Speaking for the children: Guardian ad litem

My favorite children’s story is The Lorax, by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). I admire the Lorax, a determined creature who sees that his forest home is being chopped down by an intruder, stands up, and says “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” I value the story for many reasons, but it appeals to me especially now, as a father and an attorney. In these roles, I understand keenly how important it is that the most vulnerable among us have someone to speak for them.

Fortunately, the legal system understands this, too. A “guardian ad litem,” sometimes called a G-A-L, speaks for children (or others) who may not be able to speak for themselves in a court proceeding.

What is a guardian ad litem?

“Guardian” means “defender” or “protector”; “ad litem” means “for the suit” or “for the law suit.” When a guardian ad litem is assigned to a child, it means that the G.A.L. is there to protect the interests of the child in a specific legal matter. They are there to assess a legal situation and make recommendations to the judge about what would be in the best interest of the child.

They are not always the child’s lawyer; (although a dual appointment means their both the Attorney and the G.A.L.) in fact, many times a G.A.L. is not actually an attorney, but a trained volunteer, sometimes known as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).

A G.A.L. might be assigned to a child in a custody matter, abuse and neglect cases, or other situations where the child needs an independent advocate for their welfare.

For example, a G.A.L. may work with a child at the center of their parents’ divorce dispute, interviewing the parents, family members, school personnel, psychologist, neighbors, or other important people in the child’s life to determine what outcome would be best for the child. Those recommendations are given to the judge to help her make a decision about the case.

*****

For more details about G.A.L. work in Ohio, visit the Ohio State Bar Association’s online resources.

And for a terrific story about being an advocate, check out The Lorax from your local library.

- Bryan

Thanks for reading our post. Because we’re lawyers and we love what we do, we can’t resist adding: this blog is not a replacement for legal counsel and doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship (though we already know we’d really like you). Visit Jeanblanc & Rosser, LLP, at jeanblanc-rosser.com to learn more about us.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Satisfaction: Bands, musicians get what they need with the right contract

Q&A with Brad Rosser, drummer with The Brave Youngster

The story of Van Halen using their contract to demand bowls of  M&Ms  for their dressing rooms, with all the brown candies removed, is legendary (and is featured in a recent airing of  This American Life). Far from being the whim of pampered rock stars, this contract wording was a smart industry approach for a band with complicated safety and equipment needs. Band members knew their contract had actually been read if the M&Ms were right.

A good contract can be vital to a working musician’s or performer’s professional viability. In the music business, talented people often are piecing together short-term engagements at different venues, relying on compliance with their contract to have the right staff and equipment available, and to get paid.

I got interested in entertainment law through my brother, one of those rare professionals: a musician who actually makes a living at it. He has opened for Bon Jovi, Run DMC, and later this summer, Rick Springfield, and has a distinguished history as a drummer with Fenster, Introspect and currently The Brave Youngster, and as a drum instructor. He acts as manager for his current band, and it falls on him to negotiate contracts and enforce compliance. I asked him a few questions that show how important a good contract is to his industry.

Jeanblanc & Rosser, LLP: What’s the usual process for developing a relationship with a new venue and getting a contract for your band into the management’s hands?

Brad Rosser:Usually the process begins with me talking to another band, to know what another band is doing. We all know each other and we all talk. If a new venue opens up, one band tries it out, and tells the other bands about it. Then I’ll ask them to pass my information on to the booking manager, or I’ll call the booking manager myself. Then the booking manager and I talk dates and money.

The most important thing in that contract is absolutely the cancellation clause. The easy part is how much money and when. The cancellation clause is what really matters. The reason we really need to have that is, if we take a gig on July 4, that’s a big date—if someone cancels at the last minute, not only do we lose the money we would have gotten paid from that gig, we can’t book another show on that date without notice.

Holidays are important for cancellation clauses. The one time we actually went to court was someone who canceled on Halloween. The case went to mandatory mediation and it literally took five minutes—most of that was the mediator reading the contract—before the guy agreed to pay. 

It was actually comical—I took one of my guys with me and had them cue up the theme song to “Night Court” on his cell phone while we’re sitting there in the court lobby. We knew we were going to win. We had a good contract.

J&R: Is it usually smooth sailing, or are there common negotiations or contract problems that arise?

