Resolving Legal Disputes

Shelby County Courthouse, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Shelby County Courthouse, Memphis, Tennessee, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dispute resolution has to do with the impartial rectification of conflict between individuals or parties. More specifically it is the utilization and execution of methods that are designed to resolve conflicts. In a case in which there is a dispute between people or groups, often times a third, neutral, party is selected to be an impartial representative for the disputing persons. Although dispute resolution can refer to resolutions both in and out of the court, it mainly applies to disputes that are settled outside of the legal framework of the judicial system.

Two of the most common types of dispute resolution are known as adjudicative and consensual. While adjudicative resolution requires a third party to mediate the outcome, such as a judge or jury, and usually involves some form of litigation, consensual resolution is the attempt to solve the issue between the two disputing parties without involving a third party, although at times a neutral arbitrator will be selected to preside over the case, though they will often be there not so much for authoritative purposes but more as a council to keep things fair. There is also a third upcoming type of dispute resolution, online dispute resolution, or ODR, which has become more popular in recent years with the rise of the internet’s prominence in daily life, but it is mainly the application of traditional consensual resolution practices, only adapted to the online environment.

Many disputes can be solved simply through adherence to the law, however, sometimes issues arise that the legal structure isn’t equipped to handle, and so a third party is chosen to resolve the conflict. These types of conflict fall within the jurisdiction of the law and so will be relegated to the political system for arbitration. Judicial resolutions are conflicts that will be, hopefully, settled by the court. In the United States, this is often the case with dispute resolution. This form of resolution usually involves litigation. This is the use of outside individuals to argue for or against the disputing parties. In a courtroom, the lawyers are the litigators, while the judge and jury listen to the arguments in order to come to their decisions.

Extrajudicial resolution is non-court settlement of conflict. Also known as alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, this is what people are usually referring to when discussing dispute resolution. ADR is usually more efficient, cost effective, and less time consuming than judicial resolutions. Extrajudicial resolution concerns various types of ways to settle conflict. These include arbitration and mediation. In arbitration neutral individuals will listen to both sides of an argument and render a decision based on evidence. Unlike the court systems, this proceeding doesn’t necessarily include a binding agreement with the parties.

Mediation is used in extrajudicial resolution as a way to open a dialogue between conflicting parties. The idea is to use a trained neutral third party in order to come up with unique solutions to solve the issue. A mediator is trained to be both an effective negotiator as well as an excellent communicator. A mediator is like a judge in that they cannot take sides, and they do not give legal advice either. Their decisions are not obligatorily followed, though they tend to be followed since the mediators are trained to make decisions that benefit both parties.

The techniques used in dispute resolution can be used both in and outside of the court room. It is often used by individuals who wish to speed up the process by not having to get into the political system. However, they are useful in many cases where individuals wish to come to the most beneficial agreement for all the parties involved.

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Becoming a Landlord

For those of you just tuning in, my mother-in-law died in April.

Since then, we’ve spent nearly every available moment at our inherited house, digging out and cleaning up.

My mother-in-law was a compulsive hoarder.   I’m not going to get into the details of her compulsion, but we have–so far–filled a 30 yard dumpster.  For perspective, that’s big enough to fit our Ford F150.

Now that the house is approaching the point where we can begin updating and remodeling, I’ve been looking into the requirements to rent it out.

In my city, I need to get a business license that costs $95 per year.   This comes with a requirement to allow the city to inspect the property every two years.

Before they will issue the license, I have to take an 8 hour Minnesota Crime Free Multi-Housing Program class that covers tenant screening, lease addendum, evictions, and “etcetera”, followed by a physical audit of the property to ensure minimum security standards.

The lease addendum basically reads “If you are loud, obnoxious, threatening, criminal, intimidating, or doing/dealing drugs, you will be evicted.”

The actual costs to become a landlord are going to be:

  • Something under $100 for my wife and I to take the landlord class.  The price varies from free to $40, depending on the hosting city.
  • $95 per year for the privilege of using our private property to conduct a private transaction with a private individual.
  • The remodel.  I don’t know what this is going to cost, yet.   There’s an unfinished bathroom in the unfinished basement.  I’d like to finish both of those, though the basement will never hold a 3rd bedroom, due to code.  The entire house need to be painted and have the trim replaced.  The dining room and hallway have hardwood floors, hiding under linoleum that was never properly put down.   We may need new windows.

If possible, I’d like to keep the project under $20,000.   Since we’re not adding a 3rd bedroom, or tearing out the kitchen cabinets, it should be possible.

In the meantime, expect to see a bunch of remodeling and renting related posts coming up.

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How to Cut Costs on Legal Fees

Bern Lady Justice

Image via Wikipedia

Occasionally, life goes truly pear-shaped and you’re forced to enter the legal system.

Even if you’re not embroiled in a tawdry, tabloid-fodder divorce, there are still legal issues that everyone needs to address, without exception.

The problem?  Or rather, one of many, if you’re having legal problems?

Lawyers are expensive.

