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Debra Joan Cheatham Reece
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Debra Reece’s Answers

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  • Can judge order for my daughters last name to be changed to fathers last name.

    Daughters father denied her up to DNA showed otherwise. Now he wants to petition the court for her to have his last name.

    Debra’s Answer

    There are several important factors that a judge will consider. First, how old is your daughter and how long has she had your name? Second, is your daughter in school? Third, what are the issues with your family and the father's family as far as the importance of his name.

    The problem here is that the law in Arkansas is still heavily influenced by laws from long ago. A child born out of wedlock (and I assume she was born out of wedlock, although you did not say that) carried the stigma of being a bastard (a child of unmarried parents). Even up as recently as the 1970s, that was a real stigma, but it is much less so now. Nonetheless, the law still wants children to carry their father's name. A child who has her mother's name instead of her father's is automatically understood to be born out of wedlock, so the law favors a father who asks that his name be given. If your daughter is 10 or 11 years old and has always been known by your name, then a court might very well rule that the name will not be changed to the father's last name. But if the child is still very young, all other things being equal, the court will probably rule that her last name be changed to the father's last name.

    There are six factors the court looks at to decide whether to change the child's last name to the father's last name: (1) the child's preference, (2) the effect of the change of the child's surname on the preservation and development of the child's relationship with each parent, (3) the length of time the child has borne a given name, (4) the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname, (5) the difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment that the child may experience from bearing the present or proposed surname, and (6) the existence of any parental misconduct or neglect.

    It will all depend on these factors. In the case of Bell v. Wardell (a 2000 case decided by the Arkansas Court of Appeals -- you can probably google it), the court ruled that the first and second factors were irrelevant because the child was only 7 months old.

    If he actually files suit, you'll want to retain the services of an attorney. To avoid the hassle, you may want to agree to a hyphenated name. For instance, if your name is Smith and his is Jones, your daughter could be Sarah Smith-Jones. That way both of you are included, but alphabetically, your name will always be the primary name.

    Good luck.

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  • Can I get legal advice in Arkansas for a divorce in Missouri?

    I recently left my husband in SW MO and I'm staying in NW Arkansas. I need a consultation to find out what my rights are. I know that Missouri is a no fault state but I'm pretty sure my husband WILL NOT cooperate.

    Debra’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    If you establish residency in Arkansas, you can file for divorce in Arkansas. Arkansas is NOT a no-fault state, though, so that may be a consideration. At the very least, go in and talk to an attorney in your area and they can outline the possibilities if you establish residency in Arkansas. You don't mention if you have children, but that's another consideration. You would have to live in Arkansas at least 6 months for Arkansas to be the "home state" of the children so the custody decision could be made by an Arkansas court. If you don't have children, you just have to live in Arkansas at least 90 days before your divorce is final, and there is a residency requirement before you can even file.

    Speak to a lawyer. You'll feel better after you know all your rights and responsibilities under the law. Most lawyers will provide free or reasonably low-cost 30-minute consultations; and then you can move forward knowing how to handle things. Good luck!

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  • I recently found out that he went to court and was offered 40 years I believe and said no. what is an estimate of time he'll get

    My daughters father is on probation and has been in jail since August 20, 2015. Before that he went to jail in June of 2015 but bonded out. His charges were possession of meth with intent to deliver, simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, ...

    Debra’s Answer

    If he refuses the plea offer, then it will be up to the jury how much time he will get. Simultaneous possession is a Class Y felony (the most serious in Arkansas except for Capital Murder), and carries a sentence of 10-40 years, or life in prison. In addition to that, if he is an habitual offender (and it sounds like he is, if he was on probation), the sentence can be as much as 40-80, or life, depending on what his prior offenses were. Then there are his other charges, which could run concurrently or be stacked. Plus, there is the probation revocation to deal with, and there's no telling what he can get from that, without more information. The probation revocation could also potentially run concurrently or be stacked.

