A. Questions About the Firm
1) Does the law firm charge a fee for initial consultations?
Initial consultations are free up to one (1) hour, excluding family law cases. There is no time limit for personal injury actions. There is a minimum fee of $200.00 for any legal document review (example: Divorce Decrees, Wills, Trusts, Contracts, etc.)
2) Are payment plans available through the law firm?
Answer: The firm may agree – in special circumstances- to a payment plan. This is decided case-by-case and is based on individual situations.
3) Is the law firm open after hours?
Answer: The law firm is open after hours and on weekends by appointment only. In most cases, after hours appointments may be charged at a higher hourly rate.
4) How do I reach the law firm on the evenings or weekends?
Answer: Evening and weekend contact is a privilege only made available to current clients. Inital contact must be made during working hours. However, in emergency situations, you may leave a message or send an e-mail. If the situation warrants, you will be contacted immediately after the message is received.
5) Are credit cards accepted for payment of legal fees?
Answer: No. However, cash-advance checks from your credit card company are accepted.
6) I do not have any cash available, but I have property. Will you accept property as a payment for attorney fees?
Answer: In some limited situations, the law firm will accept property as a payment for attorney fees. This is decided on a case-by-case basis.
7) I do not have ANY way of hiring an attorney. What should I do?
Answer: Call the law firm to discuss your situation. In special cases, Christian M. Zeaman, P.C. may provide legal services free of charge (pro bono).
B. Legal Questions
a) My spouse has hired an attorney and wants me to settle out of court. Do I need an attorney?
Answer: An attorney only has a fiduciary duty to one party – the party that hired the attorney. Therefore, understand that your spouse’s attorney does not owe you any duty and is not required to protect ANY of your rights or interests. Yes, if you want your rights and interests protected, you need to hire an attorney who will represent you.
b) My spouse and I are thinking about handling our own divorce without hiring lawyers. Can this be done?
Answer: Yes, but it is not advised. Though some divorces seem easy on the surface, most of the time they are not. Hundreds of things that can be added, omitted or misworded can have severe consequences in the future, ranging from tax liability to loss of retirement benefits. Once a final Decree granting a divorce is filed, some things can NEVER be modified. Also the chance exists that, unbeknownst to you, your spouse will have a “ghost attorney” helping him/her with drafting the divorce/property settlement. At a minimum, legal papers (i.e., custody agreements, property settlements) should be reviewed by an attorney who represents your interests.
c. My spouse and I are thinking of separating. Should I move out of the house?
Answer: No. In most situations, moving out of the house may place you in a weaker position when it comes to temporary possession of the marital home. Many judges like to keep the status quo. However, if there is violence or danger of any form, move out immediately and contact the local authorities. This action should not hurt your ability to request temporary possession of the marital home.
d. I have full custody of my child and I want to move out of the State of Oklahoma. Are there any requirements before I move?
Answer: Absolutely. Title 43 O.S. Section 112.3 requires you to provide special notice pursuant to the statute. This notice has several requirements and has time restrictions. Failure to follow these restrictions could result in you not being able to relocate the child, or worse, could result in loss of custody. Please call the firm so that this can be discussed with you.
e. My divorce decree states that my spouse is responsible for a specific debt that we had in both of our names while we are married. However, my name is still on the loan/debt and it is effecting my credit. How do I get my name off the debt?
Answer: It is not an easy task. The company the loan is through was not a party to your divorce action. Therefore, the Judge cannot order the company to take your name off the loan – even if your spouse is supposed to be fully responsible for them. Unfortunately, this matter should have been addressed in your Decree before it was finalized. However, depending on the language of your Decree, you may have a few options in getting this problem solved. Please contact the law firm of Christian M. Zeaman to schedule a consultation so that your Decree can be reviewed. On another note, it is important to hire a firm that knows how to protect this from occuring prior to the finalization of the Decree.
2 Criminal Law
a. The police are at my door and want to search my house. Should I consent to the search?
Answer: Absolutely not. The police may have no right to even be at your door step. However, if you consent to a search, you will be waiving your constitutional rights and will lose your ability to effectively suppress anything they retrieve from your home. Simply inform the police that you do not consent to a search. If they ask you why, simply inform them that you are excercising your constitutional rights. If the police have the right to search your house, they will present or return with a search warrant.
b. The police are wanting to ask me questions about something I did? Should I talk to them?
