drowsy person driving car

Unsafe Driving Habits of Teens

Teens on the road can be unsettling to all of us. For those of us with teen drivers in our household, you may very well worry about their own inexperience or questionable driving practices. Alternatively, you may worry about others on the road who are distracted or otherwise not driving safely. For those of us who do not have teen drivers in the house, you may worry about yourself and your own loved ones who may become victims of some of the unsafe driving habits of teens. All of this is simply to say that there are certain driving habits exhibited by a large swath of teen drivers that prove unsafe to them, their passengers, and others on the road. Fortunately, once identified and addressed, these habits can be broken and we can work to keep each other safer.

Unsafe Driving Habits of Teens

The inexperience of teenager drivers is, in and of itself, a safety threat. Inexperience can make for uncertain and anxious teen drivers. Fortunately, the more you practice, the more comfortable behind the wheel you become. In the meantime, help ensure that your teen gets the time needed driving so that they have a significant amount of experience.

Talk to your teen about some of the unsafe driving habits they may fall victim to, or that their peers may fall victim too. For instance, distracted driving is obviously a big and significantly dangerous driving habit of many teens. One of the biggest driving distractions is, of course, texting while driving. Talk to your teen about how to avoid texting while driving. They could appoint a designated texter to handle sending and receiving texts. They could pull over to a safe place to check a text should they be unable to wait to check until arriving at their destination. They could even put their phone in the trunk of the car to avoid the texting temptation while driving. Make a point to also warn against the danger of other distractions, such as eating, drinking, applying making, changing music, fiddling with navigation, and more.

Another dangerous driving habit of teens which is in the same vein as the distracted driving habits mentioned above, is driving with several passengers. It is a tale as old as time, a teen gets their license and access to a vehicle and friends pile in to hitch a ride. Having passengers in a car, however, can be distracting. There will likely be a conversation, maybe even multiple conversations, going on. Distracted driving is dangerous driving. Period. Talk to your teen about managing the number of passengers in their car and making it clear to passengers to be respectful of a driver’s need to focus on the task at hand.

Teens are also very susceptible to drowsy driving. Teens, physiologically speaking, need more sleep than most of us. It is not uncommon for a teen not to get the rest they need and, therefore, they become more likely to drive drowsy. Discuss the importance of sleep with your teen and try to impress upon them the need for being awake and aware while driving.

Personal Injury Attorney

Bad driving habits can mean serious injury for those exhibiting the bad behaviors or for others who fall victim to the bad driving habits of another. If you have been injured by the negligence of another, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of Bryce Cook for assistance. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

A couple filing for divorce.

Changing Your Name After Divorce

A common part of starting over after divorce is for a person, generally, a woman who had taken on the last name of her former husband, to change her name back to her maiden name. While really anyone can have their name changed in Arkansas, there will be some paperwork and multiple steps in the process to make the name change official. Let’s take a look at how to change your name after a divorce in Arkansas.

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Regardless of the reason or event that led to a person seeking a name change, there is always an initial legal step that must be taken as it will result in receiving proof of your new name. The form of that proof will vary depending on when and how your name change is happening. For instance, when you get married, your marriage certificate will act as proof of your name change. Once married, a certified copy of the marriage certificates should be obtained and retained to update official records with a new name.

Anyone can also get a named change, under most circumstances through petitioning a court. Arkansas permits any adult to petition a court to obtain a name change. In order to do so, a name change application form must be completed by providing personal information as well as supplying the reasons why you wish to change your name. You may also need to attend a court hearing should the judge hearing the petition wish for more information. It should be noted that most name changes will be permitted, but not without limitations. Name changes for fraudulent or illegal purposes will not be permitted. Furthermore, you should be aware that changing your name will not allow you to escape a lawsuit, criminal charge, or debt that may be under a previous name. If granted by the court, an order changing your name will be issued and you can use a certified copy of the order to proceed with changing your name on official documents and in official databases.

In regard to divorce, your divorce decree can serve as proof of your name change. Arkansas allows the divorce court to restore a wife’s maiden, or previously held, name. This directive is included in the divorce decree and a certified copy of the divorce decree will be proof of the name change. Interestingly enough, Arkansas state law makes no reference to a husband’s ability to change his name in a divorce.

Once you obtain a certified copy of your divorce decree with a provision for restoring your former name, you will use it as proof to change your name for things such as Social Security and your driver’s license. These are the two essential places to start in the process of changing your name. Your Social Security card and your driver’s license are key pieces of identification and, therefore, should be a priority in changing your name.