BR: My experience is smooth sailing. It’s good to have a contract, and anyone who balks at signing a contract should be considered questionable. Really, the whole point of a contract is to spell out what we’re going to do and what the venue is going to do, so a manager shouldn’t be scared of that.

J&R: What makes a good contract for a performer, in your opinion?

BR: It needs to be brief. Bar managers need to understand it; it needs to be clear, concise. The contract protects the band more than the venue, just because we’re going to set it up that way, but a good contract is clear.

For our contract, Jeanblanc & Rosser looked at possible scenarios that could be problematic for us, like insurance and in-house production, and addressed those. For example, some venues have in-house production, so they have their own PA and lights, so we put that in if they are responsible for production, or if we are responsible.

We included other requirements, like that the venue be sufficiently powered, safe. The contract gives the venue permission to use the band name and pictures, but they would have to get permission to use music or video clips.

J&R: What tips would you give a new musician about contracts?

BR: Number one, always have a contract. A lot of times you’re dealing with people who are a little bit shady. And don’t be afraid to enforce that contract. Some people will take advantage of new bands because they think they need the gigs, but my feeling is, if a venue is going to treat bands that way, we can go somewhere else.

My other piece of advice is that you have to be dogged about it. Half the time, the booking manager will say when you call, “Oh, I don’t have my calendar on me.” That’s what some other guys I know just don’t get. They’ll call a venue and say, “He said he’s all booked up.” He’s not all booked up. It’s not complicated, it’s pretty much straight-up sales; you have to prove you have a track record and you’re going to make him some money.

Also, I advise that bands have an attorney. Just having someone be able to call and say, “I’m the band’s attorney,” gets a lot done.

Just like any other professional, artists should expect R-E-S-P-E-C-T (sorry, couldn’t resist) from venues, vendors, studios, and other partners in their efforts, and a good contract can be a start to defining those relationships. 

 -         Bryan

Thanks for reading our post. Because we’re lawyers and we love what we do, we can’t resist adding: this blog is not a replacement for legal counsel and doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship (though we already know we’d really like you). Visit Jeanblanc & Rosser, LLP, at jeanblanc-rosser.com to learn more about us.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ohio Revised Code’s Landlord and Tenant Rules

In a rental agreement, both the owner of the property and the tenant have responsibilities to each other—and violating those obligations can lead to eviction, law suits, or other legal challenges. Before you complete a rental agreement, know what is required of you. The lists below are specific to Ohio, and give direct links to the chapter of the Ohio Revised Code (5321) that addresses landlord-tenant law.

Landlord Obligations

A landlord who is a party to a rental agreement shall do all of the following:

  • Comply with the requirements of all applicable building, housing, health, and safety codes that materially affect health and safety;
  • Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
  • Keep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition;
  • Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances, and elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by him;
  • When he is a party to any rental agreements that cover four or more dwelling units in the same structure, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the occupancy of a dwelling unit, and arrange for their removal;
  • Supply running water, reasonable amounts of hot water and reasonable heat at all times, except where the building that includes the dwelling unit is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose, or the dwelling unit is so constructed that heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection;
  • Not abuse the right of access conferred by division (B) of section 5321.05 of the Revised Code;
  • Except in the case of emergency or if it is impracticable to do so, give the tenant reasonable notice of his intent to enter and enter only at reasonable times. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be a reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

Read more at ohio.gov.

 

Tenant Obligations

A tenant who is a party to a rental agreement shall do all of the following:

  • Keep that part of the premises that he occupies and uses safe and sanitary;
  • Dispose of all rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner;
  • Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by him as clean as their condition permits;
  • Use and operate all electrical and plumbing fixtures properly;
  • Comply with the requirements imposed on tenants by all applicable state and local housing, health, and safety codes;
  • Personally refrain and forbid any other person who is on the premises with his permission from intentionally or negligently destroying, defacing, damaging, or removing any fixture, appliance, or other part of the premises;
  • Maintain in good working order and condition any range, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, or other appliances supplied by the landlord and required to be maintained by the tenant under the terms and conditions of a written rental agreement;
  • Conduct himself and require other persons on the premises with his consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb his neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.

