LegalZoom Blog

Legal news and small business tips.

How Can I Get a Cheap, Easy Divorce? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 6/15/12

with one comment

On Tuesdays and Fridays, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss the last Free Joe? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Sheree: Is there a short, easy and cheap way of getting a divorce?

Joe Escalante: If you are speaking about an uncontested divorce, where both parties want a divorce and can agree on how property is split, the answer is YES!
The best way to do this is actually through Legal Zoom. You’re not going to find a shorter, easier, or cheaper way. Click below and get your groove on.

LegalZoom: Here you go, Sheree:

Becky: Hi Joe,

I started a non-profit in May of last year. I know we were supposed to do our taxes in May of this year. If the only money that came into the non-profit in 2011 was the money my husband and I put into the account, do we still need to file taxes?? We are not tax exempt yet, and the non-profit has not raised more than 4 thousand. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Have a blessed day!

Joe Escalante: You have to file every year. If you don’t owe anything, filing late is not going to be a problem, but you still have to file.

Tim: Can an employer terminate an employee under doctors care for a work related injury that has been released back to work with no restrictions?

Joe Escalante: It’s risky for the employer to do that because it raises eyebrows but if we are talking about at will employment, and the employer does not “will” the employment of this particular employee, there is not real legal reason he would have to keep him. What if business is bad? Does he have to keep paying him and drive his business into the gutter, causing the loss of jobs for all other employees due to insolvency? That doesn’t make sense.

However, if the employee is fired because of the injury, and replaced with another person that didn’t get injured, so is more attractive to the employer, then we have a problem. And of course, the problem for the plaintiff in all of this is proof.

Stephanie: My dad dba “SR roofing” died in 2006. In 2010, my husband dba “SR roofing” and used the same ph# as my mom used it as a ext ph for year. Luckily we thought, we still had business cards and whatnot to start this new business. My dad’s name wasnt on any of these items.
We got a call from my dads customer from 2003. He said his roof was under warranty for 10 years. We tried to help him. He had ruined the roof with pallets, they ripped the rubber. We told him we were not responsible, we were a new company.
He is suing us for 28,000.
We went out of business in 2011.
Can he sue us and win? We have NO money to defend ourselves. When we answered his lawsuit, we qualified to have the fee waved. Any advise?

Joe Escalante: Sorry to do this but first we have to tell everyone easy ways to avoid stuff like this.
#1. is incorporation, or an LLC. If that was your business entity, the customer would be suing the defunct corp or LLC and not you personally, so good luck to him.
#2. This is what liability insurance is for. It protects you from this kind of liability.

Wait, there’s more.

Customer’s argument is that you were trading off the good will created by your father. That attracts customers. With that, is the responsibility to make good on your father’s guarantees. However, it doesn’t mean that he can prove that the roof’s problems are associated with your father’s workmanship. He has to prove that.
You can rebut that with evidence about his pallets. It will all come down to evidence, but he may win, so you need to consult with attorneys specializing in construction defense.
Find out how much this is going to cost you, then consider settling.
If you truly have no money, keep fighting it “pro se.”

Sharon: I have a question….My Grandfather who’s passed away. owns a church and the church is on unclaimed property . Inorder to get the church, i have to provide a current letter authoring me to act on behalf of the business and it also states, that the letter should be company letterhead,must be signed by a corporate officer other than myself, and either contains the corporate seal or signed in the presence of notary public.

I need to know who’s the corporate office?Since my grandfather is no-longer here

I need to know how to get a letter?

Joe Escalante: I’ve actually seen someone in your situation in Compton, CA just start up a corporation named after the church that was formerly on her father’s land. One of the officers signed a letter, and bam, she was able to transfer it to herself and she now owns that beautiful piece of Compton real estate.
The registrar in each county of America is different. They have different rules on how they are going to allow you to transfer this property so you’re at their mercy. One other possibility would be filing an affidavit of heirship. Some counties will work with that. That would establish you as the heir to your Grandfather’s stuff, if there are no other heirs contesting such.