Family Law Attorney

Are you considering divorce? Do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Office of Bryce Cook for assistance. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

car accident

Stay Safe on the Roads this Winter

We have already seen some devastating weather patterns this winter in Arkansas. In addition to the wet and icy conditions of winter, there have also been extreme wind patterns and even tornados crashing through the state. With winter still a reality for us for a few more months, it continues to be important to stay vigilant out there on winter roads. There are unique hazards that come in the winter months and preparing for them can help you and everyone else on the road keep safe out there on the roads.

Stay Safe on the Roads this Winter

One of the best things you can do to stay safe on the roads this winter is to prepare your vehicle accordingly. Are your windshield wipers in good condition and fully operational? With visibility already at a minimum when severe winter weather patterns roll through, solid windshield wipers can make all the difference as can other safety features on your car. For instance, you should also check the condition of your tires, preferably snow tires for the winter months. Like visibility, traction can be hard to come by on icy, slippery, and wet winter roads. Having tires with thick, tough tread can help your vehicle maintain traction on the road and help prevent hydroplaning and spinning out. You should also consider keeping tire chains in your vehicle and a bag of sand. If you get stuck in an area of the road or off the road where your tires cannot gain traction and can help. Alternately, you may try using your car’s floor mats to help get you out of such a bind.

In addition to making sure your vehicle and all of its safety features are in tip-top shape, you should also consider keeping an emergency kit in your car. Such a winter emergency kit should include water, food, thermal blankets, flashlights, and other first-aid gear. If you are stuck on winter roads for any reasons, you will find such an emergency kit invaluable.

Avoiding winter roads when the forecast calls for inclement weather can also be the best practice this winter. Sometimes, however, driving is unavoidable. Should you need to go out on the roads in subpar weather, be sure to tell someone else where you are going and how you are getting there. Planning out your route ahead of time can help keep you focused on where you are and where you are going. Furthermore, sharing your route with someone else can make it easier for you to be located should you get stuck along the way and need any assistance.

Personal Injury Attorney

The roads are dangerous enough as is in fairer weather. Let’s all take the precautions we can to keep ourselves and others safe on the roads this winter. If you have been injured in an accident, do not delay in reaching out to the Law Office of Bryce Cook. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

Couple looking over their divorce documents

Mistakes Co-Parents Make Once the Holidays are Over

Yes, the holidays can be a great source of joy and time for family. It can be a time to celebrate and make memories. Let us not forget, however, that the holidays can also be a struggle. Memories of Christmases and holidays past can be a source of joy and sorrow. If you are co-parenting with a former spouse, there are added challenges to the holidays season and it can be a real struggle to not just survive, but to thrive during the holidays. Now that we have passed through another holiday season, we are in a new year, and now is the time to avoid those common mistakes that co-parents fall into once the holidays are over.

Mistakes Co-Parents Make Once the Holidays are Over

Comparison is the thief of happiness. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Co-parents, after the holidays, resist the urge to compare your holidays with the kids to your co-parent’s holidays with the kids. This is far easier said than done. Your kids may be going on about the presents they got and the holiday events they loved going to with the other parent. While we all want our kids to be happy, it can still be difficult to swallow. No one wins, however, when we compare ourselves to a co-parent. It can only lead to feelings of resentment and inadequacy. Neither of which are productive for your relationship with your kids or your co-parent.

You may also be tempted to make disparaging remarks about your co-parent. After all, the difficult emotions of the holidays can make them a worthy-looking scapegoat. You may be tempted to place the blame on them for making the holidays difficult and for either not doing enough for your kids, doing too much for the kids, or not taking you and your feelings into consideration. Whatever the reason you may feel compelled to put down your co-parent, try to resist. Just like comparison, no one wins when you engage in this kind of behavior. It can only work to damage important relationships.

Another mistake co-parents make after the holidays is failing to review the parenting plan and see what did and did not work over the holidays. If after seeing the parenting plan in action over the holidays, something is found lacking or not working, now is the time to seek the advice of an attorney in order to update the parenting plan accordingly. Taking action now can help ease your next holiday season by making your parenting plan more functionally sound. These things can take time and so the sooner you get this done, the better.

