On The Record Your Guide to the Legal Community in the Triangle
In this Issue: • Featured Law Firm: Mark Sullivan, P.A. • Recognizing Postpartum Depression • Children During Divorce • Digital Forensics and Family Law
Every Child Can Be Found With Your Help Winter 2011 On The Record
Batten Law Firm is dedicated to serving North Carolina families in areas relating to the problems and issues families most often face. Our firm focuses primarily on the practice of Family or Matrimonial Law. We understand that every family is different, and our goal is to create life-long relationships with our clients in order to provide committed and personalized advice and support for their legal needs.
919-528-1144 Fax: 919-528-4466 www.battenlawfirm.com
On The Record Winter 2011
Main Office Batten Law Firm, P.C. 302 S. Main Street Creedmoor, NC 27522 By Appointment Only 8601 Six Forks Road Forum I - Suite 400 Raleigh, NC 27615
From the Publisher B
rrr! It’s cold as I sit writing this edition’s letter from the editor. We just had a beautiful snow on Christmas day—the first white Christmas here since 1947 (before I was even born). How special is this? Usually those of us in Wake and surrounding counties just read about it happening somewhere else, but this year we experienced the adventure. Maybe, just maybe, a white Christmas can be a trend for us... something to excite us about new beginnings and wonderful happenings for the new year ahead. I hope your Christmas was a wonderful and safe holiday filled with wonderful memories with friends and family, and I hope your new year will be equally special. Inside this issue of On the Record, you will find some very interesting articles to begin our new year with more awareness and hopefully happy endings. You will read the second part of the “Digital Forensics and Family Law” article by Derek Ellington, who has become an extended partner in my investigations and in fact assisted me in finding a missing teenager who is also featured in this issue. You will learn more about the importance of awareness in dealing with postpartum disorder in the article by Dr. David Miller, a psychiatrist who is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology
On the Record Issue 2
Publisher and Editor: Pat Williams
in Wake Forest. It is my belief that this disorder may very well play a significant role in problematic marriages and psychiatric counseling could offer benefits in treating depression with new mothers. And what could be more inspiring than a heartfelt story written in their own words from a runaway teenager? You can read her story of how she was reunited with her parents—a happy ending to what could have been a travesty. We hope that you will allow your teenager to read this as well as it was written for him or her with a distinct message. Here and now let’s commit to educating ourselves in 2011 whether it be through this magazine or others telling their story with real life situations. After all we want the new year to be different for all of us... better... healthier... happier… more successful... more prosperous. How do we become the best that we can be? My new years resolution is to be true to myself and inspire others to do the same. If what I have believed all my life “the world is a stage and we are merely players”, I intend to play my part well. What is your part?
Contents Publisher’s Note. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Off the Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Strengthen Your Family. . . . . . . . . 5 Understanding Your Divorce. . . . . 7 A Teenager’s Story. . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 But This Isn’t What I Expected!. . . 13 Let Kids Be Kids. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Digital Forensics and Family Law. 16 Like Mother Like Son. . . . . . . . . . . 18
Have a safe and happy new year, Pat Cover photo by Katharin Grimes
Photographer: Katharin Grimes Graphic Design: Autumn Bouck Production/Editorial: Susan Charles Prints, Inc., Hillsborough, NC Printing: Harperprints, Henderson, NC
www.patsaulspi.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org (866) 997-2009 P.O. Box 30993, Raleigh, NC 27622 © Copyright 2011 Winter 2011 On The Record
Letters to to the the Editor Letters Editor
Off the Record
ne year ago I would have never thought I and/or credit card statements and any neceswould be writing an article about infisary correspondence with my attorney. All this delity. I am your average middle-aged helped to empower me and give me a sense of woman, a mother of two, wife, sister and friend. control over my life. Suddenly I was faced with the possibility of a With my friend, my attorney and private third person in my marriage. It remains to this investigator, I had three people in my court day the biggest “curve ball” I have ever been and I began to feel stronger every day. Plain thrown. However, over time and with my susand simple, I had a plan of action and direction picions intact, I realized that my husband was with control of my own destiny. Of course, I having an affair. was scared about what I might learn. I was even For a while, I continued on with my life, humiliated about opening up my private life to not wanting to consider this life altering posothers, however after meeting with my attorney sibility. Then something hit me in the gut in the and hiring my PI, I knew that I had found allies form of a look from another woman sitting at who would provide professional and compasa table at a social function revelaservices. This support thewith ultimate my son included, gavemade free rein our s I sat on a and grassywith springthis knoll at our very sionateparents, darlin’...my Then when all hope was lost with marriage, tion, I knew that Ismall could no longer the things. First truth about husband and my marriage less airport,I reflectedlook on many Mom decides she wants to be a mother? Money, foremost I was reminded whenand I had satpainful. other way. Now I & knew it was a real person, greed, no significant common compassion the child. That’s there so many times that beforeI ... With the with this discovery, I knew needed tomost takewonder- My most piece offoradvice is to be a fiery mix! Then let’s mix in the court system ... ful little guy to be found ! Of course I could be a tad action, but what kind of action? Who could I patient. It is extremely difficult to be patient in I believe in our system ... I feel it is designed to work turn to? proud ... He is my grandson. My only sons son. He these circumstances as you want the pain to end ... Sometimes it does not ...WE as grandparents did was just of a tender age of 16months. We would go to The reason I chose to write this article is and for your life to become “normal” as quickly not get the divorce ...Why must we be punished? watch another wonderful guy ... his grandfather. driven by my Known desire to tohim help just one person in as possible, but it can’t happen quickly as there Why must we have to fight to see our grandchildren? as “Poppy”. He was practicing take a similar situation to take a deep is strategy planning orderhave to investigate. Why and do these precious in children to suffer? offs & landings ...time afterbreath, time. Mylearn grandson would how to put applaud one foot of theAsother havethis hired their job and If you areyou reading ... Paydo attention ... You are as ifinhefront understood. to say and “Wayto to go Let the people NOT with alone! the My story is one of thousands. This is an take action.Pop”. I want others pilot to know may trust them knowledge that the truth An amateur with athat love you like no other. For short version. Let us pull together ...We are ... butthe nothing compared to hisability pride ... not believe flying you have strength or the will setextremely you free. the hope for future. Keepyou fighting co-hearts! The little guy’. to move forward with this heartache but you do. There will betheir a day when willmy know the It is not the end ...We must make it the beginning ... Funny how when you get a second chance with our You must! ultimate truth; is he or she cheating? Is your “I believe our eyes need to be washed by our tears children’s children, we begin to wonder how could we The first step I took was to call my best marriage truly over? Did you even know the once in a while, so that we can see life with a clearer possibly love this much? But, we as grandparents do friend, someone totally trustworthy, someone I person you lived for sotrips, long? noand view” As far aswith the airport I goThere’s alone no... without question! I think we all look forward to that could countday! onI to listen, advise and to help me question that each situation is different and has look at the clouds as a very dear friend prompted my know I did! But, that day can turn in a mile take