Karen: My ‘supposed’ ex-husband lives in Newport Beach. He fraudulently obtained his retirement from May Co. They sold out to Macy’s…my settlement said, basically, it was up to me to go after it. My portion of the ‘settlement’ (28K) my ex claimed that as a debt when he filed for bankkruptcy. 4 days after I was served, I had brain surgery for cancer. I AM DISABLED. My attorney in OHIO says I need a CA attorney…I have no money. Orange County Courts website says I AM NOT DIVORCED! HE RE-MARRIED. U.S.P.S. lost my divorce papers. I was unable to buy a house because he was hiding in Mexico! Judge says it’s all my fault for not finding him! I NEED HELP, PLEASE!!

Joe Escalante: This is a sad story from the white collar crime capital of the U.S. You do need a California attorney. If your ex followed all the bankruptcy rules, and it was completed, and you did not come in as a creditor, the judge is probably right. Unless you did not receive valid notice of the procedure. That’s one of the things your California attorney will look into.

Karen: The judge said it was up to me to go after his retirement. Do I need a CA atty. for that as well?

Joe Escalante: Yes.

Carlitos: I live in Atlanta I was thinking in forming an LLC company out of state for a small business. Some of the business would be different domains under it. I’m starting with the E-comm industry, should I form individuals DBA for my domains under one LLC? Should I form my LLC in my resident stare or do I get a better benefit out of state? Was thinking between Delaware or Nevada.

Joe Escalante: For a small company like this, I wouldn’t worry about Delaware and Nevada’s benefits are a myth. You need to meet with your tax professional to really get into the benefits of these entities for you, but in general, it’s OK to have one LLC that owns several DBAs. You’re on the right track, but get a tax pro.

DeVo: How can you prove medical malpractice if treating Dr stops talking to you?

Joe Escalante: When you file the case they have something called “discovery.” The doctor must answer all the questions your lawyer has during this process. If he lies, he can be held in contempt of court and go to jail where can treat people for claustrophobia.

Loudine: Hi Joe,

I want to start a Non-Profit organization in NJ. What’s the steps, I need to take to open a Non-profit organization?

Joe Escalante: I would get and read this book:
Then I would use Legalzoom’s services. In fact, I used them once to form a non profit, and this book came in the package. I would let you borrow it but it’s too valuable to me. I’m always thumbing through it. Click below for more info.

LegalZoom: Here’s the link, Loudine:


Joe Escalante: This is a tax question, and not a legal question, but in general I will say that in most states of which I am aware, inheritance tax only kicks in when the estate is worth millions, like 5.

Rick: Hi If i have renters and they want to grow marijuana on my property and they have a 215 card,and stay within the law is that legal,i made a rental agreement saying that they are to take full reasonability for their action’s and have them sign it,is that legal or is their some other way to cover my !!! Thanks

Joe Escalante: I would talk to a lawyer in your area to be sure. Marijuana growth and possession is illegal under federal law. So even if the state is handing out 215 cards, or even 216 cards, there are still some risks. The lawyer will tell you if they are bothering to bust people like you and your tenants these days. You don’t want to be the guy to be made an example of during an election year or something like that.

Miring’u: I an international music student in the process of setting myself up as a sole proprietor, using the DBA.

Is this a viable option as an F1 student and is there any legal process that may consider me non- eligible?

If there are no restrictions,what do I have to take into consideration as I set up my DBA.

Joe Escalante: There are a lot of restrictions for F1 students in connection with any kind of work, including working for your own company. It depends mainly on what kind of work, or field, and what year you are in.
Generally, only work that is in your field of study is allowed. Best is to consult with an immigration attorney so you don’t waste a lot of time and money on this and end up deported.