    These are very, very serious charges. He needs to thoroughly discuss his case with his attorney. If he has a defense, then they may want to take it to trial. If he does not have a defense, and does not have any constitutional violations that could result in suppressing the evidence against him, then he may want to take the 40-year offer. Right now, the only lawyer who is familiar with his case is the one he has assigned to him, so these issues need to be taken up with him or her. There is simply not enough information to give an adequate answer. And ultimately, a jury will be the one to decide what they think he should get, assuming they find him guilty.

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  • Is it legal for them to lay me off and what kind of case would I have?

    Got laid off work cause of my restrictions my doctor put on me. I'm pregnant. And other who have been there have still worked with there restrictions. So they want to put me on flma for 12 weeks bit my baby isn't do until march 6th so it will be 1...

    Debra’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. White. Depending on your complications, your work may be concerned that continued working under your restrictions will cause you adverse health reactions, and that could set them up for liability for not accommodating you. At first glance, it sounds like they are trying to accommodate your medical diagnosis and give you the time off to protect both you and your baby. Obviously, the stress about your bills is not good. Many lawyers will do a free (or very low cost) consultation. Find a good employment law attorney who is familiar with FMLA regulations and let them tell you all your rights under the law. Good luck!

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  • How can i get divorced without her signature or spend lot of money

    I have been separated from my wife not legally but i left. She didn't want me she cheated she didn't care for her own children i tried to make it work 4xs and she did the same things. I asked for a divorces she say she will never give me one but d...

    Debra’s Answer

    As already stated, you need to get a lawyer. With no kids and no property, it sounds like the divorce will be a fairly simple matter. You can file in the county in which you are located or the county in which she is located, whichever is most convenient to you. Her adultery will be grounds enough for divorce, but there may be other grounds, too, so you don't have to mention the adultery necessarily (so she is more likely to sign off on things). Talk to a family law lawyer in your area. Many of them will let you make payment plans. If everything you say is true, it doesn't sound like she is going to be able to contest it, and she probably won't be able to afford a lawyer herself and may not even answer the complaint. Then your lawyer would be able to get you a quick divorce by default. It is sad you are going through this. Good luck.

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  • Can there be something i can do to put the deed to how it was at first? Her grandson is letting the house rot and taxes not paid

    My grandfather bought a house and land with his second wife on the deed its stated if he r she died the house and land goes to the siblings and grandchildren on his and her side of family. He died first when it was time for her to die the deed wa...

    Debra’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Scholl. Without seeing the actual deeds (and any will that was left by your grandfather or his wife), no attorney can properly advise you. Usually, once someone has died, the property goes to whomever was designated in their will (or goes by intestate succession if there is no will), and then the person(s) who received the property are free to do what they want with it. However, if the deeds had some provision that the grandmother could only have a life estate and the property went as a remainder to the siblings and grandchildren, then that provision may be able to be enforced. But you need to speak to an attorney who is quite experienced in real estate law. Good luck!

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  • How to break a lease in Arkansas?

    Our Son had to sign a lease for a year for an Apartment in Arkansas while was a Graduate Assistant for the College. He recently was hired as a Coach at another College in another State. The Apartment Complex will let him break his lease if he pa...

    Debra’s Answer

    Mr. Scholl is exactly right. The terms you are referring to (pay 3 months' rent if terminating lease early) are referred to as the "liquidated damages" clause of a contract. It allows a party to not fulfill the obligations to which they agreed by performing some act, usually paying a set sum of money. And yes, it is absolutely legal under Arkansas contract law (and probably all state laws, for that matter). If the amount is prohibitive, it is considered a "penalty clause" and is unenforceable. But if he signed a year-long lease and the landlord has provided a way to get out of the lease by paying 3 months' rent, that will likely be upheld as reasonable in court.

    His lease should provide the terms for early termination. It absolutely MUST be in writing (he does not protect himself by a verbal communication at all). Your son's best option is to have a consultation with an attorney who can look at the least and highlight the portions your son must follow in order to successfully terminate the lease.

    Good luck.