action.second! It was this friend who helped me to be dealt with onto an individual case...basis. My grandchildren do ... I paid attention It’s a getshake my temporary andpark move on toa child grow experience is that aaticket. therapist and continues away without There was are no takeoffs ... no One day paralysis you are at the watching landings ... Notolittle to clap ...and No this Poppy’ ... His the next step. myguy recovery makes right before your eyes ... Then ... Here it comes ...to be imperative last log of flight known was to soar with angels’. D I V O R C E ...That ugly word we hear too often. Step two was talking to a lawyer. This was the fourth person on my “team” who is of great To allinthe Poppys’ We never willto effect own. Our little guy a very difficult thingthink for itme do our both finanimportance my life. & Grammy’s , Grandma’s, Grand pops, Me maws, Papaws ... I commend you ... was four ... My first thought was would he remember cially and emotionally. This giant leap if only for If you are reading this article and find yourHold fast your fight ... Together we can change the mother, father and he had been a family? advice and that legalhisguidance is imperative as you self in laws a similar situation, it is my hope is that I & make a difference ...We already have ! I was heart broken ... For a variety of reasons, need to know your legal options. It doesn’t have have written some Divorce is likewords a cake that ...Youmight cut it inhelp half ...you. And it’s I had been his care taker since birth. Now what? We to be a commitment to a divorce, but you need Find comfort in a confidant as well as professeparated forever ...We are only asking for a small slice! were about to find out. I myself had been the product to know your legal rights. sionalsWe you ask for help, gather your! inforare can the foundation for these children of divorce. I was one of the lucky ones ... My grandThis person me to theallnext step, to hire mationOthers to confirm your suspicions them are making money ... I preferand to make memomotherled stepped in & was well .... for me anyway. that ourforward job? a private investigator. In think orderhow to hire the must PI, of been.find a ries! wayIsn’t to move whether that means I look back and hard that My up grandparents were Grand’, question. But limitI had to open my personal life tono a comending your marriage or working together to Just a “Grammy” ed resources, having already watched theirIflock of find a path of recommitment plete stranger and this was very frightening. and unity. You do four fly... I commend them! struggled with this next step for several months, not have to go it alone. Have I forgiven? I don’t I am interested in your comments and feedback as this is could not of been better! I had more love but finally leftMy it life to this third individual to find know.about HaveourI READERS. forgotten?What Never. Do I feel stronwould you like to see an than one can imagine. My father was involved, not on the truth. Hiring the PI was expensive and ger and more in control? Absolutely. article written about? a day to day, school, work etc. prevented the day to in my situation couldn’t take money from still workto in but I Services am now cana write Patprogress, Sauls Investigative day orImaybe his choice? Not sure, I didanot question I amYou joint account without being discovered by But, thatsomeone readyPO and to take charge of my Boxable 30993, Raleigh, NC 27622 then, nor do Iitnow. He was a good father. my husband, sold some jewelry and... then life wherever that may lead me…with hope and email: email@example.com or www.patsaulspi.com wasso in Ithe fifties ... This was 2008 This generation was advisedisto open ...a Our credit card account in ...Theyes, happiness.Follow on Twitter: readontherecord different situation was complicated 4 my name only; a surprisingly easy thing to do. I Signed, also needed a P.O. Box in order to receive bank Empowered
On The Record Winter 2011
Off the Record
Strengthen Your Family By Pat Williams
hope your holiday season was a special one filled with happiness and new year aspirations. We all make new years resolutions, but do we keep them? Tell the truth now. Let’s take this opportunity to share a few family resolutions from my clients for the 2011. After a few interviews it became apparent that the wishing and the hoping to wind the clock backwards and rethink a few things was a unanimous one. As a mother and a grandmother I believe “family time” is extremely important. So often, however, we forget that being husband and wife is just as important as being a mother or father. In other words, in a marriage, we must find time for one another. I am a firm believer that if you cannot make it in the living room, you cannot make it in the bedroom. Having that special one on one time together, as friends as well as lovers, bring true meaning to commitment. This is not accomplished without some compromise and sacrifice. Over the years one of the most important, but consistent pieces of information shared with me in initial interviews with new clients was “I never saw it coming when he or she said he no longer loved me.” I have solicited some experts to form this list of the top 10 suggestions for improving a relationship with a significant other. Who knows, maybe you can see it coming and help rekindle the romance! Hindsight is always 20/20 but foresight is worth its weight in gold.
me he or she thinks the kids should be in bed by 8 p.m. and the other thinks it should be 9 p.m. Or they share that their son does not want to play baseball, but the husband makes him because he never got to play when he was a child. Or that one of them gives in after only two days after a child has been placed on restrictions for a bad report card when they both originally agreed on two weeks of no ipod. Both parents need to be consistent and supportive with one another. 3. Most women expect flowers once in a while or even a nice card other than on birthdays just to feel appreciated. You know we do ladies! Why not buy a bottle of your husband’s favorite cologne or pick a new one out for him? Or even a set of golf balls for the golf enthusiast. Whatever you buy it is the thought and gesture of caring that counts. Speaking of thoughtfulness... 4. Just be thoughtful. It is that simple. One of my clients said, “just once in a while hug me or walk into the kitchen and help me load the dishwasher.” Or as a stay-at-home Mom, when your husband arrives home, give him a peck on the cheek wearing something other than the daily uniform of jogging pants. It may be a cliché that all
1. Commit to one “date night” a week for you and your spouse to go out. Although this means getting a babysitter, the one-on-one time spent together for a romantic evening far outweighs the expense of a sitter. If there are grandparents around certainly they would love the opportunity to spend time with the grandkids. This is your adult time together without interruptions or distractions. Take advantage of this time to search each others “personal” feelings just as a person who may need their best friend to talk to. 2. Make an effort to communicate how you feel about certain issues involving family. More often than not I am told, “my spouse and I cannot agree on anything.” They tell Winter 2011 On The Record
stay-at-home moms lack the time to “dress up”, but the point is to occasionally break away from the “same old, same old” and restore a little surprise in the relationship. 5. Create a budget for the family and stick with it. Arguments over money will definitely wreak havoc in anyone’s living room. Put away the charge cards—the best practice is if you cannot write a check for it you do not need it. Enjoy the practice of saving money and finding affordable activities to do with each other. 6. Sit as a family at the dinner table with everyone present. This is extremely important and with all the outside activities such as ball games and cheerleading, sometimes it may seem impossible. This is a perfect time together during which everyone can talk about school, work or friends. You will be surprised how much can be shared when you take the time to sit down together. Your bonds will only be made stronger as you make this practice a routine in your lives. 7. Take a family vacation once a year that everyone in the family can agree on. Whether it is the beach, the mountains, a resort on an island or even a cruise, let everyone weigh in and take a vote as to destination. Most teenagers will tell you they are never asked where they want to go as the parents decide on it, plan it and then just tell them they’re going. Letting all members of the family weigh in on the vacation planning helps assure they will all enjoy it, and learn from the practice of planning as well as compromising.