Jason: Hello Lega-lZoom. I am a disabled person, whom had given$450.00 to a propsed roommate/girlfriend for the deposit and my first months rent. I was contacted by a male unknown person, calling from her cell phone, and was told that she owed him money too, but, not to come out there to the house to get the money she owed and advised me that she would be returning to me ASAP. I have allready informed the police tof the threatening call from the male caller, and am frustratingly awaiting any calls or contact from her, “hooping everything works out”. I’m curious as to if there is anything i can do besides waiting or going out to the house and possibly having an altercation with the lady, or possible male counterpart? I would love to hear anything from you whether its a little advice or information for obtaining your further assistance here.
P.S.: In our last conversation she explained that we wouldn’t really work well together and that its best she just give me all my money back. However, that phone is the same phone the male caller called from and i found it was not in service the next day! Have heard nothing from her since. 4 days ago.
What could i do??

Joe Escalante: You need to file a police report right away. If they resist allowing you to file the report go to the head of the police station or precinct. Sometimes they resist, and try to get rid of you. If they kick you out of the station, you do the rest by phone and mail.

Don: Can you patent clothing? Is it worth patenting a ubiquitous piece like a new design for a brassiere?

Joe Escalante: Most garment designers use the “design patent” for clothing. It protects ornamental designs on useful articles.

Jennifer: How do I get P O A Revoked Due to Abuse of P O A ???????????

Joe Escalante: File a petition with the probate court to challenge the conservatorship.

Fancy: OK, I live in n.c. and my ex husband lives in Idaho. I am filing for child support, how will they determine how much he will owe, beings they are leaving it up to his state where he lives, and he has another child. Who he owes about twenty thousand in back child support

Joe Escalante: They will determine how much he owes by how much he earns and how much the kid needs.

Linda: Hi Joe.. I am coming to the end of an Intent to Use Trademark application. Whats the fastest and legal way to get an item into commerce?What else do I need to submit on the apllication to register a trademark?Thank you Linda

Joe Escalante: I don’t know what else you have to submit, because I don’t know what you’ve already submitted, but the best way to get something into interstate commerce is to advertise it on the internet and have someone in some other state, even Puerto Rico, or some Guamanian with a spending disorder buy it.

Linda: Thank you ! I will ahve design a web site and an LLC to make that happen correct?

Joe Escalante: You don’t need to be an LLC. You can be a sole proprietor and sell things however, website,, ebay, etc.

Rick: Joe, can you tell me if there is a limitations statuette regarding online harassment and libel under New York State cyberbullying laws? Thanks.

Joe Escalante: I’m sure there is one. Only things like murder don’t have them. But what it is, I don’t know. It’s probably less than 10 years, more than 2.

Mika: I have been separated since 2005. I want a divorce but he hasnt signed the papers deliberada to him byway his sister. I got the packet and filled my portion. Its expensive for a lawyer. Please tell me what legally i can do

Joe Escalante: You can file a contested divorce, and serve him. If he doesn’t respond to that, a default judgment will be entered against him. Read this gem in the mean time:

Kelly: Hello Joe, is there anything I can do if my employer laid me off due to economic climate to then post my job in the classified jobs?

Joe Escalante: If you had a contract and he broke it, you could sue for breach of contract. If you didn’t, it’s “at will” employment. If he made some excuse to be polite, what are we going to do? Make him be rude next time? He’s got the right to fire any at will employees he wants unless he violates their civil rights. If one of your civil rights were violated, that’s different. Let me know if that was the case.

Gary: How long will I have to pay support to my ex wife?

Joe Escalante: That depends on the state and what it says in the court order. If circumstances change, you can always petition the court to modify the order as well.

DeLyla: My spouse requested I leave our co-owned home ALMOST a year ago and I am now hearing rumors of being accused of “abandoning” the property. Is this possible?

Joe Escalante: Abandoning it in what sense? Is someone squatting in it?

Patti: hello. I have a young friend who has a mental disability. He is in need of an advocate as he has been arrested. Is there an agency in IL that I can contact in his behalf to be sure his rights are not being violated? His court appointed attorney is a sad joke.

