Tailored Solutions

Education and School Law

Posted on Mar 20, 2017

Louisiana Education Law Attorneys

The attorneys of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, LLC, proudly represent educators.

Teachers and other school employees enjoy the status of professionals in our society. But all too often, educators aren’t treated as professionals.

We take pride in representing educators at all levels: pre-kindergarten, elementary, secondary and in our colleges and universities.

If you are an educator in a Louisiana public school district, a Charter School, or in a public institution of higher education, we represent members of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, who are referred to us by the Union.

We also represent educators in a private or parochial schools and institutions of higher education.

If you are facing disciplinary action or termination, or you are experiencing other employment-related problems, you may have rights and protections under your contract, policies and regulations, or under state or federal law. We will thoroughly review your situation with you, and advise you of your rights.

We know that you treasure your livelihood as an educator, and we will work hard to protect your rights and interests.

To schedule an appointment with an experienced education lawyer, contact us online or call 504-524-5555. We promptly return all calls. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, with off-site meetings available by appointment.

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Divorce and Family Law

Posted on Jun 9, 2014

Dedicated New Orleans Divorce
and
Family Law Attorneys

Divorce can be a difficult and stressful process, especially if children are involved. In addition to the emotional issues you already face, navigating the legal process presents additional challenges.

At the law office of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, L.L.C., we represent clients throughout Louisiana, including metropolitan New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, in divorce and related matters. Our attorneys will help you arrive at an effective resolution to your family law matter and ensure that your best interests are protected.

Tailored Approaches to Meet Your Unique Needs

We know that in divorce, every family situation is different. Our attorneys will work closely with you to understand your unique goals and develop strategies to meet them.

Divorce and other family law concerns involve some of the most important decisions you will ever make. These choices will have long-lasting ramifications for all parties involved. We believe it is essential to keep our clients informed so that they are fully advised of their options, as well as the advantages and disadvantage of each. To minimize the time, cost and emotional impact of a divorce, we will advise you on alternatives to litigation, such as mediation and collaborative divorce.

From the making the decision of whether to separate to developing a custody plan, rely on us to provide you the guidance you need.

Comprehensive Guidance

In addition to the divorce itself, we will also represent you in related issues, including:

  • Child custody and visitation: We will advise you on your rights and responsibilities with regard to joint, shared and sole custody. Our firm wholeheartedly supports Louisiana laws aimed protecting the best interests of children.
  • Child support: In Louisiana, child support is determined by the application of state guidelines. We will ensure that the guidelines are correctly applied in your case.
  • Spousal support/alimony: Louisiana law provides for spousal support/alimony in certain situations, and the court grants alimony at its discretion. We will advise you on your rights with regard to alimony and explain the factors that the court will consider in your case.
  • Property division: We encourage parties to reach agreement on how property will be divided because of the high cost of trial. However, where parties cannot agree, Louisiana law establishes ownership rights based on whether property is separate or community. Community property is generally split as evenly as possible between the parties. We will help you understand the community property regime and what to expect from the partition.
  • Enforcement and modification of custody or support orders: If your former spouse has failed or refused to comply with a custody or support order, we will help you seek court enforcement of his or her obligations. If there has been a material change in financial or other life circumstances, we will assist you in seeking a modification of a custody or support order.

Divorce, Support, and other issues: Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve tried everything but my marriage just isn’t working. We’ve tried therapy. We’ve tried everything. I hate the thought of going through a divorce but I’m afraid it’s my only alternative. Should I move out and then see a lawyer, or should I see a lawyer first?

You should absolutely consult with an attorney who handles family law cases before you move out and before you do anything else on your own. During our initial meeting with you, we will answer your questions. We recommend that you bring with you a list of questions. If you have children, then we will discuss custody, visitation, and support issues with you. We will explain the law to you and give you our opinion of your case. We will discuss strategies with you and recommend the best approaches, individually tailored to meet your situation and designed to meet your goals.

Is it necessary to first obtain a legal separation?

No.

Who will have custody of the children?

Custody will be one of the most in issues that we will discuss when we meet with you. The type of custody arrangement will depend on your particular situation, and of course, the best interest of the children. When you meet with us, we will explain the difference between “shared custody,” “joint custody” and “sole custody.”

We will encourage you and the other parent to try to agree on a schedule that is best for the children. This will depend on the age of the children, where they attend school, your living accommodations, and many other factors.

How will the amount of child support be determined?

There is a chart that takes into account the number of children and the income of the parents. The amount will also depend on other factors, such as health insurance, daycare and school tuition. During our initial consultation, we will provide you with an estimate of the amount of child support. It is important to remember that child support will be owed retroactively to the date of filing the appropriate court papers requesting child support.

What about spousal support?