8. Plan a family outing once a month—either all go out to eat, to the movies or some event such as a trip to the museum or a hockey game. Who doesn’t enjoy doing this? Even if you all are at odds with each other for one reason or another, a mandatory monthly outing will certainly help heal any wounds and neutralize struggles and/or conflicts. 9. Should you or a family member sense something is wrong, seek assistance. Maybe a spouse is becoming a little distant or one of your children’s grades are beginning to decline and he or she comes home from school with clear personality changes. Getting in touch with someone who can assist can help the family member cope and talk about what is bothering them. People don’t change their pattern of behavior for no reason. Kids grades don’t decline without a source of stress in their lives. Be observant, be vigilant and act. 10. Last, but not least, part of being a parent is to teach right from wrong but sometimes you should just LISTEN to your children. Even though they are not old enough to make some decisions on their own allow them to have a voice. Listening to one another could make the difference as to whether they sneak around and do things behind your back, or just be open and honest with you about their life’s happiness and disappointments. Encourage their honesty and help them understand they can talk with their parents about anything.
Remember your Sweetheart on Valentines Day! February 14, 2011
Understanding Your Divorce:
The Parties, The Processes, The Possibilities
tudies have shown that for many people, separation and divorce rank second only to the death of a loved one in terms of emotional turmoil, pain and stress. Not only are separation and divorce accompanied by feelings of guilt, rejection, embarrassment and anger, but the legal process also triggers feelings of fear and uncertainty. Reserves of inner strength are often as necessary as the financial resources required to get through it intact. The first step to conquering fear of the unknown is to learn as much as possible about the process. A good lawyer can clarify the legal procedures, help in establishing your goals and propose a positive strategy to achieve realistic results. Here are some common questions and answers about the separation or divorce process. Q: What issues are involved in a divorce? A: The break-up of a marriage often involves five issues: property division, alimony, child support, custody/visitation and divorce. Each of these can be resolved by consent (a negotiated settlement) or contested in court. Let’s take a close look at how the process works. Not all states handle divorce in the same way. In New York and Wisconsin for example, divorce is a “package deal.” All issues must be resolved by the parties (through agreement) or by the court (through trial) before the divorce is granted. “My wife/husband won’t give me a divorce” is sometimes heard in these jurisdictions, because the only alternative to a long, messy and expensive trial is a settlement driven or guided by the other party. Divorce is the end result of the process. When you get your divorce, everything else is already in place. The other issues in the case are raised by law or court rule and all issues are presented to the court for a decision when one party files for a divorce. In other states, such as Delaware and North Carolina, a divorce case is not necessarily joined with other issues. These other issues may be presented to the court before or after the lawsuit for divorce is filed. Custody may be contested or settled in a different lawsuit or joined in the divorce suit. The same applies to child support, alimony and property division.
This approach means that divorce is not necessarily the end of the case; it may be the beginning. Parties also may resolve other issues through court decision or agreements. Each of these issues can be heard by the court on different timetables, before or after the divorce. Understanding the type of state where your divorce is filed, the timetables and the deadlines, are the first steps. Q: Where do I start? A: Getting the right lawyer is often the first step. Whether the attorney you select has represented you previously or has been recommended by a friend, relative or bar association lawyer referral service, the important thing is that you communicate well with each other and that you have confidence in his or her ability to handle your case. You may want to consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in your particular kind of case. What you say to your lawyer is “privileged information.” Generally speaking, this means that what you tell your attorney must be held in confidence unless you give permission otherwise. In addition, your attorney has the duty to: (1) allow you to make the major decisions in your case, such as pleading guilty in a criminal case or accepting a compromise or settlement in a civil case; and (2) remain open and honest with you in all aspects of your case, including your chances of success, the positives and negatives of your position and the time and fee required.
By Mark Sullivan, P.A.
Q: How much will all of this cost? A: Lawyers set fees in a number of ways. The two major types of fees in domestic cases are flat-rate and hourly billing. Thus, many lawyers may use a flat-rate or set fee in uncontested divorces, adoptions and name change cases. A flat fee generally is paid in advance and does not vary depending on the time or work involved. No refund is due if the work takes less time than expected, and no additional charges are incurred if the case is longer or more complex. Q: How does the “hourly rate” work? A: An hourly rate is most common when the client’s work will be substantial, but difficult to estimate. Thus, for example, a lawyer might Continued on page 8 Winter 2011 On The Record
charge an hourly rate in a contested custody or alimony case. It is fairly common for the lawyer to require part of the fee to be paid in advance, or “up front.” This “retainer” is a deposit or down payment to make sure that the client is serious about the case and is financially prepared to cover all costs. The size of the retainer and whether any part of it is refundable will vary from case to case and lawyer to lawyer. Q: Can the judge award me attorney’s fees? A: In certain cases, the court may order one party to pay some or all of the other’s legal expenses. For example, the court usually can make such an award in cases involving alimony, child support, custody and paternity. Remember, however, that the award of attorney’s fees in such cases is not mandatory or automatic. Such an award depends on a variety of factors, such as good faith, need, lack of adequate support, and so on. The courts see these awards as a way to pay back or reimburse for attorney’s fees already paid or presently due. A client will have difficulty retaining a good attorney based on the promise or hope of court awarded fees. This is especially true because court-ordered fees are not always paid and additional legal work may be required to secure them. Q: H ow can I select a lawyer who has enough expertise to help me? A: Seek out a “certified specialist” to help you if you’re concerned about experience and expertise. North Carolina has a “specialty designation” for lawyers who concentrate their practices in a particular field, and these lawyers will be more likely to be able to handle your case competently than a general practitioner. For a board -certified specialist in family law, go to www.nclawspecialists.org. For help with tough or complex family law problems, take a look at the membership directory of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers at http://www.aaml.org/Directory.htm. Q: W hat questions should I ask the lawyer? A: You should ask him or her some background questions to get an idea of whether you’ll be getting the knowledge and experience you need for your particular case. Some cases might require a “brain surgeon” for an attorney, and others would not. The client should ask the attorney about his/her experience in the specific area which is involved in the client’s case. Here are some examples: • How long have you been practicing law? • How long have you been practicing family law? • Is your practice exclusively family law? • To which bar association family law sections do you belong to? On The Record Winter 2011
