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Technology and Family Law
Bug a Car...Go to Jail

A California who placed a bug in the vehicle of an estranged spouse has gone to jail for that act... and others according to the American Bar Association Journal.  But she also had, as they say--"Other Entanglements..."

  

A former California divorce lawyer who admitted bugging a car was sentenced on Monday to two years in prison for illegal eavesdropping and tax evasion.

 

Mary Nolan, 62, of Oakland pleaded guilty to charges of evading more than $400,000 in federal taxes and causing her staff to plant a listening device in the vehicle of “N.F.,” identified as a client’s estranged spouse by the Contra Costa Times and as a client’s ex-husband by the San Francisco Chronicle. Nolan gave up her law license and agreed to repay $469,000 in back taxes, according to an FBI press release.

 

Nolan was among the defendants caught up in the so-called “dirty DUI” scandal in which a private investigator hired alluring women to drink with the husbands of divorce clients at bars. The women would then invite the men to follow them in their cars, and police would be called to investigate a DUI.

 

A doctor said in court documents that Nolan suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the deaths of her grandparents at a young age and her parents while in college, according to the Contra Costa Times report.

 

Lesson:  Don't wiretap, pay your taxes, and don't run a scam.

 

The ABA Journal story is here.

 

 

 

Filed under Family LawTags Dallas divorce attorney, electronic evidence, Technology and Family Law
Another Computer Security Risk

Attorney-client confidentiality is a bedrock principle of the American legal system.  Candor and free expression between attorney and client is essential in the course of representation.

 

But lawyers are not immune from cyber security concerns, and despite prudent precautions, some attorneys can fall victims to cybercrime.

 

The ABA Journal reports a North Carolina attorney inadvertently downloaded a virus that shut him out of his computer system.

 

Like other businesses, the attorney was targeted via e-mail. He opened a fairly innocuous attachment, and that's when the Crypto Locker virus took over. The article reports that "Thousands of documents stored on his computer were made inaccessible," the attorney reports, "it was actually an email that looked like it was coming from our phone system because our system sends voice mail messages as an attachment.”

 

The makers of the virus essentially held his computer hostage, and offered him access to his computer if he paid a ransom.

 

My recommendation for lawyers: regularly back up your electronic files with external hard drives, and keep them in a secure, fireproof place--and consider having a backup copy located outside of your office in a secure and fireproof place. Also consider secure cloud services.

 

My recommendation for everyone: be careful what you download--schemes like this Crypto Locker extortion ring are pretty sophisticated.

 

The ABA Journal story is here.

 

My friend Mark Bentley, who works as a lawyer for the UT System in Austin, commented that their office is not immune from cyberattacks like this one.  He adds that these malware can be masked and look like trusted websites and known e-mail senders.

 

 

Filed under Family LawTags divorce in the news, electronic evidence, Technology and Family Law
Ken Raggio Demos iPad at National AAML Meeting

At the national annual meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers held in Chicago this week, Ken Raggio co produced and moderated the Second Annual Technology Symposium, presented to several hundred other Fellows of the Academy.  Academy membership is by invitation only, and is regarded nationally as the most prestigious family law organization.

 

As part of the program, Ken demonstrated the use of TranscriptPad, a high end iPad app that helps organize depositions and other transcripts in a family law case.  The demo was very similar to the use of the tool in either Court or other proceeding: by having the iPad display on a big screen TV.

Filed under Family LawTags electronic evidence, Ken Raggio, Technology and Family Law
Ken Raggio Presents to 2013 Advanced Family Law Course

Ken Raggio spoke and presented TemporaryOrders -The First and Lasting (Perhaps Last) Impression? to the 1850+ registrants at the Texas Bar's 39th Advanced Family Law Course held this year in San Antonio. The paper is here.

 

Raggio also was a teacher in the Ipad workshops held throughout the day on August 6th.   Ken served as faculty with other certifed family law specialist attorneys from around the state who are also renown techies.

Filed under Family LawTags Dallas divorce attorney, electronic evidence, Ken Raggio, Technology and Family Law
Too Much Facebook? Try a Deactivation Agreement

Is someone--like your teenager--using Facebook too much?  You want to have them quit Facebook? You could try reaching into your wallet.

 

A research consultant in Boston paid his 14-year-old daughter a $200 fee to quit the social network until summer, according to a post on his blog that has been further reported on tech websites. The consultant, Paul Baier, posted an inage of the "Facebook Deactivation Agreement" he made with his daughter on this Tuesday.

 

Per the agreement (signed by both parties) the teen promised to deactivate her account on the social network from this past Monday until June 26, 2013. In return, Baier will pay his daughter $50 in April and the remaining $150 in June, at the end of the five months.

 

The teaching point for parents of teenagers is clear.  But for those in a divorce or family law case, deactivating or de-publicizing Facebook or other social media accounts may be a very wise move.  Then the "other side" can't get easy access to potentially damaging materials. 

 

This does not mean deleting or terminating the account. The general rule is to deactivate, not terminate.  TERMINATION of an account could be viewed as SPOLIATION, or the destroying of evidence.  A lawyer in Virginia was ordered to pay $520,000 for his role in his client's DELETIONS from the client's Facebook account.  A link to the Virginia Supreme Court case is here.