Before I go any further:

  1. If you are having criminal court issues, get a lawyer.  Get the best possible lawyer.  Really.   The cost does not compare to a lifetime in jail, or even 10 years.    If you’re facing jail, get the best dang attorney you can find.
  2. I am not only not an attorney, but I’ve never even played one on TV.  I have driven past a law school a couple of times, but never stopped in.   I do know several attorney, carry the business cards of a couple and have a couple on my speed dial, just in case.  If any of them thought I was giving legal advice, I’d be in trouble.  To reiterate: I am not an attorney.  This is not legal advice.  
  3. Don’t do a prenuptual agreement at home.  A prenup will almost always be found unenforceable if both parties don’t have an attorney.

Where was I?   Ah, yes.  Lawyers are expensive, but there are ways to mitigate that.

First, if you are old, and a member of America’s oldest selling-the-contact-information-of-seniors-to-our-sponsors organization, AARP, you can take advantage of their Legal Services Network.  It comes with a free legal consultation, which can take care of a lot of issues by itself.  Beyond that, the LSN comes with pre-negotiated rates, like $80 for a simple will or $50 for a power of attorney.   Call 866.687.2277 or search for a list of participating attorneys.

There a couple of things you can handle yourself.

Small claims court, also known as conciliation court.   Typical cases in conciliation court include cases involving sums under $7500(varies by state) that involve  unpaid debts or wages, claims by tenants to get a security deposit, claims by landlords for property damage, or claims about possession or ownership of property.  Fees and procedures vary by state, but generally cost less than $100 to file.   The procedures for your state can be found by googling “small claims court” and the name of your state.

Small worker’s compensation cases can be handled yourself, if they don’t involve a demotion or termination related to the injury.

Apartment and car leases are usually simple and straightforward.  Read them carefully, but you probably won’t need a lawyer.

You can probably  handle your own estate planning and will writing with some decent software.   I love Quicken Willmaker.  It walked me through a detailed will that takes care of my kids, and gave me advice on financing their futures in the horrible event that I am tragically killed before my wonderousness can fully permeate the world.   It also contains forms for promissory notes, bills of sale, health care directives and more.  If you have extensive property, I’d still seek an attorney’s advice, but I’d bring the Willmaker will with me to save some time and money.

Purchase agreements.    A few years ago, I sold a truck to a friend and accepted payments.    I made a promissory note and payment schedule.   When he quit paying or calling me, that paperwork was enough to get the state to accept the repossession when I took the truck back.

A simple no-fault divorce is actually pretty painless, on the scale of divorce pain.    Again, the procedures vary heavily by state.

Other resources for finding legal information free or cheap include and

Have you had to do any of your own legal work?  How did it work out?

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13 Things to Know About Sweepstakes, Giveaways, Lotteries, and Contests

A National Lottery
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know why, but it seems like this time of year breeds sweepstakes, drawings, and giveaways.   Maybe it’s to cash in on the people who are afraid to pay for the holidays, maybe it’s because, at the end of the year, people are realizing how much money they didn’t make this year, or maybe I’m only noticing now because I just ran a giveaway to celebrate my 1 year anniversary.   Whatever the reason, there are a lot of giveaways going on this month and, because a certain segment of the population sucks, there are a number of scam sweepstakes going on, too.

Knowing some basic facts about sweepstakes–legal and otherwise–can help you stay safe and avoid wasting your time and money.   Here are 13 things you should know:

  1. Foreign sweepstakes are always scams. You didn’t win the Spanish lottery.   I’m sorry, but it’s true.
  2. Sweepstakes winners are always chosen at random. If there’s something you can do to influence your chances, it’s not a sweepstakes.
  3. Contests involve some skill, whether it’s captioning a photo, answering a trivia question, or showing up in a bikini.   It is legal to charge a fee to enter a contest.
  4. Lotteries cost money and must be random. There are almost no cases where a lottery is legally run by a private enterprise.  The government has reserved this privilege for themselves.
  5. Since a prize, chosen at random for a consideration is the definition of a lottery, there is nothing you can do to influence the results of a legal sweepstakes, aside from not entering.   Buying a product will not help.
  6. Odds suck. You are not likely to win, unless you enter a giveaway at a small-ish blog.  Sweepstakes and lotteries are required to disclose the odds of winning, generally, 1 in a gazillion.
  7. Businesses(and blogs!) hold giveaways or sweepstakes to draw attention to themselves.  It’s marketing and advertising, every time.   Companies do not give out thousands of dollars in prizes because they like you.
  8. I give our prizes because I like you.  And I want the attention.  It’s marketing, advertising, and gratitude.
  9. If you have to pay to get a random chance to win something, it’s a lottery. If it’s not run by the government, it’s almost definitely an illegal lottery.  Sweepstakes are free.
  10. Sometimes the entry solicitations look official. They are not. The companies do that to get more people to open their envelopes.  It is illegal to misrepresent themselves as a government agency.
  11. Always read the fine print.  There are a lot of things that can be included in the fine print to make it less attractive, like the right to sell your contact information, or your soul.  Try getting that back after a long weekend.
  12. If you don’t want to receive sweepstakes garbage in the mail, write to the company soliciting you.   The Federal Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act requires them to remove you from their mailing list within 60 days.
  13. If you want to get rid of all of the junk mail, write to the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service, Post Office Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 and they will remove you from the lists of their members for 5 years.

It is possible to make money with sweepstakes, but the odds are low. Personally, I think it’s a waste of time.  Do you invest in the sweepstakes hobby?

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