• What offices have you held in those organizations? • Are you board certified in family law? How long have you been certified? • Are you a member of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section? • Are you a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers? • What articles have you published, or manuscripts have you presented, in the area of family law? Can I have a copy of those written in the last __ years? • Are you on any local or statewide boards or committees dealing with family law? • Have you ever gone up against Lawyer X (opposing attorney) in a trial? What results? • Tell me about your participation in alternative dispute resolution (arbitration/mediation). • Are you certified as a mediator? As a family law arbitrator? • How do you use associates and paralegals to hold down clients’ bills and expand your ability to work on cases? • What client handouts do you have that will help me understand my case and how you can help me with it? Q: H ow can I make sure that my lawyer is doing what I want? A: To ensure that your lawyer understands what you want, ask specifically: (1) What will be done in your case, and (2) how much it will cost. If you want these answers included in a written contract between you and your lawyer, ask for one. Then, be sure to read it carefully before you sign it. Ask also for an estimate of the total charges and a list of services covered in the estimate. Inquire about what steps your attorney expects to take and how much time (or expense) they might involve. An experienced lawyer should be able to outline the process for you with a fair degree of accuracy. Although many cases are resolved as standard “uncontested divorces” with no alimony, property or child-related issues, many others are completely unpredictable. Don’t expect a specific dollar amount to be quoted as “the
entire fee” in anything but a simple and uncontested divorce. In fact, be wary of an attorney who promises to handle your case for a fixed sum, since it is impossible to tell what will occur in all but the most routine, uncontested divorce case—one involving no issues of alimony, property division, custody or child support; no problems serving divorce papers on the other party; and two parties who want the divorce. The rules of most state bars require lawyers to communicate regularly with clients and to provide periodic case updates. If this is important to you, ask your lawyer to keep you current and provide copies of the “pleadings”—motions, complaints, counterclaims, petitions—that have been filed in your case, any order or judgment signed by the judge, as well as letters or e-mails exchanged between the lawyers. At the conclusion of your case or upon his or her withdrawal, your lawyer should release your file to you upon request and with reasonable notice. When you first meet with your lawyer, review the important facts of your case and outline your goals. Although we all have hopes, desires and dreams, it is vital to keep goals realistic and achievable. Don’t expect your case to go anywhere if your goals are to embarrass or financially break the other side. Your lawyer has a duty to be candid with you and explain the pros and cons, the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Do not tolerate failure to return telephone calls; nothing makes a client angrier—and justifiably so—than a lawyer who won’t respond to a request for information. Also be careful not to get into a personality conflict with the other side (client or counsel), since your money will be wasted on an unproductive “spitting contest.” Armed with the facts, you can then consider your finances and decide “how much case you can afford.” Q: What is involved in “going to court?” A: If you must litigate, you need to know something about the process. You can’t play ball if you do not know the rules. Litigation starts with the filing of a complaint along with a summons. The complaint states the facts of the case and what relief is requested. The summons specifies that the other side has been sued and has a certain period in which to respond. The other side usually files an answer following the service of these papers. Depending on state or local rules, additional documents may have to be filed by the spouses. They include financial affidavits, stating the incomes and expenses of each party, or property inventories, showing what each party claims to be marital or separate property and debt, as well as the value claimed for each item. Sometimes courts also require parties to file a copy of tax returns, pay stubs or other financial documents. Contested divorce cases can take a long time to resolve. While the entire case is pending, the parties can request temporary, interim or emergency hearings.
For example, a party may ask for an emergency ruling on issues of custody or visitation, especially when the parents are engaged in a “tug of war” or the children are in serious danger. Courts often consider the need for interim spousal support (called PSS, or post-separation support in North Carolina) or child support at a temporary hearing in the weeks or months after a case is filed. This is done to protect the financially disadvantaged spouse during the divorce process. Some courts use the time after filing to conduct a hearing on interim allocation, which means a temporary division or distribution of marital assets pending the final hearing. This also can be useful in providing each party with sufficient means to pay the lawyers, psychologists or accountants required to assist in resolving the case or preparing for trial. Q: I think my husband is hiding information, but how can I be sure? A: You might find the answer in the “discovery” stage of litigation. Discovery means “finding out information that the other side has.” Court rules often allocate to discovery the first 90-120 days after the lawsuit has been filed. Even more time is allowed in complex cases. This is probably the most important part of trial preparation—finding out what the case is all about from the other side’s perspective. “Informal discovery” usually means obtaining information from the other side without formal notices or requests. This can be done surreptitiously by making a copy of a spouse’s bank statement and then returning the original to the home file. It can also involve getting copies of your joint bank statements or financial statements from the bank, your joint tax return from the tax accountant or IRS or your joint deed and real estate closing statement from the attorney who closed your home loan. These are quick and inexpensive ways to get the documents your attorney needs. Likewise, an attorney can request certain papers, receipts, titles or deeds from the other side. If the adversaries are friendly and the marital dispute is under control (which often depends on the personalities of the attorneys and the level of animosity between the parties), it is possible to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by agreeing on an informal “discovery plan.” This allows each party to request in writing relevant documents, within reason, from the other side. Considerable time and money can be saved if the parties and their lawyers are willing to cooperate. Formal or traditional discovery, on the other hand, has structures, deadlines, definitions and rules that must be obeyed. Here are some examples: • Interrogatories are written questions that are sent by mail to opposing counsel. They must be answered by the opposing party under oath within 30 days. • Document requests require the other side to produce documents at a specified place and time for Continued on page 10 Winter 2011 On The Record
inspection and photocopying. • A request for entry upon land can be used to get into the office or home of the other party to inspect, inventory and photograph (or videotape) what’s there. • A deposition is oral testimony given under oath in front of a court reporter. Generally, the deposition is taken in a lawyer’s office. No judge is present. It results in a typed transcript of the testimony and it can be very useful in exploring what facts or data the other side has, what accusations will be made and how the other side is thinking about the case. Although more expensive than interrogatories, a deposition tends to generate more complete and spontaneous responses. Also, a deposition allows a lawyer to ask “follow-up questions.” Q: What will happen if we end up in court? A: Going to trial doesn’t just happen. It is the end to a long process that includes meeting with your attorney (rehearsing for the hearing, getting an overview of questions that will be asked and that may be asked and reviewing documents that will be introduced as evidence), preparing witnesses and exhibits for introduction and setting the case on the court’s calendar for weeks or months in the future. Lawyers frequently prepare written briefs that summarize and explain points of law that may be at issue in the case. Sometimes there is a pre-trial conference with the judge to organize the case and focus the issues. On the day of trial, the judge will usually “call the calendar,” which means announcing the names of the cases for that day. Yes, there are other people getting a divorce, and yes, they also have their cases set on your day! It is the job of the judge to figure out which ones can be tried that day and which ones must be rescheduled or “continued.” If a continuance is not ordered, your case will be tried. The trial usually consists of several sections: • The plaintiff’s case involves his or her testimony, immediately followed by opposing counsel’s crossexamination. At this point, the plaintiff’s exhibits and documents often are introduced. Then the witnesses for the plaintiff testify and are cross-examined by the other side. Likewise, they may offer documents into evidence. • The defendant has the same opportunity—to give testimony, present evidence and offer witnesses. Likewise, the plaintiff’s attorney may cross-examine. • The attorneys usually do opening and closing statements or arguments for their clients. Most divorce or domestic relations cases are heard by a judge. After both sides present their case, each is given the opportunity for rebuttal, which is testimony that denies or contradicts what the other 10 On The Record Winter 2011
