October 11

Abandoned in New York, Nigerian athlete finds home, hope in West Virginia

After two years of working and saving, hoping and dreaming about life in the “land of opportunity,” 17-year-old Joseph Udoh spent his first night in America abandoned and alone, too “freaked out” to leave the terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“I mean, I heard about New York. I felt like it was scary,” said Udoh, now 19 and a preferred walk-on with the WVU football team, from his lawyer’s office in Charleston.

A Nigerian orphan with enough academic and athletic ability to attract a scholarship offer from a boarding school in the United States, he and an older sister managed to save $2,000 in U.S. funds for the one-way ticket he needed to accept the offer.

It took them two years.

It wasn’t until after he’d loaded his belongings into a couple of backpacks, said goodbye to his family and friends, boarded a plane and then landed in Europe for a layover, that he realized there was catch.

It came in the form of an email from the school. They needed him to sign a contract.

“I didn’t know what that means. I didn’t know anything about contracts,” said Udoh.

“I talked to my sister and she was like, ‘Uh, let me check it out.’ She showed it to someone else and they were like, ‘This is not a good idea.’”

The contract claimed 15% of anything he earned professionally or athletically, and 25% of any future earnings from athletic endorsements.

“They wanted it all. They wanted just a blanket on him. … That’s illegal,” said immigration lawyer Paul Saluja.

“They offered him a scholarship. They didn’t say ‘You have to promise us wages for the rest of your life.’”

Had he signed it, those terms would have been in place unless and until the contract was severed. Which was complicated.

“One of the things that they had, which is just really shocking, arbitration was under the laws of the Republic of Serbia. … You’d have to have an attorney go to Serbia. Or you’d have to get a Serbian attorney,” said Saluja.

After talking with his sister, Udoh called the school.

“And then when I spoke to them, the people from the school, they were like, ‘Oh, well, if you can’t sign it there is nothing we can do for you. You are, like, by yourself,’” he said.

They never came to pick him up at the airport. He wandered through stores in the terminal, got some food and started making phone calls, including one to a pastor and basketball coach in Huntington, West Virginia.

It was a call that changed his life — and his luck.

Read the rest of this story on the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s website.

April 12

Ease the Strain of a Contested Divorce

While it is true that in many cases of divorce, the couple decides, together, that dissolving the marriage is the best course of action, many cases are not so easily resolved. In fact, contested divorce cases are commonly portrayed in the media, especially among couples with complex assets, children, business interest, or multiple properties. In the real world of divorce, the fact is that in many cases, one spouse wants to divorce the other, regardless of the other spouse’s feelings or wishes. When this happens, the divorce becomes contested and emotional, and often results in a courtroom battle for resolution.

How to Avoid Courtroom Drama

Even unhappy couples can avoid a lengthy and expensive courtroom battle by following some simple guidelines provided by expert divorce mediators. As such, divorce experts recommend the following to ease the strain of a contested divorce:

Get Help – At the first sign of a contentious battle brewing, divorcing couples should consider seeking the professional guidance of a counselor, divorce coach, or mediator. These individuals are trained to be objective, supportive parties to the divorce process, and can provide a safe, constructive approach to resolving conflict.

Show Compassion – Compassion is not one of the most common terms used in the same sentence as divorce. Even so, experts recommend showing compassion as one way to ease the strain of divorce. Even if the spouses cannot agree on an issue, it is important that they each attempt to show compassion and understanding for the feelings and desires of the other.

Communicate – Communication is one of the most important keys to a successful divorce. Both spouses should make an earnest attempt to be forthcoming, honest, and respectful during the process of divorce. Defensiveness, anger, and bitterness will only widen the gap between the spouses, which often results in additional conflict.

Take Time – Just like planning a wedding takes time often, so does divorce as well. If one spouse does not want to divorce, it may be helpful for the couple to take some time to consider the situation and determine the best way to proceed. In many cases, it just takes a bit of time for both parties to come to an understanding of the feelings and desires of the other.

Find all Options – A heated, contentious battle does not have to be the answer when one spouse wants divorce and the other does not. For many couples, options like divorce mediation or an uncontested divorce provide non-contentious options for dissolving the marriage, which does not require appearing before a judge. The best way to determine what options are available is to speak with an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with West Virginia’s divorce laws and guidelines.

October 28

Basic Immigration Facts

Immigration is an area of the law that affects every resident of every state throughout the United States. Immigration laws have been constantly debated and updated to meet the changing needs of the diverse population of the U.S. West Virginia is not exempt from the impact of immigration laws. While our state is not as likely as the southernmost states to be in the middle of the immigration debacle, it is nonetheless, an important area of the law.
In order to help West Virginia residents better understand immigration law and their individual rights and responsibilities, we have created a list of some of the most common questions and answers, as well as basic facts concerning immigration.

Common Questions and Basic Facts

Q: What is the standard definition of an alien?
A: An alien is any individual who was born in a nation other than the U.S. who lives inside the U.S. without becoming a legal U.S. Citizen, which is known as being naturalized.

Q: What are visas?
A: A few standard types of visa are available to an individual in order to become a U.S. Citizen or gain access to U.S. amenities, including an immigrant visa and a nonimmigrant visa. An immigrant visa is designed for individuals who want to live in the U.S. permanently. This is also often referred to as a green card. The nonimmigrant visa is designed for individuals who only want to remain in the U.S. for a short duration, such as individuals attending school, participating in business activities, or those traveling as tourists.

Q: How to individuals apply for a visa?
A: To apply for a visa, the individual must visit the U.S. consulate nearest their current residence. At the U.S. consulate, the preliminary application will be completed, and any additional requirements will be detailed. It is recommended that anyone applying for a visa complete the process well in advance of their intended trip into the U.S. to avoid delays.

Q: What happens if I cannot get a visa, but remain in the U.S.?
A: Individuals who remain in the U.S. without gaining a visa or citizenship are commonly referred to as “illegal aliens”. What this means is that these individuals do not enjoy the same laws and liberties as U.S. Citizens. In most cases, these individuals are often unable to gain professional employment, attend higher education facilities, or possess a driver’s license.

Q: Can I be denied entry into the U.S.?
A: Yes. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) can deny entry into the U.S. to any individual who fails to meet certain requirements, or who does not have appropriate answers to official questions. Individuals can be denied entry based on physical or mental ailment, criminal history, or previous 180 stays outside the U.S.

Q: Do I need the assistance of an immigration attorney?
A: The services of an immigration attorney may not be required; however, having the guidance of someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in immigration law matters can be extremely helpful and, is highly recommended =. Often, immigration attorneys are able to provide options and support that can prevent unnecessary delays in processing paperwork or gaining entry into the U.S.