Frequently Asked Questions

Immigration Supervisor, Viven Chiu, answers a member’s question about their immigration matter.

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General

Are there any charges for the services of a Legal Fund attorney?
No. If you are a covered member or dependant, and the matter is covered, you never pay for a lawyer’s services. We may even help you pay some Court costs.
Does the legal services benefit cover court and agency filing fees?
Your legal benefit provides you with assistance in paying court costs, case related costs, and immigration filing fees. The member pays only the first $500 plus one-half of any covered case-related fees up to payment by the Legal Fund of $6000. For Citizenship, Relative Petition or Adjustment of Status applications, you are required to pay a $100 deductible. After the $100 deductible is met the Legal Fund will pay 50% of any fees above $100 up to $6,000.
If I live outside of New York City and New Jersey can I use the legal services benefit?
You are covered for services described in the Summary Plan Description (“SPD”) in New York, New Jersey, or the state where you live.
I currently have an attorney I hired myself helping me on my case. Can I switch and use a legal fund attorney?
Unfortunately, no. The Legal Fund cannot represent you in a case or transaction where you already have an attorney.
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Immigration

What are the benefits of becoming a US citizen?
  • Right to vote;
  • Having a U.S. passport;
  • Green cards must be renewed every ten years;
  • Petitioning for relatives. U.S. citizens may petition their siblings, parents and married sons and daughters while green card holders cannot petition these relatives;
  • Not subject to Deportation. U.S. citizens cannot be deported, while green card holders may be deported for various reasons
Who can US citizens obtain green cards for?
Spouse, unmarried child under 21, unmarried son/daughter 21 or older, married son/daughter, sibling, parent
Who can green card holders obtain green cards for?
Spouse, unmarried child under 21, unmarried son/daughter 21 or older
Will someone help me prepare for the naturalization test?
Yes, both the Legal Fund staff as well as courses in the Shortman Training Fund will help you prepare for the test.
What if I cannot meet the English requirement for naturalization?
There are 3 situations where you do not have to take the English test:
  1. If you are over 50 years old and have lived in the US as a green card holder for 20 years, you do not have to take the English test;
  2. If you are over 55 years old and have lived in the US as a green card holder for 15 years, you do not have to take the English test;
  3. If you are over 65 years old and have lived in the US as a green card holder for 20 years, you do not have to take the English test, and you take a simpler version of the civics test in your own language.
The Legal Fund can help you determine if you meet these requirements.
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Family

How is my child support obligation calculated?
Child Support is generally calculated by multiplying the income you earn from all sources by a percentage fixed by law: For 1 child it is 17%; 2 children, 25%; 3 children, 29% and so on.
Where do my child support payments go?
Most people have their child support payments automatically deducted from their paychecks. On occasion you may be permitted to make payment directly to the custodial parent, but you must keep copies of your checks or money orders.
What is the procedure for determining paternity?
In general, when a child is born to two people who are not married to each other, to determine paternity there must either be a “Consent” signed by the biological father or a Court Order identifying the father. Sometimes a blood test is needed.
What happens at a custody hearing?
A Family Court Judge or Referee decides custody cases based on what is in the “best interest” of the child after an investigation and report from various people. Once all reports are received the Court will make an award of custody to one parent and grant visitation to the other parent.
What do I need to do to adopt a child?
Various documents are requested from the adoptive parent(s) and consent from the biological parents giving up their rights to the child. After all documents and reports are received the Court will make a decision.
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Matrimonial

Do I have to go to court to obtain a divorce?
If both parties agree they can sign a settlement agreement to an uncontested divorce. Otherwise, both parties will be required to appear in court.
How long will it take for me to obtain a divorce?
It is not possible to tell you how long it will take to obtain a divorce in your particular matter. The time varies according to the county where your case is brought, the facts of the case and whether the case is contested or uncontested.
Am I required to report the income I earn from side jobs and tips in my matrimonial action?
Yes, all income earned, regardless of the source, whether paid in cash or by check, must be reported. Your entire annual income is used in calculating any child support and/or spousal support obligations you may have.
How long do I have to wait before I can remarry?
You are able to remarry immediately after your Judgment of Divorce has been entered in the Office of the Clerk of the County where the divorce is granted.
Do I have to pay child support even if my spouse doesn't ask me to pay anything?
Yes. The law requires that some child support must be paid in all cases. The amount of support required to be paid depends upon the number of children involved and the income of the parents (17% of income for 1 child, 25% for 2, 29% for 3, and so on).
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Civil/Property

Can debts be settled?
When a person is sued they should call an attorney right away. Never ignore court papers. The Fund will help protect you against improper garnishment, etc.
Why do I need a Will?
Everyone should have a Will. A Will protects your family in case something happens to you by making it clear who will receive your money or property. The Legal Fund will prepare a simple will for you and your spouse at no cost to you.
How can I file for bankruptcy?
If the bills you owe are more than the money you have, call us to go over your situation to see if you can file for bankruptcy.
How do I buy a house or condominium?
After you find a home you want to buy, do not sign anything. Call us and we will look at all the papers. We will be with you through the whole process, including the “closing” or final purchase of your home.
What is a health care proxy?
A Health Care Proxy is a legal form that a lawyer can prepare which helps a person and his or her family by appointing someone, usually a trusted relative or friend, to make medical decisions for them if they unable to make their own decisions because of illness. The Legal Fund will prepare a Health Care Proxy for you at no cost to you.
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Criminal

What should I do if I am arrested?
You should not resist arrest. Do not speak to the police without first speaking to a lawyer. Either call us or have a family member contact us immediately. You do have to give your correct name and date of birth.
When will the police read me my rights?
The police must advise you of your “Miranda Rights”, the right to remain silent and to have an attorney.

If you are under investigation for a criminal offense, you can tell the police, “I would like to speak to a lawyer” Once informed that you have the right to remain silent, no negative inference can be drawn from your exercise of that right.
Can the police ever search my home without a warrant?
Yes, if you agree to a search. Also, the police are permitted to search your home without a warrant if:
  • They have a reason to believe someone's life is in danger,
  • A suspect is about to escape,
  • Someone might destroy the evidence (flush illegal drugs down the toilet, for example).
What constitutes "drunk driving"?
Drunk Driving occurs when a person is driving an automobile, after consuming alcoholic beverages to the extent that their ability to drive a motor vehicle is impaired. If your blood alcohol content exceeds the “legal limit” of 0.08%, you can be charged and convicted even if you do not feel that you are in any way affected by the alcohol you consumed. You could also lose your car.
What happens to my automobile insurance?
Typically, your rates will be increased significantly. While this will vary from state to state, depending upon state regulation and the policies of your insurance company.
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The above is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended as legal advice. Every case is different, based upon the facts and law which apply. For legal advice that applies to your situation, you must call the Legal Fund at (212) 388-3499 and speak to a legal representative

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