side has presented. The lawyers will have the opportunity for final argument or “closing statement,” in which they summarize their evidence and argue for the results they seek. Then comes the court’s decision. This may follow closing statements, or it may come days or weeks after the trial has concluded if the judge takes the case “under advisement.” Once the decision has been made, it is noted in the court record and announced (formally in court or sometimes informally by telephone conference). If the parties do not attend the decision conference, they will be notified by their respective attorneys. Entry of the order, judgment or decree is the next stage. Sometimes this is done by the court, but more often than not the attorneys write up a decision for the judge to sign. This often requires meeting together or with the judge while they are preparing findings of fact for the judge on contested issues. This process can take days, weeks or even months in a complex or strongly contested case. Q: Isn’t there any alternative to a long trial? A: Yes, there are several other options worth considering: mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, coaching and negotiation. If handled correctly, these options generally are less expensive and less time-consuming than a trial. However, these options require that both parties be willing to give a little to get a little. Oftentimes these options will not be available if there has been domestic violence. ARBITRATION is a process by which a neutral third party renders a binding decision on the issue or issues presented—alimony, pension division, child support, etc. The arbitrator acts in much the same fashion as a judge in a civil trial. He or she usually is paid by the parties (in equal shares or not), and the proceedings usually are faster and less formal than a trial. The arbitrator’s job is not to choose sides but to listen to the facts of the case and render a decision. North Carolina law allows the parties to agree on binding (or appealable) arbitration in all aspects of a domestic case except the granting of a divorce. MEDIATION is informal dispute resolution in which a neutral third party, a trained mediator, helps you and your spouse reach an agreement. The mediator’s role is to assist the parties in resolving their conflicts. Choosing sides or giving legal advice is not a mediator’s role. The mediator does not make decisions, but rather encourages both parties
to work together to make their own decisions. Mediation is an increasingly popular option and generally cheaper than a trial. Sometimes a free or inexpensive court-sponsored mediation program is available for part or all of a case. Many counties, including Wake County, have required mediation programs for filed custody cases. The same is true in Wake County for financial cases involving equitable distribution. Independent of the courts, the parties can hire a mediator to conduct a settlement conference if they can agree on how to share the cost. A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT can be a productive way to settle the parties’ dispute. In this scenario, both parties and their lawyers attempt to resolve all or some issues in the case. Taking some of the issues off the table will likely make the trial shorter and the process less expensive and less stressful. It is also a good way to bargain through the items on the table and see if there is room for negotiation. COLLABORATIVE LAW means agreeing to negotiate a settlement without going to court at all. The parties agree to cooperate fully in the settlement negotiation process and to provide freely and promptly any documents or information requested. The attorneys help to facilitate the negotiations and draft the settlement document, but they cannot go to court; they are fired and new counsel hired if litigation is desired by either party. COACHING involves hiring an attorney to advise you on how to handle your own case without a lawyer. When a case is simple and straightforward, this can save you money while teaching you how to present your case to the judge on your own. If your case is a simple uncontested divorce without other issues, this could be effective. It could also be useful if your ex-spouse has charged you with missing a child support payment but you have a legal excuse, or if you want to defend yourself on a simple visitation dispute. It is not a good idea for complex cases. Mediation, collaborative law and negotiation are give-and-take situations. Nothing can be demanded and usually a good deal of compromise is necessary. It is important to examine exactly what you want to happen in your case and to be aware of your “bottom line.” Fair negotiations and an open mind are essential to the success of these alternate resolutions. Bringing your anger over past events into the ring will ensure the failure of any settlement offers. When will these alternatives work? They work best when both parties are willing to work
together to reach an amicable settlement that is in the best interest of all concerned. When are these three options to trial not a good idea? They are less likely to be successful if a case involves physical abuse, substance abuse, persistent anger or passivity, mental health problems for one or both spouses (such as severe depression) or if one spouse wants to use the legal process for “revenge” or to “punish” the other spouse. In these situations, attempting to reach agreement may be a waste of time and money for both parties. Mark Sullivan has been practicing law in Raleigh since 1978. He is a board-certified specialist in family law and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an association of top domestic lawyers throughout the United States. His book, The Military Divorce Handbook, has been a best-seller for the American Bar Association, and is now in its second printing. He and his two associates, Charlie Raphun and Brent Tanner, practice family law exclusively, handling matters such as support, property division, divorce, custody, paternity and adoption. Mark is a retired Army Reserve JAG colonel. He has written over a hundred articles on family law issues for attorneys, plus over 80 client info-letters for clients, many of which are at his website, www. ncfamilylaw.com. Winter 2011 On The Record 11
A Teenager’s Story T
housands of teenagers run away in the United States every year. You see missing teenagers on posters in stores; you hear about them on TV or on Amber Alerts or maybe you know someone who ran away. Just a few weeks ago, I was a missing teenager and was on the website for Missing and Exploited Children as well as NCIC, which is the statewide network for missing persons. Sometimes girls my age (and boys too) feel like everything is going wrong so we skip school and get into a lot of trouble. Sometimes we are just guilty by association by hanging out with the wrong kids. We feel like life is unfair and our parents are too strict and somehow imagine they are out to get us! I did what a lot of teenagers do, run away because I was so angry and couldn’t even see what stupid choices I was making. On October 1, 2010, I decided I had enough... enough school, enough parents, enough Raleigh. I was at home with my Dad and when he stepped out to run errands, I packed a small bag, wrote a note to my parents, and walked out the door for what I hoped was the last time. I was very wrong! For the 25 days that my family, friends, church, as well as law enforcement and private investigators looked for me, I had to make it with no money, no food of my own, nothing. I relied on others to feed and house me and—surprisingly—had somewhere to stay all 25 days except for one night when I tried to sleep in the woods. I hitchhiked to Virginia with a complete stranger who picked me up on the highway. It was in another state that I stayed for the last 10 days of the 25. When I was located, the people looking for me left a message with one of the friends I was with. My family’s private investigator agreed to meet us in a Wal-mart parking lot. Within an hour, the private investigator was in the parking lot with local law enforcement. I was put in the back of the patrol car and told by the private investigator they could not go with me but would see me when I got home. The hours to come were horrible. I remained in a police station where there were adult prisoners who saw me and called out obscene comments. It was too late for the transport back to Raleigh so I spent the night to await the morning trip back home. It was disgusting. The next morning, two Raleigh police officers came and picked me up. They shackled me and put me in the back of their patrol car and I was escorted back to Raleigh. The shackles were so tight that my ankles were bruised. It was a long ride home—it took only two hours, but it seemed like forever. Still, I was mad at my family and made sure they got word I did not want to see them. 12 On The Record Winter 2011
