love.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that have helped shape me into the professional I am today.

The one thing I wish I had done from the start of my career was save. Even if it was just $10 a paycheck, over time that adds up. Instead I accrued debt, believing there’s always time to save. The debt has been paid and the savings is building, but I wish I had done things differently. Find a system that works for you. I have money automatically withdrawn each week from my account that gets put into an another account.

Over the years, I have come to know my strengths and weaknesses. I excel at organizing, time management and details. My weakness is I take things very personally, tend to take on too much at a time and give too much to my job without leaving enough time for me. I’m a work in progress, as I think we all are throughout our lives. That I recognize these traits helps me do my job well, and recognize when it’s time to just stay in my pj’s on a Saturday, read a good book and clean off the DVR.

Embrace your nanny community! If there isn’t one in your area, create one. I’ve been fortunate to be part of several nanny groups in each area that I’ve worked – Northern NJ, Atlanta, Philadelphia and DC. I’ve been a member and a leader. No one knows what your day and job are truly like other than another nanny. Reach out and meet others. If it’s just coffee once a month or daily online communications through a Facebook group – connect with other nannies.

Check out my advice on creating a nanny community for ideas on how to get started.

With any profession, information and techniques change. Continue your education by attending conferences, workshops, nanny group meetings, agency offerings, online classes, webinars, podcasts and more. Check out my recommendations for conferences you should attend and how to get the most out of your conference experience. Additional opportunities can be found at NannyTrainings.com.

Be a mentor. Take all your years of experience and share that with others. Open the lines of communication with other nannies and help them learn, grow and understand this profession and industry. Invite new nannies to meet for coffee and get to know them. Engage with others on Facebook groups and offer your insight and expertise. Step out of your comfort zone and offer to do a presentation at a local nanny group, or even submit a proposal to INA or Nannypalooza. Host a NNTD event in your area, for other nannies to learn from.

Our industry is ever evolving with information and new faces. Friendships are formed and legacies are created. What have you learned on your career road?

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Meet with your nanny (guest blog)

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The following was written and submitted to us by Hannah Anderson of
Fulltimenanny.com. More about her and this company at the bottom:

Let’s face it; nanny employers are busy. And so are their nannies. When things are going well in the employment relationship, it’s easy to skip regular nanny/family meetings. You talk to your nanny at end of her workday and she fills you in on what’s happening with your child, so what else is really needed? Actually, there are lots of good reasons to have regular meetings with your nanny. Here are a few.

Only the basics really get covered in the daily check in. It’s essential that you and your nanny check in with each other at the end of each day. This is when your nanny can let you know what happened during the day, including any issues or problems that you should be aware of. However this limited time doesn’t allow for discussion about more serious or more complex issues. And those will come up. When you have regular family meetings scheduled, your nanny has the opportunity to talk with you about concerns she has about your child, plans she has for handling a behavior challenge or making an ages and stages transition, questions she has about your expectations, along with anything else that needs your attention. Without these family meetings, these bigger issues may get overlooked or rushed through. This can be harmful to your child and keep your nanny from doing the best job possible.

Family meetings ensure you and your nanny continue to be on the same page. Things with your nanny can change fairly quickly as your child grows and develops. What you need from her may change as your child moves from one stage to the next. What your expectations are may change as the needs of your child change. What your nanny needs from you may change the longer she stays in the position. Family meetings give you and your nanny the opportunity to check in with each other and make sure that you both continue to be on the same page. If either side has changed their ideas, perspectives, needs or approach, this is the perfect time to talk about it.

Meetings give you and your nanny the chance to talk about problems. Sometimes there are big problems in the employment relationship, and either you or your nanny will call an immediate meeting to discuss them. More often, there are small but bothersome issues that come up. They don’t require an emergency meeting; however, they do require conversation and action. But when? Neither you nor your nanny are likely to call a special meeting to talk about these non-critical issues. If you did that, you’d be spending a lot of time in family meetings. However, when you have regularly scheduled meetings, both sides know they can add their issue to the agenda and they’ll have the chance to talk about what’s happening and come up with a plan of action. This built-in opportunity means small problems won’t grow into big problems because they were never addressed. It means things that might otherwise get swept under the rug and cause real damage to the long term success of the relationship will be dealt with as they come up. This type of regular attention to potential stumbling blocks can be the difference between the nanny leaving after her contract is up and her staying in the job over the long haul.

