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The FALDP Docket -- Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers Monthly Newsletter
April 15, 2011

Florida Association of Legal Document Preparers

The FALDP Docket

Volume 2; Issue 4 - Revised
April, 2011


LDP's - A CALL TO ACTION

WE NEED YOUR HELP.

Members, colleagues, and associates, we need your help in our efforts. Many of you are aware of the Florida Bar's proposed rule changes that affect us. More important than the possible effect on us, is the effect on citizen's access to the legal system.

If you've been too busy working hard to know about the proposed UPL rules changes, please read about them on our site, and post your comments.

There is also proposed legislation which would change everything. If the proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution passes in 2012, neither the Florida Supreme Court nor the Florida Bar would control court rules; attorneys; or UPL regulation. Regulation would be according to statutes passed by the legislature.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1. Spread the word. Educate your customers, business associates, and everyone else you come into contact with about citizens rights to access the legal system. Write letters to the editor, post on blogs, and call in to talk radio. (Shout out to Mike Wappler for his appearance on talk radio.) Don't forget to tell us about your efforts and write your own pages, comments, and articles on FALDP's website, FALDP Facebook page, and our new FALDP Blog.

2. Help us organize a letter writing campaign to sponsors and opponents of the legislation. We need volunteers to draft the letters, and others to analyze which politicians to target. More on this to come.

3. We need volunteers to help us with a second campaign to let the trade schools know how difficult the Florida Bar makes it for "nonlawyers", a.k.a. LDPs to operate in Florida. Those of you who are graduates of legal studies programs; legal assisting; or paralegal programs; or are currently in school, please contact your professors and school administrators and let them know how it is in the real world.

(I was told by the Florida Bar that I may not state in my advertising that my undergraduate degree is in "Legal Studies". I know of at least one other member who received a similar warning from the Florida Bar).


JOIN US FOR OUR LIVE WEBINARS

The first in our series of webinars, The ABC's of LDP's - Running a Successful Legal Document Preparer Business was a hit.

Thank you all for your participation. There was lively discussion and interaction following the power point presentation.

A very special thanks to Suzanne Bowlby of ALDAP for joining us; and to FALDP member Judith LeGare for her contribution to the ebook which accompanied the Webinar. We have two more Webinars planned, so be sure and join us.

Advance registration is required, bandwidth is limited.
Premium Members - FREE
Basic Members - $10.00* (per webinar session)

Advance registration will be available on our site. Emails will be sent with your webinar login information.


WEBINAR SCHEDULE

Family Law Document Preparation - A Practical Primer

May 21st, Presentation 11:00a to 12:00p, Live Discussion 12:00p to 1:00p

An overview of preparing documents for Florida family law. Bring your questions and comments. We will be giving you a sneak-peak of our upcoming Family Law Document Preparation Software solution. More details to come.


The FAQs of BPPs - Bankruptcy Petition Preparation Basics

Saturday, June 25th, 11:00a to 12:00p

Overview of Preparing Documents for Chapter 7 Bankruptcies in Florida.

NOTE: To participate in any of our Webinars, you must be an FALDP Member.


WHAT'S NEW AT THE FALDP

FALDP Has a New Blog

The following is from our first blog post:

Florida Bar Rules Proposal Restricts Citizens Right to Court Access
by Ruth Tick

America, like other democracies is based on a social contract. We agree, at least in theory, to trade some of our freedoms for an orderly society. In short, we agree to the idea of having laws to govern us. And, although, we much rather that the laws govern others, we, in theory, agree that the laws govern us as well. We are bound to follow laws of which we have no knowledge. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, yet it is impossible to know all the laws.

Our lawmakers pass laws at a dizzying rate. We have laws to govern the minutiae of our lives. Some of the laws are bewildering, others simply strange. Some of Florida's peculiar laws are: The state constitution allows for freedom of speech, a trial by jury, and pregnant pigs to not be confined in cages. Women may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer, as can the salon owner. Florida deals with its prostitution problem by giving prostitutes spending money, a five-year banishment, and a bus ticket out of town.

Although there are many laws and many lawyers, there is precious little low cost legal assistance for middle Americans. Non-profit legal aid societies can only assist some of the citizens who request help. Bound by their by-laws and funding most of the non-profit legal aid centers are overwhelmed, and cannot serve many citizens who qualify simply because the centers do not have the staff. Most legal aid centers are also limited to the types of cases which they accept. And their income guidelines are almost always tied to federal poverty guidelines.

Attorney fees are at an all time high, an anomaly considering the fact that the number of practicing attorneys is also at an all time high. A Florida divorce can easily cost each party between $5,000 to $10,000 in attorney fees; and more if there are many issues in dispute. A conservative estimate of average attorney fees is $200. per hour; and can be as much as $400.