Answer: Absolutely not. Call an attorney immediately. Do not say yes, no or remain silent to a specific question. Merely state that you want an attorney present before anwering any questions. Repeat this request over and over and over and over, regardless of any promises, threats or types of persuasion the police may use.
c. If I get pulled over for suspicion of DUI, should I take the breathylyzer test?
Answer: Depends. If you feel certain that you are not intoxicated (i.e. are feeling ZERO effects from your previous alcohol use), take the test. However, if you have consumed a lot of alcohol or know that your alcohol consumption has impaired your ability to drive, you may want to refuse all tests. This makes it is impossible to prove your blood alcohol was over .15 (which could be charged as a felony regardless of whether it’s your first offense). ALSO, ALWAYS REFUSE TO TAKE THE FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS. These are the test where the officer will ask you to stand on one leg or walk in a straight line. These tests are unfair and subjective. If asked to do one, state that you would like to talk to an attorney and then respectfully refuse to take the test. Also, NEVER admit to drinking alcohol. If the officer asks, just tell him you would like to speak to your attorney and then respectfully refuse to answer the question if it is asked again.
d. I have been arrested and want to keep the charges off my record so that they will not hurt me with my employment. Is this possible?
Answer: Absolutely. The law firm of Christian M. Zeaman, P.C. has kept criminal charges off of hundreds of client’s records. This can be achieved through dismissal, acquittal or even a special plea agreement. Please contact us so we can discuss whether such would be possible for you.
e. I am on probation for a deferred sentence and my old attorney told me that I can still possess my firearm since I have not been convicted. Is this true?
Answer: Not true. You cannot possess any firearm during your probationary period of your deferred sentence. Though you have not been convicted, you could still be charged with possession of a firearm after former conviction because the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that during your probation period, you are deemed convicted for the purposes of firearm possession.
3. Personal Injury
a. I was just in a car accident. What should I do?
Answer: Call 911. Make sure the police are called to the scene, even if it is fender bender. If you are hurt, be careful to move from your car unless staying in the vehicle could put you in further danger. Take photographs of the entire scene with a disposable camera or even your camera phone. Take as many as you can. Record the person who hit you if you have a recorder. Make sure you inform medical personell and the officers about your injury and specify EVERY place you feel pain. Do this again at the emergency room and at your doctor’s office. If you do not, the insurance company WILL use it against you. Call us immediately. We can meet with you AND get you to a health care facility that will see you immediately.
b. What type of automobile coverages should I have in order to protect myself?
Answer: In short, you should carry as much as you can afford. However, the most important coverage is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. What this coverage does it provides you with the ability to receive a settlement for your medical bills, future medical bills, disfigurement, injury, lost wages AND your pain and suffering should you be injured in an automobile accident caused by an uninsured driver or someone who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages. Otherwise, if someone without insurance were to hit you, and they were at fault, you would receive NOTHING for your injuries! Call your insurance carrier today and add this coverage immediately.
4. Civil Law
a. I have just been served a Summons and Petition. What should I do?
Answer: Oklahoma law requires you to file a pleading called an Answer within 20 days of the date you received the Summons and Petition. If you do not, the person sueing you will win the case by default. You do have the ability to file an “Entry of Appearance and Reservation of Time to Answer” which will extend your filing date by 20 days. However, you should immediately contact an attorney before taking any type of action.
b. I own my own business and make agreements, purchases, transactions, and deals every day. Do I really need an attorney?
Answer: Yes. An attorney can draft a contract for any agreement, purchase, transaction, or deal your business is pursuing. In contracts, the cost to have an attorney review or do the drafting is a fraction when compared to the costs of litigation if a breach occurs. Even worse, the absence of a solid contract may prohibit you from pursuing the person/entity in breach (i.e., the party in the wrong may get away with it).
c. People, including other attorneys, family, and friends have informed me that I do not have a case for the injuries I have sustained. Should I call your firm anyways?
Answer: Yes. People, including attorneys, are wrong from time to time. Also, certain situations exist when you can receive a recovery from a person or entity that you (or your previous advisors) did not consider or know about. The old saying “nothing in life is free” is incorrect. The call and consultation with the law firm of Christian M. Zeaman, P.C. is FREE!