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Law Office of Elliot S. Isaac, P.C.
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In my 26 years of practicing law, these are some of the most common questions that I have been asked. But please understand that every case has its own unique set of facts, and each case needs to be assessed based on those facts. After you read these FAQs you may think you have a great case, a good case, a mediocre case, or no case at all. However, after you review the case with an attorney, you may come to a different conclusion. That is why I believe so strongly in a free initial consultation.

General Questions

Q: What do you charge for an initial consultation.

A: Nothing. I pride myself on having a free initial consultation.

Q: Do you provide consultations by phone?

A: Yes. But after our phone consultation, if you are interested in hiring me, I would ask that you come in to meet me in person. The meeting in person is free as well, and you are under no obligation at all to hire me. If you can't come in for an office meeting, we can use skype or facetime to meet. I think it is important for you to see me, and for me to see you.

Q: What are your rates, if I hire you.

A: It depends on the particular case, and the particular stage of the case. For some cases I may charge a pure hourly rate; for others, I may ask for a lesser hourly rate and a percentage of any recovery; for other cases I may ask for a flat fee and a percentage of any recovery; and for some I may ask only for a percentage of any recovery. I would be happy to discuss the different options that I offer.

Employment Law

Q: Can you give me a general introduction to employment law in Arizona?

A: We live in a state where your employment is generally terminable at will. That means the company can fire you for many reasons, and you can quit whenever you want - with certain very important exceptions. For example, the company usually cannot fire you, or treat you differently, because of your race, religion, sex, pregnancy status, gender, national origin, age (over the age of 40), disability status, or family and medical leave status.

Under state law, for example, you can't be fired because you file a worker's compensation claim, because you serve on a jury, or because you report conduct to the company that you reasonably believe violates the law.

Employees with employment contracts, employees in unions, and employees who hold government jobs often have additional protections.

Q: Can I be fired for medical reasons?

A: Under some circumstances, you may be legally protected from termination. You may have protection if your medical reason is based on a work-related injury or if you qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also, if you have a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may be entitled to intermittent leave.

Q: Can my employer prevent me from working for a competing company, or contacting clients after my employment ends.

A: Sometimes. A covenant not to compete says that you can't work in your chosen field. For such a covenant not to compete to be enforceable under Arizona law, the agreement must be reasonable as to duration (length), geographic scope (e.g., Maricopa County), and scope of restricted activity (e.g., you can't sell a certain type of product). An anti-solicitation provision says that you can't go after the company's clients, and such an agreement, too, requires us to look at the "reasonableness" of the provision. It is better to get these types of documents reviewed before you sign them and start working, but, if that is not feasible, you should have the agreement reviewed before you leave the company or shortly after you leave the company

Q: Does the company have to provide me with a reason for my firing? What if I am doing my job very well?

A: Generally, no. There is no statute or law which requires that the company provide an explanation. Even if you are doing a good job, the company can fire you, except if you fall into one of the exceptions to employment being terminable at will that is discussed above (e.g., race, religion, sex, gender, age, reporting unlawful conduct, etc.). However, most companies will provide some explanation. Keep a written record of the reason the company claims for firing you, as that can be very helpful.

Q: I reported wrongful conduct to the Company and they fired me. Is that allowed?

A: It depends on the type of conduct you report. If you report conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful, the company may not be able to fire you for that reason and you may have a legal claim against your former employer.

Q; I think I am about to be fired. What should I do?

A: You should speak to an attorney, if possible. If not, be polite and respectful and take notes of your exit interview or termination meeting.

Q: I was just fired. When does the company have to pay me my final paycheck? What if they don't pay me?

A: Within seven working days of your firing or by the next regular pay period, whichever is sooner. If the company does not pay you, you may have a claim for three (3) times the amount you are owed.

Q: Am I entitled to be paid my unused vacation time after I am fired?

A: In many situations you may entitled to that money. But beware that sometimes a company will have a "use it or lose it policy" with regard to paying vacation pay.

Q: I work more than 40 hours per week. Should I be entitled to overtime?

A: That depends on whether you are "exempt" from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act or not. Often managers, office administrators, and highly compensated employees are exempt, and thus not entitled to be paid overtime. But many people are not exempt and thus should be paid time and one-half for all overtime hours. Please note that the rules to determine whether you are entitled to overtime can be somewhat complicated.

Q: Am I entitled to a copy of my employee file when I leave the company?

A: Generally, no. Your employment file usually belongs to the Company.

Q: Can a company just change my pay when it wants?

A: Generally, a company can change your pay on a going forward basis, unless you have a written agreement which says otherwise. The company typically cannot change your pay for work that you have already done.

Q: What is a severance agreement? Should I have an attorney review my severance agreement?

A: These agreements are usually presented to you when your employment ends, and they generally call for you to give up any claims that you have against the company in exchange for a payment of money. Sometimes the agreements say that you can't work for a competing company for a period of time or they say you can't contact company clients. This could make it difficult for you to get a new job. Thus, if feasible, you should always have an attorney review the document before you sign it.

Q: Can you help me negotiate a severance agreement with my prior employer?

A: Yes. I believe in some situations a severance agreement is a reasonable and cost-effective way to resolve employment law disputes.