Joe Escalante: The court appointed attorney is his advocate. If he is so bad off that he cannot care for himself, he may require a conservatorship or guardian. One of his relatives would need to get involved to get that process going with any credibility.

Monty: Dear Joe I live in Ohio and my name is Monty. I was incarcerated for some time and my wife went on public assistance now I (we) have a huge debt. Why do I have to pay back pay and child support while we are married and what legal action can I take?

Joe Escalante: My guess is that the government paid a bunch of money to help raise your kids. Now that you are out and able to earn an income, they would like to be paid back. You would like to do something else with that money. They want it too. It’s a classic stand-off, but they hold all the cards.

Alex: Does the State I reside in matter if I want to create a LLC and does it effect my Taxes as a Business. Please help thank you

Joe Escalante: Yes, and yes. The secretary of state decides if the state will even allow LLCs. And the state determines the taxes. The state you are doing business in will affect your tax liability the most.

Ragan: I thought any notary could notarize a will, however, I am having trouble finding someone to notarize mine. My bank will not do it and I don’t have an attorney. Do you have to retaine an attorney in order for them to notarize a will?

Joe Escalante: No. You need only find a licensed “Notary Public.” However, your state may not require notarization to make a will valid. Mine doesn’t. It only requires two disinterested witnesses.

John: Question for Joe: Is there a time limit on when the divorce papers can be submitted to the court in CA?

Joe Escalante: Not really a limit, but timing is important to establish things like when property is considered separate of community. Best thing is to be legally separated asap. Read this

Fidel: Do you agree with the exclusinary rule? What other remedy should U.S law have to avoid constitutional law violations? Can you provide your thoughts. Do the pros outweigh the cons? I would like to hear from you as an attorney who studied this in law school. Thanks.

Joe Escalante: I think it’s fine. Cops know that they can’t use anything obtained in an illegal search against you in court, so they don’t ransack your place like they really want to.
However, many crimes are prevented each year from “illegal” searches and seizures. Cops might recover some drugs or weapons that can be taken out of circulation at least, if not admissible in an actual trial.

Melissa: Hi Attorney Joe Escalante. I was injured in a car accident in August 2011. I was driving my car when this happened. In order to settle the insurance claim I had to sign a release. Well it turns out that my injuries are more than just strained muscles, I also have scar tissue on my left side and as a result simple tasks such a combing my hair, dressing, washing dishes, etc. I am also left handed by the way. My legal question is, can I go back and sue?

Joe Escalante: Yes. Show the release and your medical records to a personal injury attorney to get an opinion on your chances of recovery. There are many circumstances that could make that release invalid. Click below to get started looking for a good p.i. lawyer.

LegalZoom: Here you go, Melissa:

Vicki: Hhow hard is it to get ssi disability when you have been diagnosed with myofacial pain syndrome?

Joe Escalante: It depends on how debilitating it is.

Victoria: I went to my boss regarding being threatned @ wk 3wks went by without anything being done. I went to boss’s boss and finally myself and the other person were sent home, for me i was sent home 10 days without pay but when i returned my hrs were cut from full time to partime. My boss says i was not suspended but i missed 10 days of wk no pay. No raise n 3 yrs and still no reason y i was sent home. She did mention i was sent home until the boss invstigated. HELP!

Joe Escalante: If you documented the reporting of the threats, and can demonstrate that no one did anything about it, there may be some liability on your employers part for creating a “hostile environment” or something like that. Consult with a workplace discrimination / wrongful termination attorney to get an idea if you really have a case or not.
At the very least you can file a complaint with the state labor commissioner. You just fill out a form usually, and it probably has boxes to check for the kind of stuff that happened to you. It’s quite common.

Elliott: Joe Escalante Question: If you have already formed an LLC, but want to create a brand name under the LLC with a different name, what would be the best way to do this? Do you have to setup a new separate LLC using the Brand name?