Read the rest of the article here: FALDP Blog and post your comments & become a follower, groupie, like, flock, herd, or whatever they're calling it these days! Sign up.

AND - FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK

Members please friend FALDP on Facebook. We already have over 100 friends and climbing. Facebook is a great forum for our cause because it is so consumer oriented.

On Facebook we can reach a much wider audience than we can reach on our website alone. Help us harness the power of social networking by participating in the discussions.


NEW INTERACTIVE FORMS

Legal Document Preparers who prepare Florida family law forms struggle with the official PDF forms published by the Florida Supreme Court on www.flcourts.org Even some of the newer forms, just posted this past December, are lacking.

Some of the fill-able forms fill incorrectly, with different point sizes or fonts. Other PDF forms don't fill at all, with a promise that they will become fill-able in the future.

FALDP is working on it. We are in the process of making the forms fill-able, and while we're at it, improving the formatting. No worries, none of the language has been touched. These forms are suitable for legal document preparers to use for their customers, or for consumers to use for themselves.

Have a look at our Interactive Family Law Forms page.


FALDP MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Trish Stevenson

Ken and I had no idea how well we had chosen our own pet nickname for Trish Stevenson: the Energizer Bunny. From our first encounters with her, we noticed right away that she is always ready to take on projects, help others, and offer insight.

During my phone interview with Ms. Stevenson I found out that she maintains a staggering work schedule, balancing a full time job as a clerk for the Clerk of Court in Brevard County with her business as a legal document preparer.

Her day begins at 4:00 a.m. First she takes care of her animals, then spends an hour working on documents for her business' customers, and then works at her full time job until 3:00 p.m. Her afternoons are dedicated to her business and spending time with family. And she still finds time to participate in church activities several evenings a week.

She started her legal document preparation service in 2007, first helping family and friends prepare their documents. As a court clerk for twenty-five years, many people came to her with their questions about forms and procedures. Starting her own business was a natural application of her knowledge.

Trish said that the one thing she would like consumers to know about the legal system, is that there are many things which can be pursued pro se. And that many people, not knowing that fact, put off pursuing their legal rights for lack of the funds to hire an attorney.

Inquiring minds want to know. So, I had to ask Trish whether her business as a legal document preparer was in conflict with her employment as a court clerk. She said no. She has always been forthcoming with her employers that she is also in business as an LDP.

And she is careful to keep the two completely separate. As a clerk of the court, she works in the criminal division; and as a legal document preparer she focuses on family law and bankruptcy.

Near the end of our conversation I asked if there was anything else she would like to say. Her response was that the Florida Bar's proposed UPL rule changes are "crazy, and you can quote me on that".

You can visit her site online www.prestigedocuments.webs.com

This Member Spotlight section has been added as a regular feature of our newsletter.


THE BIG PICTURE

Child Support & Child Visitation

All of us who prepare family law documents have seen this scenario. There is a child support order without any child visitation order to go along with it.

Usually the child support order is an Administrative Order through the Department of Revenue. Usually the unwed father is obligated to pay child support. Often the unwed mother is collecting food stamps and temporary assistance for needy families.

Sometimes the unwed father is obligated to pay retroactive child support even though the couple and children were together. There is often little that these men can do to protect their rights.

At the hearing before the General Magistrate no one tells them what they can do to enforce their paternal rights. They are simply ordered to pay x amount of money every month, no matter what. If they fall behind in their support payments, administrative sanctions begin.

Their driver's license is suspended, their bank account is levied, and finally they go to jail. Even if incarcerated for failure to pay support the meter keeps running. Who says we don't put debtors in prison in America?

Technically, the incarceration is for contempt of court for failing to follow a court order the child support order. For the men caught in this system, it doesn't feel like a technicality, it feels like they didn't even get a chance.

I realize that it is beyond the guidelines of the Department of Revenue to concern itself with child visitation. My question is: why not? It seems reasonable that more people would be more compliant in paying child support if they also were offered assistance in pursuing their right to see their children. And wouldn't the children benefit also?

What do you think? We welcome your comments.


FALDP Contact Information:
Main number (727) 344-9240
Fax (888) 840-4934
Email staff@faldp.org

Note to all members: We will be updating the map on our FALDP Member Directory page on our website. If there isn't a little balloon pointing to your location on the map, let us know. We don't want to miss anyone. We want the whole state of Florida to be covered with little balloons representing our members' locations.

NOTE: This revised issue eliminates an improper reference to paralegals. --Staff


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