Legal Lines: April 2012

Apr 02, 2012

This column gives you the opportunity to tap into the expertise of attorneys who are members of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. If you’d like to submit a question for  consideration, send it to The responses provided in the article are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. A response in this article by an attorney does not create an attorney-client relationship between the attorney and the reader. The opinions expressed at or through this article are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the Chamber, its employees, agents, directors or members — Lee Sterling, guest editor

Immigration Law
Ryan Alexeev | North County Legal

Q. As a small-business owner, what should I know about hiring someone from another country?

A. Most businesses are going to be faced with having to hire employees. For many small businesses, hiring an educated person from another country might seem time consuming, costly and out of their comfort zone. TN visas are one option to get around these fears.

These visas are available to citizens of Canada and Mexico who work in certain professional occupations.

In order to get a TN visa, the foreign individual must have a job offer in the United States, must be coming to the U.S. temporarily and must have a bachelor’s or licensure degree. The position must also fall within one of the qualified TN job descriptions. As always, there may be additional requirements or exceptions. 

There is no limit to the number of TN visas available and the visas can be renewed from within the U.S. 

Canadians can obtain a visa either at the consulate or at the border if they are currently outside the United States. Mexicans can only obtain the visa at a consulate if outside the United States. Both Canadians and Mexicans can apply for a change of status to that of TN status, within the U.S., by applying with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services if they meet the proper requirements. 

Depending on the process one uses to get their TN, once they apply, it can take as little as a few hours or as long as a few months to obtain.

Alexeev can be reached at

Tax Law

IRINA GOLDBERG  | Goldberg Tax Law

Q. What should I do if I haven’t filed income taxes for 6 years?

A. If you haven’t filed taxes for six years, file as soon as possible.  Although the IRS rarely criminally prosecutes non-filers, the IRS can prepare Substitutes for Returns (“SFRs”).  These SFRs will be as unfavorable as possible.  For example, the tax liability will be calculated at single or married filing separate rates despite your actual filing status and the IRS will not give you dependents.  The IRS merely takes your income and taxes it at the highest rate.  Therefore, it is best to avoid SFRs. 

If an SFR has been filed and you file your correct return, it could take the IRS up to a year to adjust your tax liability.  In the meantime, the IRS will continue trying to collect the SFR liability, even if you really owe nothing.  If you do not have the necessary information in order to file (i.e. W-2s and 1099s), Wage and Income Transcripts can be requested from the IRS by calling the general number: 800-829-1040.

If you are due a refund, the IRS will only allow it if it is less than three years old.  For example, after April 17, 2012 the 2008 refund will be lost.  If you owe taxes, the IRS will add on interest and penalties for late filing and payment (which could double your liability).  

 In order to pay off your liability, you may have the option to set up an installment agreement or do an Offer in Compromise.  The availability of these options depends on your specific circumstances.

Goldberg can be reached at

Family Law

Randy Hopwood | Hopwood Law

Q. My wife and I are getting divorced. She’s suggested that we go through mediation rather than each of us hiring a lawyer. Is that a good idea, and how much will it cost and how long will it take?

A. Yes, handling your divorce through private mediation is often a better choice.  Mediation is confidential, peaceful and non-adversarial, and will save you both a great deal of emotional and financial cost.  You and your wife together  – not the lawyers, not the Court -- make all of the decisions.  Your Mediator works with you to design an equitable settlement that will meet the needs and desires of both of you and your children.  

As a family law attorney-mediator, I act as an independent neutral and facilitate your reaching a settlement agreement.  We meet together and negotiate agreement on all issues, including child custody, support, and property division.  I prepare all forms required to be filed with the court, including a stipulated Judgment of Dissolution.  You are guided through the entire court process, without the need for any court appearances.  You each have the opportunity to consult with your own independent attorney regarding the terms of settlement prior to signing.  The Court will approve your settlement and make it the judgment of the Court.

Your family law attorney-mediator will typically request an initial retainer of $3,000-5,000, and charge an hourly rate of $300-350 for his/her time.  You must separately pay any court costs such as filing fees (currently $395 each), and fees for the services of any necessary professionals such as real property or business appraisers.  Depending on the complexity of the issues, and how quickly you are able to reach agreement, your mediated dissolution may cost anywhere from $5,000-10,000 and be completed within 2 to 4 months.

Hopwood can be reached at

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