Family Law Attorney

The Law Office of Bryce Cook can assist you in seeking a modification of your parenting plan. We are here for you and your family. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

Personal Injury Claim form with pen and glasses

Jury Selection and Your Personal Injury Case

Once you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) for your accident injuries, your attorney is likely to submit a demand letter to the insurance company providing coverage to the person at-fault for causing your accident injuries. The demand letter will detail what happened in the accident itself, your injuries, your medical treatment for your injuries, and how the accident and your injuries impacted your life. The demand letter will also state a proposed settlement amount to the insurance company. This will often be the start of back and forth negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company in the hopes of reaching an acceptable settlement amount that takes into account the full extent of the damages you sustained in the accident. 

Sometimes, an insurance company will accept the initial settlement offer, but more often a settlement will be reached through negotiation. If the insurance company denies your claim entirely or refuses to offer a reasonable settlement amount, your attorney may decide that filing a lawsuit and entering the litigation phase is the best course of action to get you the money you deserve for the harm you have suffered. While there is still some chance that the insurance company and your attorney will reach a settlement prior to trial, there are some instances where a claim will proceed to trial. One of the critical parts of a trial is voir dire, or jury selection. 

Jury Selection and Your Personal Injury Case

Jury selection begins when a pool of potential jurors is pulled from a larger pool of people summoned for jury duty. The judge will begin jury selection by explaining why the potential jurors are there and what the process will look like. Furthermore, the judge will ask if there is any reason any of the jury pool members would be unable to serve. If provided with a valid reason for not being able to serve, the potential juror will be dismissed.

The attorneys for both sides will also have the opportunity to address the jury pool and pose questions to them. These questions are intended to uncover potential biases that jury pool members may harbor. Both the plaintiff and defense are entitled to dismiss a certain amount of jurors that they feel have biases and preferences that may be unfavorable to their client and their cases.

Jury selection can play a pivotal role in a trial. While jurors are supposed to be unbiased in their assessment of the case presented at trial. It is somewhat unavoidable or inevitable for certain personal preferences and personality types to have an impact on what a person thinks of a case being presented. The jury is the group of people that will decide whether or not you have a valid personal injury claim, whether the defendant is responsible for paying out on that claim, and how much should be paid out on your claim. Thus, the significance of jury selection and who ends up on the jury cannot really be understated.

Personal Injury Attorney

The Law Office of Bryce Cook is committed to excellence in every stage of the personal injury claims process. Should your claim go to trial, we will draw on our extensive experience and knowledge to best represent you and fight for your right to full and fair compensation. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

couple going through a divorce

How to Deal with Divorce During the Holidays

Are you heading into your first post-divorce holiday season? Even under the best of circumstances, the holidays can be difficult. It is a reality that, even though the holiday season can be filled with family, fun, and joy, it can also be stressful and emotional. Compound this with having undergone a major family restructuring in the past year and the holidays may be weighing heavily on your shoulders. First, know that you are not alone in feeling this way. Looking at the upcoming calendar with trepidation is completely normal. Second, we are going to go over some tips for you to have a successful post-divorce holidays season.

How to Deal with Divorce During the Holidays

One of the most critical steps you can take towards making your post-divorce holiday season easier and more successful for you and your family is to put a comprehensive, detailed parenting plan for it. Together with your co-parent, you should set forth what the holidays’ schedule will look like as far as who will have the kids when, where the kids will be picked up and dropped off, and more. The sooner this plan is established, the better. Going over the plan and setting everyone’s expectations for the upcoming holidays can be crucial in managing emotions and preparing for the road ahead.

While it may be by no means easy, the better you work with your co-parent on holiday details, the better it can be for everyone, particularly the kids. Talk to your co-parent about presents to make sure there won’t be any overlap in gifts given. Consider setting a reasonable price limit on presents to avoid competing with each other for who is going to give the kids bigger gifts. Cooperation is key and your kids will benefit from it.

You may be feeling sad that the holidays will look so different this year. You may have to forego certain family traditions. Honor these past traditions and look forward to building new ones! This is a great opportunity to establish new holiday traditions that you and your children may come to treasure for years to come.

Last, but certainly not least, is to remember to take care of yourself this holiday season. Make a point to spend time with friends and loved ones. Eat well and get enough sleep. Exercise and remember to set time aside for treasured hobbies that bring you joy. The holidays season can be overwhelming. Do not lose yourself in the chaos. Self-care during this crazy time may be even more important than ever.

