Monday, January 23, 2017

Interesting times ...

These are interesting times. I've lived through interesting times before. I'm old enough to remember the Cold War, and experienced those times from a child's point of view. During the Cuban Missile Crisis we each had emergency rations at school and an evacuation plan to board a freight train to take us to (of all places) the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine for refuge. My dad had a bomb shelter built in our yard with four foot thick steel reinforced walls. Mom said she could never see the point ... if the world is blown up why would you want to be alive anymore anyway. We used it only once, and that had nothing to do with bombs, rather a hurricane that caused a tree to fall right through the living room. We evacuated to the bomb shelter and spent the night. Ran through the orange grove and down into the shelter during the eye of the storm.

Those were tense times. Even though I was only young, I remember dinner table conversation about the missiles being aimed straight at Florida, the Cape, or maybe Jacksonville because of its military presence. We were in Jacksonville. And the fall out would contaminate everything, infect the food supply, if the blast didn't kill you.

The Vietnam era was yet another interesting time I remember. My parents had split by then, and I was a teenager. Dad had rejoined the military as a high ranking officer. Navy Captain. Psychiatrist. Stationed in Japan. I went to live with him and my stepmother there. We lived on base in officer's housing. Dad was second in command of the base. On one trip overseas, flying military space available, we stopped in Saigon. It was some time in 1970. I remember the tension in the airport, the personnel coming and going, the uniformed officers talking in tight groups, the smoke filled waiting room, my dad ordering me and my sister to stand right by his side and don't move, the tension that you could inhale.

Over the next year or so the U.S. was in the process of pulling the troops out of Vietnam. A lot of them came through our base, as it was a hospital base. Anti-war protests were going strong back in the states. A fact I knew only on the periphery. The Japanese protested against Americans. They held protests right outside the main gate. They were polite about it, always sharing their protest schedule. Easy to avoid. My dad was involved in signing discharge papers for the enlisted that served in Vietnam, doing their psychological exams before release from duty. He'd talk about it. I think he had many enlisted dishonorably discharged due to drug use or addiction during their service in Vietnam. Dad had a particular and personal hatred of anyone who used illegal drugs. I felt sorry for the men he dishonorably discharged for drugs, or maybe court martialed. After all, most were drafted, thrown into a war they didn't support. And drugs were plentiful. Maybe not an excuse or reason, but my dad didn't have to go out of his way to ruin lives. I know that he did.

We came back to the states to Southern California. The Nixon administration was full bore crash and burn. The Pentagon Papers. G. Gordon Liddy et al. Watergate. I feel we are in a time machine. Back again to the early days of the women's movement. Back again to a politicized populace and people marching in the street. Back again to turmoil. Interesting times.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Proudly Serving the Under Served

I am grateful for the privilege to do what I do. I serve consumers who would otherwise go without. I help people who have no choice but to stand up for themselves. I prepare documents for those who have no idea how to proceed. I am a Florida legal document preparer. "Proudly serving the under served." appears on our association site. And I mean it, it is not just a catchy marketing phrase. It is what we do. I am proud and humbled at once.

Couples break up. Neighbor sues neighbor. Disputes fester. Solutions are elusive. Most people want things to be fair, even while acknowledging that the world isn't fair. We've known that the world isn't fair since we were children, but still wish it were so. Wishing isn't getting, but we can try. Try for that reasonable and fair solution. The compromise where no one is completely happy, but no one feels trod upon.

Rental leases, cell phone contracts, car rental contracts, insurance, employment contracts, non-compete agreements, bills of sale, promissory notes, pet care agreements, construction contracts, powers of attorney, and licensing agreements are just a few of the contracts that consumers use and sign, often without an attorney. In fact, most of these types of contracts are usually signed without an attorney looking out for the signer's best interest. Few new hires would refuse to sign an employment contract until an attorney had a chance to review it. And, it would likely be less than cost effective to have an attorney review and approve a cell phone contract prior to signing.

But, when a marriage deteriorates. Or business partners disagree. Or an arrangement that once worked becomes unbalanced. Or when the powerful prey upon the weak. And there is no compromise in sight, the dispute lands in court. When property, money, and children are at stake - somehow, some way, the dispute needs resolution. Even if that means taking it out of the hands of the disputing parties to let a judge decide.

It is always always always better to resolve disputes without judicial intervention, as long as the solution does not leave the weaker party weaker still. And there's the rub. It's hard to know. Presented with a settlement agreement or contract, for example, how does a layman have any idea whether he should sign? It may seem to say that the agreement is reasonable, but maybe there is also some language that doesn't make obvious sense. Then what? Research, education. Ask for clarification and/ or lawyer up, I guess.

Document preparers encourage their customers to seek legal advice when they do not understand their rights. We encourage consumers to consult with an attorney and ask for advice regarding their rights and responsibilities. We also encourage consumers to educate themselves about their rights and responsibilities. We are here to prepare documents once a consumer knows their rights and responsibilities. And then once the documents are prepared, we then encourage consumers, to have an attorney review the documents. Whether a consumer can afford an attorney or not, depends entirely on that consumer's specific financial means.

And even as we encourage consumers to seek legal advice, we know that many will not be able to afford the fees. We are not part of the problem, but we certainly aspire to being part of the solution.

Please complete our FALDP Pro Se Survey. Thank you!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pro Se Survey II

In 2012 we offered the first in our pro se survey series. The information we request on this survey builds off of the first one, and hopefully makes up for some of the information gaps. We ask for your name and address, but you are not required to provide that information to complete the survey. Providing your personal information is completely voluntary. Thank you to all of you who contribute. If you are a pro se litigant, please complete our survey. If you do not want to be contacted after completing it, we won't contact you - ever. This is in no way a ploy to collect your information. We really want the data; and you can remain completely anonymous.

Pro se litigants are often overwhelmed and face multiple obstacles in pursuing or defending their legal matters. As far as we can tell no one, no government entity, no private groups makes a concerted effort to find information about pro se litigants. There are plenty of assumptions. One of the most prevalent assumptions is that pro se litigants simply cannot afford an attorney. Another assumption is that pro se litigants lack formal education. We want to know whether these assumptions are correct. Whether there is, in fact, much more to the story. 

The legal system belongs to all citizens. It does not belong to attorneys, the judges, or the court staff. Our tax dollars pay the court staff and the judges salaries. We understand that the court prefers for consumers to be represented by counsel. Consumers lack of information about procedure is real. Florida procedure is labyrinthine and there are few reliable sources for consumers to learn about the steps and rules that must be followed. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Privatization of Medicare and Social Security

This is a non-partisan issue:

Tell Sen. Rubio: Don’t Privatize Medicare or Social Security

President-elect Donald Trump has put forward plans to privatize some of our nation’s vital services. Working people are concerned that he may consider House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization plan, as well as Social Security privatization. This would be devastating for people who rely on these programs.

Tell Sen. Rubio to oppose Medicare and Social 

Security privatization.

Here’s how you can help:

Step 1: Address Sen. Rubio - 1650 Prudential Dr #220, Jacksonville, FL 32207
  • Dear Sen. Rubio,
Step 2: Share Something Personal
  • Write something personal about why you care about preserving Medicare and Social Security. Tell him why these services are important to you.

Step 3: Make the Point That Our Communities Rely on Medicare and Social Security, and Privatization Does Not Work
  • Last year, over 4 million Floridians benefited from Medicare, and over 570,000 relied on Supplemental Security Income through Social Security.
  • Instead of reducing health care costs, Ryan’s plan would likely increase them.
  • Medicare as we know it is already efficient, and offers health care at rock-bottom costs.

Step 4: Sign the Letter
  • Sign your letter and include your mailing address. It also is good to provide your phone number and email address.
If you want to write a letter and mail it, you can use the following format. It doesn't need to be long or complicated. OR if you would prefer to return your letter to me, I can have them hand delivered to Senator Rubio. Email your letters to me at and please send them as a doc or pdf attachment. Thank you!

A sample letter could go something like this:

December __, 2016
To: Senator Rubio
From: Ella M. Roe
Re: Do not privatize Social Security or Medicare

Dear Senator Rubio,
I am a 95 year-old woman with glaucoma. I rely on Medicare and Social Security. I have lived and worked in Florida since 1956. My deductibles are low and I would prefer that they stay that way. If Social Security and Medicare were privatized I don’t know how I would survive.

Protect Floridians and please do not allow either of these programs to be privatized.

Ella M. Roe
xxxx Cutler Drive
Orlando, FL 328xx

My mom at the age of 81. In Costa Rica ready to ride the zipline!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Stand Up for Standing Rock

Mainstream news sources are not reporting this. Please share this post and take action by calling President Obama to ask him to put a stop to this.


The video above is of an individual explaining the conditions the protesters are facing. This link - Water is Life - takes you to another video that describes the issues in detail. 

Mni Wiconi - Water is Life
Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit

Update from

U.S. veterans to form human shield at Dakota pipeline protest

By Terray Sylvester | CANNON BALL, N.D.

CANNON BALL, N.D. More than 2,000 U.S. military veterans plan to form a human shield to protect protesters of a pipeline project near a Native American reservation in North Dakota, organizers said, just ahead of a federal deadline for activists to leave the camp they have been occupying.It comes as North Dakota law enforcement backed away from a previous plan to cut off supplies to the camp – an idea quickly abandoned after an outcry and with law enforcement’s treatment of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters increasingly under the microscope.
The protesters have spent months rallying against plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying it poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.

Protesters include various Native American tribes as well as environmentalists and even actors including Shailene Woodley.

State officials issued an order on Monday for activists to vacate the Oceti Sakowin camp, located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, citing harsh weather conditions.
The state’s latest decision not to stop cars entering the protest site indicated local officials will not actively enforce Monday’s emergency order to evacuate the camp issued by Governor Jack Dalrymple.

Dalrymple warned on Wednesday that it was “probably not feasible” to reroute the pipeline, but said he had requested a meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council to rebuild a relationship.
“We need to begin now to talk about how we are going to return to a peaceful relationship,” he said on a conference call.

UPDATE 12/5/2016 - The Army Corp of Engineers refused to grant the permit needed to build the pipeline. So for now the project is on hold.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Disconnected Logic of Child Support Enforcement Sanctions in Florida

Non-payment of child support could result in driver's license suspension or incarceration. Non-payment of child support could result in driver's license suspension or incarceration.

I wrote that twice to drive home the logical disconnect that statement implies. If the payor is blithely ignoring his (or her) responsibilities and has plenty of money to fulfill those obligations -- fine by me, take his license and lock him up! And, yes, it is usually a him, only sometimes a her, that is the payor.

The Florida Department of Revenue orders child support through an administrative process, and also enforces those orders. One of the problems is that the ordered amount is often not based on both parties' full financial information. The parents are frequently unwed and low income. A common scenario is that a young couple cohabits and has a child, then breaks up. The father may or may not be on the child's birth certificate. After the break up, the mother contacts the Department of Revenue (DOR) and requests assistance with child support. The father is personally served with a DOR complaint for child support. He frequently does not answer the complaint at all. Most of the time he appears at the hearing, believing that an order for timesharing will be rendered at the same time. The mother may have refused to let the father see the child unless he pays child support.

So the father goes to the hearing, willing to pay child support, and hoping to be able to see his child on a regular basis. At the hearing, the magistrate asks the father how much money he earns and requests to see his pay statements for the past three months. The mother's income is often not taken into account at all. The father is then ordered to pay child support based solely on those three months' income.

Frequently, no consideration is given to other factors such as which parent is paying for daycare or medical insurance for the child. The father asks, what about me seeing my child. The magistrate may tell him politely that this hearing is only about child support. Or the magistrate may tell him rather rudely that he needs to pay his child support and file for shared custody in family court. The father frequently does not realize that the DOR complaint for child support includes retroactive support for up to 24 months. The complaint may actually request retroactive support dating from the child's birth, despite the fact that per statute, only 24 months retroactive support may be ordered. If the father does not make an argument, he may be ordered to pay 24 month retroactive support even though he was living with the mother and the child up until the previous month and supporting all of them. It is not fair. And the father comes out of that hearing with his head spinning, having just been ordered to pay child support and without any order allowing him to see his child. And the father may automatically be several thousand dollars in debt because the retroactive support was ordered, he is below zero before he begins.