 

 

Filed under Popular CultureTags Child Custody, Dallas family law attorney, divorce in the news, electronic evidence, social media, Technology and Family Law
Think Before You Text

It's hard to imagine life without text messaging, e-mail, and social media. They help to make the world a smaller place. But they can also carry significant risks, especially when you find yourself in the middle of a legal proceeding such as a divorce. Firing off an angry e-mail, text, or tweet could have potential consequences in your case. With social media and electronic communications, the name of the game is think before you text.

 

Communication between spouses can be important evidence in a divorce case.  E-mails and text messages can help show a judge or jury the real dynamics of a relationship, and potentially impeach a witness who is on their best behavior because they're in court.  These are just a few examples of electronic evidence, which is an emerging area in Texas Family Law.

 

Once you send text, e-mail, or social media post, it is out of your control.  Before sending something, answer a couple questions. 

 

1) What might a judge or jury think of this text/e-mail/post?

2) Do I want to have to explain this to a judge or jury?

3) Do I want this published in the newspaper?

4) Would I want my children to see this?

 

It's in no one's interest that a message like the one below gets sent and then entered into evidence at trial:

 

The above comic is from a webcomic called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  It seems absurd, but it serves as an example: you don't want to be that guy.

 

There are a lot of parts of a divorce case that are out of a client's control, like court schedules, but e-mails, text messages, and social media posts are definitely  within a client's control.  Don't commit an unforced error.  Think before you text.

Filed under Raggio Family LawTags Child Custody, Dallas family law attorney, Jeff Raggio, Technology and Family Law
Texas sperm donors: Be glad you aren't in Kansas

A man who donated his sperm so that a lesbian couple could have a child–and with the couple contractually agreeing that he would not ever have to pay child support–has been popped by the State of Kansas for child support, as the mother had applied for welfare. As the sperm donor William Marotta said, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

 

Marotta may wish he lived in Texas. Texas has a specific provision in the Family Code that states:

 

“A donor is not a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction.”

 

He would not be the father of the child in Texas.

 

Texas can rightly claim to have the most progressive parentage laws, including the Uniform Parentage Act which contains the above provision. Texas was the first to adopt the act in 2000. The act has since been amended to cover all variations of ARTS, or assisted reproductive technologies.Texas law even covers what happens with an ARTS child in a divorce. Dallas has a number of medical facilities who help people with assisted reproduction. Dallas family law attorneys are useful to help with the gestational agreements and other paperwork that is necessary to properly set forth and register the agreements-- and to  avoid William Marotta’s fate in Kansas.

 

It is best that couples–including gay or lesbian couples- who are considering adding a child to their family should check with a Dallas family law attorney to make sure they understand what they need to do before they get too far in the process.  We can help.

 

The Kansas man's story is here.

 

Filed under Popular CultureTags Dallas family law attorney, Technology and Family Law
Top Ten Financial Tips for Women Divorcing in 2013

Forbes Magazine recently posted an article suggesting the "Five Best Financial Tips for Women Divorcing in 2013" We thought we would expand the list to ten. Most are activites to do BEFORE a divorce is filed. 

 

1.  Gather financial documents, such as tax returns, end of year statements from banks and brokerage houses.  End of year credit card statments may have a whole year of transactions.  Having good information before a divorce commences can make it go easier. 

 

2.  Assess your credit.  Get a copy of your credit report, and take steps to protect your credit.  The filing of a divorce may prevent you from taking some steps in this area.

 

3.  Open bank account and credit cards in your own name.  That way you have funds that are not accessible to your spouse, and a credit card he can't cut off.

 

4.  Begin to assemble a professional divorce team.  Hopefully, you will have something in your estate othe than tupperware and credit card debt.  Consulting with a divorce attorney, and perhaps others if there are assets or other issues that beg for analysis by experts, is a real good idea.

 

5.  Be watchful.  If you're think about a divorce, your spouse may be also.  And may already be on a missionto hide assets or income.  Look at the documents that come intoyour view, look at computer screens, and generally assess whether the flow of information has become restricted, or you hear cries how how "business is terrible."  The anecdoctal information you gather can help your divorce team immensely when the time comes.

 

6.  Keep track of and document significant events.  Your notes to yourself can later help construct a timeline that helps you and your team figure out what has been happening.

 

7.  Remember that you are married until the divorce decree is signed by the Judge.  There is no common law divorce, where you can feel free to take up a new relationship.

 

8. Get needed medical and dental work done while you still have coverage while you're married.

 

9.  Have a safe place to keep your documents that are outside the easy access of your spouse.  It doesn't do you any good to collect helpful if not critical documents if they suddenly disappear.

 

10.  Protect yourself--physically-- and your confidential information.  Don't allow yourself to be initmindated or worse.  911 is there for a reason.  Change your passwords that allow access to your computers, cell phone, social media, email, and finanacial sites.  Don't use passwords your spouse can  maybe figure out. Have your home and vehicle swept for bugs--and not the six legged kind.

 

The articles on the website explain in much detail what esle to expect in a Plano,  Ft.Worth, Denton or Rockwall divorce.

 

Most women find that a consultation with one of our Dallas Divorce Attorneys helps guide them through the pre-divorce-planning and information gathering stage of their life.  The Forbes article is here.

Filed under Family LawTags baby boomers, Dallas divorce attorney, Dallas divorce firm, divorce in the news, gray divorce, Ken Raggio, money problems, older Dallas divorce, retirement savings, Technology and Family Law