Family Law Attorney

Holiday parenting schedules and parenting plans, in general, is an important aspect of the divorce process. If you are considering divorce, talk to The Law Office of Bryce Cook about all of your questions regarding child custody, parenting time, and developing a parenting plan that protects the best interests of your family. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

Woman on the phone discussing her personal injury claim

Pre-existing Conditions And Your Personal Injury Claim

Few among us can say that we have never been injured, ill, or sought medical treatment for these things or some other health condition. The aches and pains of life are far from rare. When you are injured in an accident, however, these things may suddenly get the ominous label of “pre-existing conditions” and all of a sudden the insurance company is using them to either deny your claim or significantly reduce the value of your claim. Can they do that? Can they get away with that? No, insurance companies should not be able to use pre-existing conditions to jeopardize your claim and there are ways you can prevent them, or at least make it difficult for them, to do so.

How Pre-existing Conditions Can Complicate Your Personal Injury Claim

The bottom line is that, regardless of your previous state of health, you are entitled to compensation for the harm you have sustained as a result of an accident caused by the negligence of another. Pursuant to the eggshell doctrine, this remains true even if pre-existing conditions made you more vulnerable to injury in the accident. This doctrine means that you take the plaintiff as you find them. If there was a pre-existing condition that made the claimant more susceptible to injury and, in turn, the claimant sustained an injury that someone else may not have sustained because the claimant was more vulnerable to such an injury, it does not matter. The harm the claimant sustained as a result of the accident is still compensable.

The trouble comes in making it clear to the insurance company that your injuries are either newly caused by the accident or existing conditions were exacerbated or made worse by the accident. Both of these things are compensable in a personal injury claim following the accident. Insurance companies will try to blend pre-existing conditions with injuries you claim to be caused by the accident in an attempt to confuse the situation. In this confusion, the company will hope to get out of paying you what you are actually owed on your claim.

To prevent the insurance company from doing this, it is critical that you be clear with your treating doctors about the symptoms you are experiencing after the accident and how they differ from anything you experienced prior to the accident. After the accident, consider going to see the doctor who treated you for pre-existing conditions and who is familiar with your condition prior to the accident. Talk to this doctor about what you are feeling now, after the accident, and make sure all of this is noted in your medical records. A clear differentiation between your health status before and after the accident will help highlight the damage you have suffered as a result of the accident.

Personal Injury Attorney

The Law Office of Bryce Cook rigorously defends our clients that have been injured in accidents. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

Couple who is about to divorce going through documents

Reasons for Unequal Division of Marital Assets

Laws concerning the division of marital property in a divorce differ between states. Arizona is an equitable distribution state. This means that Arizona law requires an equitable, or fair, division of marital assets. Of course, some couples are able to reach an agreement about how the marital property will be divided or they can reach an agreement with the assistance of an attorney or mediator. Other times, however, a couple cannot reach such an agreement. After all, the division of marital assets is one of the most hotly contested issues in a divorce. When this is the case, a court will decide on a distribution that is deemed fair under the circumstances. Note that the division is intended to be fair and this may not mean equal.

Reasons for Unequal Division of Marital Assets

As Arizona is an equitable distribution state, reasons for an unequal division of marital assets include factors that would make an equal division patently unfair to one or both spouses. In dividing the marital assets, a judge will decide whether a precise 50/50 split of the assets would be fair or whether fairness would necessitate an unequal division based on factors that include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The occupation and earning ability of each spouse
  • The sources of income available to each spouse
  • The employability and vocational skills of each spouse
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The debts and liabilities of each spouse
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage and building marital wealth

While an Arizona judge is empowered to divide the marital assets in an unequal manner, it should be mentioned that a judge who decides on an unequal division, even if it is equitable, must include in the court record the reasons why the unequal division is being ordered.

Prior to dividing the marital assets, however, the court must determine which assets are considered marital. Generally speaking, the marital assets will include most, if not all, assets a couple acquired over the course of the marriage. Otherwise, the property is usually considered to be separate if it was owned prior to marriage. Additionally, inheritances received during the marriage are also generally considered to be separate property. Separate property is not divided in divorce and remains the property of the respective owner spouse.

To further complicate things, it is possible for a spouse to convert separate property into marital property or commingle property. A piece of separate property can be converted to marital property by changing the title of the property to one of joint ownership. Commingling of separate and marital property can occur either intentionally or unintentionally, but it can make it very difficult for a court to determine whether the asset or what part of the asset should be considered separate or marital. A court can decide whether all of the property was commingled and converted into marital property or whether the original owner of the asset should receive reimbursement for the asset in whole or part.

