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No Thanks, Governor

If you're buyingEquality is our business

This week, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1523, a bill that facilitates and encourages discrimination of LGBT citizens of our state. The broad backlash from businesses and from citizens both progressive and conservative indicates that such discrimination is not acceptable to many Mississippians. However, it’s not enough to simply oppose such legislation. Now that this discrimination is actively encouraged by state law, it is not unreasonable for members of the LGBT community to assume a business (that doesn’t actively say otherwise) may attempt to refuse service based on “religious belief.”

Hurdle Law Firm does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, or religion - we welcome prospective clients from all walks of life. We’ve also recently become one of the early signers of the Mississippi Equality is Our Business pledge, which states that we support workplace equality and “are committed to fostering, cultivating, and preserving a culture of diversity, inclusion, fairness and equality. We value our employees regardless of age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, physical and mental ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status and other characteristics that make our employees unique.”

As a law practice, one of our guiding tenets is that everyone deserves a voice in the legal system. We strongly reject the notion that any Mississippian is a “second-class citizen.” While our state government tries to be as unwelcoming as possible, this business and others like it will continue to stand against such efforts by making it clear that LGBT Mississippians and other marginalized members of our community are very much welcome.

Thanks for the Memories, SYP

Jay Howard Hurdle

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the president of Starkville Young Professionals. For those who don’t know, SYP is a networking/social group that hosts monthly socials at local restaurants and businesses. SYP also holds its popular Charity Kickball Tournament in April and September of each year, as well as a charity silent auction each December.

When I first came to Starkville about six years ago, I really did not know more than a handful of people. Through my involvement in SYP, I’ve made great friends and great business connections. I met my realtor, insurance brokers, social media gurus and bankers through SYP. I’ve met several clients through SYP and have had many more referred to me through SYP connections. Serving with the organization, I’ve been introduced to and worked with a number of great local charities, including Salvation Army, United Way of North Central Mississippi, Volunteer Starkville, Helping Hands Ministries of Oktibbeha County, Walk to End Alzheimer’s and more.

I am proud of the way that SYP has continued to evolve and improve over the past year, and I look forward to the future. While I won’t be president any longer, I’ll still be on the board and involved with the organization. I look forward to seeing what the future holds with new president Elizabeth Lavender.

If you’re in the ages 21-40 crowd, I encourage you to come to a SYP social. I hope it proves to be as helpful to your business networking and community ties as it has been for mine.

- Jay Hurdle

Did You Know?: Basics of Mississippi Child Support

Dying Without a Will

Child support plays a huge part in family law. Hopefully, this post will banish some of the mystery surrounding the child support process and give a clearer understanding of what to expect if child support becomes part of your case.

Child support can originate in a few ways, including:

  1. A mother can ask for child support through Mississippi’s Department of Human Services (“DHS”).
  2. DHS can, on its own, demand child support if the custodial parent (the parent the child lives with) receives government assistance.
  3. An individual with a child born outside of marriage can initiate a custody proceeding.
  4. A divorce action.

How is the payment amount set?

By law, the child support amount is deducted from the non-custodial parent’s (the paying parent’s) monthly adjusted gross income at the following percentages:

1 Child = 14% of Adjusted Gross Income

2 Children = 20% of Adjusted Gross Income

3 Children = 22% of Adjusted Gross Income

4 Children = 24% of Adjusted Gross Income

5+ Children = 26% of Adjusted Gross Income

Note: The adjusted gross income from your tax return (divided by 12 to give a monthly value) often gives a good estimate of your adjusted gross income subject to withholding under child support law, but be aware that the formula used to calculate each AGI amount is different – in some cases this difference can cause dramatically different outcomes.

The Court can consider other factors and even dramatically alter the payment amount if the paying parent’s adjusted gross income amount is less than $10,000 or more than $100,000 annually. Self-employed individuals or individuals with irregular income can be held to an estimate of what they might make in a year, even if they actually end up making less.

How is child support paid?

Generally speaking, child support is either paid through DHS (which withholds from the paycheck of the paying parent and transfers to the custodial parent), or by automatic debit from the paying parent’s bank account to the custodial parent’s bank account. If a suit is filed by DHS, you won’t have a choice – the payments will go through DHS.

Can the payment amount be changed? How?

The child support obligation can be modified, usually by the request of a party or by the request of DHS. Successful modification usually requires showing that circumstances have significantly changed in a way that couldn’t be anticipated at the time of the original payment determination. (Think: unexpectedly getting laid off, becoming disabled and unable to work, etc.)