Read more at ohio.gov.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

18 and Out: A checklist to prepare your child to be a legal, adult citizen

Adulthood, as we all know, is about paperwork. At 18, our children reach the age of adulthood and independence. Legally, that means any contract they sign is now legit, they can be named in a law suit, and they get the more routine responsibilities of completing their own medical forms, taxes, and reams of other check boxes and signature lines.

You may have prepared your child for adulthood by helping them to be an emotionally resilient, well-educated and adjusted kid—but have you prepped them for the paperwork required to be a legal adult citizen?

This checklist will help you start your child’s adult paper trail off right, with reminders about legal obligations and information every new adult should know. Encourage your child to:

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodMemorize their own Social Security number.

Quick, what’s _ _ _ – _ _ – _ _ _ _? Advise your child to store their nine digits in their head, not in their cell phone or on a card in their wallet—lest someone steal the info and start opening credit cards in their name. The numbers should be shared only for authorized requests, like to their employer or financial institutions for tax reasons. If their information is stolen, they can view the Federal Trade Commission’s online identity theft resources or call 877-IDTHEFT.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodRegister to vote.

It’s a milestone, and your child shouldn’t miss their first opportunity to set the rules of society and choose representatives. Rock the Vote is a youth-friendly place to register. Remind your child, there’s more than just a presidential election, and the local decisions (city council reps, school levies) will often have much more impact on their daily lives than who is in the White House.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodKnow their health insurance information.

With changes to health care coverage, it’s possible your child will stay on the family insurance until they are 26. However, they should know the insurance information and when their coverage expires. For an extensive, easy-to-use health insurance tool kit developed specifically for young people, visit gettingcovered.org.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodMark April 15 on their calendar.

Tax time—an unquestionable anniversary of adulthood. Young people should know the reason for paying taxes and how to do it. The IRS offers an online area to help students understand their legal obligation to pay taxes, before they file for the first time. Remind your child that there’s state and city taxes, too, not just federal.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodKnow how to access their own records.

This is school records, medical records, and juvenile justice records. Get copies of school transcripts and diploma, as well as their birth certificate and the medical records from their childhood pediatrician, and put them into a nicely wrapped fireproof box for their 18th birthday. Medical offices usually will transfer records to another doctor’s office for free as a professional courtesy, but often will charge you for copies. Having your own copy of records can be valuable if your child ever has a serious illness or an insurance dispute. Also, if your child has been in trouble in the past, make sure they know their rights as an adult, and the status of information about their past involvement in juvenile justice. Our justice system typically gives kids another chance, and wipes the slate at 18. But don’t assume it happens without action; often, you need to make a court request that the child’s records be sealed. Check to be sure.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodGet a valid ID, and a passport.

Most likely, your child has a legal driver’s license already. Remind them about renewing it, and break the bad news that they are not yet old enough in most places to rent a car on their own. Also, help your child with the purchase cost of a passport. It will be valid through their early adulthood, and is needed for many forms of travel.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodStart investing.

You gave them a piggy bank as a school-age child so they could learn to save; now get them started investing. Some parents charge modest rent for a child who stays at home after graduating high school, and then put all that money into a “future fund” for the child. This also is a good start to the assets your child will need to prove to a lender when they decide to buy a home. Consult your financial planner on the right approach.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodPut a five, ten and twenty year plan down on paper.

Life never works out the way you plan, but a child with a vision can be more focused on their goals, and make better decisions.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodDevelop a roommate-proof organizational system.

If your child is moving out to live with friends or other students, help them develop a system for keeping track of their bills, legal obligations, and all paperwork, regardless of what chaos is happening around them.

checklist to prepare your child for legal adulthoodUnderstand their role in your paperwork.

Is your child the executor of your will? Are they named in your life insurance policy? Do they know where your information is, and what their responsibilities are? Also, if you want to make things easier on them in the event of your passing, have an advance directive—preferably a health care power of attorney (a document that lets someone you trust make health decisions for you if you can’t speak for yourself) and a living will (a document that states your preferences about life support treatments), as well as a documented conversation about all other end-of-life decisions, like hospice care, religious rituals or ceremonies, funeral or wake arrangements, and so on. It may bother you to talk about these topics with your child, but you do not want them to face those decisions alone without knowing your preferences.


Becoming a legal adult means new responsibilities. When parents take the time to address these common paperwork obligations with their child, it can ease their passage into a new phase of life, and reduce confusion as they set out on their own.