Family Law Attorney

Division of the marital assets is a critical issue incident to a divorce. If you have questions about the process or how best to protect your interests throughout the divorce, the dedicated team at the Law Office of Bryce Cook is here for you. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

older couple planning a divorce

Considerations for Divorcing Before Retirement

The number of couples divorcing later in life has reached an all-time high in recent years. Sometimes referred to as “gray divorces,” it is now fairly common for couples to nearer to retirement to divorce. This can be due to a number of reasons. For instance, maybe the kids have grown up and they are officially empty-nesters who realize that kids were the only things they had in common. Whatever the reason, there are special considerations those who are getting divorced later in life, closer to retirement, should take into account beforehand. Such considerations can be critical in planning for financial security in retirement years.

Considerations for Divorcing Before Retirement

As you near retirement years, you have often reached or surpassed your peak earning years and your earning years are dwindling. Because you have fewer years to work prior to your goal retirement age, you have less time to recover from any financial setbacks you may have experienced because of divorce. Divorce, after all, can have significant financial implications for a person. You may be used to a two-income household where you share expenses with your spouse. After divorce, you may now be shouldering all household expenses with just your own income. This all comes on top of the costs associated with getting divorced as well.

There is also the division of the marital debts and assets that can pose financial challenges and setbacks for a person. That is why the division of the marital debts and assets should be approached with such care during the divorce process. This may be especially true if you are nearing retirement age. For example, evaluate things such as whether a certain asset may end up turning into a liability. Do you really want the marital home? Think about the cost of upkeep, the mortgage payment, insurance costs, etc. If these are things you cannot budget for accordingly, it may be best to let your spouse assume this asset or sell the house and divide the proceeds from the sale. It should also be noted that retirement accounts can be considered marital assets and, thus, subject to division during divorce.

You should take a good hard look at your finances and plan for your financial future. You may be faced with some difficult decisions such as whether or not you should put off retiring past your original goal date. You may have to reevaluate your budget and tighten up on expenses to make the original goal date workable. 

Family Law Attorney

Divorce does not have to mean financial trouble for those nearing retirement age. There are ways to plan and recover from any setbacks. The help of trusted legal counsel can go a long way to helping you protect your best interests and securing your financial interests. Look no further than talking with the dedicated family law team at The Law Office of Bryce Cook about your options. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.

constitutional violations

The Role of Constitutional Violations in a Defense

The U.S. Constitution provides foundational rights for all Americans. These rights remain intact for those suspected of criminal activity and for those facing criminal charges. If your rights have been violated during any step that led to you being charged with a crime, then there may be certain remedies available or made available to you as a result. This is one of the big reasons that you should always be mindful of your interactions with law enforcement. You may be overwhelmed, emotional, and distracted by what is going on, but try to keep a cool head. Write down details of your interactions as soon as possible. Any constitutional violations can play a key role in your defense strategy down the road.

The Role of Constitutional Violations in a Defense

There are several ways your constitutional rights may have been violated during your interactions with the criminal justice system and law enforcement. For instance, have you heard of Miranda rights? You may be familiar with them from crime dramas on TV or in the movies. Your Miranda warnings must be provided to you by law enforcement when you are under arrest. The rights laid out in Miranda warnings come from the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment grants the right to self-incrimination. The Sixth Amendment grants the right to legal counsel. A failure to be informed of your right to counsel or of your right to remain silent can play a critical role in your defense when faced with criminal charges.

If you were not provided with your Miranda warnings by law enforcement at your time of arrest, any admissions, or statements you made after you were arrested could be found inadmissible in court. Depending on how much the prosecution is planning to rely on such admissions at trial, having them thrown out could be devastating to their case. As a result, you may be offered a more favorable plea deal. Your charges may be dropped altogether. All of this will, of course, hinge on things like other evidence available in the case, the negotiating technique of your attorney, and many other factors.

Another constitutional violation that can play a major role in a criminal defense strategy is the right against unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, including law enforcement. In order to have a legal basis for the search and seizure of property, law enforcement must have probable cause for the search or a warrant. If the search is found to be unlawful, any evidence obtained as a result of the unlawful search could very well be deemed inadmissible at trial. As with the Miranda violations leading to statements being tossed out, evidence being deemed inadmissible can sometimes prove crippling to the prosecution’s case resulting in better plea deals, charges being dropped, or a not guilty verdict at trial.

Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges? Do not delay in reaching out to The Law Office of Bryce Cook. Contact the Law Offices of Bryce Cook today.