Family Law

Q: Do you charge for an initial consultation?

A: Absolutely not. I pride myself on providing a free initial consultation.

Q: Can you give me an introduction to divorce law in Arizona.

A: We live in a state with no-fault divorce. This means that if you want a divorce, you can have one, and the issue of why you want a divorce will not come up. If you entered into what is called a covenant marriage, the above does not apply. But most people do not have such marriages and can divorce for whatever reason they choose.

The Court has to determine who makes major life decisions for the minor children (legal decision making), how much time the children spend with one spouse or the other (parenting time), and how much one spouse may have to pay the other spouse to care for the children (child support).

The Court also has to determine how to divide up the community property and community debts. These are assets and debts that you acquired while you were married until the date the community ends (when you file for divorce and serve the other party with the divorce papers). For example, you may have purchased a car or incurred credit card debt. This needs to be apportioned, usually in equal amounts.

The Court then has to determine if either spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance or alimony. The Court must determine if either party cannot meet his or her reasonable needs, so that one spouse must pay maintenance to the other spouse for a period of time.

Finally, the Court will look at the issue of attorneys' fees, and determine whether one spouse should pay the attorneys' fees of another spouse. This determination is usually based on the financial resources of the parties and how reasonable the parties have been during the case.

Q: What is community property and community debt?

A: Generally, after you get married, all the property that you acquire is considered community property, with certain exceptions, like property that you inherit. Property can mean simple items like a chair or a desk, or it can mean retirement money and pensions, or a business that is started when the parties are married. Community debt is generally a debt you acquire while married.

Q: What if I don't want an attorney, or don't need an attorney, or can't afford one? Can you help me make sure the paperwork that I prepare is in proper form?

A: Of course - I would be glad to help. This is called "unbundled legal services," and I have been providing these types of services for many years. It is always better to officially have an attorney represent you but I understand that sometimes that is not always feasible. I can work with you to make sure your paperwork is prepared in a professional manner.

Q: My spouse has a lot of money and has hired an attorney. I don't have a lot of money. Is it fair for him to have legal representation but I can't afford it?

A: The Courts will allow you to file for a temporary order (see next FAQ) to request that your spouse pay all or a portion of your attorneys' fees.

Q: What are temporary orders?

A: These are orders issued by the Court after the case has begun but before the case is over. The Court may order a party to pay temporary child support or maintenance (alimony) or attorneys' fees, or make other types of orders to maintain things until the case is finally over.

Q: Does the Judge or Court have to make the rulings or can we settle the case on our own?

A: Not only can you settle the case yourself and reach an agreement with the other party, but that is common and usually recommended by the Court and the attorneys. Remember that any settlement will have to be approved by the Court.

Q: What is mediation?

A: That is when you and the other party meet with a mediator, usually an attorney or former judge, and you try to resolve your dispute then and there. Even if you do not resolve the entire case, you can sometimes resolve many of the issues and not need the judge to make those decisions for you.

Q: What is a paternity case?

A: This is when the parties have a child but are not married. The Court does not make any rulings about property, debts or spousal maintenance. But the Court will make rulings on legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, attorneys' fees, and child birth expenses.

Q: When will I be technically and officially divorced?

A: When the Judge signs a document called a Decree of Dissolution. The Decree says that you are now divorced and that you are now a single person.

Q: How can I be sure that I will receive child support?

A: Usually the Court will issue an order of assignment, which requires that the other parent's employer withhold the money from that parent's paycheck to ensure that child support is paid.

Q: Do we have to keep track of child support payments ourselves?

A: Generally no. Child support payments are typically made to an organization called the "Clearinghouse" which keeps track of payments. The Clearinghouse then sends the child support payments to you.

Q: What if I am owed money, say child support or spousal maintenance, and the other party is not paying me?

A: You can file a request to enforce any child support or spousal maintenance order.

Q: What is a prenuptial agreement? Are they enforceable?

A: A prenuptial agreement is an agreement made before marriage, which usually sets forth how the parties will divide property and how they will deal with spousal maintenance issues in case there is a divorce. They can be enforceable but usually require that there is full and fair disclosure and that both parties are represented by an attorney.

Q: I have a parenting time agreement that I think should be changed. I have an order regarding legal decision making that I want to change. I have a child support order that I want to change. Can the orders be changed?

A: If you can show that there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances and that your proposed change to the existing order would be good for the children, you can file a request with the Court to change your orders. For example, if the children get older, or if one parent makes a lot more money, it might make sense for one parent to have more (or less) parenting time, or for one parent to pay more (or less) child support.

Q: When does child support end?

A: Usually when the child turns 18 or, if the child is in high school, when the child is 19 and graduates from high school.

Other Areas of the Practice

Q: What other areas of the law do you practice in?

A: I have a strong background in many areas of litigation, including business litigation, and breach of contract case. If you have an agreement with someone who is not doing what he is supposed to do, I can usually help.

Q: What if I need an attorney but you don't practice in that area?

A: I have a wide network of other attorneys who practice in other areas of the law, and I would be happy to provide you with a referral. I do not charge any referral fee. So if you need referrals for real estate law or personal injury or any other areas, feel free to call me.

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