Tennessee Makes Family Court Forms Available Online

The State of Tennessee now has family court forms available online at http://www.tncourts.gov/help-center/court-approved-divorce-forms.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Easy is it to Understand your Plain Language Form

An early step in the evaluation of your forms should be to calculate the readability based upon the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests.  Wikipedia has an excellent article on the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests.

But how do you calculate these numbers?  Microsoft Word can calculate these values for you automatically.  The analysis occurs when you review a document for spelling and grammar mistakes.  At the conclusion of the analysis, you are given the Flesch-Kincaid grade level and the Flesch reading ease score.

In Word 2002, you click on “Tools”, “Option” and then the “Spelling and Grammar” tab.  Under the “Grammar” section, check “Show Readability Statistics”.  In Word 2007, select the “Review” tab on the main ribbon, then click “Spelling and Grammar”.  In the pop-up box select “Options” on the lower left of the dialog box.  In the dialog box that appears next, click “Show readability statistics” under “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word”.

Once you have indicated that you want readability statistics, you must then review your document for spelling and grammar.  At the conclusion of the spelling and grammar check, a dialog box will appear which gives you the readability statistics.

 You are aiming for a sixth grade reading level.  And just because you have attained a sixth grade reading level doesn’t automatically make your form clear and concise.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reader Enabled Forms – Read the EULA

Adobe allows forms creators to “enable” certain features in Adobe Reader that would otherwise not be available to users of the free Adobe Reader product.  The most common and most important of these features is the ability to save information that has been entered on a form by someone using Adobe Reader.

This appears to be a great feature to all of us in the forms creation field.  But before you get too excited, you should read the fine print in the Adobe End User License Agreement.  Paragraph 16.8.3 of the EULA states in part:

“For any unique Extended Document you may only either (a) Deploy such Extended Document to an unlimited number of unique recipients but shall not extract information from more than five hundred (500) unique instances of such Extended Document or any hardcopy representation of such Extended Document containing filled form field; or (b) Deploy such Extended Document to no more than five hundred (500) unique recipients without limits on the number of times you may extract information from such Extended Document returned to you filled in by such recipients.”

Paragraph states that you  deploy a document when you “. . . deliver or otherwise make available, directly or indirectly by any means including but not limited to a network or Internet, an Extended Document to one or more recipients.”

Confused?  Simply, you can send out an unlimited number of enabled documents so long as you don’t receive more than 500 responses.  Or you can send out less than 500 enabled documents from which you may receive an unlimited number of responses.

How does this effect someone that is creating a reader enabled court form?  It depends who is deploying the form.  If the court is deploying the form, then they may allow an unlimited number of downloads of the form, but they can only collect information from 500 responses.  The owner of the product used to create the form (Adobe Acrobat Pro) is the same entity that is collecting the information.  This is pretty much an unworkable solution.

Part (b) of Paragraph 16.8.3 doesn’t improve the situation because it would apply to no more than 500 downloads of the same document.  Once again this could not be used.

So what is the solution?  Adobe sells a right managements product called Adobe Livecycle ES that is now called the Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform.  Using this product, you can reader enable your forms for an unlimited amount of downloads and an unlimited amount of submissions.  Using this product, you can also do several other things that would be very helpful such as the ability to enter the information in to a bar code placed on the printed form.  The downside is cost.

What about distribution of reader enabled forms by third parties?  For example, can I reader enable the forms on this site without violating the EULA?  I believe I can.  Assuming that there would be more than 500 copies of a form downloaded, part (a) of Paragraph 16.8.3 would apply.  However, I am not extracting any information whatsoever from the completed versions of the forms.  The people who might complete these forms would be submitting them to the appropriate court.

Additionally, an organization providing legal services to individuals who are unable to afford attorneys could reader enable forms and place them on their website without violating the EULA.

Based on my analysis of the EULA, I have reader enabled the forms on this site.  If you operate a court site and you have reader enabled forms without the appropriate licensing, you should amend your site to include only forms that have not been reader enabled.   If you do not remove the reader enabled forms, you are violating the EULA.

Do you agree with this analysis?

Posted in Adobe Acrobat Pro, Adobe Reader, Distribution of Forms, PDF Forms | Leave a comment

Paternity Issues in Dissolution of Marriage Cases

The purpose of a paternity proceeding is to establish the legal father of a child.  As part of that paternity proceeding, a court may also address issues of custody and support.  The legal father of a child has all of the rights and responsibilities that are associated with the father/child relationship.

A legal father may be established by other methods.  A man who adopts a child becomes the legal father of that child.  If a man and woman sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity of a child, the man becomes the legal father of the child.  Section 210.823, RSMo.  An administrative action filed by Family Support Division might also establish that a man is the legal father of a child if genetic testing indicated that the man was the father of the child.  A proceeding based on UIFSA pursuant to Section 454.983, RSMo may also establish paternity.  Fry v. Fry, 108 SW3d 132 (SD,2003).

Confusion sometimes occurs because of the different meanings associated with the word “father”. 

Biological fathers are those men who share genetic material with a child.  A DNA test would almost always establish the biological father of a child.  Sometimes biological fathers are also referred to as natural fathers.

Presumed fathers are defined by statute.  Generally, a presumed father is a man who was married to a woman at the time of the birth of her child or who was married to her within 300 days prior to the birth of her child.  Section 210.822, RSMo.

Stepfathers are men who are married to woman who have children that do not have the stepfather as a legal, presumed or biological father.  Stepfathers owe a secondary duty of support for the children during their marriage to the mother.  Section 453.400, RSMo.

Paternity issues often arise in dissolution of marriage proceedings.  These issues must be resolved before the dissolution of marriage can be granted.  Piel v. Piel, 918 SW2d 373 (ED, 1996)

In the past, an additional count was usually added to the dissolution of marriage proceeding raising the paternity issues.  In August, 2009, the law relating to the confidentiality of records in family court matters went into effect.  Dissolution of marriage proceedings were required to be open to the public, and paternity proceeding were required to be closed to the public.  Both types of cases could not exist in the same file.

On January 1, 2010, Missouri Supreme Court Operating Rule 4.05(3) became effective , and required that dissolution of marriage and paternity cases be filed separately and have separate cause numbers.  St. Louis County and other jurisdictions enacted local rules that allowed separate paternity proceedings to be filed without paying an additional filing fee.

Paternity issues arise in dissolution of marriage proceedings much more frequently today.  They present special problems for pro se litigants.  I have prepared an interactive worksheet to help correctly address these issues.  To use this form, you must view it using Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat.

Dissolution Paternity Flowchart

Posted in Paternity | Leave a comment