You have the chance to have input into your child’s daily environment. Your nanny is responsible for planning a well-rounded day for your child. She’s also responsible for supporting his physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. What exactly does all that mean? Family meetings are a great time to talk with your nanny about her goals and plans for your child. It also allows you the chance to give real input into what you want her to be doing. Do you want your child to have more opportunities to play with neighboring kids? Are you concerned that he’s having a hard time transitioning into a one nap per day schedule? Would you like a more detailed plan on how she’s going to help him get ready to enter kindergarten in the fall? Regular family meetings are your opportunities to ask questions, outline and update your expectations, share resources and get input from your nanny. All of that information can help your nanny do a great job for you and make sure that she’s providing the type and level of care that you’re happy with.

It is hard to find the time to sit down and meet with your nanny regularly. However, the benefits to your family far outweigh the effort involved.

Hannah is a frequent contributor to “fulltimenanny.com” & you can check out her recent submission http://www.fulltimenanny.com/blog/why-you-shouldnt-skip-regular-meetings-with-your-nanny/http://www.fulltimenanny.com/blog/why-you-shouldnt-skip-regular-meetings-with-your-nanny/. You can get in touch at her e.mail at “hannah.anderson355ATgmail.com”.

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New Florida Alimony Law?

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I recently appeared on Fox Business on the Willis Report to discuss the proposed new alimony law in Florida (interview can be seen by clicking: video.foxbusiness.com/v/2330991181001).  It is an interesting law.  While many have summarized it as a vehicle to eliminate lifetime alimony and to shorten or limit other alimony, the drafters have done a very careful job in creating the bill.  Yes the overall intent seems to be to reduce alimony, but the wording is very interesting. Instead of mandating certain results, burdens are shifted.  For instance, under the proposal, certain alimony would only be allowed upon “clear and convincing” evidence which is different and harder to achieve than the usual standard in a civil case of “preponderance of the evidence”.  The full bill can be viewed at: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0718/BillText/e2/PDF.  Let me know your thoughts.

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My role as ABA Family Law Section Immediate Past Chair

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When my term as Chair of the Family Law Section of the American Bar Association ended in August of 2012 in Chicago, I thought that my travelling days were headed for a significant reduction.  And I enjoyed the travel and the ability to meet family law professionals worldwide.  Fortunately or unfortunately, in my year as Immediate Past Chair, I have travelled just as much (although certainly when my year as Immediate Past Chair ends this August in San Francisco, it will slow down significantly).

As an example of how the travel has continued, in this short year so far, I have travelled to Miami, Austin, New Orleans (twice), Mexico, Las Vegas and have plans this month and next to head to Alaska, Louisville, Memphis, Las Vegas, New York and Destin, FL (all except two are for family law events).  But this, I know, is the end of the hectic two year travel schedule.  It is flattering to be asked to come speak to a group in another state.  To be flown in as “the expert”.   And I have been able to practice law around and during these trips (it’s amazing what can be done remotely now that our office has gone to the “cloud”).  But I look forward to spending much more time in Atlanta, practicing much more law and being with my peers and colleagues at home.  And of course, even though my family has travelled with me on the majority of my trips, staying home will ensure even more time with them.  The nice thing is I hope to be able to continue to travel, to meet new and old friends and colleagues across the country, but to appreciate those trips even more, as they will be fewer and farther apart.

But most importantly, my service to the ABA and my being available to organizations accross and outside the country has only been possible because of our wonderful attorneys and staff.  We work well as a team and support each other.  Our clients know there is always at least one other attorney involved in any case in which I am involved, in case of an emergency.  So while it has been a pleasure to serve the ABA and to serve other groups trying to educate themselves and their peers about family law issues, it has been and remains even more of a pleasure and honor to work with the people in our firm.  Yes there are tough times, days and cases, but it is truly a blessing to enjoy coming to work each day, and I do.

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The benefits of a Smart Phone

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Here is a blog entry I was asked to write by LinkedIn. It was published there earlier this week:

I consider myself an early adopter. It is fun to try new things, to explore, and it keeps me in the know. Years ago, no one had websites. Then they began gaining in popularity, but lawyers are typically late adopters. When I set up my first one, apparently only eight lawyers in Georgia had them. The way I figured, if Coca-Cola, IBM and Delta had websites, and they were real companies, I wanted to be a real company too.