Bryan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The etiquette of naming guardians for your child

Weddings often are political nightmares, touted as joyous celebrations of unity and lasting harmony. It happens when two families get together, and are both invested in a future outcome. Similarly, the family politics around naming a child’s guardian in your will can be fraught. Here’s why people react so strongly, and how to step around potential conflicts.

Why you need to name a guardian:

You need a plan for your child, if something happens to you. Without a will stating your wishes and giving authority to a named person or individuals, the state decides what happens to your child.

Why emotions can run high in this decision:

Everyone loves your child. That’s the great part of this potential squabble or bruised feelings: it happens because everyone you love and trust also loves and wants to be trusted with your child. Emotions are also intense because you are contemplating something scary and dire: a situation in which your child is left parentless.

In deciding what is best for your child’s future, you can be viewed as making a judgment on people’s fitness to parent. But remember, you are not choosing the “World’s #1 Parent” to step into your place; you are choosing the caregiver who will raise your child closest to the way you would have, who shares your values and priorities.

What is important to consider before naming a guardian:

Only you know your family and friends and what plans to make that will best support your child. However, there are some questions to ask yourself as you make your decision:

  • If something were to happen to me right now, today, who would best be able to step in immediately and provide the care, love and support I want for my child?
  • Is there a way for both the maternal and paternal sides of the family to be involved? What about friends? Who would be best at brokering those relationships?
  • Who would parent most like me? Who shares the values I want instilled in my child?
  • Who does my child know and trust?
  • Does the potential guardian live in the same school district, and near other family? How disrupted would my child’s routines be?

How to make your decision official:

Make sure the chosen one wants the job

First, talk to the person you want to name as the guardian, and make sure they agree to the role. Explain that you feel that right now, they are the best choice based on what your child will need.

 

Set a timetable for revisiting the decision

Life is fluid, and what you feel is the best decision today might not still stand two years from now. Explain to the potential guardian that you plan to revisit the decision every few years as your child grows, to see if your child’s needs have changed. If there is a strong possibility that you will change the guardianship in a few years time, and you know why, explain it. For example, you may have a sibling whom you expect in five years time will be married, settled, and establishing a household much like your own, and you think you would want to name them as the guardian, but they are not yet ready for that role.

 

Get your paperwork in order

As soon as you’ve made your decision, work with an attorney to set it to paper.

 

Build a “team” of supporters for your child

The adults in your family need to know your preferences for your child and how to act on your behalf. Don’t make a “big announcement” at Thanksgiving dinner, bestowing one person with all the responsibility. Instead, have individual conversations with key adults to tell them how you would like them to be involved in your child’s life if something happens to you, as part of a team of adult supporters. That will help them understand your needs, and reduce the tension and jealousy of not being chosen for the ‘big’ role—they’ve been chosen to help guide your child in the way that will help the child the most.

For example, you can say, “I’ve been getting my legal papers in order for Timmy, just in case. I think if anything were to happen to me, it would be really difficult for him. I would want to see the adults in his life band together for him. Since you’re one of the most important people in his life, I want you to know where my will is, what it says, and how I hope you would help if Timmy needs you. My brother has guardianship, according to the papers, and his aunt on the other side of the family has responsibility for the estate and finances. That means that both families will need to be involved and work together on Timmy’s behalf. I have a special request for your involvement, though. You have made really good choices in your own life in your education; I’m hoping you would take a special interest in helping Timmy get through school. Can you put my mind at ease and let me know that you’ll be part of a team that helps him if he needs it?”

 

Handle any jealousy or disagreement with gentleness and humor

Taking the team approach should diffuse tension. But if it doesn’t, have a quiet conversation with the person who feels slighted. Remind them that you’re not planning on kicking this plan into gear by dying any time soon. If the person hotly opposes your choice of guardian, let them know that you don’t view parenting as a “best choice” proposition—it is a series of decisions that shapes your child in your own special way. Ask for their support, and if you don’t get it, feel secure in the fact that you’ve made the right choice by limiting the involvement of someone who can’t get past jealousy or anger for the sake of a child.

Bryan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our Commitment

As part of our commitment to providing accessible, straight-forward legal services, we intend to share relevant news and insights through postings that you will find in this section of our site. Thank you.

- Bryan & Alexandra

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment