Dangers of over-reliance on AI in the legal profession

By Andrew Zashin*

Artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT are transforming the world as we know it. While people worldwide are using these programs to solve math problems and generate travel itineraries, these tools also have the potential to revolutionize the workplace.

In the legal field, AI tools have the potential to transform the profession. From summarizing complicated legal theories to analyzing data, AI tools may enable lawyers to perform a variety of tasks with greater speed, accuracy and efficiency. Blind reliance on the current AI programs, however, presents serious risks. Recently, two New York lawyers faced potential sanctions after they submitted a ChatGPT generated court brief that cited to six “nonexistent cases” and “bogus quotes” that ChatGPT invented. This forces us to pause and look at the potential benefits and pitfalls of utilizing AI in the legal field.

At the outset, AI-powered tools can automate time-consuming tasks, such as legal research, document review, and even due diligence. By automating repetitive tasks, AI can save lawyers significant time and reduce costs associated with legal proceedings. If legal research, document review, and contract analysis can be completed faster and more efficiently, law firms can handle more cases and allocate resources effectively. Streamlining these processes also allows lawyers to focus on more complex and strategic tasks.

AI algorithms can also process and analyze vast amounts of legal information and data with precision and consistency, reducing the risk of human error. By extracting valuable insights from large volumes of documents, court cases, and precedents, AI has the potential for more accurate legal research, contract analysis, and case prediction. This enables lawyers to make well-informed decisions, build stronger cases, and identify patterns and trends that may be missed by human analysts.

But as the New York lawyers learned, using AI does not come without risks. AI systems lack the ability to exercise human judgment, intuition and empathy, meaning that these tools sometimes struggle to accurately replicate nuanced interpretation of the law and to contextualize important decisions. AI tools may also fail to explain the rationale behind specific outcomes.

The reliance solely on AI may also overlook critical legal factors and ethical considerations. The New York case has caused some to question if lawyers need to disclose their reliance on AI tools in the course of their work, particularly if the AI system ultimately provides incorrect legal advice or recommendations. Law firms will also need to give careful consideration to the privacy and security challenges that arise when utilizing these tools to handle confidential and sensitive information and data.

Ultimately, the use of AI in legal proceedings offers the potential for significant benefits, including enhanced efficiency, improved accuracy, and time and cost savings for clients. Lawyers utilizing AI tools, however, must weigh the limitations and potential risks associated with AI, and, in these early phases of the AI tools must carefully review any information or documents generated by these tools. If used correctly, AI will likely serve as a valuable tool that augments the capabilities of legal professionals by improving their overall efficiency and accuracy.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00June 16th, 2023|Artificial Intelligence|

My Homeless Daughter Keeps Getting Pregnant—What Should I Do?

Newsweek – “Ask the Experts”

By Maria Azzurra Volpe On 6/3/23 at 6:00 AM EDT

Dear Newsweek,

I would appreciate any words of advice. I have a daughter who has three children and was living with her dad and stepmom sleeping on their couch for the last eight months, not trying to find a job.

She and her children have no routine, they make a mess and don’t listen. Two weeks ago, her stepmom found out she is pregnant again. Her father and stepmom asked her to leave.

I’m her mom and I live in a two-bedroom apartment where I’m raising two grandkids from my oldest daughter. I let her come stay for a few nights and it was just too much. I can’t allow her and her three children to live with us in our two-bedroom.

Plus I cannot financially afford to take care of four more people. It’s not my responsibility to take them in, but she is constantly telling me she has nowhere to go.

This is her fault for keeping on getting pregnant, not working and just being lazy. Is this my responsibility? I’m heartbroken over this. I’m heartbroken over my grandkids. Any words of advice?

Barbara, Texas

I Would Prioritize My Grandchildren’s Well-Being

Featured Expert:

Andrew A. Zashin is the managing partner of Zashin & Rich where he leads the firm’s family law and international family law practice groups. He has represented parties in some of the rare family law cases heard by the Supreme Court.

Dear Barbara,

I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this difficult situation. It is clear that you are torn between wanting to help and the practical challenges that come with taking your daughter and grandchildren into your already full household. Here are a few ideas that may help.

First and foremost, if I were you, I would prioritize my grandchildren’s well-being and best interests over my daughter’s when considering this complicated situation. While you may understandably feel resentful towards your daughter for her choices and lack of responsibility, try to separate your disappointment from the needs of the children. They are helpless victims in this situation.
Barbara, you did not mention a father to any of your grandchildren. Is there one in the picture? Is there a child support award for one or more of your grandchildren? Perhaps this should be a front-burner issue. Why should all of the financial burden rest on your daughter’s, and your family’s, shoulders? If there is no child support order in place, I suggest that you help your daughter find a competent family law attorney immediately.

As their grandparent, you have a special bond with your grandchildren and want what is best for them. Children require stability, routine, and a nurturing environment to thrive. Given your limited space and financial constraints, it might also be beneficial to explore alternative solutions that can provide your daughter and her children with temporary support while she works towards gaining stability. Encourage her to seek assistance from local social services, community organizations, or government programs that can help provide her with housing, job training, or educational opportunities. In doing so, you are still showing concern and support for her, while also ensuring the well-being of your grandchildren.
If your daughter is unable—or unwilling—to provide your grandchildren with these essentials, you may need to seek other options to provide them with a stable and secure living situation. This may include contacting the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Throughout this process, it is important for you to maintain open lines of communication with your daughter, if possible. Express your concerns and boundaries clearly, emphasizing that while you may not be able to provide immediate shelter, you are willing to support her in finding the resources she needs to get back on her feet. Offer to help her with her job search or connect her with relevant support networks in your community.

It is also essential to take care of your own well-being, too. This situation can be emotionally draining, so seek support from friends, family, or support groups who can offer guidance and lend an empathetic ear.
As a final thought, while it may not be your responsibility to take in your daughter and her children, your grandchildren are lucky to have a caring and supportive grandparent in their lives. By providing support, guidance, and assisting in finding resources, you can help your daughter and her children work towards a more stable and independent future.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek – “Ask the Experts.”

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00June 3rd, 2023|Child Support|

I Sued My Neighbors, Now They Are Harassing Me—What Should I Do?

Newsweek – “Ask the Experts”

By Maria Azzurra Volpe On 5/21/23 at 6:00 AM EDT

Dear Newsweek,

I have neighbors who were new six-and-a-half years ago. From the very first day they were here, they began harassing me and trying to run me off of my property. I am 58 years old, disabled, and on a fixed income.

After three years of continuous harassment, including directing a high-intensity spotlight into my home for 584 days and nights, I was forced to file a lawsuit, pro se. After Covid and all the usual delays, we were to have a trial in October of 2022.

I was on my own against four grown bullies with good jobs and their attorney, so we settled before the trial and they paid me $2,000. They are not supposed to harass me anymore, but in the meantime, they installed two flag poles next to the property line and the flag clips make a harsh, annoying metal-on-metal banging noise.

It doesn’t affect the neighbors because they are only here on the weekends. I have to listen to it all day long and cannot go in my yard at all without hearing it. I can even hear it in my house. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

The most amazing thing about this is that the two couples, the harassers, who own the property have very good jobs. One woman works for a children’s hospital as a database manager and her husband is a civilian employee at a U.S. Army arsenal. The second couple consists of an advanced-practice registered nurse, and her husband is a business owner.

I would love to know what I am supposed to do about this. They have no intention of letting me live in peace.

Sincerely,
Jackie, Arkansas

Document Any Incidents of Harassment

Featured Expert:
Andrew Zashin is an adjunct professor at the School of Law, Case Western Reserve University, and a managing partner at the Zashin & Rich law firm.

Dear Jackie,

I am sorry to hear about your situation. It is unfortunate that you have had to endure such persistent harassment from your neighbors, and I understand how frustrated you must be with the ongoing noise from their flag poles. There are, however, a few things that you can do to address the situation and hopefully find some relief.

First, review the terms of the settlement agreement that you reached with your neighbors in court. If the agreement specifically prohibits them from engaging in any further harassment or disruptive behavior, you may be able to take legal action if they continue to cause problems.

Consider consulting with an attorney to discuss your options and determine if there are any legal avenues available to you. While this may end up being costly, it may be worth it if it brings you peace of mind.

Second, you should try speaking with your neighbors directly, or through an intermediary, and politely express your concerns about the noise from the flag poles. They may not know how disruptive it is for you, and they may be willing to make changes to reduce the noise or relocate the flag poles, especially if they are at risk of violating the agreement that you reached in court. From duct tape to foam or rubber-covered flag clips, there appears to be many cost-effective, noise-reducing solutions for loud flag clips. They may be willing to purchase the same if it means not having to go back to court.

Next, you could consider mediation with your neighbors. A neutral third party can help facilitate a conversation to address the issue and find a solution that works for both parties.

If speaking with your neighbors directly or through a third party does not resolve the issue, you may need to consider taking more drastic action. This could include filing a complaint with your local government or homeowners association, or even seeking a restraining order in court if you continue to feel threatened or unsafe.
In any case, it is important to document any incidents of harassment or disruptive behavior from your neighbors and keep track of any communication or attempts at resolution.

Keep a record of the times and duration of the noise from the flag poles, as well as any other incidents that occur. You could also consider recording the noise with your phone, or another recording device, to use as evidence. This can help strengthen your case if legal action becomes necessary.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek – “Ask the Experts.”

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00May 21st, 2023|Harassment, Neighbor Disputes|

‘Postnups’: New tool in Ohio divorce lawyer’s toolbox

By Andrew Zashin*

Most people have heard of prenuptial agreements. These are contracts that couples enter into before walking down the aisle that outlines what happens with respect to the parties’ finances in the event that the marriage ends due to divorce or the death of either party. On March 23, a similar tool known as postnuptial agreements will be available to married couples in Ohio.

Until this year, Ohio law prohibited postnuptial agreements, often referred to as “postnups.” This meant that married people could not enter into contracts regarding their obligations to one another. This also meant that married couples could not amend prenuptial agreements even if the prenuptial agreement contained an error or if circumstances changed that rendered the prenuptial agreement unfair or obsolete. Now, a 60-year-old couple that entered into a prenuptial agreement in their thirties can freely amend or modify that agreement to align with their current goals and circumstances.

In addition to amending a prenuptial agreement, there are many other reasons why a couple might consider signing a postnuptial agreement. One of the most common reasons is to address changes in the couple’s financial circumstances. Maybe one spouse plans on opening a business. A postnuptial agreement can clarify that the business will remain that spouse’s separate property, along with any debts associated with the business. If one spouse stopped working during the marriage to care for the parties’ children, a postnuptial agreement can create a structure for payment of support to compensate the spouse for the wages lost while staying home to care for the children. Postnups can also be helpful for couples who are experiencing marital difficulties who want to clarify their financial rights and obligations in the event of a separation or divorce.

Like a prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreements will identify which assets are considered the separate property of each spouse and which assets are considered marital property. A postnup can also establish which spouse will be responsible for paying off certain debts, such as credit card balances or student loans. Postnups can outline the amount of spousal support to be paid in the event of a divorce. Postnups can also outline the amount that a spouse will receive in the event of the death of the other spouse during the marriage. Postnuptial agreements cannot be used, however, to make decisions related to child custody or child support. These issues can only be decided at the time a couple decides to end the marriage based on the best interests of the child at that time.

Like prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements require certain elements in order to be enforceable. The agreement must be in writing and signed by both spouses. It must be entered into freely without fraud, duress, coercion or overreaching. It must be made with full disclosure or with full knowledge and understanding of the other spouse’s property. A postnuptial agreement also cannot promote or encourage divorce.

Ultimately, Ohio’s adoption of postnuptial agreements provides married couples with a new way to protect their assets and plan for the future. While postnuptial agreements are not appropriate for every couple, they can be an important tool for couples who want to ensure that their assets are distributed in a way that they both agree on. Couples considering a postnuptial agreement should work with an experienced family law attorney to create an agreement that is legally binding and meets their needs.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00March 16th, 2023|Post-Nuptial Agreements, Prenuptial Agreements|

Consider charitable contribution to honor man’s best friend

By Andrew Zashin*

Andrew Zashin and his best friend, Hugo

Man’s best friend. A part of the family. Every day, dogs demonstrate their love and loyalty to their owners, which has inspired owners to leave some – or even all – of their estates to their beloved companions to ensure that these animals are well cared for after the owner’s death.

This may sound ridiculous, but it is not. More and more estate planning attorneys are incorporating provisions for prized pups into wills and trusts, and are requiring owners to consider things like what assets owners wish to leave for the pet’s care and well-being; who will care for the pet; and, what happens to any remaining assets set aside for the pet’s care after the animal’s death. Family lawyers are routinely asked to fight dog custody cases and even put together “pet parenting plans.” Some states even have statutes dealing specifically with pet custody! Pet issues, therefore, are real and can be complicated.

The most famous example of a pet-focused estate plan belongs to Leona Helmsley, a billionaire real estate mogul and hotelier who left a $12 million trust fund for her beloved dog, a Maltese named Trouble, while leaving nothing to two of her grandchildren. A court found that this $12 million inheritance exceeded the amount required to care for Trouble during her expected lifetime and ultimately reduced the trust to $2 million. In her estate planning, Helmsley entrusted her brother with Trouble’s care, but when he decided that he did not want to care for Trouble, one of Helmsley’s longtime staff members stepped up and cared for the pooch. When Trouble died in 2010, the remainder of the money set aside for her care reverted to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which Helmsley intended to provide for the “care and welfare of dogs.” The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s mission has since shifted to non-animal related causes.

Other notable examples of pet-prioritized estates include that of Gail Posner, who left her $8.4 million Miami Beach mansion and a $3 million trust to her three pups, and fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld, who similarly left a portion of his estimated $300 million net worth to his Birman cat, Choupette. While it is unclear what Posner and Lagerfeld intended for the remainder of the assets left to their respective pets after the death of each animal, this is an important question for pet owners to consider.

If an owner does not name a person or an entity to receive the remainder of the assets left for the care of a pet, the assets may revert to the owner’s estate after the pet’s death. This leads some owners to name a specific individual, like the person who provided care for the pet after the owner’s death, to receive the remainder of the assets. Others, like Helmsley, choose to honor the memory of their cherished family members and direct that any remaining assets from those set aside for the care and well-being of their pets be donated to a pet-focused charitable organization.

There are many charitable organizations committed to helping rescue and improve the lives of dogs and other animals, both locally and nationwide. I encourage you to consider contributing to pet-focused organizations like the Cleveland Animal Protective League, the Sanctuary for Senior Dogs, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as to consider incorporating your pets and organizations like these into your estate planning. Man’s best friend will thank you for thinking of them.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Who claims kids? Tax considerations for divorcing parents

By Andrew Zashin*

Among the many issues that divorcing couples with children must face is one often worth thousands of dollars: who will claim the kids on their tax returns? As tax season begins on Jan. 23, let’s look at some of the child-related tax benefits that should be considered during a divorce.

Child Tax Credit

According to the IRS, the Child Tax Credit helps families with qualifying children get a tax break. For the 2022 tax year, individual filers who earned less than $200,000 can receive a $2,000 credit toward their outstanding federal tax liability per qualifying child age 16 or younger. For individuals who earned more than $200,000, the Child Tax Credit amount is reduced by $50 for each additional $1,000 of income until it is eliminated. Those whose Child Tax Credit amount exceeds their 2022 tax liability may be eligible for a tax refund of up to $1,500.

In order to qualify for the Child Tax Credit, a parent must have a qualifying child live with them for at least half of the year and must cover at least 50% of that child’s expenses. A parent can allow the other parent to claim the Child Tax Credit for a particular child, however, by executing IRS Form 8332.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a fully refundable tax credit for those with low-to-moderate earned income. Similar to the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a credit, not a deduction, which means that it directly reduces the amount that you owe to the federal government. The amount of Earned Income Tax Credit a parent is eligible for depends on income, filing status and the number of qualifying children you have. No Earned Income Tax Credit is available for a single filer earning more than $53,057 per year. Unlike the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit can only be claimed by the parent who the qualifying child lived with for more than half of the year.

Child, Dependent Care Tax Credit

For working parents with children who are disabled or under the age of 13, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is available to offset the cost of providing care for these children. The amount of the credit is a percentage of the amount of work-related expenses paid to a care provider based on the parent’s adjusted gross income. The total expenses that a parent can use to calculate the credit may not exceed $3,000 for one qualifying child or $6,000 for two or more qualifying children. Similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit , the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can only be claimed by the parent who the qualifying child lived with for more than half of the year.

Head of Household Status

An unmarried parent who paid the majority of their home upkeep costs in 2022 and who had a qualifying child live with them for more than half of the year may be able to file under head of household status. There are two main advantages to filing as head of household: a higher standard deduction, $19,400 versus the $12,950 available to single filers, and the potential to be taxed at a lower tax rate. A parent may still be eligible to file as head of household even if the other parent can claim the qualifying child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit.

These are just a few of the child-related tax issues that parents should consider when divorcing. I encourage you to consult with your accountant or a tax professional to see which of these, and other, child-related tax benefits you may be able to utilize.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:04-05:00January 19th, 2023|Child-Related Tax Benefits, Divorce, Tax Breaks|

Donating from your digital wallet

By Andrew Zashin*

We are only days away from the new year which means I’m here to remind you once again about charitable giving and its potential associated financial benefits. It was just over one year ago that I discussed the benefits of donating appreciated stocks to charities. Recently, I discovered that similar to stocks, you can donate cryptocurrency to charity.

The benefit of donating cryptocurrency is like the benefit you receive if you donate stock directly to a charity: the avoidance of paying capital gains tax.

In other words, by donating cryptocurrency directly to a charity you can avoid paying capital gains taxes on the cryptocurrency while claiming the full amount donated as a charitable deduction on your taxes. If you don’t recall from my prior column, capital gains is the difference between the purchase price of a stock or cryptocurrency and the selling price. The amount of capital gain taxes you pay is dependent on two things: the length of time you’ve owned the cryptocurrency and your total annual income.

However, if you donate cryptocurrency directly to the charity, instead of selling it first, you can avoid paying capital gains taxes on the donation, just like donations of appreciated securities.

In addition to avoiding capital gains taxes through donation, you may also have the ability to claim a charitable deduction. To do so, you must have held the cryptocurrency for at least a year and you must itemize your deductions. Donations worth more than $5,000 must get a qualified appraisal. The charitable deduction is limited to 30% of income, but excess deductions may be carried forward for up to five years. Donations of cryptocurrency are not eligible for the above-the-line charitable deduction, since the above-the-line deduction is limited to cash donations.

Donating cryptocurrency can, however, be a little more complicated than donating securities since the vast majority of charities do not have a digital wallet, and therefore do not have the ability to accept direct donations. However, entities such as Crypto for Charity, Schwab Charitable and Fidelity Charitable are attempting to make the cryptocurrency donation process easier.

How does it work?

Per the Crypto for Charity website, your cryptocurrency donation is first funneled through Crypto for Charity’s affiliated 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity. From there, the donation is converted to dollars with the net proceeds being distributed to the qualifying charity of your choosing.

If you’re interested in donating cryptocurrency this year or in the future, make sure you research the organization prior to your commitment. Further, given the tax ramifications associated with cryptocurrency donation, it is best to discuss your potential donation with an accountant prior to moving forward.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:04-05:00December 23rd, 2022|Charitable Donations, Cryptocurrency, Tax Planning|

Golan deserves an answer

By Andrew Zashin*

Narkis Golan, a U.S. citizen, won a historic 9-0 victory in her international child custody case, Golan v. Saada, before the U.S. Supreme Court on June 15. Golan’s case was the fifth 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction case ever heard. On Oct. 19, Golan was found dead in her apartment. The tragic end to her life and custody case was, at once both shocking and foreseeable.

Golan’s death devastates her family and horribly, her bereft child. Her death also raises two pertinent and interconnected questions:

  • Why has the United States added an additional legal hurdle to the 1980 Hague Convention on Child Abduction?
  • How much do citizens know about the qualifications of judges whose decisions effect their lives?

There were systemic problems and inequalities at work in Golan’s case that shine a light on the courts writ large.

First, by way of background, 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty that establishes proceedings for the return of children removed from their home country. At present, there are a little over 100 signatory countries to the convention. Within the actual text of the convention, some terms are clear, and some are undefined. Still other terms and doctrines have been created by courts interpreting the convention.

In the United States, one such doctrine is “ameliorative measures.” This court-created principal allows for the return of a child to his or her habitual residence even in cases where grave risk of harm is established. In other words, even if a fleeing party has proven by clear and convincing evidence that the child would be exposed to extreme physical and/or psychological harm if returned, the court has the discretion to implement ameliorative measures in an effort to reduce the harm that the child will be exposed to upon return. Thus, in America, court-made ameliorative measures may “eat the rule” of grave risk of harm, which are literally written into international treaty’s text, approved by all co-signing nations, if a court believes it can fashion ameliorative measures to increase the safety of the child and parent upon return to their habitual residence.

The primary problem with this concept is the court in the jurisdiction to which a child is returned from the American court is not prevented from ignoring or changing the ameliorative measures upon return.

In Golan’s case, shortly before her death, in a recorded telephone call available on YouTube, her husband threatened that once her son was returned, he would move past the ameliorative measures in a month.

Simply put, the ameliorative measures doctrine is dangerous. Michael Scharf, professor of international law and dean of the school of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, has said of ameliorative measures and of this case specifically, “The story is that if the court finds there is a grave risk of harm for the child, the court should not send the child back, full stop.” I suggest that Golan’s case is illustrative of not heeding that common sense approach.

When Congress enabled the convention in the United States, it used different standards than other countries. The Supreme Court’s handling of this case is problematic because while other signatory countries use the same evidentiary standard, or burden of proof, for the elements of these cases (habitual residence and grave risk of harm), the Supreme Court uses an increased burden of proof for both determinations. Once the standard civil burden, preponderance of the evidence, of determining habitual residence was met by the child’s father, Golan then had to meet the highest civil standard of proof, that of clear and convincing evidence, to establish the grave risk of harm exception to return, if she and her son were to avoid being returned to Italy.

Golan surmounted the challenge of proving grave risk of harm which, under the express terms of the treaty, should have blocked her return to Italy and resolved the Hague Petition completely, allowing her and her son to stay in America. But that did not happen. In the 2nd Circuit, Golan was forced to meet yet another court-imposed standard, proving somehow, that ameliorative measures would not protect her and her son. This undefined, necessarily-higher-than “clear and convincing” standard, to avoid return under the ameliorative measures concept, was imposed by the district court judge, as directed by the 2nd Circuit.

Following her 9-0 victory at the Supreme Court, Golan’s case was remanded back to the district court and she was again ordered by the same judge, from which Golan appealed in the first place, to return to Italy under the same terms, to the same husband, who denied her a Jewish religious divorce, who beat her and humiliated her routinely, and who apparently sexually abused her regularly. How did this happen? Why was all of this not foreseeable? How did the Supreme Court not understand the innate illogic of ameliorative measures in the first place? How did the Supreme Court fail to understand the legal shortcomings of their collective logic?

In contrast to many other countries where abduction cases are heard by designated Hague Courts and specialized judges, in the United States, most federal judges who hear cases like Golan’s have limited, or no experience at all, with the convention, or family law. These federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed in the Senate.

Unelected judges may have no practical experience working with domestic relations clients or even having practiced law at all. Yet, these same people are the ones who decide the most intimate details of people’s lives, children’s custody, and everything that comes up in scope of human endeavors. How do the people hearing the cases understand the nuances of what is going on if they have had no practical experience with the subject matter themselves? These questions are relevant to those we elect to state judgeships, and to those state judges appoint, too.

I have been teaching family law for 20 years. Routinely, I tell my students that politically active citizens spend too much time focusing on national politics. Yet, the government touches most people’s lives through its judges. We need to ask ourselves, what real world legal and practical experience do judicial candidates have with children, finance, or even the basic practice of law?

For the sake of our families and society generally, let us ask, do we have qualified judges and judicial officers making rulings for the most vulnerable in our society?

Golan deserves an answer.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

Hello Dolly! Philanthropic world thanks you

By Andrew Zashin*

Every weekday, I walk by a sign that says, “What would Dolly do?” The small 8-by-11 sign is posted near the office entrance of one of my team members and every time I look at it, it makes me smile a little. Not because I’m a huge fan of Dolly Parton’s music, or acting, though I do enjoy both. But because when I think of Parton, I think of generosity, charity, kindness and grace.

I’m not the only one who equates Parton with these adjectives. On Oct. 13, she was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Eric Isaacs, the president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, said Parton is a “tremendous example” of someone who understands the importance of philanthropy. He further stated, “Everyone knows her music … they might know Dollywood for entertainment, more broadly. But now they’re going to know her for her philanthropy, which I’m not sure they have before.”

I first became aware of Parton’s philanthropic efforts and the Dollywood Foundation in the early 2000s. As I recall, I read an article featuring Parton and how her foundation was shipping books to children from ages 0 through 5 in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom free of charge through a program called the Imagination Library. Unbeknown to me, the Dollywood Foundation had been established almost 20 years earlier with the goal of helping children in Tennessee succeed educationally.

One of first programs launched by the foundation started in Sevier County and was called the Buddy Program. The program asked every seventh- and eighth-grade student to “buddy up” with another student, promising them $500 in cash if both students successfully graduated from high school. According to the foundation, the Sevier County High School’s dropout rate declined from 35% to just 6% as a result of this program.

Soon thereafter, in 1995, the Dollywood Foundation established the Imagination Library and began distributing books to local young children. According to the organization, the creation of the Imagination Library was, “inspired by (Parton’s) father’s inability to read and write. … (Parton’s) vision was to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month.

The Imagination Library has grown by leaps and bounds since it was established in the mid-90s. According to the Imagination Library website, since its inception, the foundation has gifted over 190,000,000 million books to children. The program is now available in Australia and the Republic of Ireland, along with the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom as previously mentioned. In 2020, 67 Ohio counties had partnered with the Imagination Library. Today, every single Ohio-born child is eligible to participate in the program.

And I’m happy to see her actions recognized by the Carnegie Institution and, by natural consequence thereof, the general public. It’s a whimsical thought, but perhaps if people are aware of Parton’s actions, they too may “do as Dolly,” and contribute to their own community. If you have a child under 5 years old and are interested in the Imagination Library, you can register at imaginationlibrary.com.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:04-05:00October 21st, 2022|Philanthropy|

Inflation proving to pose an impact on divorcing couple

By Andrew Zashin*

It feels today as if inflation is everywhere. You read about inflation in the paper, hear about it on the news and feel it in your pocketbook. Just this week, Sept. 21, the feds raised rates the highest its been since the global financial crisis in 2008. In other words, rising inflation is impacting our lives in multiple ways. For individuals contemplating divorce, it is important to consider both the negative and positive effects inflation may have on a divorce settlement.

Let’s start with the good news first. Home values remain high in part due to inflation. According to the Federal Reserve Board, the median sales price for a home located in the Midwest was $412,400 as of June. For many couples, the marital home tends to be the largest asset that the marriage holds. This means that a divorcing couple who agree to sell the marital home, can take advantage of the current inflated market and likely obtain top dollar for the marital home.

Here’s the bad news. Separating couples may find it difficult to secure new housing following the sale of the marital home. Higher mortgage rates and home prices are reducing affordability for buyers and driving up demand for rental accommodations. However, those individuals who can wait out the inflated housing market by living with friends and family can fare well following the sale of the marital home.

In other not so great news, separating couples are going to find that their dollar isn’t going as far as it once did. It is normal for separating couples to feel some financial pinch since uncoupling typically results in a reduction of household income (two incomes divided by two) but an increase in household expenses given the running of two households. However, due to inflation, that financial pinch has been upgraded to a financial squeeze. According to Reuters, food prices increased more than 11.4% over the past year. Further, household furnishings, motor vehicles, prescription costs and health care prices all increased by at least 0.4% over the last month. This means that a newly single individual will not only have to deal with the loss of their former spouse’s income, but will also have to manage an increase in regular household expenses.

If you are considering divorce in this current economy, it is a good idea to not only speak with an attorney, but also a financial planner. Both professionals can assist you in deciding what assets of the marriage will help you the most while also helping you understand your post-divorce financial life.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:05-05:00September 23rd, 2022|Divorce, Financial Wellness, Inflation, Separation|
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