Little did I know, this was far from being over. The next step was Juvenile Court because not only was I a runaway, but there was a truancy issue since I had skipped school prior to running away. I still kept true to my bad attitude as I made it clear I would run again. Also I underwent a battery of tests to determine that I was not a danger to myself or anyone else. This was done by a doctor who specialized in teenagers who like me have a difficult time with coping with rules and life in general. I felt like I was old enough to make up my own mind so listening to adults was not an option. I learned that it is important for kids to learn to talk openly about our feelings so that those who love us can understand. Our parents cannot possibly understand if we continue not to communicate openly and honestly. The message from me to other teenagers is clear: running away is not the answer. It is dangerous, it’s scary, but most of all it is hurtful to so many people who lie awake every night hoping you are still alive, hoping you are safe and hoping you will come back home soon. There is always help for kids who are having problems. Counselors at school and elsewhere, family, church members and older siblings and to my shock, even cops and private investigators will help you get through those last couple of years before you move out, make your own decisions, and be responsible for no one else but you! I hope my mistake will encourage those my age to “stick it out” because, trust me, you had much rather look back and say you got through all the tough times by facing problems head on. Most importantly you will feel good about yourself because you did not run away from your problems. Running away is an admission you have unresolved issues in your life and disrespect for yourself and the people who love you most. To be continued....
But This Isn’t What I Expected! Recognizing Postpartum Mood Disorders
f an expected outcome never happens, how is it that we continue to be surprised by the unexpected? Yet we are. We expect that the stock market never goes down, love never dies, politicians are honest people who care what happens to us and our legal processes always converge toward justice. When the outcome doesn’t seem to be going our way, we experience disappointment, confusion and resentment which can lead us to actions that further complicate our situation. Postpartum Mood Disorders (PPMD) are arguably the most unexpected and disappointing outcomes of a pregnancy and delivery in spite of being the most common complication of pregancy. They do incredible damage to self image, relationships and child development. Fortunately, they are highly treatable if recognized. Postpartum psychosis makes headlines but is very rare. We know that psychotic episodes occur in the year post partum at the rate of one or two per 1000 deliveries and that this incidence has held constant for at least 200 years and across many cultures and demographic groups. They are properly diagnosed as the underlying disorder, such as Major Depressive Disorder with psychotic features, Bipolar Affective Disorder with psychotic features, Schizophrenia, etc. It is not at all clear that isolated psychotic episodes occur postpartum which are only associated with pregnancy. Most sufferers have histories of mental illness at other times in their lives. There is also abundant evidence that Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) occurs at about the same incidence postpartum as it does in reproductive-age women exclusive of pregnancy, about 11 to 12 percent in the United States. The onset and resolution are not significantly different although the treatment is constrained by pregnancy and breastfeeding. A number of questionnaires have been developed to evaluate women’s subjective sense of mental health; notably the Edinburgh Postpar-
tum Depression Scale (EPDS) and a Postpartum Depression Inventory by Cheryl Beck. These have been proven to reliably identify women who meet criteria sets for MDD. They also highlight a larger number of sufferers whose symptoms do not match the requisite criteria for MDD but who are nevertheless disabled. Up to 90% of women will admit, in retrospect, to a few hours or days of emotional tenderness, crying spells or anxiety, usually beginning within the week after delivery and often referred to as “baby blues.” In up to 40% of women, however, these symptoms last a significant number of days or weeks and may trigger a rapid downward spiral of anxiety, insomnia, inability to eat and difficulty in meeting their responsibilities as parent and partner. Some of the most intense suffering occurs in women who are plagued by intrusive thoughts of harm to their baby. The resultant intense guilt, shame and anxiety lead to further social isolation and symptoms of depression. These are the syndromes to which I refer as PostPartum Mood Disorder (PPMD). Sometimes, the particular grouping of symptoms may actually meet criteria for diagnoses of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PPMD, so defined, is a spectrum of psychological responses to the overwhelming experience of becoming a parent. In a sense, it is the labor pain of the psychological birth of a new mother. And when it is excessive, prolonged or debilitating, a young mother deserves effective intervention just as we have come to intervene for the relief of labor pains at the physical birth of her child. And just as pain relief in labor must be tailored for safety to mother and infant and not interfere with the course of labor, interventions for PPMD must be designed to relieve symptoms without interfering with breastfeeding or the critical mother/infant interaction which we now know is central to infant brain and personality development.
By Dr. David E. Miller
Winter 2011 On The Record 13
PPMD often does not look like depression. Many women first experience loss of self-confidence and anxiety followed by insomnia or panic attacks. Then may come inability to eat, unprovoked crying spells, fear of being alone and worst of all, thoughts or visions of harm to their infant that are frightening, unbidden and provoke intense shame and guilt in the mother. Many women who experience intrusive thoughts with PPMD fear they are becoming psychotic. The intensity of their reaction to the intrusive thoughts or images is precisely because these women are NOT psychotic. The thoughts may actually be driven by an over-inflated sense of personal responsibility. Yet because the thoughts are so out of character and seem foreign, they fear they are becoming insane and that they might lose control and actually instigate the things they imagine. They may compulsively hide knives, avoid stairs, scrub door handles for germs or refuse to step out on the patio depending on the content of their thoughts or images. Their horrible images are exaggerations of reasonable concerns which are unreasonable in degree but are not psychotic. Postpartum depression is considered by some to be synonymous with MDD and anything short of meeting criteria for MDD trivialized as baby blues. My purpose in endorsing the term PPMD is to encourage recognition of the spectrum of stress responses in the postpartum period and appreciation of the disability they represent. They are highly treatable by appropriate bio-psycho-social interventions and often
resolve nearly as rapidly as they arise if recognized and treated effectively. Dr. David E. Miller is a psychiatrist but is also board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He practiced this specialty in the community and on academic faculties including Duke, WVU and UNC for over 20 years before specializing in psychiatry. Although he practices general adult psychiatry, his special interest is in women’s health and treatment of postpartum mood disorders.