The father is given no information about how to go about obtaining an order for timesharing with his child. His wages are garnished for support. The mother may or may not let him see the child. The father seeing his child is solely depending on the mother's whim.

As time goes by, the father changes jobs, and the wage garnishment is not placed on his new job. The garnishment is supposed to be automatically put into effect on his new job, but the DOR is an absurdly inefficient entity, and that detail is routinely left undone. That detail, the DOR neglecting to put the income deduction into place on the payor's next job is often the beginning of a nightmare for the father.

The mother, not receiving anything on her child support debit card, contacts the DOR and requests enforcement. In theory, it isn't necessary for her to contact the DOR, they will enforce automatically ... but we've already seen how that goes. So she calls, and calls, and finally gets the DOR to begin enforcement. Child support orders processed through the Department of Revenue are called Title IV-D child support orders.
When a Florida court enters a Title IV-D child support order (or when such an order from another state is properly registered in Florida or a non-Title IV-D case is referred to the Florida Department of Revenue for enforcement), the Florida Department of Revenue can take a variety of steps and measures to encourage the obligor parent to pay the child support amount owed. Although generally the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) attempts to secure voluntary compliance with Title IV-D orders, the DOR can take aggressive measures if other methods at securing voluntary payment have failed and/or if it is believed such measures will not be fruitful.

Measures that the DOR has taken to enforce child support can include:
  • Mailing notices to the Payor informing him or her of the past-due obligations (this is usually the first step at attempting to secure voluntary compliance);
  • Arranging a face-to-face meeting between the DOR and the Payor to attempt and negotiate a plan to resolve the outstanding child support obligation;
  • Suspending the Payor's professional or business license(s), his or her hunting and/or fishing license, and/or the Payor’s driver’s license until he or she begins making payments and/or arranges to pay the past-due obligation;
  • Denying the Payor's request to renew his or her passport;
  • Garnishing/ levying bank accounts belonging to the Payor;
  • Sending withholding orders to the Payor’s employer directing that employer to withhold a certain amount from the Payor’s paycheck and remit that amount directly to the DOR;
  • Intercepting federal or state income tax refunds or intercepting Florida lottery winnings (if those winnings exceed $600);
  • Deducting amounts owed for child support from state benefits like worker’s compensation benefits or reemployment benefits;
  • Placing a lien on any motor vehicle and/or boat owned by the Payor;
  • Reporting the delinquent child support obligation on the Payor’s credit reports; and/or
  • Filing a lawsuit against the Payor. This lawsuit could result in the Payor being found in contempt of court. Such a finding can result in the Payor being incarcerated in jail until he or she pays the outstanding amount or makes acceptable arrangements to pay the amount.
The absurdity is real. All of the above measures, except for incarceration, are considered administrative sanctions to coerce the Payor into paying the child support that he owes; and assumes that the Payor has the ability to pay. The most used sanction by far is suspension of the Payor's driver's license. Most people depend on having transportation to stay employed. There are few parts of Florida where the public transportation is adequate so that a vehicle is not needed to get back and forth to work. Take away the license - take away the job. Or, for the desperate few, who will drive despite a having a suspended license, the risk of incarceration for driving on a suspended license is an everyday reality. How is the Payor supposed to pay when he is not able to maintain employment because he has no driver's license?
Incarceration is even more absurd. If its tough to pay child support with no driver's license, it is nearly impossibly while incarcerated. Without a money tree or a generous family member, the Payor continues to fall farther and farther behind. And the mother in all of this, the mother just wants child support, she does not necessarily want her baby daddy in jail, what good can come of that?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Saul Alinsky's 12 Rules

Do these tactics sound familiar? Have you ever seen someone use these techniques to win? OF COURSE YOU HAVE! In the run up to this presidential election, you've seen these tactics employed repeatedly. Are they brilliant or underhanded? Would you think less of an individual who argued this way?

* RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.

* RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.

* RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

* RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.

* RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

* RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.

* RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.

* RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.

* RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.

* RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.

* RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.

* RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.