Spousal support will depend on financial need and other issues. We will also discuss this with you during the initial consultation.

I am worried that my spouse will continue using credit cards. Will I be required to pay those debts? What should I do to protect myself?

There are several strategies to avoid your having to pay those debts. We will discuss those with you during the initial consultation – so that you select the best strategy tailored to your particular situation.

I am worried that if my spouse will empty the bank account, take everything that has value. What should I do?

There are several strategies to prevent this from happening. We will also discuss those with you during the initial consultation – so that you select the best strategy tailored to your particular situation.

During our marriage, we purchased a house, cars, furniture, etc. How will that be divided? And we also have debts. Who will be required to pay the debts?

The easiest, fastest, and least expensive way to divide both assets and debts is for you and your spouse to agree on how it is to be divided. But we recommend that you consult with an attorney before making decisions, so that you know your rights and have an understanding of Louisiana’s community property laws.

If you and your spouse can’t agree on how your property and debts are to be divided, then the Judge will do so. We encourage our clients to try to reach an agreement so that the Court doesn’t end up dividing the property. But this can wait. You aren’t required to divide ownership at the beginning of the case. In most situations, emotions simmer down as time goes by, and you and your spouse will realize that if you succeed in agreeing how the property will be divided it will be more tailor-made to each of your needs, and less costly, than if the Court does it.

You keep suggesting that we reach agreements with each other. But reaching agreements (and also communicating with each other) is impossible. If my spouse and I could reach agreements we probably wouldn’t be getting a divorce… 

Good point. Once again, there are strategies: for example, mediation. That is a process where a trained mediator will help each of you try to reach an agreement. Sometimes court is the only alternative. That’s why it’s so important to have an attorney during the entire process.

You mean someone other than a Judge will force us to agree on something?

No. The mediator will try to guide you all through the process of reaching an agreement. The mediator would not have the power or authority to force any decision on you. That’s the beauty of medication: you all make the decision, which is tailored to your particular situations. If you do not agree, then the Judge will decide.

But mediation costs money, doesn’t it?

Yes, but a lot less than a court battle, and it’s a lot faster, too.

We know that there are situations where it will be necessary for a Judge to decide. We will thoroughly prepare you for hearings and trial beforehand.

I read on the internet that I am entitled to………….

Be careful! There’s a lot of information on the web that applies to laws in other states, not Louisiana. And there is a lot of misinformation, too.

My cousin got a divorce and he (or she)…………

It’s sometimes beneficial to hear about situations that other people have experienced. But remember: no two situations are identical.

This is all so overwhelming. What is one of us wants to move out of state? What if the children don’t like the custody arrangement? What if there isn’t enough money?

We know that it’s overwhelming. We also know that the law can be confusing. That’s why we feel that so important to have an attorney who listens and who is accessible. We promptly return phone calls. We will do everything we can to clearly de-mystify the process.

The initial appointment is the key that opens the door to understanding these issues and helps you begin to consider strategies to accomplish your goals. We recommend that you schedule an appointment so that we can discuss your concerns and answer your questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To schedule an appointment with an experienced family lawyer, contact us online or call 504-524-5555. We promptly return all calls.  Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, with off-site meetings available by appointment.
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Defense of Marijuana and Drug Crimes

Posted on Jan 8, 2014

Aggressive Defense of Marijuana
and
Other Louisiana Drug Crimes

Marijuana and other drug charges often carry serious consequences that can have a long-term impact on both you and your family. The attorneys of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, L.L.C., provide aggressive felony and misdemeanor criminal defense for clients throughout Louisiana, including metropolitan New Orleans and southeast Louisiana. Our practice focuses on defense against marijuana-based charges.

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related crime or other drug offense, it is essential to protect your rights.

How to exercise your rights when you are stopped by the police.

•  “You have the right to remain silent.”

• “Anything that you say may be used against you in a court of law.”

• “You have the right to consult with an attorney. 

• “You have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.”

“You have the right to have an attorney appointed at no cost to represent you if you cannot afford one.”

 

These are important rights which you should exercise whether you are innocent or guilty. Many citizens believe that if you answer questions you may avoid being arrested. But: You should consult with an attorney before you decide to waive your legal rights and even before you make a statement.

 

If the police approach you:

♦ Be polite. Stay calm. Stop. Don’t run. Don’t make sudden movements.

♦ Keep your hands out of your pockets.

♦ DON’T ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS…except your name, address and birthdate.

♦ Give your name and show your identification when you are asked to do so.

♦ Don’t give a fake name or false identification.

♦ Invoke your constitutional Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

♦ DO NOT CONSENT TO BE SEARCHED.

♦ Do not try to talk your way out, and don’t banter with the officer.

If you are stopped in your vehicle:

♦ Turn off your engine.