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Let Kids Be Kids
Especially During a Divorce
he most important work I do is when hired to help a parent fight for custody of their children. My heart goes out to parents, especially the mother or father who is being denied access to their child or children. Most often, I meet with fathers who desperately want to be involved with their children’s lives, but the mother will not even compromise to make it possible. I also work with mothers who have always been the primary caregivers for their children and don’t think that the father is capable of caring for the child properly as they become a separated couple. Views on custody are very different today than they were years ago. In the past, there was a belief that children, especially young children, belonged with their mother. There was a preference for placing the child with the mother over the father and it was very difficult for a father to come into court and make an argument as to why he should have primary custody or even equal time with his child. Things are certainly different today. More judges have come to understand the importance of a child having a close loving relationship with both parents. Judges are increasingly allowing both parents equal time with their children, unless there is a good reason not to. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make, especially a parent in a custody battle, is to involve the child in the parents’ adult issues. So many parents I talk to tell me about conversations they have with their child that are totally inappropriate while the child is going through a separation or divorce. Often, the parent states that their child is very smart and senses that something is wrong. The parent feels obligated to talk with the child about what is going on or to explain the situation from their perspective. If you find yourself in this situation, STOP! When your child asks you, “What’s wrong?” the appropriate answer is, “Don’t worry about this sweetie, just know your Father and I love you very much!” Hug and comfort your child to reassure them. It is extremely important to remember this is an adult matter which requires an adult mentality. Your son or daughter should continue in their own life with playful thoughts and dreams of becoming a fireman or a nurse. These are their formative years for them to have fun and learn about friends and playing soccer and how to make a home run. You are the parent. Let your child be a child.
Your child does not need to hear about how daddy has a girlfriend and doesn’t love mommy anymore. Your child does not need to hear that daddy is all alone now that mommy has decided that she wants a divorce. Children love both parents. They deserve to be in a safe environment where they feel it is ok to love both parents and are encouraged by both parents to do so no matter how they feel about one another. Many of my clients are completely incapable of understanding that judges don’t care how bad a husband or wife act towards each other. If that person is found to be a good father or mother, that is all that matters in deciding custody. Obviously, if the husband or wife are involved in acts of domestic violence and particularly if they happen in front of the child, this is a different matter. Apart from that, most judges are able to draw a line in the sand and separate the issues involving custody decisions. It is vitally important that parents involved in custody litigation understand this behavior concept regarding their children. Nothing is more damaging to a parent in a custody case than for the judge to hear that a parent is placing adult burdens on their child or children. Being a kid is hard. Being a kid of parents who have recently separated is even harder and how it is approached by both mother and father will carry these memories with them throughout all of their lives. The worst possible situation for a child is to be placed in the middle of two parents who hate each other and are using their children as a psychological weapon against the other parent. The next time your child asks, “What’s wrong?” think long and hard before unloading all your problems and burdens on your child. Instead, let your child be a child, and call your best friend, therapist or close family members to vent. Don’t make your child the person you confide in during your divorce. The loving and clear thinking adult that you must be during this difficult time will only fortify your bond with your child.
By Holly Batten
Holly W. Batten is the owner of Batten Law Firm, P.C. in Creedmoor, North Carolina. Holly has been practicing law since August 2005. Holly continues to practice primarily in the area of family law. You can email her at email@example.com or visit her website at battenlaw.com Winter 2011 On The Record 15
Digital Forensics and Family Law I
n the realm of Digital Forensics nothing is as important or misunderstood as deleted files. The more you understand how the concept works, the better understanding you will have of what an investigation can hope to recover. When I testify in court about recovering deleted files, I am not trying to convince the court the sky is green when they think it is blue. In a courtroom, it is common knowledge that “anything you do on a computer might still be there and those computer guys can find it.” Well, it seems to be common knowledge for everyone EXCEPT the suspect. Nothing is more fun that presenting evidence that a suspect thought was gone forever. Especially if they made a conscious effort to cover their tracks! To understand deleted files, you first have to understand the way your computer handles files. In a typical PC or Mac computer there are two critical components that deal with the storage of information. RAM or “memory” as it is sometimes called, and your hard drive. The RAM or Random Access Memory, is the place on your computer where it stores the things that it is actively working on right now. Your Hard Disk on the other hand is more like your long term storage. Your Hard Drive is your pantry and your RAM is the counter where you make your dinner. However, there is an important distinction between how the two components physically store information. RAM, because it needs to be very fast to keep up with the demands of your processor as you listen to music, surf the web and download email, is made up of a type of flash memory. The upside of this memory is that it works very fast, the downside is that the amount of data this type of RAM can store is limited, it is expensive and it is what we call volatile. That is, when you cut your computer off the things that were stored in RAM go away forever. The Hard Drive on the other hand is cheaper and has substantially larger capacity. Using rotating magnetic platters the hard drive stores data from one session to the next. (The inside of a hard drive look pretty much like an old record player. In fact, if the Hard Drive
16 On The Record Winter 2011
were to physically fail, we could in essence, remove the records and place them in another record player.) This Hard Drive storage is slower, but allows for data to be saved from one session to the next. In a typical investigation, it is the files stored on the Hard Drive that we will be looking at. To better understand how these apply to a real world investigation we are going to start with a suspect named AJ. (Any similarities between AJ and an actual sports figure is coincidental.) We will say that AJ has a Windows computer and on his computer he is going to create and then delete a Microsoft Word document called; “I did it.” Let’s say that AJ worked on this document a few times over a couple of days and even printed out a copy of the document. AJ then gets word that he left a soiled article of clothing somewhere, so he goes and deletes the document, even emptying the Recycle Bin. He then jumps in a black Tahoe and goes for a ride with a few hundred of his closest law enforcement friends. That doesn’t end well and we are called in to look at AJ’s computer. Let’s look at what happened. When AJ created the document and saved it, Word placed a copy on his hard drive. As AJ typed on the document several things were going on at one time. The words as he typed them floated around in RAM, Word had a temporary file on the Hard Drive storing the document between saves, and whenever AJ would hit the save key, the actual saved copy would be updated. That gives us three areas that the document can exist right now. But wait, you ask; “I thought you said that the RAM was volatile and nothing was saved?” That is correct. However, regardless of how much RAM or short term memory your computer has, it always seem to need more. To remedy this, the computer will create what are called Swap Files or Pagefiles. These are large files on your Hard Drive that are used as extra RAM while working on things. These files can contain copies of AJ’s document. Also, AJ was using a laptop. If his battery started to run down and went into Hibernation, the computer would write out the contents of his RAM to the hard drive in a separate file to make sure he didn’t lose any work, and this file