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  • What do I need to do after all this time has past

    I had my license suspended over 5 years ago in Missouri for refusal to blow, all other charges were dropped. I live in Arkansas, I paid a reinstatement fee, but did not take the classes as I was shipped oversea a few times ,

    Debra’s Answer

    Your question is not clear whether your license was a Missouri license or whether it was an Arkansas license that was just suspended by Missouri because of an infraction there. As others have said, you need to clear up the issues in Missouri, since that's where your license was suspended. If there were classes you needed to take, presumably you can take them now and clear that part of your record. But you will need to retain the services of a Missouri lawyer who handles traffic/DWI cases to help you with what you need to do. You could try to just call the Missouri Driver Control Department (or whatever they call it there) and ask them for specifics on what you need to do, but frankly it's always better to have an attorney help you, because they can wade through the red tape better than you can, and there may be provisions of which they're aware that you won't know. Once the Missouri situation is cleared up, that should make you free to get your Arkansas license.
    Good luck!

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  • Can the Feds hold Him for 16 months and have not offered him any time?

    My husband was indicted and arrested 16 months ago for drug conspiracy of 5 kilos. He was at the top of the indictment for drug charges only. This month they superseded and he is no longer on the top. He has only one prior state charge 8 years ago...

    Debra’s Answer

    If your husband was indicted and arrested, he either has a retained attorney (if you guys retained one) or a federal public defender. Either way, that attorney is the one who needs to be dealing with these issues. Chances are that the defense attorney is trying to negotiate a deal. Federal court moves very slowly and these things take time. If the defense attorney has requested any continuances, then that will toll the speedy trial clock and not run against the government. So it is entirely possible that a person could sit in pretrial detention for 16 months or longer. You say "kilos", but you don't say kilos of what drug. Marijuana - that's not that big a deal. But if it was cocaine, heroin, or meth, your husband is looking potentially at a huge amount of time, and you need to give his lawyer time to try to negotiate the best possible deal. The good thing is that, if he pleads or is convicted at trial, he will get credit for the 16 months in whatever sentence he receives.

    If your husband wants to terminate the services of his attorney and hire a private attorney, he can do so; but that needs to come from him, and there are procedures that must be followed to substitute in a new attorney. So you guys need to either deal with the attorney he has, or hire a new one; but we are not allowed to give legal advice to people who are currently represented by another attorney.

    Good luck to you and your husband. I'm sorry you're going through this. I know it is very difficult.

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  • What can I do to get out of this or in any way lessen the repercussions?

    Caught with 27 grams of weed, a bong, pipe, grinder, weed stems and seeds, empty pill bottle, 200 plastic bags, a gram scale, and two 30 packs of beer. Got pulled over for 50 in about a 40. Officer said he had probable cause off of two empty beer ...

    Debra’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    At this point, there is no way to tell you if you can "get out of this" or lessen the repercussions. First off, it's never a good idea to drive 50 in a 40, especially when you are carrying contraband in your vehicle. But I'm sure you've realized that. That, unfortunately, gives the cop probable cause to pull you over. Then, depending on the circumstances, the empty beer cans MIGHT give them probable cause to search. I say "might," because there are multiple factors that go into that analysis, and you will not be able to get an adequate answer on this public forum. Also, you need to know that prosecutors read this too (and you gave a hell of a lot of specific information, so they would know who you are if your particular prosecutor reads this). So get off this public forum and make an appointment to retain a good criminal defense attorney right away. Based on the information you gave, they may have charged you with misdemeanor possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, but they could also charge you with FELONY possession with intent to deliver, even though it's a misdemeanor amount of weed. You need to get out in front of this right away. Whatever you have to pay an attorney will be more than worth it if you can avoid having a felony conviction on your record. (And you don't say if you were charged with a felony or misdemeanor, but you need to know that the cop can charge you with a misdemeanor, but a prosecutor can RAISE that charge to a felony, if they think the circumstances warrant it. Get a lawyer!)

    Good luck!

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