Joe Escalante: The LLC can operate under a few different DBAs. So it would be a the “ELLIOT LLC” Doing Business as “NEW CO.” or somethin’ like that.

Jasmine: Ok I have a question if 2 ppl do the same job and have the exact same qualifications is it legal to pay 1 person a dollar less than the other just bcus the other is bilingual

Joe Escalante: It’s not only legal, it’s a great way to remind the children to pay attention in Spanish class.

Debra: We moved into a neighborhood of folks that have lived her for sometime. The HOA was dissolved back in 99 is what I have learned. The folks on this block are horrible with changes. Were not loud, but our son loves to work on vehicles, nothing that is left outside the garage. They know it is there, car hauler in the drive, they call code enforcement on us or write us letter. One of the oldest we call the Block Warden, he found it necessary to tell everyone around us or ones that chose to speak with us, to not talk to us. I feel like i am back in school with a bunch of snobs.
I have personally spoken to this party and asked him to man up come to our door if we are doing something wrong. Calling code enforcement every time he is unhappy is not being a good neighbor. Never raised my voice, but man I made him jump around like he had ants in his pants. Did not like the fact I knew he called the code enforcement. I could go on and on, but it is all so petty what they do here. I refuse to exist in my backyard, I will live in the front.
Save a long story do we have legal rights to protect ourselves from this harassment. If we are not being a mess, loud, control our children should we not have the right to live in peace.

Joe Escalante: It all depends on what is in the code. If the code is on the books, and has not been determined unconstitutional, the enforcement authorities must enforce it or they might face legal action for lack of enforcement. People get nasty because the home is such a big investment. They all invested in a neighborhood with strong code enforcement. If that breaks down, they lose their equity in their homes (in their opinion), so you are better off moving to a place where people aren’t obsessed with their property values and other perishable things of this world.

Marilyn: Thank you for answering questions Mr. Escalante. I want to become an llc. My husband (to be) helps me out a lot. Is it more advantageous to have him as a co owner, or as an employee?

Joe Escalante: That sounds like a tax question to me. I can’t think of a legal advantage or disadvantage.

Andrea: can you change a living trust yourself without and attorney

Joe Escalante: If you got it through legalzoom it would be super easy, but if not, yes, with the right amount of research, it is doable.

CaliRay: I need to file an “Answer” on a Petition just served regarding foreclosure on my home. I’m in the middle of modification on the loan. Can I find a form on line for the “Answer” in Oklahoma District Court?

Joe Escalante: You could probably find a copy of someone else’s “answer” and copy it to some extent. Or go to the local law library and be nice to the librarian and see if they can’t show you one. Ask to read the local rules as well. It might not be a form. You might have to write “prose” on legal numbered paper, etc.

Carlos: Can anybody take an existing logo, change it enough to make it their own interpretation but hints to the original logo without the company taking legal action against you?

Joe Escalante: If the company feels you are trading off their good name, there is nothing to prevent them from filing an extremely ruinous lawsuit against you for something like this. Be prepared.

Michelle: I am opening a business. Filing corporation what do I put for shareholders if I don’t have any? All of the articles I have seen have a number even though they are owned by one person.

Joe Escalante: If you are in a state that allows 1 person corporations, you are the only shareholder, you own all the stock.

Jackie: How much does an attorney typically charge for a living will?

Joe Escalante: A medical directive? I would charge you $300 per hour. And it would probably take about 3 hours by the time we got all your questions answered and got it all set up. That’s why people use Legalzoom. It’s like $39 or something. Click below:

LegalZoom: Here you go, Jackie:

Robert: If I live with my fiancee in her house and pay the mortgage, can I write off the interest payment although the title and note are in her name?

Joe Escalante: I dont’ know because that is a tax question. You are better off asking a tax pro in your state. Thanks.

LegalZoom: That’s a wrap for Free Joe Friday. Come join us next week for more free legal advice ( and have a great weekend!

ShareShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Sign up for the LegalZoom newsletter!

Written by

June 19th, 2012 at 5:46 am