Keep in mind that it’s important to move quickly on a child support modification. Child support vests as it becomes due, which is a fancy way of saying, “don’t expect the judge to make any change retroactive.” Any amount that has already accrued is due and payable, many times without recourse.

When does child support end?

Child support responsibilities usually terminate in three ways:

  1. Termination of parental rights – usually done either to allow an adoption or to take children away from an unfit parent.
  2. Disestablishment of paternity – this suit to terminate child support obligations is filed when a payor finds out he is not the father of a child. Note: he usually won’t get back the money he has paid in.
  3. Emancipation of child – this usually occurs when a child turns 21 or is married, although in certain cases support can be discontinued by a judge when a child moves out of the parent’s home, obtains full time employment, and discontinues schooling. Note: if you agreed at any point with the other parent to continue paying child support beyond the child’s 21st birthday (say, to the end of college), you may be obligated to do so.

The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with child support is that each situation is unique in terms of case history, facts, circumstances, and location. That’s why it’s important to sit down with a qualified attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.

Why is a Conflict of Interest Preventing Me from Hiring a Particular Lawyer?

What's a Conflict of Interest?

"An attorney told me she couldn’t take my case because of a conflict of interest. What’s that about?”

When prospective clients ask to speak to me about a case, the first thing I have to do is to conduct a “conflict check” – a review of my current and past dealings and associations – to try and avoid conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest can be actual or perceived, but can have serious implications in either form. Attorneys can find themselves in hot water and even put their clients at risk if they aren’t thorough in their investigation of potential conflicts

Mississippi’s ethics rules for attorneys say:

A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client, unless the lawyer reasonably believes:

(1) the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and

(2) each client has given knowing and informed consent after consultation. The consultation shall include explanation of the implications of the adverse representation and the advantages and risks involved.

(Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.7)

An example of this kind of conflict would be in a divorce case where one spouse has consulted with an attorney but not gone on to hire that attorney. The attorney cannot then consult with nor be retained by the other spouse.

The rules go on to say:

A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client may be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client or to a third person, or by the lawyer's own interests, unless the lawyer reasonably believes:

(1) the representation will not be adversely affected; and

(2) the client has given knowing and informed consent after consultation.

(Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.7)

Under this rule, the conflict of interest might be the attorney’s relationship with a third party, such as a close friend who stands to benefit or lose depending on the outcome of a case. Perhaps the relationship would not actually taint the lawyer’s representation of his client, but the perception that such a conflict exists may be strong enough to cause outsiders to question the attorney’s loyalty to the client.

Conflicts also apply to former clients:

A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:

(a) represent another in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interest of the former client unless the former client consents after consultation; or

(b) use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as Rule 1.6 would permit with respect to a client or when the information has become generally known.

(Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.9)

The prohibition on using information related to the representation of a former client has far-reaching implications. Attorneys must be careful when taking on new cases to make sure they are aware of the interests of past clients. The last thing you want is for your attorney to realize he has a conflict because of a previous client in the middle of your case!

Conflict of interest checks aren’t only for small or single-lawyer firms. One lawyer with a conflict of interest in a multi-lawyer firm can disqualify the entire firm. That’s why conflict checks at larger firms can take additional time to complete.

Determining conflicts of interest is a tedious and difficult task. It’s never convenient for an attorney to have to decline representation because of a conflict, and it is frustrating to you if they can’t explain their decision due to confidentiality rules. The conflict could have any number of explanations, but some of the more common reasons are as follows:

1. The attorney has consulted with and/or been retained by another person in the case or potential case.

2. The attorney has another client whose interests may overlap or conflict with yours.

3. The attorney has a previous client whose interests may be at odds with yours.

4. The attorney has “inside information” on the matter because of a former client.

5. Circumstances exist that may call into question the lawyer’s professional independence, loyalty, or confidentiality.

The thing to remember is that attorneys are bound by rules designed to keep their practices ethical. If an attorney declines to represent you because of a conflict of interest, it is likely that such a decision is also in your best interests.

NOTE: Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship and nothing posted constitutes legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship with Hurdle Law Firm PLLC nor its attorneys. No information communicated through this website will be protected by either the attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine. If you use this website to send a message, do not include any confidential, secret or otherwise sensitive information concerning any potential or actual legal matter in the message transmission. Such messages do not create an attorney-client relationship and confidential or secret information included in such emails are not privileged and can be subject to disclosure. An attorney-client relationship is only created after a conflict check and by a written representation agreement signed by you and an attorney of Hurdle Law Firm PLLC.

 

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