♦ Open the window and keep your hands exposed.

♦ Don’t throw anything out of the automobile.

♦ BE POLITE.

♦ DO NOT CONSENT TO SEARCH YOUR CAR OR YOUR PERSON.

♦ If the officer gives you a traffic ticket, sign the notice to appear.

♦ The more you talk the more trouble you getting yourself into.

♦ DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS (except your name, address, birthdate).

♦ Produce drivers license, registration and insurance papers upon request.

            Here’s what you should do in advance, to prevent problems:

♦ Keep current registration and insurance information in your vehicle.

♦ Don’t smoke marijuana in your car.

♦ Keep your car clean, with no drugs or paraphernalia.

♦ Pay all parking tickets.

If the police come to your residence:

♦ Answer the door.

♦ Be polite.

♦ Ask to see the search warrant and read the warrant.

♦ DO NOT CONSENT TO ENTRY UNLESS THERE IS A WARRANT.

♦ Do not resist or obstruct.

♦ Let them search if they have a warrant.

♦ DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS…DEMAND LAWYER.

If you are given a summons:

♦ Sign it. Your signature means that you acknowledge that you may be charged with a criminal offense, but it doesn’t mean that you are agreeing to anything. By signing a summons you may avoid being arrested.

If you are arrested:

♦ Don’t resist. Don’t get angry. Stay calm.

♦ Don’t demand to know what you are being arrested for. The police aren’t required to tell you.

♦ DO NOT ANSWER QUESTIONS. State “I want a lawyer.”

♦ When you get a phone call in jail, remember that all calls are recorded.

♦ Don’t discuss arrest on the phone. Keep your conversation short. Don’t use code words.

♦ Stay calm. Hopefully your family can get you out on a bond.

♦ Don’t talk about your case to other inmates. Snitches are listening.

♦ GET A LAWYER.

         When you meet with a lawyer:

♦ Talk to them. Listen to them. They want to help you.

♦ No money? There are lots of good hard-working Public Defenders.

♦ Be sure to speak with a lawyer before you go to court.

♦ Do not plead guilty or go to trial without a lawyer.

♦ Stay in touch with your lawyer…and don’t act like a jerk.

WHAT SHOULD I SAY IF THE OFFICER ASKS ME QUESTIONS?

It’s okay to give your name, address, and date of birth. Politiely say “I exercise my right to remain silent. I would like to have an attorney with me before I answer any questions.”

IF I AM INNOCENT, WHY SHOULDN’T I ANSWER QUESTIONS?

Because even if you are innocent, you may say something that could incriminate you unknowingly. You have the right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right!

WHAT IF THE OFFICER THREATENS TO ARREST ME IF I DON’T ANSWER QUESTIONS?

If the deputy is going to arrest you, there is nothing you can say which will prevent it

WON’T IT APPEAR THAT I AM GUILTY IF I REFUSE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS? 

The Police know that you have the right to remain silent. Exercising your right to remain silent is important in the long run: having a favorable outcome in court.

CAN I DO ANYTHING TO TRY TO AVOID BEING ARRESTED, WITHOUT ANSWERING QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE ACCUSATION?

You may ask for a “Summons” instead of being arrested.

IF I AM ASKED TO SIGN A SUMMONS, SHOULD I SIGN IT?

Yes.  You are not acknowledging guilt.  You are only agreeing to appear in court.

DO I NEED LEGAL REPRESENTATION AT MY FIRST COURT APPEARANCE?

Your first court appearance may either be a “bond-setting” or “arraignment.”  Representation is advised.

Remember: you have rights. But these rights are useless if you choose to ignore them.

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related crime or other drug offense, it is essential to protect your rights. Contact us online or call 504-524-5555 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation. We promptly return all calls.

Our firm has the knowledge and insight necessary to provide an effective defense and representation. One of our attorneys, William E. Rittenberg, is a founding member of the Legal Committee of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

We will defend against state or federal drug charges including:

  • Possession
  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Sale
  • Cultivation
  • Distribution
  • Trafficking

We also handle expungements of arrests and convictions.

Rely on Our Experience to Protect Your Rights

If you are convicted of a crime involving marijuana or other illegal drugs, the consequences can be severe. You may face a felony criminal record that can follow you for the rest of your life. Depending on the number of your prior convictions and the seriousness of your current offense, you could be sentenced to prison, from several months to years. A drug-related conviction can also jeopardize your professional reputation and licensure, future employment, and ties with family and friends. You may also be subject to steep fines and risk losing the right to vote and the right to carry firearms.

Aggressive Defense Representation

Our firm is dedicated to helping you understand and protect your rights. We are skilled negotiators and zealous courtroom advocates. We will thoroughly examine the evidence against you and develop an aggressive legal strategy. We will identify and attack all weaknesses in the State’s case and raise all applicable challenges.

