Saturday, February 11, 2017

3 truths about mediation from


3 Simple Truths about Mediation

Mediation is a process that has led to the successful resolution of a number of different types of cases, including partner disputes, divorce cases, custody issues, intellectual property claims, personal injury cases, multi-jurisdictional tort issues and even some criminal cases.

1. Mediation Can Benefit Both Parties

When mediation is handled properly, it can be an excellent process. Mediation is confidential, so even if the parties do not reach a settlement, they cannot disclose what was said in court. It is also a non-adversarial approach to legal problems in which the participants cooperate to resolve their legal dispute on their own terms. This allows mediation to resolve many disputes faster, cheaper and more amicably than litigation.

2. Mediation Takes Some Time

Participants cannot be in a hurry. The legal issues involved in mediation are often complex with the potential to impact lives for a long time to come. It takes time for the mediator to determine the interests of the parties and to work out potential solutions to these issues. The parties must be prepared to negotiate in an ongoing manner.

3. Not All Attorneys Support Mediation

Not all attorneys support the role of mediation. A seasoned litigator may rely on his or her own skills to try to get the outcome the client wants and may find little need for a mediator. However, mediation can often help both parties achieve positive results and develop solutions that litigation could not provide. Talk to your attorney early in the process to see if he or she supports mediation.

For info on mediation I'd look at the following websites:
Texas Association of Mediators
Texas Mediator Credentialing Association
Association of Attorney-Mediators
Academy of Professional Family Mediators
Association of Conflict Resolution - Houston Chapter
Association of Family & Conciliation Courts 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wills and other estate planning documents

Please, please, please... talk to an attorney about a will and other documents that you might need.

Everyone needs a HIPAA release due to the recent changes in the laws that can find doctors thousands of dollars.  Even if married, you need a HIPAA release for your spouse to talk to the doctor.

I also recommend that you think about
1. Who you would (or would not) want to be your guardian if you ever need one
2. Who you want to handle your funeral arrangements
3. Do you want to donate your body to science or leave the option open for body party to be donated
4. Who do you want to make medical decisions if you are unable to talk or communicate
5. Do you (or don't you) want to be put on life support if your death becomes inevitable
6. If you have children, who would you like to be your children's guardian (or not be appointed a guardian)
7. Who do you want to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so

I know we don't like to think about it but we are all getting older each day and none of us are getting out of death.  At least, I've never met anyone.

You can save money and family feuds if you designate people to take care of your affairs.

And please don't wait until you are mentally unable to sign legal documents.

Do it now when there is no rush and you have time to think about it.

I encourage people to review their financial affairs and where they are in their life every 5 years.

I had someone listed that moved across the country so I had to revise my documents since he was no longer around to help me.

Going to court and talking to a clerk

A friend just told me that she went to court and got legal advice. I asked who she talked to at the courthouse.  She said a clerk at the window.

Please be advised that the clerk at the window might only have a high school decree.  These people are usually not attorneys.  And, they are not supposed to give legal advise.

In my friend's case, since she did not consult with a real attorney it's going to cost her family a lot of money to fix her problem.

Statutory Rape

All men over 18, beware if you "date" or "talk" to any female under the age of 17.

A child under the age of 17, cannot consent to sex.

Even if they parents given you written permission, it's not enough.

If you are more than 2 years older then the girl then the "Romeo defense" flies out the window.

If in doubt, consult with a criminal attorney.

If you are convicted of sex with a minor then you end up a registered sex offender.

Your future employability will be greatly impacted.

Even if she says she is 17, 18, or 19 -- verify -- don't trust her.  Even if she says she's old enough that is not good enough if you are arrested.

Am I emancipated if I'm pregnant and under 18.

The short answer is No.

You are merely a child having a child.

If you want to emancipate (in Texas we call this "removal of disabilities") then you need to see a judge.

Having a baby does not magically make you an adult.

Texas and residency restrictions

Normally in Texas, most judges will put a residency restriction on the party that has primary custody of the kids.

It is normally the county they currently live in and any county contiguous to that county.

Contiguous means that it "touches" the county.

So for Harris County that would include Montgomery, Ft. Bend, Waller, Chambers, Liberty, Brazoria and Galveston counties.

And Ft. Bend surrounding counties would be different then Harris County and surrounding counties. The surrounding counties for Ft. Bend would be Wharton, Austin, Brazoria, Harris and Waller counties.

Of course, this area is huge so I usually find that it does not work and if agreed by the parties then the area can be limited - say to one county or to even a school district or a geographic area in a city (such as zip code 77024).

It is easier to co-parent and see the kids when you live close together.

Let's be realistic, kids forget their "stuff" all the time and it's much easier to stop by the other parent's home to get the forgotten time when you live nearby versus an hour away.

Texas and Waiver of Service

In Texas in a divorce a person can sign a legal document and have it notarized so they are not served.  It's called "Waiver of Service".

There are at least 2 types:
1. You let the judge know that the judge can go forward and finish the divorce without any more input from you.


2. You want to sign the Final Decree of Divorce or be notified of all future hearings.

Wow! These are very different forms.

Quite frankly, I have modified them many times so there is no one type of Waiver of Service in Texas.

If you sign Waiver #1 then the other party can pretty much put anything they want in the Final Decree --

such as...

for kids --
Sole Managing Conservatorship of the children
no visits or supervised visits
any amount of child support

for property --
the other party get everything and you get nothing
you owe the other party $$

So I don't like Waiver of Service #1 since it's so potentially powerful and dangerous.

I always recommend that a party in a divorce (especially with kids or property) meet with a lawyer and talk about their case.

If you don't meet with an attorney then you have 30 days AFTER the judge signs the Decree to ask for a new trial.  After that, generally the court loses jurisdiction and the case is over and final.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

where to take mediation training in the Houston area

The organization that I can highly recommend to take mediation training is

Dr. Barbara Manousso teaches:
1. 40 hour basic mediation
2. family law mediation
3. elder law mediation
4. arbitration
5. parenting coordination and parenting facilitation

Dr. Manousso has used my professional services in several times in part of her family law mediation training as well as her basic 40 hour mediation training.

How to find a mediator in the Houston area

These are the websites that I recommend you use to locate a mediator in Houston (and probably throughout the entire State of Texas)

Association of Conflict Resolution - Houston Chapter

Texas Mediator Credentialing Association

Texas Association of Mediators