Then one day I was in court and opposing counsel and I were discussing dates for depositions (this was back in the 1990’s). He whipped out a device and told me what dates he had available. I was amazed since I had to call my secretary to go into my office to look at my paper calendar to perform the same task.

I had to get one, so I did — my first Palm Pilot. Thus began my path of using smart devices, hand held devices, to save time and create efficiency.

For a lawyer who bills by the hour, the time I can save on logistics (like setting dates for depositions), creates more time I can spend on what’s important for my clients, like researching the law (which I now often do on my smartphone), reading their file and talking to them.

Then of course the Palm Pilot evolved: Instead of just being a device which had to be carried in my “man purse” together with my cell phone, car keys and wallet, it morphed into a combination cellphone and PIM (Personal Information Manager).

Then it got smaller, eventually becoming a clamshell phone (us “old” folks remember those days). And we no longer had to manually connect it to our desktop to get email or to send email from or on our Palm phone. We just pushed a button on the phone whenever we wanted it to send and receive our email.

Then, a new era dawned: the Blackberry. It did everything Palm did, but better and quicker. And those got smaller and sleeker, until one day, my law partner (younger by 10 years and instrumental in keeping me moving forward with technology) said he was switching over to the new iPhone and so was I. I thought I had been through enough change and what could be so great? Well he was right and again I moved forward with the first version of the iPhone and have purchased each new edition the day they arrived to market (and iPads, Mini too).

Whether it’s an iPhone, Samsung or whatever, a smartphone, to me, is invaluable. In fact, I carry two (on different cellular networks in case of a network issue, dropped calls or a phone failure). It is what keeps me connected at all times, especially with my often hectic travel schedule.

So why is this device so important to me that it outweighs all other things I could carry with me? Because it is not one “thing”, it is a thousand. For anyone reading this, you are apparently already very technology literate and very likely reading this on a smartphone. So how is it a thousand things?

It is a newspaper. I read my Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Associated Press, WSJ and NYT on my phone each morning. No need to walk up the driveway, the whole paper is in my hand. Of course I still check emails and write emails on my phone. Like many of us, even when sitting at our desktop, I often simply pick up my phone and check my emails on it so I do not have to switch windows (I know, I could have two monitors at work, but I don’t).

But more than the basics of email and news, my phone is connected, so I am connected. All of our client files are in the cloud, so they are available on my iPhone. So many ancient tools are subsumed into this device that it is really something we could not have imagined twenty years ago. It has replaced so much, a Rolodex or little black book, a camera, a video camera, a video phone, a pager (texting does the same thing, just better), a mirror, a copy machine (yes, think about it, taking a photo of a document is all your copy machine does), a file cabinet, a photo album, a translator (try Google translate and you can speak any language), a map, a navigation/gps device, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a tape recorder, a flashlight, restaurant menus, a “Walkman” (portable music player), a radio, a TV (yes, you can watch live TV), a bible (can be saved on your device), the U.S. Constitution, a laptop for playing powerpoint programs (try SlideShark or others to play your powerpoint programs to a projector), a remote control for your TV, your AC, your home security system or even to start your car, thus replacing car keys.

And soon smartphones will replace your entire wallet or purse. Credit card payments can now be made (or received) via smart phone, so no need to carry a credit card. Driver’s licenses and eventually passports will all be on your Smartphone, leaving you nothing to carry.

And to continue, a Smartphone can also be a VCR, a DVR, a weather radio, an emergency roadside flare, a magnifying glass, a security camera, a TV guide, a portable DVD player, games for your kids, a chessboard, checkers, video arcade games, bowling, golfing, a diary and so much more. The list is as endless as the human imagination.

Then there’s social media. The need for instant connection. What better way to facilitate it than a hand held device? If social media is what allows us to stay connected to friends, business colleagues or leaders in our field, smartphones are what give us instant access to social media. We take a photo and post it or read an article and share it, and we have socialized, we have networked, instantly. We can debate all day long whether this need for instant and constant interaction is healthy, but it is certainly human.

I certainly have written much more than originally intended, but it is clear to me, there is one thing I carry that is much more important than anything else, in fact it is a thousand things. My smartphone has consolidated my life.

Of course, we need more self-discipline to put it down to play with our kids, to interact with the ones we love and to be a part of the real, not just the virtual world. But it certainly has made things easier for me.

So now I’ll hit “save” on my smartphone and conclude this entry, and look forward to your comments and thoughts.

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