If you are a first-time offender, options such as diversion can allow for dismissal of your case after a probationary period. We will work hard to get your case dismissed, but if conviction is unavoidable, we will strive to minimize the penalties you face.

Straightforward Counsel You Can Trust

Committed to providing responsive representation, we will always be direct with you. Our goal is to take the mystery out of the legal process, so we will explain the charges and evidence against you, present your options and explain the pros and cons of each. Our goal is to give you the information you need to make important decisions.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, contact us online or call 504-524-5555. We promptly return all calls. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, with off-site meetings available by appointment.

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Wills, Probate, Estates and Successions

Posted on Jan 8, 2014

What is the purpose of a Will?

A Will allows you to determine how your assets will be distributed at your death.  If you write a Will, then your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. A Will removes the uncertainty of how your assets will be distributed at your death.

After your death, your Will may be filed in court. This is called “probating” your Will. A Judge will issue an Order that will enable your heirs to lawfully take over ownership of your assets according to your wishes.

If you die without a Will, then Louisiana law establishes how your estate will be distributed at your death. Under Louisiana law if you die without a Will, your “Separate Property” will go to your descendants (children, grandchildren).  If you do not have any descendants, then your separate property will go to your parents or siblings.  Under Louisiana law if you die without a will, your “Community Property” will go to your descendants (children, grandchildren), but your surviving spouse will have the legal right to use the assets. This is called a “usufruct.” If you do not have any descendants, then your surviving spouse will have full ownership of your community property.

We strongly recommend that everyone meet with a lawyer to determine whether a will is advisable in your individual situation. At the law office of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, LLC, we will discuss many situations with you. For example, we will ask you how you want your property distributed if you and your spouse or a child should die in a common disaster (such as an automobile accident).

What is the purpose of a Trust?

In addition to a will, a trust offers further protection and advantages in many situations. A trust allows you to leave your estate to someone, but allows you to impose restrictions. A trust may be useful where, for example, you have minor children or children with special needs. A trust may be useful where:

  • Significant assets are involved
  • There are disabled children or spouses who have special medical needs
  • There are minor children who are not able or ready to manage their own finances
  • There are adult children who, for many reasons, cannot manage their own finances

In Louisiana, many types of trusts are available, including living trusts, revocable trusts, special needs trusts and spendthrift trusts. At the law office of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, LLC, we will tailor these estate planning tools to your individual situation, to meet your individual goals and objectives.

May I write my own will?

Yes. But your will may be invalid if you fail to comply with requirements imposed by law. If your will is void, then you haven’t accomplished what you sought to do in the first place. If your will is declared void, then your assets will be distributed according to law rather than according to your wishes.

Does Louisiana law require me to leave my estate to my children?

Sometimes, yes.

Under current Louisiana law, you must leave a portion of your estate to your children under the age of twenty-four (24). You are also required to leave a portion of your estate to children who because of a mental or physical condition are incapable of caring for themselves or administering their estates, regardless of their age.

What is the procedure to distribute assets after someone dies?

In Louisiana, we call this a “succession.” Succession is the process of opening and administering an estate after a person dies. A Succession is the legal process whereby property is transferred from the Decedent to the people who will inherit.  This process consists of an Attorney preparing and filing a petition and other pleadings with the court.

A Succession must be opened in Court if real estate is involved, or there are other assets in the name of only the person who died. If there is a will, it will be necessary to probate the will in court in order to transfer ownership of assets and real property to persons named in the will as beneficiaries and heirs. If there is no will, it will be necessary to open a succession in court in order to transfer ownership of assets and real property according to rights of succession established by Louisiana law.

When you contact the law firm of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, LLC., we will gather information and file court papers to open succession proceedings. Our lawyers will help you with all aspects of the estate administration, including:

  • Identifying and accessing assets and debts, including bank accounts
  • Transferring title to real and personal property
  • Handling outstanding debts such as final medical expenses, funeral expenses and taxes
  • Putting heirs and beneficiaries into lawful possession of the assets that they have inherited
  • Filing any accounting required by law

Getting sound legal guidance on the succession process can ease your — and your family’s — mind during a difficult period. At the law office of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, L.L.C., we will assist you through the entire process, from estate planning to estate administration. Our attorneys will give you the information that you need to make informed choices. 

Understanding Your Options

The attorneys at Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, LLC know that you may be new to the legal system, and we aim to de-mystify the process. We will explain all of your options and help you choose the appropriate methods so that you are able to meet your goals.

To schedule and appointment with an an experienced estate planning and succession lawyer, contact us online or call 504-524-5555. We promptly return all calls. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, with off-site meetings available by appointment.

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