By Derek Ellington
could also contain a copy of his document. What this all means is that when we look at AJ’s hard drive, we have four different places or chances to find the contents of AJ’s document “I did it.” But of course that isn’t really fair to AJ, because he didn’t know about the other three places. Let’s look at what happened to just the Word Document, “I did it.” When the computer stores a file on the Hard Drive it can assign various qualities or “attributes” to the file like Read Only or Hidden. When you delete a file by first moving it to the Recycle Bin and then emptying the Recycle Bin to “delete” the file all you are actually doing is changing an attribute of that file. The computer changes an attribute that says when a person looks at their files don’t show this file, don’t include this file when you report how much space a person has on their drive and finally, if you need a place to put a new file, this spot is available. To an expert, those files can be easy to recover if they have not been overwritten with new files. It is not unusual to look at a computer three or four years old and see files that were deleted all the way back to the day the computer was brought home. In most cases the deleted “I did it” would be fairly easy to recover. That is not to say that there are guarantees. The size of the hard drive, programs that are installed and the amount and type of usage combined with the amount of time that has passed are all things that can affect the ultimate chances of finding what we are looking for. In this case, maybe AJ felt like he was a bit smarter. Maybe AJ went to Google and did some searching and found any number of programs that claim to be able to cover a person’s tracks by “Sanitizing” or selectively overwriting “I did it” with garbage or random information so we can’t recover it. The problem for AJ is that not only can we tell that he sanitized his computer, we still have the other three copies of the document he didn’t know about. (Not to mention the fact that we have his Google Search history but we will cover that in another installment.) What if we give AJ the benefit of doubt and say that he was able to somehow delete all four copies or traces of his document? He still has a problem because of the interconnectivity of computers file systems. We will find dozens of references to the document on his computer even if we can’t find the document itself. Shortcuts, log files and recently accessed file lists are just a few of the ways we can determine that at one point on this computer there was a document called “I did it.” We are usually able to determine exactly when he created it and when he got rid of it. Sadly for AJ, there is simply no way to remove all traces of a document from a computer short of destroying everything. However, in AJ’s case
the penalty for destroying evidence is less than the penalty for murder so he may not be as concerned. In Family Law cases, if the computer was subpoenaed, the destruction of evidence or spoliation may incur far more serious sanctions than the discovery of the data the suspect was trying to hide. Simply trying to cover up evidence of infidelity turns into criminal contempt or perjury. In later installments we will look at how these concepts of deleted files apply to Mobile Phones and what we can expect to recover from different types of phones. We will also talk about Facebook and the wealth of information stored there. One last note on our suspect AJ; remember when we said he also printed a copy of the document before he deleted it? Well as luck would have it, printed documents create spool files that can also be recovered and reprinted. If we have learned just one thing today, is that it is not a good idea to mix computers and confessions. This is the second part of our series on Digital Forensics and Family Law. If you have not read the first part of this series I encourage you to do so; you can find it on our website at Ellington.net. It gives you a good overview of Digital Forensics concepts in Family Law and sets the groundwork for the things we will cover as we go along. Derek Ellington is an experienced Forensic Investigator and Expert witness with Ellington IT & Forensics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter 2011 On The Record 17
Like Mother, Like Son... or Like Son, Like Mother? By Pat Williams
ither way, it is a team of professional and seasoned investigators offering not only the touch of family compassion, but also the integrity of combined expertise. As the editor of this magazine with its focus on family law, it is my goal to portray what I consider to be the importance of unity. Everyone’s story is a unique one and “unity” is not always attainable, but the rule of law most certainly is. “Unity” is a goal. The law is the path to that goal. My son Ryan Sauls owns and operates Ryan Sauls Investigative Services. He continues to assist the best of attorneys in Wake and surrounding counties and brings an investigative perspective to their work that has earned him high marks. He has earned a reputation as a credible expert investigator as well as a superb witness in the courtroom. He is fair and endeavors to always offer testimony that is untainted and factual. I have been told he makes a better witness than his mother. After all, I trained him and I would expect no less. My experience of 17 years as a private investigator comes with a multitude of factors that has ensued the success in my tenure. The majority of these years have been with my cohort investigator R. Sauls, and he has been the second surveillance vehicle in our attempt to find the truth for our clients. Over the years, he has practiced demonstrated restraint as I have lectured him. He has listened with patience as his mother has been both teacher and co-investigator. Early on in our investigative relationship, he had to have a sponsor just as I did many years ago. 3,000 hours is a long time to work under the total mentorship and supervision of his mom. From the mountains of North Carolina to the East Coast, we have traveled together and even bunked in the same room while working on cases.
18 On The Record Winter 2011
He was not salaried, but rather he was subcontracted just like any one else I contracted to assist me. He received no perks, no insurance and no sick days or vacation. He took a full credit load at NCSU, supported himself and worked with me. I can recall pulling off a case with him on numerous occasions only to leave him sitting in a desolate parking lot closest to a light just bright enough to allow him to study for tests or to finish his homework cutting an eye to the door awaiting a subject to come out as he had to catch it and capture it on film. On November 03, 1998, I obtained my full license having finished my trainee/associate status and began my own company, Pat Sauls Investigative Services. Shortly thereafter my son became my first trainee and he began the long and tenuous training under my license. In October of 2005 he finished his trainee/associate status and began Ryan Sauls Investigative Services. For more than a decade now we have worked together and the great thing is we help each other as this is no 8-5 job…..through the days, nights, weekends, cold weather, hot weather, sleet, rain or snow as long as there is work to be done. I am proud to be his mom and equally proud to be a fellow investigator. This recognition is the constant amongst all of us who owe a debt of gratitude to those who helped us climb the ladder of success. Ryan, you know what they say; everyone has their one “shining moment.” This is yours and thank you. Who knows, maybe you trained me.
custody of children
alienation of affection
Ryan Sauls Investigative Services is a successful private investigative company with impeccable credentials. Our company consists of licensed investigators with over 11 years experience, yielding more than 20,000 hours of documented case reports. We are dedicated to our work and committed to our clients. Our company not only excels when it comes to quality and performance, but the integrity of our work ethics is beyond expectations.
919.291.0531 (office) 919.231.8643 (fax)
PO Box 30993 Raleigh, NC 27622
www.ryansaulspi.com Winter 2011 On The Record 19
PATSAULSINVESTIGATIVESERVICES Professional and Confidential "Your Investigator in NC" Serving all 100 Counties
16 years experience in "Family Law Investigations" focussing on Adultery and Child Custody. Separation and Divorce can be extremely stressful for you and your family. We are committed to help you find the truth so that your life can be free of confusion and disillusion! As parents we survive over time however it is our children who normally pay the biggest price!
email@example.com • www.patsaulspi.com 919-832-1505 • cell 919-524-2540 • 1-866-997-2009 20 On The Record Winter 2011