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English (United States)
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

   GENERAL QUESTIONS

 

Who is covered for benefits under my legal services plan?

Eligibility for benefits depends upon the collective bargaining or participation agreement that covers you. If your agreement provides for your participation in either the Building Service 32BJ Legal Services Fund ("Legal Services Fund") or the 32BJ North Legal Services Plan ("North Legal Services Fund"), you and your eligible dependents are eligible for Plan benefits after you complete the applicable waiting period. If you are covered by the Legal Services Fund, your covered dependent(s) include your spouse and your children until they reach age 19 or age 23 if a full time student. If you are covered by the North Legal Services Fund (generally for work in Bronx residential employment), your covered dependent(s) include your spouse and your children until they reach age 19.
See your Summary Plan Description ("SPD") for complete details regarding your eligibility and covered services.

 

Where am I covered for legal services?

The Legal Services Fund (the " Fund " ) will provide lawyers and legal assistance to you for covered legal matters that arise in the state of your primary residence or the state of your covered employment. The Fund will not provide lawyers and legal assistance to you if your legal matter arises outside the state of your primary residence or the state where you are working in covered employment regardless of whether the matter is a covered matter.

See your SPD for a complete description of your coverage area.

 

What legal matters are covered?

The Legal Services Fund covers a variety of matters, such as Immigration, Matrimonial, Family, Civil and Criminal matters. You should review your SPD for detailed coverage of all your benefits. If you have additional questions, please contact Member Services at 800-551-3225.

 

What legal matters are not covered?

The Plan does not cover landlord tenant disputes, employment matters, disputes with your Union or the 32BJ Benefit Funds, or personal injury suits, among other matters.

See your SPD for an explanation of matters which are not covered.

 

Do I pay for a Legal Services Fund attorney?

No. If you or a dependent are eligible for Legal Services Fund benefits, and the legal matter is covered, you will not pay any attorney’s fees.

 

Do I pay for court and agency filing fees?

If you are covered by the Legal Services Fund, your legal benefit provides you with assistance in paying court costs, case-related costs, and immigration filing fees. If you are covered by the North Legal Services Fund, these expenses are not covered.

See your SPD for a complete description of any assistance provided in paying the costs associated with your matter.

 

I currently have an attorney that I hired to help me in my case. Can I switch my attorney and use a Legal Services Fund attorney?

No. The Legal Services Fund cannot represent you in a case or transaction where you already have an attorney.


   IMMIGRATION LAW

 

What are the benefits of becoming a U.S. citizen?

  • The right to vote
  • Having a U.S. passport
  • No need to renew citizenship (compared to a green card which must be renewed every ten years)
  • U.S. citizens may petition for their relatives—siblings, parents and married sons and daughters
  • U.S. citizens may not be deported, while green card holders may be subject to deportation for various reasons
 

Will the Legal Services Fund assist me in filing a citizenship application?

Yes. The Legal Services Fund will assist you and your covered dependents in filing a naturalization application.

 

Can I get help preparing for the citizenship test?

Members may take citizenship classes through the 32BJ Training Fund if they are eligible for that fund.

 

What if I cannot meet the English requirement for naturalization?

You may not have to take the English test if:

  • You are over 50 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 20 years; or
  • You are over 55 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for 15 years; or
  • You are over 65 years old and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for 20 years, and you may take a simpler version of the civics test in your own language.

The Legal Services Fund can help you determine if you meet any of the above listed requirements.

 

Under the Immigration law, which family members can I sponsor for a Green Card?

As a U.S. Citizen, you may sponsor:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Sibling
  • Parent

As a green card holder, you may sponsor:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried children.

A Fund lawyer will represent you in Relative Petitions for your spouse and dependent children. A Fund lawyer will also represent you and your spouse to petition for up to a total of four additional relatives. If you are covered by the North Legal Services Fund, you are covered for up to a total of two additional relatives.

See your SPD for a complete description of your coverage for Relative Petition filings.


   FAMILY LAW

 

How is my child support obligation calculated?

Child support is calculated differently in each state, but will be based on a combination of all of your income sources as well as the income of the other parent. Your child support will continue until the emancipation of the child or children. Emancipation means the parent or parents are no longer responsible for the financial support of their child or children.

 

What is the procedure for determining paternity?

Generally, when a child is born to two people who are not married to each other, to determine paternity there must either be an acknowledgement signed by the biological father or a Court Order identifying the father. Sometimes a DNA test may be required.

 

What happens at a custody hearing?

A Court will hear testimony and receive evidence from the party or parties seeking custody before making an award of custody.

 

Do I have to pay child support even if my co-parent 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.

 

What do I need to do to adopt a child?

Various documents are required from the adoptive parent(s) and consent (or a termination of parental rights) from the biological parents giving up their rights to the child.


   MATRIMONIAL LAW

 

Do I have to go to court to obtain a divorce?

If both parties agree to a divorce, your lawyer will usually be able to submit the papers to court without an appearance being necessary. Otherwise, both parties will be required to appear in court.

 

How long will it take for me to obtain a divorce?

The time varies according to where your case is brought, the facts of the case and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.

See your SPD for a complete description of your coverage for Divorce matters.

 

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 decree of divorce has been entered in the court where the divorce is granted.


   CIVIL/PROPERTY LAW

 

What should I do if I receive court papers regarding a debt?

When a person is sued they should call an attorney right away. Never ignore court papers. The Legal Services Fund will help to protect you against improper garnishment and other debt matters.

 

Do I need a will?

Everyone should have a will. A will protects your family by making it clear who will receive your money or property after your death. Otherwise, the law of the state where you live at the time of death determines who receives your estate. The Legal Services Fund will prepare a simple will for you and your spouse at no cost to you.

 

How may 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.

See your SPD for a complete description of your coverage for Bankruptcy petitions.

 

How do I buy a house, co-op or condominium?

After you find a home you want to buy, do not sign anything. Call us and we will look at all your 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 document that states who you want to be able to speak to medical professionals on your behalf. The Legal Services Fund will prepare a health care proxy for you at no cost.


   CRIMINAL LAW

 

What should I do if I am contacted by a police officer?

You should provide your correct name and date of birth and politely inform the police officer that you cannot discuss the matter with them until you speak to your attorney. Ask the police officer for their name and contact information and contact us immediately with this information.

 

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. Otherwise you should politely inform the police that you cannot discuss the matter with them until you speak to your attorney.

 

Will the police read me my rights?

The police must advise you of your 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 an attorney."

 

May the police search my home without a warrant?

Yes, but only if you agree to the 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; or
  • Someone might destroy the evidence (for example, flush illegal drugs down the toilet).
 

What is "Drunk Driving" or "Driving While Impaired"?

"Drunk Driving" or "Driving While Impaired" occurs when a person is driving a motor vehicle, after consuming alcohol or using a controlled substance to the extent that their ability to drive the vehicle is impaired. You can be charged and convicted even if you do not feel that you are in any way affected by the alcohol or substance you consumed. As a result of a drunk driving or driving while impaired conviction, you could be subject to a fine, continuous monitoring, losing your license or possible jail time.